I’m definitely a person who thrives on big challenges,” explains 2nd AD Hope Garrison, whose diverse production resume includes independent and studio features (Mud , Soul Surfer , and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ) as well as broadcast hits like Glee, where Garrison is now in her second season.
One of the biggest challenges on Glee, she says, is scheduling the show’s large choir competitions. “For the nationals, we shot in December and had 25 actors, more than 40 dancers, 700 backgrounds, and 300 inflatables.
“People joke that I’m like an air traffic controller,” says Garrison, “because I’m scheduling multiple units to move in and out of the same sets [five different stages at Paramount Studios] without crashing into each other.”
That’s impressive for someone whose career in film and television was mostly accidental. As the Spokane, Wash., native cheerfully explains, “I went to Sundance with my roommate [a reporter covering the festival] and became so inspired, I quit my job over the phone, and moved to Seattle to become a PA.”
Her knack for logistics has also been tested in the world of features. On Soul Surfer, an SOS call came when a monk seal hunkered down at one of the beach locations. “They’re endangered in Hawaii,” says Garrison, “so we had to set up a 100-yard perimeter, and then check every two hours to see if he had moved. As our day ended [on another section of the beach], he rolled back in the water, waved his fin at us, and left.”
The low-budget Sundance hit, Mud, featured critters of a different variety. Shot deep in the Arkansas woods, each of Garrison’s days required a one to two hour van ride to base camp, followed by a boat, Gator, or stake bed truck to the set, which took her well out of walkietalkie or cell phone range.
“When you take your medic on the tech scout, you know you’re heading into remote places with all kinds of yucky creatures,” says Garrison. “On Mud, I was constantly sending out safety memos like, ‘Be careful about texting and walking as you never know when a snake will cross your path.’”
Garrison concludes: “I’ve been so fortunate to have people who really believed in me.” For example, on Hollywood Homicide (2003), “a huge, huge movie, my 1st AD, Eric Fox Hays, said, ‘You can totally do this [be a 2nd AD],’ even though I never had before—and I did great.”