As worldwide temperatures climb, studios see budgets and schedules go haywire
Global warming is going from a pet Hollywood cause to a logistic and financial nightmare for film production, numerous entertainment executives told The Wrap.
Three high-profile movies suffered significant budget overruns or extended shooting schedules this year thanks to unpredictable weather conditions exacerbated by unseasonally warm temperatures.
“It used to be you could get data, a local weather person and a rough idea based on numbers and expertise,” Dow Griffith, a longtime member of the the Location Managers Guild of America, told TheWrap of shooting in climates around the globe.
“If you make those inquiries now, the answer is ‘I don’t know,'” he said.
Among the titles affected is Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s upcoming “The Revenant,” on which producers spent an unbudgeted $10 million chasing snow on a six-day shoot in Patagonia after their Canadian location produced no snowfall – which was central to the plot.
“It’s unheard of that there’s no snow in March in Calgary,” said an individual close to the production. “And there wasn’t. East of the Mississippi there was 40 feet of snow. West of the Mississipi there was no snow.”
He added: “Our movie was really reliant on snow. We had to shut the movie down, regroup and reshoot the end of the movie in Patagonia.”
Quentin Tarantino‘s “The Hateful Eight” had similar troubles, an individual familiar with the production told TheWrap. The film, steeped in controversy thanks to a police union boycott of Tarantino, filmed in Telluride, Colo., where unreliable snowfall was a daily struggle.
“Hateful Eight” producer Stacy Sher said the film had three separate call sheets for different weather conditions. “If it was snowing, we were out wherever we had to be to get our exterior snow shots,” she told an industry trade.
The film was set to shoot in November 2014 according to numerous media reports, but was pushed to January 2015 in part because of a lack of snow.
The Weinstein Company, which is distributing the film, denied that the production suffered weather problems. However, snowfall in southern Colorado was down 50 percent in November 2014 from its year-over-year average, according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, Baltasar Kormákur’s “Everest,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin, filmed at several frosty locations around the world to achieve consistent weather conditions over a months-long shoot. In April 2014, a second-unit crew was shooting in Nepal on Everest’s base camp, when the worst recorded avalanche in its history wiped out the film set and killed a dozen tour guides not involved with the production.
“They were chasing snow they couldn’t find. They went to Italy, then had the worst snow of all time,” Griffith said of the film’s six-week leg shooting in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range, where temperatures dropped as low as -20° Fahrenheit.
Such climate headaches are nothing new, according to Griffith, a location manager whose resume includes “Contagion” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
For Jeremy Renner‘s 2012 film “The Bourne Legacy,” Griffith said unusually high tides and flooding in the Philippines required last-minute crews to arrive on set each morning to spend hours drying the streets and infrastructure to ensure the safe filming of a motorcycle chase.
“We shot an M. Night Shyamalan movie [2010’s “The Last Airbender”] in Greenland for snow and ice. If you look at that area now on a satellite image or map? There’s no more snow. And the ice is broken up, floating down a river,” he said.
But what used to be a relatively rare occurrence is happening with greater frequency.
Earlier this month, “Rams” director Grímur Hákonarson said record-high temperatures in his native Iceland disrupted production on his film, the story of two sheepherding brothers that went on to win the Un Certain Regard Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“We wanted to finish one part in November  and then we started to shoot in the snow. We had the warmest November in the history of Iceland. All the snow left! All the days looked like spring,” he said at TheWrap’s Awards Screening Series. “We had to finish [the winter scenes] in January.”
Conditions were a far cry from the year before, the director said, when Iceland endured “crazy snow. People were stuck there for weeks, and it stayed until July.”
Aside from repercussions for budgets, the biggest consequence for artists and audiences could be a shift from increasingly unpredictable outdoor locations to green-screen and effects-enhanced indoor shoots.
“Hollywood is very reactionary place,” Griffith said. “It’s a more serious gamble to rely on weather. The only place that seems not to be affected [by climate change] is the soundstage.”