Ben Affleck’s Live by Night focused on LA filming
Ben Affleck filmed his Prohibition-era gangster movie Live by Night on location in Boston and Georgia, but also scheduled much of the shoot for Los Angeles stages.
Live by Night is based on the novel of the same name by renowned crime writer Dennis Lehane.
The film tells the story of Joe Coughlin, the gangster son of a Boston police captain, and his criminal dealings in Massachusetts and Florida. Affleck was writer, director and producer, as well as lead actor.
Despite the Boston and Florida settings, Affleck and his producers in fact decided to base the shoot in Los Angeles as much as they could, an unusual decision given the limitations of California’s filming incentive support.
“We used the Sony lot as our main base,” says JJ Hook, one of the film’s location managers, in comments to KFTV. “When we were on location it was a matter of getting back to California as soon as we could. It was the first film I worked on since 2011 that shot primarily in Los Angeles. It was a real treat to be able to go home each day – everyone was delighted!”
Live by Night did not in fact secure tax credit support from California authorities, but Affleck’s star power – and that of his producers – meant he was able to base the shoot in Los Angeles anyway.
Physically creating the late-1920s setting became a key challenge of the shoot as it’s an immediately expensive task. Joe Coughlin’s story begins in Boston, but the modern city is very different from how it looked during the Prohibition era. As a result Affleck and his production team only spent ten days in the city filming exteriors.
Coughlin’s story eventually shifts to Ybor City, an historic neighbourhood in Tampa. However, Florida now lacks filming incentive support so the Live by Night team recreated the setting in the town of Brunswick on Georgia’s Atlantic coast.
“There’s so much in the way of labour costs and general expenses to deliver period detail so you have to be really careful where you spend that money,” Hook tells KFTV.
“Brunswick had a proud, well-kept main street and also lots of empty buildings, which worked for our purposes. Otherwise you find you have to pay off local businesses when you film locally.”
In the end, the Live by Night production team spent eight or nine weeks prepping sets for just four days of exterior filming in Brunswick.
California’s filming incentives primarily target TV production, but more big-budget features are starting to shoot in Los Angeles, including Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, David Ayer’s Bright and Bradley Cooper’s upcoming remake of A Star is Born.
“The boosted rebate will hopefully mean that more parts of California beyond Los Angeles’ 30-Mile Zone are opened up to location filming,” Hook says.
Images: Claire Folger/Warner Bros. Entertainment