Transforming Long Beach into a Movie Set
When two races of robots descend upon Earth, war and massive destruction break out in the film series, “Transformers.” It is up to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf,) to ally with the Autobots to save the world from utter annihilation. In “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” a secret military base handling extraterrestrial threats, known as NEST, works to combat the Decepticons. Part of this facility was shot at the old Boeing facility in Douglas Park.
“The exterior of the secret military base was shot at the Old Chicago Post Office, but the interior we made the Long Beach Airport facility,” said location manager Jonathan “JJ” Hook.
The facility is located in a development known as Pacific Pointe. It was the old Boeing facility when production shot there, but in 2015, the building changed ownership to Mercedes-Benz.
“Not many people have shot there since, but it was a great location for sure,” Hook said. “We landed a bunch of helicopters and military vehicles in front of the facility to make it feel like a secret military base.”
In the movie “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Decepticons find out the location of the NEST facility and attack the building, ensuing on-screen chaos.
“We shot this big action sequence with explosions going on inside,” Hook recalled. “The [Long Beach] Fire Department was very accommodating...Most of the movies I’m involved with, they know that’s it’s going to have some big effects—they’re not shocked or scared easily in Long Beach. They are very open to the challenge of these big productions.”
Hook, a native of England, has also brought “Transformers” to Queensway Bridge, Shoreline Drive, the Long Beach Post Office, and more. Hook has worked on all six franchise as a location manager or an associate producer, working with director Michael Bay closely.
“The great thing about working with Michael is that all of your hard work scouting locations is represented on screen. You walk out feeling pretty proud of these epic images that you’re able to capture,” said Hook, who has also worked with top-notch film directors JJ Abrams, Christopher Nolan, and Robert Redford, to name a few. Hook was also a location manager in England, working on films like “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and the romantic comedy “Love Actually.”
When Hook first moved to the states, he met a legendary Welsh location manager Ilt Jones, who helped him get his start in American film production.
“He got me onto my first “Transformers,” Hook said. “He was the one who referred me and introduced me to Long Beach.”
Although Hook lives in Sherman Oaks, he makes his way back to the Long Beach area with his family and friends, including visits to the Aquarium of the Pacific and more.
“I spend a lot of time down there in Long Beach with my friends, launching boats out of the Marina and going to Catalina, fishing for the weekend. Long Beach has been a very positive place in my career and in my life.”