Taxis in the entertainment industry: Where do production companies find cabs to use in film and TV?

Last month TaxiPoint looked at some of arguably the best taxi chase scenes in cinema history, but where do film and television production companies source the cabs from?

We spoke to Gary Zylberszac, owner of the London Cab Company, supplier of taxis to the film and TV industry and asked him a few questions about how he got into the industry and what processes are involved. 

Gary, how long have you been supplying taxis and drivers to the film and TV industry and how did you become involved in it?

Wrong place - wrong time! Back in 1998 we received a knock on the door from a production company producing a new TV drama called Bad Girls. They wanted the lead character Jim Fenner, played by Jack Ellis, to 'live' in my house. Jim's wife was played by Kim Taylforth, who many cabbies will remember from The Knowledge, where she played Janet, the long-suffering girlfriend of Mick Ford's 'Chris'. They filmed here 3 times over a couple of months and on each occasion they took away all our furniture and replaced it with the characters’ possessions. Everything from the sofa to make-up containers, they even replaced all our LPs. I did some research about how productions went about getting things like locations etc, and one thing lead to another. One of my first filming jobs was actually in a later episode of Bad Girls. How many cabs are generally available to you when a production company requires your service, and do you have a varied selection available such as FX4's and TX1's? I can source and supply as many cabs as required. You never know what is going to happen when the telephone rings. We have supplied a single cab for an hour, and I think the most taxis we have had on-set at any one time was 20. The director decides what he wants, could be plain black TX4, or a White Vito. Last week we were filming contemporary London but the director wanted a 1970s FX4. I have learnt to go with the flow. We also source and supply other vehicles too. In a new sci-fi drama called The Rook we supplied a lot of the background cars for a number of the scenes shot in and around east-London.

(National Treasure: Book of Secrets)

What films and TV productions have you been involved with?

The London Cab Company has supplied cabs to many hundreds of productions over the years. Anything from a student movie for a film school, to station idents, adverts, hidden camera stunts, TV, movies, music videos and photo shoots. Most of the London based TV dramas would have had a cab in it that we supplied. I have supplied cabs for both the Mama Mia Movies (a New York cab in the original and a 70s cab in the sequel), Basic Instinct 2, The Da Vinci Code, The Bourne Ultimatum, National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets where they asked if they could use my company logo on the taxis used in the car chase sequence. Other films we have been involved with include: Stormbreaker, 28 Days Later, Fast and Furious 6, Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Night In Hatton Garden, The Mummy, AbFab The Movie, Stan and Ollie and Tomb Raider. We also took James Bond to meet the Queen at the opening sequence of the London 2012 Olympic ceremony. I guess my most memorable moments would be chatting with Clint Eastwood on the set of Hereafter, exchanging good mornings with Robert Vaughan - the last of the Magnificent Seven - as one of us was going into the loo and the other was coming out, teaching Richard Schiff to drive a London taxi in The Infidel, a week in Wales filming with Wesley Snipes in The Contractor and driving Adele off the stage at the centre of Wembley Stadium to conclude her shows. We were also involved in a very interesting project called Lost In London, a 90 minute feature written, directed and starring Woody Harrelson. It was loosely based on a real incident that he was involved in with a London cabbie. It was shot on one camera, in one take and moving around various locations in London while being broadcast live to cinemas in the USA. We have also supplied taxis in New York, Miami, France and Germany for various jobs.

(28 Days Later)

Have any of the drivers that you supply gone on to have speaking roles within a production? There is the occasional line to deliver, sometimes to camera. I had a page of dialogue in a 'reality' pilot show to exchange with a page of dialogue with Michael Brandon where I had to make lots of lewd comments about his wife Glynis Barber. I think my most famous line was "I'm a PC and I drive a cab" in an advert for Microsoft. I did not realise that the advert went global until I started getting some weird phone calls from friends around the world who saw it.

Generally speaking how long can it take to do a scene, such as the one featured in "The Capture" for example? The Capture is a new drama on BBC. There is sequence with a 'taxi demo'. We shot this on a Sunday morning back in January. We supplied 13 taxis. They said they wanted a typical London sequence so a selection of styles and colours of taxis were chosen. Breakfast and briefing were at 7am, on-set and we were ready to work for 8am, finishing at 2pm. On screen it was just a few seconds. General rule of thumb, a 10 hour filming day will give you a 30 second TV advert, 4 minutes of TV drama and 2 minutes of cinema. If you require a greater number of cabs and drivers than you may have access to do you put out a general call to the industry for help? If we get requests that we can't cope with then we turn to the closed networks of taxi social media. What is the strangest thing that you have been involved with on-set? Once we were doing some covert camera stuff of the public highway near Victoria Park. Some of the playground Mums in the park noticed a man acting in a weird way - that nearly ended very badly for the camera man who had to be rescued.

Occasionally a stuntman is required to drive the vehicles, not always in a stunt but just for precision reasons. A few times it hasn't ended well for whatever reason and stuff has got damaged.

Image Source: YouTube

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