A lifelong fan of classic action film sequences, director Scott Waugh opted to film genuine car-to-car action rather than use computer-generated images in the new film “Need for Speed.” Seven modified 2014 Ford Mustangs were built for filming and promotion in addition to an early prototype 2015 Mustang fastback.


For Waugh, a former stuntman, the visceral experience generated by the performance, sound and visual presence of Ford Mustang makes it a natural choice for the hero car role in the highly anticipated movie opening nationwide March 14.

Waugh’s goal is to tell a character-driven story steeped in car culture that gives the audience a genuine perspective of what it’s like to drive at high speeds and in close proximity to other cars.

“My philosophy has always been you can’t break physics,” said Waugh. “If you do, it hurts the story, because then the physics don’t apply to the characters either.” said Waugh. “Doing practical stunts with cars takes more up-front preparation to set up the shots and ensure safety, but the end result is worth it.”

Computer generated imagery enables today’s filmmakers to produce virtually any sequence their imaginations can conjure. While that’s a great approach to creating science fiction, fantasy or superhero sequences that don’t exist in the physical world, it doesn’t deliver the authenticity Waugh is after with “Need for Speed.”

Starting with “Grand Prix” in 1966, “Bullitt” in 1968 then continuing through the 1970s, a new style for filming cars included mounting cameras on and inside the vehicle, giving viewers a first-person perspective of the action. Waugh and director of photography, Shane Hurlbut used many of the same techniques making “Need for Speed,” in combination with the latest camera technology.

More than 40 different digital cameras – from compact action cams to high-end cinema cameras – were used to capture images. The impressive image quality and small size of the action cameras enabled the directors to get shots that would have been unheard of in the 1960s.

“It’s really complicated to shoot in a car,” said Waugh. “You’re so confined. So we made sure all the camera angles would convince the audience the actors were really driving.”

Three different camera cars – including a supercharged Mustang GT – were used to get the close-in action shots that provide the sensation of speed to viewers. The combination of different cameras gave Waugh and Hurlbut the flexibility to shoot more angles of the action to capture the visceral experience of driving.

In addition to professional stunt drivers, the actors needed to be able to safely handle the high-powered driving machines in “Need for Speed.” The cast, including lead actors Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots, went through intensive training at Willow Springs International Motorsports Park in California, where they learned such intricacies of car control as drifting around corners and hitting precise marks while driving.

One driver who didn’t require intense instruction was champion drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr. Gittin was recruited for the sequences that involved driving the all-new 2015 Mustang that appears in the film. Few drivers are as qualified as Gittin to fling a Mustang around and place it exactly where the director wants it.

The film centers on protagonist Tobey Marshall’s quest to cross America in a modified 2014 Mustang GT. Of the seven wide-body Mustangs, three survived the filming process. Two of those cars are on tour promoting the film, while the other will be auctioned for charity April 12.