Plum Brook Station Goes Hollywood for Avengers Filming
The “testing in progress” light shone bright in NASA Glenn Research Center’s Space Power Facility (SPF) last August. But this project was different. From August 8 through 12, the world’s largest space environment simulation chamber transformed into a set for Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers” movie. Segments of the major motion picture--which premiered this May--were filmed in the SPF vacuum chamber and assembly high bay, as well as in an open field at Plum Brook Station.
A week before fiming, Plum Brook managers and Glenn’s Office of Protective Services’ staff and support personnel began ushering in 50 tractor-trailers packed with equipment for filming. By Aug. 8, 2011, more than 300 actors and crewmembers passed through the front gate.
Ron Mohr, deputy chief of Glenn Security, said the security force badged about 150 personnel per day. “We ensured everything from facilities to personnel were protected over a 3–week period, 24/7,” Mohr said. “Even Marvel superheroes need to be protected by security.”
Rick Sorge, test program manager at Plum Brook, oversaw the production from the NASA side. Surge said filming was conducted through a Multimedia Agreement. “We treated the filming as we would any other outside agency that wishes to use the facility for testing,” Surge explained. “The studio gave us their requirements and we did a cost estimate (including labor, material, time, etc.) to determine the details of a fully reimbursable agreement.”
Part of the agreement required Plum Brook personnel to clean out all items in the chamber so that the facility could become a bare backdrop for the customers to come in and “dress it up” as they wanted. SPF Facility Manager Jerry Carek said about 20 Glenn civil servant and support service contractors were involved in the preparation. Some helped build smaller portions of the set when needed as well.
At a news conference with local media on Aug. 11, Jeremy Latcham, co-producer of the movie, said major cast members filming at Plum Brook included: Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) and Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson).
While Latcham would not divulge details of the plot, he said in the movie the SPF would be typecast as a research facility. The interior of the SPF would be recognizable, and Plum Brook sequences would run for several minutes in the film. Latcham affirmed that Plum Brook played a vital role in bringing the movie to Ohio, where 20 to 25 percent of the movie is being filmed. On Aug. 12, the crew broke down the set and packed up to begin more filming in downtown Cleveland.
As SPF Manager, Jerry Carek worked with some of the movie’s crew and producers to ensure that the facility was meeting their needs while filming. A highlight, Carek said, was providing a tour of Plum Brook to actor Samuel Jackson. “We’ve been involved with filming for documentaries at Plum Brook, but this is our first Hollywood movie,” Carek said. “It was a great experience and positive exposure for Plum Brook.”
Doreen B. Zudell, SGT Inc.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center