Principal photography for The Lost World: Jurassic Park began on September 5, 1996 in the spectacular Fern Canyon, about 40 minutes north of Eureka.
The company spent two weeks in Northern California, filming in a combination of state parks and private land. Within a week, Spielberg was already ahead of schedule.
By the time the Eureka shoot was over, key live action scenes had been captured, dinosaurs were on film, and all of the plates for Industrial Light and Magic's (ILM) three major computer-generated (CG) sequences and nearly half the CG plates for the entire show had been filmed. Within days, those plates would be cut into scenes and delivered to ILM to start their computer animation of the CG dinosaurs.
Throughout the fall, the filmmakers shot on stages at Universal and a select group of surrounding locations.
Janusz Kaminski, the director of photography who won an Academy Award® for his work on Schindler's List, noted Spielberg's approach to The Lost World. "The camera became really active and ended up being in more unusual places than in his latest movies."
Kaminksi and his grip and electric crew employed virtually every camera and lighting device known to the industry and more than a few custom tailored for this film. For example, there were two movable camera mounts, one that functioned something like an elevator and another that allowed the camera to dolly - suspended upside-down from the ceiling of Stage 27.
"It's very much a Spielberg movie where the camera sweeps the scenario," Kaminski continues. "It moves from high angles into extreme close-ups, follows the actors and reflects the drama of the movie and the story."
For the actors, The Lost World was the most physically demanding film any of them had ever worked on. Whether they were suspended on wires or being tossed about in the mud, there was seemingly no limit to the physical manifestations of dinosaur encounters. They sometimes likened the experience to being on an amusement park ride. According to Vince Vaughn, "The difference is that in an amusement park, you take the ride once and its over."
"Part of the joy and challenge of working with Steven Spielberg," says executive producer Kathleen Kennedy, "is that he constantly pushes himself to do things in an unconventional and exciting way. He challenges all of us to go beyond anything that's been done before."
The biggest challenge for producer Gerald R. Molen was to keep the production on track and on budget. "The budget was a little bit higher for this movie than it was for the first - which was about $58 million - but we were actually able to get more for our money this time," Molen notes. "We got more from Stan Winston and his people because a lot of the research and development had already been dealt with for Jurassic Park. We also got more from ILM, in part because the cost of CG had decreased. Also, Steven had decided to get as much as he could from the mechanical dinosaurs, without resorting to CG more than was necessary. So even though this movie would have a few more CG shots than Jurassic Park, it wouldn't have a great deal more."
"Steven was able to do that, to plan for it and budget for it, because he is such a visionary. He is able to see the entire movie in this mind long before he starts to shoot so he knows exactly what he needs. He isn't the kind of director who ends up with a lot of film literally on the cutting room floor. There is no waste. Because of that, we were able to budget this movie very carefully and responsibly."
On December 11, Spielberg lifted his glass in a champagne toast to the crew, just as he had on the final night of filming Jurassic Park. Congratulating them for bringing the film in ahead of schedule, he said: "Thank you for a great show."
It was an emotional send off to what had been an exhilarating experience for everyone involved in the making of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Knowing up front that the toughest thing about a sequel is the expectation that goes along with it, this veteran production team never got distracted worrying about how they were going to top the first movie.
"Our response to that expectation was to make a different, more dramatic movie, while keeping the humor and suspense and all of the things that audiences had liked about the first movie," Spielberg concludes. "I think that's what people want in a sequel, anyway. They want to roll up their sleeves and fall right back into that adventure."