Monday, August 29, 2016

Red Rock Canyon

Dear Reader,

On my way to Mammouth Mt., a couple of years ago, I passed Red Rock Canyon off of California 14 about two hours north-east of Los Angeles.  It's one of those parks as you drive by, that you wonder, "this looks interesting, I need to visit this place one day."  I bought my camera with me and a notepad to write my notes.  I stopped in the town of Mojave for fuel, I wasn't sure when I was going to see another gas station, as it turns it there is a no name gas station about ten minutes from Red Rock, but the fuel prices was about a dollar more than it was in Mojave.  Since I was a little thirsty I had a large Ice-t at the McDonalds, then I traveled about thirty minutes north on California 14, I made a left at Abbott Dr, (by the way it is very easy to pass this road, and the next exit is about three miles north, so look for the signs to Red Rock Canyon).  Once you are on Abbott Dr it will take you to the entrance to the park.  There is a big parking lot for large vehicles, a closed dump station, and a visitor center.  The main road into the park is a one way road that snakes back to the main parking lot.  The visitor center is closed most of the year.  

Red Rock is located on the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, the elevation is about 3000 feet, it is not uncommon to see a dusting of snow at this elevation in the winter.  The Kawaiisu Indians once called this place home and it was an important trade route for the American Indians.  During the Gold Rush, settles used Red Rock as a watering hole and a camp.

Many westerns were shot at the park or near the park, the red rock formation is daunting with hues of red, rust and tan.  I drove around the park, it takes about twenty minutes to circumvent the park, however I found myself stopping and taking pictures along the way.  The one-way road is dirt, it is not a washboard, but there is a strict 15 mile an hour speed limit.  The larger vehicles would be relegated to the main paved parking lot.   

Though Red Rock Canyon has been used for various feature films, it is not an overused location.  In my sixteen years in the business, I only had one client film there.  Perhaps it is a lesser known locale, it is further than Vasquez Rocks, by about an hour, but worth the extra drive.  The topography is stunning and is the perfect backdrop for any shoot.   

If your project is for multiple days the nearest town is Mojave about thirty minutes to the south.  There is a Days Inn 800.329.1073, Econo Lodge 661.824.2463, Americas Best Value Inn 661.824.9317 and a couple of no-name motels.  There are a number of gas stations that sell gasoline and diesel, there are also a number of casual dinning restaurants.  There is a Stater Brothers grocery store.  Essentially everything you would need for any size crew.

If you are interested in this location or other locations, call me Michael Green at 818.317.7099 .  I also rent motor homes, portable restrooms and I do location scouting.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Salton Sea-Dream Denied

Dear Reader,

The Salton Sea was once a place of dreams, dreams of fishing in one of the best lakes in California, dreams of buying an affordable vocation home next to a lake in Southern California, dreams of boating or water skiing in the biggest lake in California.  Well one day, in the nineteen eighties those dreams went bust, the lake level dropped and became too salty for most fish to survive.  The real estate market collapsed.  People abandoned their vocation homes or those homes were foreclosed on. At the end of the nineteen eighties, only the most desperate people lived there, those with only limited incomes, or those who wanted to live in a secluded environment.  

Though the Salton Sea is in disarray, it is still an awesome place to do a photo shoot, commercial, music video or a feature film.  I had a client ask me to do a scout of the Salton Sea earlier this month for a possible job.  Scouting locations is a service I provide for my clients.  I use my Sony DSLR to take the pictures, but I also send my clients pictures taken with my iPhone 6 Plus realtime if I see something interesting and I want to get some feedback.  I take notes of the locations, including directions, nearest gas stations, RV dump facilities, coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels and other places that might be essential for a shoot.   I'm always thinking about base camp, crew parking and of course the location.  The Salton Sea is always metamorphosing into a state of decay.  What might have been there a month ago, might be gone in a week.  The meth heads are always searching to sell anything of value.  Therefore my client wanted me to make at least two scouts, one the month before the shoot and send the pictures, the second a few days before the shoot, just to verify the location and make sure nothing has changed.  Since the Salton Sea is forty-five miles long and twenty-five miles wide at the widest point, it was going to take me most of the day to circumvent the lake, plus take my pictures and make my notes.  I started at the most northern part of the SS, Mecca.  I noticed across the street from the ARCO there was a burned out row of palm trees, it was almost like Armageddon had struck this area.  I illmediatley sent some pictures to my client, she was ecstatic about the location.  We were going to do a fashion shoot, and this background was going to work so well for what the fashion designer was looking for, the only problem was parking.  Not really I thought later.  There was a dirt pull out on 66th Ave, across the street from the ARCO and on the same side as the location.  Another big plus, there is a gas station with RV dump (free), a Del Taco and a Starbucks.   I was lucky to find something that I was not expecting to discover, sometimes when I do a scout, even if it is a location that I have been to before, sometimes I find something new and cool. 

I made a right turn at Highway 111 and drove about twenty minutes south.  My destination was the North Shore, a once booming place that consisted of a motel with a pool, a grocery store, a marina, bait stop, a casino and many homes.    There was a casino that the Brat Pack and other famous people used to hang out at, unfortunately all those places are gone or nearly gone. The only thing that still exist is the marina, the bait shop minus the windows, a few abandoned buildings, part of a gas station and the new visitor center. The rows of houses are gone, only the abandon lots remain and the streets.  Of course there is an awesome view of the lake.  I have done a number of shoots at this location throughout the years. It is relatively safe, as long as you don't leave any equipment there over-night unless you hire a security team, if you do need security Steve Nader 760.508.1440 can help you.  There is plenty of parking for any size crew.  There are so many awesome places to film at, including abodoned streets, the bait shop overlooking ruins of the marina.  There are plenty of places to set up base camp since the area is wide open.  This part of the lake is in Riverside County, for a film permit you will need to call Dan Taylor 951.232.1271.

I drove another twenty minutes south to Bombay Beach.  This is Imperial County, so you will need to call Charla Teeters-Stewart at 760.337.4155 to obtain a film permit. At one time Bombay Beach  was nice town, with lots of potential, today it is a series of run down mobile homes, empty lots, closed businesses, a run down marina that is too shallow to launch a boat.  For filming there are lots of possibilities, plenty of parking and a view of the lake.  The streets are not empty, mobile homes are abundant, old and falling apart, there are still a number of people who call this place home.  There is a church and a liquor store, just one of each.  In a vague way, there is still a since of community in Bombay.

In terms of lodging, if you decided to film in Bombay Beach, Brawley is the closest town with plenty of motels like the Best Western Plus 760.351.9800.  The Brawley Inn Hotel & Conference Center 760.344.1199 is another option.  There are several groceries stores in town, as well as eateries and a RV dump station.  If you decide to film at North Shore or Mecca, Indio is the closest town for lodging, my favorite hotel is the Spotlight 29 Casino 760.775.3028, the rooms are nice, plenty of parking for trucks, RVs and cars, lots of places to eat at, from a buffet, steakhouse, and a cafe.  If you have any questions about these locations or other locations, or if you need a motor home or portable restrooms, please feel free to call me Michael Green at 818.317.7099.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cities in California that are expensive or difficult to film in

Dear Reader,

Usually I write about locations that are awesome to film in. Today I want to talk about cities that are very to hard to obtain film permits in a timely manner, difficult rules for parking or navigating to such locations.  The worst place to film in California is Culver City, the home of Sony Sudios.  Not only does the Culver City PD expect commercial drivers to go on their web site to determine the most direct route to their location, they will fine the driver for the most frivolous offences.  Most of the major streets are off limits to commercial vehicles like Washington Bl or Washington Place, Culver Blvd, Overland, Jefferson Blvd and other streets.  The exception, local deliveries.  I am not sure why Culver City PD would not classify trucks, trailers and motor homes as "local deliveries", they are there for one reason, to serve a specific production, for a specific time period in CC.  The entertainment industry provides jobs to the city, both directly and indirectly.  I cringe when I have to work in CC, I even add an admendment to my contract that my client will pay for all tickets and fines associated with this job in regards to Culver City.  So far I have been lucky.  I am not sure why Culver City PD does not like the entertainment industry.  Los Angeles has a specific police department dedicated to the film industry, that provides cops for film shoots.  In fact LA is one of most friendliest places to film in, there are plenty of parking lots, one call to Film LA and you obtain film permits, locations and a monitor.  The fees to film in Culver City are some of the highest in Southern California.  Unless you are shooting at Sony, pick another city or studio, cross off Culver City for any potential shoots.

Pasadena is another city that is very expensive to film, the permits are some of the highest in LA county.  Parking is extremely difficult, most streets are off limits to production vehicles.  If you need old homes, pick Hancock Park (Los Angeles), the homes date back to the 1920's and the streets are wide and very friendly to productions.  I have lost more jobs because of Pasadena strict parking requirements, which I feel is unfair to the entertainment industry which benifits the economy of Pasadena.

The town of Adelanto near Victorville, is the last place anyone should ever consider doing any filming, or lodging your crew.  Though it is very close to El Mirage Dry Lakebed,  Adelanto is not very safe, vehicles are prone to breakins at the The Days Inn, despite the fact that the Days Inn is next to the police station.  Nearby Victorville, is a better place to lodge your crew, there are better restaurants and shopping centers.  There is a truck stop in Adelento that sells, gas, diesel and has a dump station, that for me is the only reason I would travel to Adelento.

Bombay Beach on the east side of the Salton Sea, looks innocent, but it isn't.  A lot of felons live in this area.  At one time, next to the abandoned marina, it was a nice place to shoot at, because there were a lot of old trailered there, today there is nothing.  If you choose to shoot at Bombay, leave before night fall and hire a security team to protect your set.

Oakland, San Leandro and Richmond, San Francisco, California are other places to avoid.  Criminals are so brazen that they will walk on set and demand your valuables.  I am not saying all of Oakland or San Francisco is bad, just some places are bad.  You will want to hire both armed and unarmed guards to protect your crew.  Also don't leave valuables in your vehicles.

It is always a good idea not to leave camera equipment or other valuables in your vehicles.  It is also a good idea to hire security to watch your crew and equipment, especially at night at any town or hotel.  I do not mean to put down any city and there are other cities I could have included in my list.  I would love to hear from my audience about their horror stories.  Email me at: with your experiences.  


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Soggy Dry Lakebed

Dear Reader,

It is early morning, the sun is an hour and a half from rising.  I am traveling on interstate 15 north heading to Soggy dry lake, about 3.3 hours north/east of Los Angeles.  I am just passing Hesperia, Victorville is coming up.  I exit Ave D (Hwy 18) and head east.  I will pass through the still quiet Apple Valley and continue on Hwy 18 until I come to Lucerne Valley.  I continue on my journey heading east now on highway 247.  If I made a right at highway 18 it would take me to Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.  If I made a left on Hwy 247 it would take me to Barstow.  Highway 247 takes you to Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree National Park.  I make a left at Bessermine Rd and travel on a very, very rough dirt road.  It takes me about forty minutes to get to the dry lake.  The sun is now rising and I can see base camp to my right, next to one of two restrooms at the lake.  It is a cold winter morning and everyone is bundled up.  The transportation captain directs me to my spot.  In a few minutes my motor home is ready for business.

Soggy Dry lakebed is flat and smooth, unlike Means Dry Lakebed which has an unforgiving surface.  Means is wavey, perfect for a motor cross bike, lousy for a car shoot.  Even in my 4 x 4 truck I had to go easy at Means Dry Lake.   If a flat dirt surface is a must, Soggy is the perfect lakebed.  Soggy is more than just a flat lakebed, there are hills and rock formations.  For our car shoots, a flat smooth surface was a must.  The precision drivers were going to do complicated maneuvers, as they were being briefed by the head stunt driver.  The cater was getting breakfast ready and people ran around base camp like ants.  It takes a lot of talented people to make a commercial.

What makes Soggy such a great location is the fact it is remote, there is little signs of civilization to complicate a shot.  In the summer, few people even come to the lake, unless it is a holiday weekend.  In the cooler months, always pick the week days to do your project, if possible.  Summer temperatures can exceed a 100 degrees, winter temperatures are very comfortable.  If you base camp near any of the restrooms, watch out for the nails.  Some of the knuckle heads in the area burn pallets and all types of stupid things.  I discovered the further you park from the restrooms the less likely you are to encounter nails and screws.

In terms of lodging you can either pick Yucca Valley or Hesperia.  I prefer Yucca Valley because there are few stop lights until you get to Hwy 62.  Plus I discovered on a recent trip Applebee's is opened late.  Most people stay at the Best Western 760.365.3555 in Yucca Valley, it is very nice, there is a free breakfast, pool, gym and plenty of parking and even street parking for the large trucks.   In the town of Landers about 25 minutes east of Soggy there is a convenient store with a gas station and a RV dump station.  If you decide to stay in Hesperia and nearby Victorville, there are tons of hotels.  Most producers choose to stay at the Holiday Inn in Victorville 760.245.6565, the rooms are nice, there is a bar that serves food and plenty of parking.  There are other options for lodging that are more high end for your clients.  If you need security for your equipment use Steve Nader 760.508.1440, he can send his team in to keep bogies from entering your perimeter and watching your equipment overnight either at Soggy or at the hotel.  I would not leave equipment at the lake or at the hotel without a security team keeping eyes on your vehicles.  If you have any questions about Soggy or any other locations in the Inland Empire please call me Michael Green at 818.317.7099.  I also provide motor homes and portable restrooms as a local.  So you don't have to bring motor homes or portable restrooms from Los Angeles. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pismo Beach

Dear Reader,

It is late afternoon as a caravan of large vehicles, two motor homes and three cube trucks navigate the entrance on Pier Street into Pismo Beach.  We have a large 6 X 6 army truck on standby to help us if we get stuck in the sand.  The 3 ton cube truck is first, he accelerates and makes it safely to the hard pack sand.  I'm pulling a portable restroom behind me, my RV weighs seventeen tons, but since I am a pusher (the engine is in the rear) my RV has a major advantage over pullers (engine in the front).  I try to build up my speed to 20 to 25 miles per hour, I engage my ATC switch (automatic traction control) so that if I lose traction in the drive tire, the passenger tire will grip the road (sand).  I make it to the hard pack sand.  We travel at the posted 15 miles per hour, the two other trucks make it, it looks like we have a convoy.  Since the tide is going to be six feet, we have no choice but to park the vehicles in the soft sand.  Production has several 4 x 4 trucks waiting to pull us in our spots.  Since I am the heaviest vehicle the 6 X 6 is standing by, he charges $300.00 per tow. If one of the Raptors or Dodge Rams 3500 can pull me into position this will save production a big fee.  I try to keep my RV out of the soft sand and position myself so that it is a straight shot to my respective parking area.  The Ram pulls me from behind, I accelerate slowly so that I don't bury my rear end.  The process takes about an hour to position all the vehicles so that we create a horseshoe effect.  This way base camp will have a level of privacy and keep the wind from being a major problem.  One of the Ford Raptors position the portable restroom away from camp.  

Pismo Beach Dunes is different from Dumont Dunes or Glamis because it is located on the beach as opposed to the desert.  The sand is softer and there is a tide that you have to contend with, which can present some interesting problems.  For one, you have to have some 4 X 4 trucks on your production to pull out any vehicles that can get stuck in the sand.  We had a 6 X 6 army truck that helped pull the big rigs out of the sand.  If you park your vehicles too close to the shore line, there is a chance that the tide is going to come back in and swamp your base camp.

The problem with Glamis or Dumont is they are in the desert, which means if you plan on filming in the summer, it is going to be hot, hot.  Those locations (Glamis and Dumont) are better to shoot at in the cooler months.  Pismo is unique because there is the Pacific Ocean which adds a perspective to your background, it is always nice and cool even in the summer.  You can film at the dunes, on the beach or even in the ocean.  The best days to shoot at Pismo is during the week, on summer weekends there will be a lot of people.  The least busiest period is from Labor Day to Memorial Day.  Try to avoid major holidays like Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Day.

Regarding lodging we stayed at the Seacrest Oceanfront Hotel 805.773.4608, it is a beautiful hotel located on the beach.  Parking is adequate for large vehicles although the parking lot is located on a hill.  There are plenty of restaurants in town, keep in mind most places close early during the week.  There are other lodging options too.  The actual town of Pismo Beach is one of those tourist type places with surf shops, restaurants of various types of food, a pier, boutiques, cafes, bike rentals, ATV rentals and other fun places.  

If you need a motor home or portable restrooms, or if you have any questions, feel free to call me Michael Green at 818.317.7099


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Salvation Mountian

Dear Reader,

A client of mine asked me if I was interested in doing a photo shoot in Salvation Mountain.  I admitted to my friend that I had no idea where this location was, as I searched for Salvation on Google Maps.  There it was just South/East of the Salton Sea I found Salvation Mountian.  It is a unique man made mountian made of concrete and dirt, with bible verses, antique cars painted with various pastel colors and bible verses.  A place that you can contemplate your own salvation. 

Salvation Mountain is very unique local, with plenty of options for some awesome shots.  As a writer I could come up with a crazy story about a man who has lost everything that has meant something to him.  He decides to take his Harley out on a journey to find himself again, he takes a detour on his way to Mexicali.  He stumbles upon Salvation Mountain and meets a beautiful  woman named Mary...  I think I wrote too much, this is another story.  At SM, you follow a yellow road to the top, you look around and you can see the valley below.  A parch land of desert brush and Joshua Trees.  A quite place except on weekends when visitors from around the country and the world visit this iconic oasis.  

When I arrived at SM, I saw two women in an old VW bug dance around a fire listening to Prince music.  I thought maybe they were from our crew, I discovered later that they were just high on "salvation".  I parked the RV and waited for the crew to arrive, there is a specific place to park, we had to wait for our guru to wake up before we could park our vehicles and set up base camp.  The photographer had so many options for shots, something that could not be duplicated in the studio.  It can get hot, very hot in the summer, so dress accordingly.  In the winter temperatures can drop in the 30's and rain is always an option, even in the summer, but rare.  This is the desert.

We stayed in Brawley, about forty minutes south at the Best Western Plus (760.351.9800), a nice place to rest with free breakfast, parking is adequate for large and small vehicles.  There is a truck stop west of the hotel and a dump station about 1/2 mile east of the hotel both on the same side.  There are several restaurants in the area, for Chinese food there is the Imperial Restfaurant, Brownie's Diner, a Dominio's Pizza, Subway, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and other places.    Glamis Dunes are just east of Brawley and the Salton Sea is less than forty minutes north/west.  I want to return to Brawley, it is a place that looks like Mexico, old and rustic, with more of a Spainish feel, than Americana.  

If you have any questions about Salvation Mountian, or need to get a film permit, or  motor homes or portable restrooms, feel free to call me Michael Green at 818 317 7099.