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: mgreen2528@sbcglobal.net 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

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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.  

 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Salton Sea (North Shore)

Dear Reader,

It has been a long time since I have worked on a photo shoot at the Salton Sea North Shore.  The North Shore is located on the east side of the Salton Sea off of Highway 111.  It was once home to the North Shore Beach Yacht Club, which opened in 1962 and closed in 1984 because the Salton Sea salinity levels rose.  Once it was a meca for sports fishing, an oasis in the middle of the dry Mojave Desert.  Today it is a decaying relic from the past, the beach is covered with bones of dead and dying fish.  The bait and tackle building is melting in the hot desert sun, anything of value has long since been removed by thieves.  However there is new life at the Salton Sea, a newly restored Community Center now overlooks the sea.  There is also the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex in the same area.

We made base camp at a dirt parking lot adjacent to the Community Center.  It was a mild winter day in the seventies with a slight breeze.  I parked my RV and proceeded to get everything ready for the crew, setting up tables, chairs and a generator for the cater.  The cater on this job was Foxy Catering 760 641 4233, Jenny crew stayed on set and made breakfast and lunch on site, each day we had a different menu items
.  Since I worked with Jenny before she had some of my favorites ready for me, like granola and fresh fruit.  The crew arrived and base camp was buzzing with activities.  It takes a lot of people to produce a photo shoot, make-up artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist and some of those positions have assistants.  There is the photo crew with the photographer, at least two assistants, digital tech who takes the cards and downloads the images to a Mac, usually a MacBook Pro with at least three backup drives.  You have a prop stylist who dresses up the set, usually there are several assistance for this position.  You have the production staff, a producer, sometimes a production coordinator and a few production assistance. There is the motor home driver and on larger sets multiple motor homes and drivers. There is the agency and the client.  Of course there are the models.  A typical crew size can be as little as ten and as many as fifty people.  It takes sometimes a couple of hours to get the models ready and prep the set.

The reason clients like to film at the North Shore is because there are so many different places to photograph.  You got the bait shop, the abandon roads, the community center, the Salton Sea, the beach, the harbor and other locations.  It is hard to duplicate the North Shore, it is unique and yet you are not far from Indio, about thirty minutes north west.  You are about fifty minutes from Palm Springs from Palm Springs.  PS has some of the best four stars hotels like the Ace Hotle 760.325.9900, The Saguaro Palm Springs 760.323.1711.  Both hotels offer excellent service and awesome rooms for a good price, especially in the off season.

If you are interested in this location (North Shore) call Dan Taylor at 951.232.1271 he is the film commissioner for the Salton Sea (Riverside County).  Film Permits are relatively easy to obtain.  If you need motor homes or portable restrooms or any questions about this location or other locations call me (Michael Green) at 818 317 7099.




Monday, February 15, 2016

Who is the real Mike Green of "Mike Green RV's?"

Dear Readers,

Usually I write about cool locations, today I want to write about what the real Mike Green is all about.  First I like to think I am a nice guy, I love people and animals.  

The real Mike Green likes to travel, planes, trains and automobiles.  Fortunately I have a job that allows me to travel, travel locally and travel afar, mainly in the good ole USA.  Some jobs I might be in the middle of the Mojave Desert on a lonely dirt road, or at a Salt Flat in Amboy, in Atlanta, or Birmingham or Houston.  It might be hot as hell or cold and snowing.  I like to write about those locations, I like to help producers, coordinators find locations.  My motto is "why film at places everyone else has shot at, let's find something new, unique and cool."  Since I work in transportation I am going to make sure there is sufficient parking at set or near set.  I am going to provide my clients with the right directions, not the wrong directions.  I am going to help my clients find good hotels, not the Bates Motel.  I am going to help my clients find excellent caters, if that's not possible I'll bring my George Forman grill with me and I will do the catering myself (small crews).

I am celebrating my sixteenth year in transportation/locations this month (February).  I started my career working for a wonderful company in West Los Angeles, called 5th and Sunset.  It was a small boutique photo studio, at one time it was the place that some of the biggest photographers on the West Coast decided to do their photo shoots at.  Almost every U.S magazine shot there between the late 1990's and early 2000's.  I never drove a motor home prior to my arrival at 5th & Sunset, but I learned quickly and worked hard at being the best driver out there.  At that time I started documenting the locations, writing essential information like contacts, directions and whether my clients like a particular locale.  I also wrote down whether there were RV dump stations, truck stops, lodging, restaurants, grocery stores, Starbucks  nearby, anything that would be helpful.  Thus this became the genius behind my blog.  I write about locations, cool homes, ranches, national parks, dry lake beds, salt flats, lakes, places in California, places outside of California.  

Of course I always took a lot of pictures of the locations I have been to, taking detail notes and later writing about it in my blogs.  The purpose of my blogs is to inform, hopefully if a potential client had questions they could call me.  In some cases I have been hired to scout such locations, take additional pictures include sometimes compass cooridinates.  If my client needed a motor home, cube trucks, portable restrooms, tables, chairs, etc... I could help them. 

I hope you like my blogs, again if you have any questions please call me Michael Green at 818 317 7099
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