Monday, December 21, 2009

Joshua Tree National Park

Dear Reader

It is early morning in Twentynine Palms, California; the air is still, a white frost covers the landscape. The night sky is slowly melting away, leaving an orange hue in the east, creating a spectacular sunrise. The desert creatures awake from their nighttime slumber, darting from Joshua tree to Joshua tree.

My room at the 29 Palms Inn is ironically called “fault line”, a small one-room cottage, quant, and a throwback from the 1920’s. The Inn is a relic from the past, with some minor updates. The draw to the 29 Palms Inn, is its bread an breakfast décor, the cottages have very distinctive names and each share a special flavor, suigeneris in its own way. The Inn is not cheap, but management will cut deals to film crews, and there is plenty of parking for large vehicles.

The Oasis RV Park on Amboy Road (Twentynine Palms) has a dump station for motor homes and trailers; in town there are plenty of fueling stations for trucks and cars. Make sure one has a full tank of fuel before one ventures to Amboy or the recently reopened Superior Salt Flats. In winter the early morning temperatures can dip below freezing and rise to a comfortable 75, so dress accordingly. In summer temps can easily exceed a 100 degrees, so bring plenty of water.

On this shoot we were shooting in Joshua Tree National Park, for the uninitiated, there are very specific places one can shoot at, the park is not opened for filming in all areas and the rangers make sure film crews adhere to strict policy. Hidden Valley, about forty-five minutes from the west entrance into the park is surrounded by rocky formations made up of smaller rocks. As moisture seeps into the granite rocks at night and freezes, the force causes the rock to crack, creating a mosaic of smaller rocks cemented into one large rock. The geological candescent movement that created Joshua tree 100 million years ago must have been spectacular. The Joshua trees that surround Hidden Valley look more like grapevines that extend beyond the horizon, than trees.

At Live Oak, one is surrounded by an alien world of convex and strange shaped rocks that are perched on top of each other, waiting to collapse like dominoes. Live Oak lacks a large parking area for vehicles, especially large trucks and motor homes. Hidden Valley is better suited for large productions, with a number of bus size parking spaces.

As the sun sets, one can only imagine what cataclysmic event uplifted the bedrock to create a chain of rock hills that dart the park, but this is what makes Joshua tree National Park so unique. The fact that (Joshua Tree) is located next to Twentynine Palms or Yucca Valley allows for plenty of lodging and eating options. Palm Springs is less than an hour away, with an international airport and more expansive entertainment options, including luxury hotels and resorts.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pacific City, Oregon

Dear Reader

It is late afternoon on a warm afternoon in Pacific City, Oregon. It is early fall, the tourist have gone home for the season. The weather is still perfect, the sky is a deep hue of blue, the waves are slow and lazy, the water temperature is a cold 59 degrees. The locals own the beach, minus an occasional visitor who is trying to stretch their summer.

Back in the summer of 2005 I was at this beach on a car commercial, it was the first time I drove to the Oregon coast. Because of bad directions, most of the crew got lost, fortunately I did not get lost, however I had a couple of anxious moments, it is not easy making a U-Turn in an RV. I met some wonderful people on that shoot and I wanted to return to Pacific City at some point on my own. Fast forward to 2009 and I am back in Pacific City on another car shoot, I arrived a day early to do some exploring and some picture taking. My crew will arrive tonight and at the crack of dawn we will be on the beach tomorrow morning.

Pacific City is about two hours south west of Portland, it is a small community, relying on tourist for its main revenue source and the occasional film shoot. What makes Pacific such an ideal place to shoot is the beach with its rock island a hundred yards out to sea, a two hundred foot sand dune to the west and a killer sunset, filmmakers can not resist this location. There is the Cape Kiwanda Inn adjacent to the beach, which has a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and plenty of rooms for your crew, plus a dump station for your RV's and portable restrooms. There is a small market, a gas station that sells diesel and can accommodate large trucks, though not easily.

If you are tired of the same Los Angeles locations check out Pacific City in Oregon or some of the other coastal cities along the Oregon coast. The best time of the year is from June to the end of September, unless you want an abundance of clouds and rain, late fall to the end of spring is optimal time for such weather.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Restless in Seattle Part III

Dear Reader

We were shooting at Gas Light Park in North Seattle off of Lake Union. In the summer you can see sailboats tacking up and down the lake, the scene is surreal. There is a large hill in the park that has an incredible view of Seattle, as the sun fades, one can see the city turn into a hue of cascading lights that transcends some of the best city lights I have ever seen.

Gas Light Park used to power Seattle at the turn of the last century, the unusual rustic equipment line the park, creating an eerie relics from the past. From a photographers perspective one can find some interesting backgrounds that are unparalleled to any location I have ever visited or seen.

The park could be used to create a Fellini style film with it abstract objects, the grayness of the sky, as rain pours from the welkin. The winding path that leads to the hill, like a puzzle, disconnected imagery, perplexing awash in a whimsical poetry. Gas Light Park lends itself to many shooting options, several pictures cannot capture all of the possibilities.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Restless in Seattle Part II

It is late afternoon in Seattle, we are shooting at Hidmo Restaurant off of Jackson and 20th in Seattle. The set is hectic with the Director discussing with the DP the next shot, a nervous energy ensues, people with various titles run around the set, the first AD yells "quite on the set, roll sound and action". The real drama begins, for the crew of $5 Cover, it is just another day at the office. To plan for a feature film, it takes month of preparation, rewrites, casting, locations, hiring the above and below line crew, it all takes time. By the time I am hired, the start date is usually days away; the producer, the UPM and other crew members have been working on pre-production for weeks.

We work on a five day week starting on Saturday and going through Wednesday, with Thursday and Fridays off, long days are the rule, but no one complains, we love our jobs. This is what makes working on films so special, we all have one common bound to make a great film.

What attracted me to this project was a chance to work in Seattle, and a chance to work on a feature film. The projects I work on are commercials, music videos and photo shoots, which I enjoy. Feature films are a rarity because most features use trailers and my speciality are high end motor homes. This is my first time in Seattle, what I like most about it are the people, everyone who I met so far are very nice. Working on $5 Cover is one of those projects that working on is such a joy, not only because of the crew and talent, the film itself is so interesting. The film is about local bands performing, and the story behind the group, it is more like a docudrama with music and comedy brilliantly blended in like hot mocha on a cold Seattle fall morning.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Restless in Seattle Part I

Dear Reader

It is early Tuesday morning in North West Seattle, the air is still, a marine layer hangs above Peuget Sound, and seagulls make their way for their favorite eating-places. The city of Seattle is slowly waking up, one by one people emerge from their cocoons and brace themselves for a slow commute to their jobs. For me, I am in search of a good breakfast and some of Seattle’s famous coffee. Tully’s Coffee house meets those needs, a mild blend of coffee, just enough caffeine to wake me up and a nice warm croissant to satisfy my hunger.

This is the first time I have been to Seattle, and the first time I have been to the North West since September of 2006. The opportunity to work on a feature in Seattle came unexpectedly, initially I thought I would not be able to do the job because of scheduling conflicts, however such problems were resolve and a day and a half latter I arrived in Seattle from Los Angeles. When I arrived in Seattle the last week in July, Seattle was experiencing one of the worst heat waves in a century, from my LA perspective, this was just another reason to get a suntan and drink an ice mocha with plenty of whipped cream.

To get a sense of the city I decided to take a bus into Seattle, as intimating as I thought the streets of Los Angeles are, Seattle streets resembles San Francisco, a series of one way streets with hills that can wear out brake pads in a matter of hours. On James and 4th, the light turned red halfway down a steep incline, a Hail Mary and good brakes allowed me to stay motionless until the light changed to green.

Google Maps and two GPS units have been the most important tools for me to navigate my forty-one foot motor home around the tight, tree-laden roads. I am learning to scan my route in advanced using Google Maps, and the advice of our location manager, who has assisted me with my daily route to location. My in dash GPS has made me a little nervous several times, forcing me on small roads and making me make U-turns at the worst intersections. But I surmise I am a professional, I can handle the streets of Seattle, and GPS don’t let me down now.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shady Cove Revisted

Dear Reader

It was a cold dreary day in Shady Cove Oregon, as I walked towards the restaurant, it was early morning and I was hungry. This was my first time in Oregon and I admit I was falling in love with this beautiful town. The air was crisp and clean; the sound of the rushing river below me was soothing to my ears. I was working on a low budget film called “Yesterdays Dreams”; I was supplying the talent motor home for this job, my 2003 Neptune, the first motor home I ever owned. This job was different from the jobs I worked on in the past, photo shoots and commercials that would last one to several days. I was schedule to work on this job for five to six weeks, with another job set to shoot just before Christmas.

Growing up in Los Angeles, which is known for traffic and air pollution, small towns are almost nonexistent; Shady Cove was this tiny town surrounded by trees and the Rogue River, an oasis from my perspective. If I could, I would move to Shady Cove in a heartbeat. As such, this thought would be placed in the back of my mind, until the day I retire or move onto a different chapter in my life.

When I arrived at the Shady Cove Inn, it was midnight; the town was peaceful except for the sounds of an occasional owl hooting or a passing car. The sky was clear and I could see an array of stars above me, the air was crisp and I could not wait to get some much needed sleep.

The next morning I met the Producer, the Director and the rest of the crew, my instincts told me this was going to be a great shoot, as it turned out “Yesterdays Dreams” was my favorite shoot of all time. The Producers picked a crew that consisted of locals and individuals and venders from Los Angeles. I relied on the locals to verify directions and the best routes to our locations; they also became some of my best friends on the film. Oregonians are very nice people, they are extremely helpful and Oregon wants filming in the State, the Film Commission allows non-local companies to do business, especially if they have a service that is not available in the State

The myth about Oregon is that it is always rainy, that is not true for all of Oregon and only at certain times of the year. In Medford, Oregon most of the storms blow past the valley and the eastern potions of the state, the weather is similar to the California Mojave Desert.

Shady Cove became our base camp for the majority of the production; we shot most of the scenes in Shady Cove, as well as Ashland. The town also proved to be a bastion of talent; many of the extras came from the Shady Cove talent pool. In the process I met many nice people in SC, when I came back two years latter, I was surprise that some of the towns people still remembered me and our shoot.

In short, if you want to find a unique place to shoot with a small town atmosphere, Shady Cove is the place to plan your film.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Los Angeles a great place to do your next film or video project

Dear Reader

Downtown Los Angeles is an interesting place to shoot with a variety of architecture, ambience and character. On a busy day, LA can resemble a back lot for the studios, with sometimes five or six productions shooting at the same time, yet invisible to one another. This is what makes shooting in LA great, it can look like New York, Boston or San Francisco or almost any other city. The entire infrastructure one needs, prop houses, grip and lighting equipment, camera’s and the most seasoned crews reside in or near Los Angeles.

Film LA Inc. (213 977 8600) has streamlined the film permit process, making it easier for filmmakers to obtain the necessary permits for their projects. The LA 411 is a great resource as well, in terms of locating equipment and crew. What I like about shooting in Los Angeles is that generally parking is not an issue, LAPD retired cops know the industry and help keep traffic around the set flowing.

As the sun slowly descends below the Pacific Ocean, the traffic is non-existent, and a new crowd emerges from their lofts, smartly dressed and ready to party, relegated mainly to areas around the Staples Center and the Bunker Hill district. The rest of downtown LA is a ghost town at night, not withstanding the occasional homeless person who wonders the night in search of solace and a small meal. This is when the real action happens; film crew set up for complicated shots, maybe a car chase or monster invading Los Angeles or a super model walking down the streets of LA for a fashion shoot. Even crews on a budget can find locations for their films for a modest price.

Again if you need a Motor Homes or Portables Restrooms for your next shoot, please call Mike Green RVS at 818 317 7099.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tejon Ranch

Dear Reader

Tejon Ranch is a location few in the public can access, unless one is fortunate to work in the entertainment industry and has the opportunity to shoot at the ranch. Tejon Ranch is located north of the HWY 138 and extends north of Bakersfield past HWY 58. The ranch is mainly used for cattle grazing and shooting commercials, photo shoots, TV and feature films.

The ranch ranges from an African savanna to rolling green hills; something one would find in Ireland. Since the ranch, in certain locales is above four thousand feet in elevation, in winter, the rolling hills are covered in snow. Therefore TR offers film makers a wide range of locations to shoot at, in fact the ranch is so large, one could have several big budget films shooting at the same time and not interfere with each other, nor would one know the other production is there.
Lodging is plentyful, the Best Rest Inn, the Ramada Hotel, both in Lebec, and the Econo Lodge in Gorman. There is a dump station and fuel at the Flying J in Lebec, hardware stores and a small grocery store in Frazier Park, restaurants aplenty.

The great plus about the ranch is that it is less than an hour and half north of Los Angeles. TR has easy access in most locations for large vehicles, there are a few locations on the ranch that are not accessible by large trucks.

I have been on the ranch on numerous occasions, almost every time, we shot at a different locale. This time we were shooting a scene with cowboys and cattle, the sky was cloudy and menacing, we observed lightning strikes several times, yet the air was surprisingly humid and hot. Our caterer was cooking a barbeque delight, ribs, chicken, corn on the cob, grilled vegetables, it was a great feast. Our shoot was over and our bellies full, it was time to go home.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dumont Dunes Revisted

Dear Reader

As I indicated, there was a reason why I was at Shoshone, California. Shoshone is the closest town to Dumont Dunes, about thirty minutes north. If one needs fuel, including diesel/gas, food or lodging, Shoshone is the closest town to Dumont. The closest city is Pahrump, Nevada; there you can find a grocery store, casinos, and better lodging, especially for large crews. The Shoshone Inn is small, twenty rooms max, and it is basic, a bed, TV and a shower/tub.

Our crew is small, so Shoshone was the perfect place to lodge, fuel and eat. As the driver of a large motor home, there was plenty of parking and since my motor home is fond of diesel, my RV was never hungry, the fuel was not cheap about thirty cents higher than Baker and Baker is about sixty cents higher than Los Angeles. Shoshone does have an RV park, so on extended stays, the dump station is a necessity.

The road into Dumont Dunes is a rough road, at best, I was able to maintain about five miles an hour, so it took me about an hour to reach the main parking lot. Once you are off the main road the ground is soft, so read the road carefully, one of our guys made the mistake of driving too close to the dunes and got his SUV stuck. We hired two guys who were familiar with the dunes to lead us to our location, around the corner from the main parking lot. I was a little apprehensive about leaving the main parking lot, but our guide assured me I would not get stuck. To play it safe I engaged my automatic traction control, which provided power to both rear wheels, I kept a steady speed until we arrived at our designated location.

Our guides bought a modified sand rail with then to traverse the four hundred foot sand dunes and bring crew and talent to location. Even the best four-wheel drive truck would have problems climbing a dune with a twenty-five percent incline. Dumont is very tricky place to navigate; even the best of driverscan get their vehicles stuck in the loosedry sand.

It was a hundred and five in the shade and humid, the clouds looked ominous and menacing, could a monsoon be near. The Producer stared at the sky for a moment, I assured him that a monsoon would be rare in this region; I was right it did not rain. Watching a sand rail climb a sand dune is like defying the laws of gravity; it requires a skilled driver who knows that in order to reach a location on the side of a dune requires the driver to pass the location and make a long curve up pass the designated locale and then maneuver the sand rail down to such location.

From where I stood, next to the motor home, the crew looked like ants. The sun was slowly setting and the sand was a golden brown, the air was still and quiet. We owned the Dunes, which I thought was unusual, but our guide indicated to me that Dumont Dunes is dead from late April to early October. Therefore if one wants to shoot at Dumont, without any interference from the public spring to late summer is the perfect time to do a shoot.

Be warned though, it is hot, hot, hot, bring plenty of water and an air conditioned motor home like one from Mike Green RV’s (818) 317 7099. In the cooler months it can still get hot in Dumont Dunes, so prepare properly. Again I will always recommend Willie’s On and Off Road Center (760) 257 3734 for your off road needs, including dune buggy’s, scouting, plus more. Sheri Davis from the Inland Film Commission (951) 779 6700 ext. 231; is always the best person to call for information and film permits for Dumont Dunes and the entire Inland


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shoshone an oasis in the desert

Dear Reader

It is quit now in the town of Shoshone, except for the sound of an owl and some birds, an occasional car passing by. The sun is slowly rising above the mountains, I can hear the rustling wind from the nearby trees, a cool breeze blowing in the inhospitable desert town situated south/west of one of the hottest places in the world, Death Valley. Shoshone has an allure about it, a town forgotten by time, a place were miners mined for gold in the late 1800’s. Behind the Shoshone Inn visitors can see the entrance to such a mine, closed with chicken wire guarding the entrance from trespassers. If one listens carefully one can hear the sounds of an encampment of miners discussing the zest for treasures buried in the ground below them. Those days are gone forever, but this town an oasis perched in the unforgiving Mojave Desert provides solitude to those who seek solitude.

I arrived in Shoshone late afternoon, the air was hot and thick, and I let my diesel engine idle for a few minutes allowing the turbo chargers to cool off. I registered at the motel, a place that reminded me of something my parents would find on their travels in the 1950’s, a one story U-shape building surrounded by trees. My room was located in the back, as tempted as I was to back up to my room, the towering trees with its thick branches detoured me from such a thought. Instead I parked my RV next to the Inn, away from trees. The room was modest, the air conditioner blasting, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature.

I was hungry; I prayed that whatever food I could find would be eatable. I walk across the street to the Crowbar Café & Saloon; I peered through the menu, a cross between Americana and Mexican food. Could this food be good, I pondered? The waitress seemed nice, I ordered an enchilada combo, the plate arrived hot, and the food was delectable. This was the best enchilada I had ever had the chance to indulge in, I was happy, very happy.

I went back to my room and grabbed my camera, this place was too tempting not to take pictures, and I took many pictures. In a world with more malls and mini-malls one needs to take time and make since of life, this is why man or woman must seek solace and explore new roads or in this case old roads, a way to link oneself to the past.

Shoshone is about a mile long, if one blinks their eyes for a moment, they could pass this town. This is a place one should stop at, smell the clean desert air, and discover the rich history, the museum, and rusting relics of a life melting in the hot sun. Wild life in abundance, the hot springs and the still of the air, far removed from the bustling city. At night one sees stars, galaxy’s from a far off place, the hollowing of coyotes in the distance, a darkness one could not find anywhere except in the deep caves that miners dredge in the not so distant past. To the south/east I could see the lights of Las Vegas, glowing like a fire.

On my next blog I am going to discuss the purpose of my trip to Shoshone.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sequoia National Park

Dear Reader

I have lived in California all of my life, California is a state so humongous that it could take a life time to visit every National Park and every tourist destination. Since I have been working in the "entertainment industry" as a provider of motor homes and transportation equipment I have had a chance to visit some prodigious locations.

One of my chances came in 2005 when one of my dearest clients Shotsie from First Shot Productions asked me to come on a location scout for a future shoot in Sequoia National Park, along with her assistant "Selma". The trip took about four and a half hours, including a stop for fuel and snacks, since Sequoia is a National Park there is only one petrol station and the hours of this station is not 24 hours, so top off your tank before you enter the park.

Once we got to the park we stopped at several potential locations including this location, a tunnel carved into a tree. This part of the road is closed to thru traffic but it offered an interesting locale to shoot at. Ultimately the Client rejected this locale because they were shooting a winter edition of their Christmas catalog and the Client wanted locations with snow.

We checked into the Wuksachi Lodge; when we arrived at the parking lot there was nine feet high snow drifts even though it was early March. This was perfect in one way, we needed the snow for our background, but too much snow could cancel our shoot or make it impossible to navigate our large vehicles including the box truck, the horse trailer and the motor home. There was another problem, the General Highway (Hwy 198) is the most navigable road for large vehicles like the RV, but when winter storms blow in from Alaska, 198 is the first road to close because of snow. Highway 65 is always opened throughout the year, but because of the winding narrow passes, vehicles over 30 feet are not advised on this byway. Fortunately for our job, when we shot there in late March, 198 was opened and we had no problem navigating our way to our various locations.

We spent two days in Sequoia scouting various locations including Grants Pass, and Giant Forest. This was a chance for me to determine the best location to park the motor home and other large vehicles and to devise maps for the crew. Since there are no dump stations in Sequoia, I advised my Producer that we should look at alternative restrooms during our shoot. This was no problem, since every location except one had a restroom. The other issue was diesel fuel for our support vehicles, I advised my drivers to top off their tanks before they entered the park, since my RV has a 900 mile range, one tank kept me in business for the four day shoot.

Since my Producer did a lot of pre-planing, the shoot went great. We had a exceptional time, it was cold, the photographer got the shot they needed, and the Client went back to the United Kingdom happy.

If you are planing on shooting in California, Oregon, Washington or surrounding states please call me Mike Green at 818 317 7099, we have the motor homes and portable restrooms for your future productions.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This is my journey

Dear Reader

Friends ask me all the time what do you do? I tell them I provide motor homes for the entertainment industry, specifically for photo shoots, commercials, music videos and feature films. They are usually astounded that such a job actually exist. I have been a driver/operator of motor homes for almost ten years. I started my career in this business driving for someone else, eventually I got promoted to "transportation captain" and was in charge of a small fleet of motor homes for a West Los Angeles photo studio. I went solo in 2004 when that studio cease operations, I continued to work with the same producers from that studio and along the way obtained new clients.

My journey has been a engrossing trip, I have met many fascinating people and traveled to some unparalleled locations. I have met many celebrities, models and sports stars, what I like most about my job is, I never know who is going to be siting in my sofa or at my make-up table. The one thing I learned on my journey is just how human people are, some people are bless with good looks, or a passion and talent for acting, singing or sports. Some people are bless with the gift of being a good human, which I like to think is a common goal of mankind.

I am going to continue to provide the best service and the most practical motor homes in the business and I hope the entertainment industry continue to thrive even in a difficult economy. America don't give up on America, it is still the great country, and times will get better, they always do.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Vasquez Rocks Revisit

Dear Reader

Vasquez Rocks is a great place to shoot, though this location has been shot numerous times, it is worth noting, that this park is massive and as such offers innumerable possibilities. A short hike to the north you can get a spectacular sunrise shot like this. (Note: this picture was modified)

A few years ago I was hired, by a promising photographer to provide a high end motor home for a European Magazine fashion shoot. The Photographer wanted a desert shot, he had a blanket film permit for north/west Mojave (Palmdale, Little Rock), at the last second he decided to add Vasquez Rocks at my request. Since Vasquez Rocks is on the way to the Mojave Desert we stop at VR first. The photographer loved Vasquez, he rushed his photo assistants to ready the camera, the make-up and hair stylist hurried to get the two models ready for the shot, which included gladiator props, please don't ask me what they did with the props, I never saw
the final pictures, though I have always been curious about this fashion shoot.

Again, when my Clients ask for my imput before a shoot, I can assist them more efficiently. If they have location questions or ideas I can help them. If they are concern about parking the RV or other large vehicles I can go out to the location and check the locale, look for any obstructions and confirm the directions. Good large vehicle directions are essential, bad directions can cause logistical problems.

If you have any questions about this location or other locations mentioned in my blog and/or you need a motor home for your next shoot call me, Mike Green 818 317 7099.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Irwindale Rock Quarry

Dear Reader

Now that I am back in Los Angeles enjoying the warm California sunshine, I decided to discuss one of my favorite locations, Irwindale Rock Quarry. This is an interesting location to shoot at because it offers a unique background, that one could not find at anywhere else. For one, there are the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, secondly there are an array of locations and construction equipment all over the quarry.

A DP or a Photographer could dream up endless options for their shoot, a car chase, a sexy model dressed in an evening gown next to one of the mounds of rocks for an editorial. One of my favorite clients asked me one day last winter if I knew of any rock quarries near Los Angeles. The answer was easy because this location is literally ten minutes from my Azusa lot were we keep most of our motor homes and other production equipment. I had been at this
location before for a music video several years ago and I had some pictures on file, I e-mailed the pictures to my client, my client was blown away. We shot at this location for several days and we still had plenty of location possibilities. My client saved money because she did have to seek multiple locations, she found everything she needed at one location and most importantly her client loved the location. There was plenty of parking and easy access to the location.

I felt satisfied I was able to help my client, and my client knew she called the right person for both location ideas and motor homes. Again, I am not trying to toot my own horn, but, I want my current and future clients to know I am a good resource for their shoots. As I said before I
been to some unique locations, not only in California, but in other states like Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho. If you need help with locations, please e-mail me, I probably been at your location or I have the resources to find the perfect location for you.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Traveling back to Los Angeles

Dear Reader

When a job is finished, I can head home, the pressure is off me, I can mellow out with the satellite radio and focus on the next job. Coming home from Sun Valley, Idaho was not a picnic, first I had to deal with the heavy winds. When I stopped at the Flying J in Jerome, Idaho, the winds were so severe, there was several people flying their kids, not literally, but if it was not tied down, it was airborne. My comrade "Trent" was several hours behind me, I decided to warn him about the impending wind; a couple hours later he informed
me a rogue wind hit his RV and tore off his awning and roof air conditioning unit. By that time I was in near white out conditions in Salt Lake City, I pulled over at a truck stop and had lunch.

My goal was to make it to Las Vegas, I top off my tank, made a few calls, watch a little TV, took a nap, just kidding. It was easy going until I got several miles north of Vegas, the winds got strong again, the RV was rocking like small sailboat in a storm. I had enough, I found a truck stop in North Las Vegas and called it a night. The one thing
about traveling in an RV, one has everything one needs, including a bed and a shower.

The next morning about 4 am I got back on the road, I missed California and I wanted to get back home. The one thing about going out of town for work is, the traveling aspect; in a motor home one is going to stay close to the speed limit, one is not going to set speed records, RV's are not sports cars, however, with that said, most diesel pushers can travel almost a 1000 miles on a tank of fuel, try that in a hybrid. When we do long distance caravans with cars, I am amazed how many times I end up being only several minutes behind the cars, why? Most passenger vehicles do not have the range of a motor home, nor do they have bathrooms, so people in cars have to stop more often.

When I finally pulled back into my lot, I was happy to be back in Sun Valley, that's Sun Valley, California. My lungs sucked in that brown air, it was 70 degrees, not minus 70 degrees, I could wear jeans and t-shirts again and discard my jacket and gloves.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sun Valley, Idaho Part 11

Dear Reader

Sun Valley, Idaho is a beautiful town, the air is crisp and clean, the people are some of the nicest on this planet. Coming from a Southern California native, this place is Antarctica, a jacket, gloves and a hat is must, night and day. Traffic is four elk crossing the road, my lungs were not used to the clean air, I had to take a couple hits from a bottle of "LA Smog" before my lungs finally adjusted to the smog less air.

One of the most challenging feats to adjust to, was driving on snow and ice, fortunately my motor home had something called automatic traction control or ATC. This device came in handy several times, as noted in this picture. When we were finished for the day, I started the engine and engaged the transmission, nothing happen other than the wheels spun around, no traction; I panic for a second, cell range was a good seven miles south of our location. Several seconds latter the ATC engaged, all four wheels moved forward and we were on our way back to Sun Valley.

The scenery was breathtaking, the creeks and rivers are pristine, if one likes to ski, one could not pick a better place. For shooting a movie, commercial or a photo shoot, Sun Valley is the perfect place, but be warned, winter last well into April and May
and weather conditions can be dicey; plan for weather days and bring plenty of warm clothes.

Our biggest challenge on this trip was not snow, it was the wind. Now wind is not something new to a California driver who is used to Santa Ana winds, these winds were so strong you could fly a five year old. My buddy "Trent" hit a gust of wind that tore off his awning, air conditioner vent and damaged his roof, as for me the wind almost tore off my jockey box panels, fortunately I was able to do a quick repair and I was able to save it. Winter driving is always a challenge, this trip allowed me to enhance my driving skills, in the end it was great trip and I would love to return to Sun Valley, Idaho, for now I must endure the icy Southern California climate, where is my sunscreen?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Destination-Sun Valley, Idaho

Dear Reader

I apologize for not updating my blog, I have been on one of my most challenging shoots, a shoot in Sun Valley, Idaho.

My trip began in Sun Valley, California, my home base on March 21st. Sun Valley, California is known as the junkyard capital of the world, in contrast to Sun Valley, Idaho which is has more rich people per square inch, than anywhere else. I met my comrade "Trent" in Barstow, California, the job required two motor homes, so we decided to caravan together, since I had GPS, I drove the lead.

If one has ever made the trip to Sun Valley to Sun Valley, the route is simple, take the I-10 east to I-15 north, past Las Vegas, pass Salt Lake City to I-84 North, and finally take HWY 73 north to Sun Valley, Id. I would say this was an easy trip, but as such, this would be a lie, especially in early spring, when weather conditions can change at a moments notice. We hit almost white out conditions in Utah, and heavy winds in Idaho. Driving a motor home in heavy winds is like navigating a sailboat in the ocean, except one has wheels instead of sails and the road is not forgiving when you have vehicles several inches from you. Common since is also a factor, if the weather conditions are too bad, stop at the nearest truck stop and wait it out.

We left Los Angeles on Friday morning at 6 am and arrived at out lodge the next afternoon at 3 pm. When I opened the door of my RV, a cold wind hit me, like a Mike Tyson punch, I put on my heavy coat, gloves and hat and checked into our room.

Sun Valley, Idaho in early spring averages in the low 30's daytime and can easily hit zero at night; fortunately, I had an engine heater for my engine. For a diesel engine to start properly in this cold environment, an engine heater is a must, plus winter blend diesel fuel, to stop the jelling of the fuel. The light poles in the parking lot had AC power for the engine
heater and shore power for the RV, the keep the batteries properly charged at night.

The next morning "Trent" and I scouted some of the locations we would be shooting at, mainly we focused on the difficult locations. If I have one issue that annoys me about this business specifically photo shoots, is when a location scout or producer considers a location only on the merits of the location and not the feasibility of getting large vehicles to and from such location. When one chooses a location consider how accessible the location is for large vehicles like trucks and motor homes, if one is not sure, ask someone like me (Professional Motor home Driver) to scout the location in advance of the shoot date. Do not rely on the owner of the property if they have had motor homes at their location. Most modern motor homes are thirteen feet high, almost a foot and a half taller than a motor home made before 2005. With that said, in my years in this business, I have never seen a road such as Warm Springs Rd; the road starts off safe, paved, then turns to ice and sludge, mud and snow. The perfect road to navigate my 4 X 4 truck, not a road that I would want to drive a motor home on, fortunately I did not have to go to this location, however my buddy did and two-thousand dollars worth of damages latter, "Trent" probably wished he never seen this road. The perfect solution, find a place to do a base camp at, and shuttle the crew to location, this is what "we" do on features and commercials, this saves money and frustration for the producer.

I will continue my Sun Valley trip, next time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dumont Dunes

Dear Reader

I once had a client ask me if I knew any great sand dunes near Los Angeles. The answer is yes, there are several, there is Pismo Beach, the Imperial Sand Dunes and Dumont Dunes. My favorite sand dunes is Dumont Dunes, which is thirty miles north of Baker or four hours from Los Angles. One could stay in Baker, which has adequate lodging or one could stay in Pahrump, Nevada, an hour north/east of Dumont. Pahrump is considered the fire works capital of the world, it has several casino's, grocery store and plenty of places to eat, this is not Vegas, but if one has a production that last more than two days, one will appreciate the resources Pahrump has, including a dump station for RVs and other vehicles that need dumping.

Fortunately for my client I had a folder full of pictures from Big Dumont and Little Dumont Dunes to show her. Needless to say my client was blown away about this location, I had her talk to Sherri Davis from the Inland Film Commission regarding film permits and other concerns. I also put her in touch with Willie On and Off Road Center (760 257 3734); Willie, who I admit is a good friend of mine, knows the Dumont's better than anyone, and he has the resume to prove it. Willie has the Dune Buggies and the drivers one will need to navigate the dunes, which is no easy feat.

Dumont is a great place to shoot, the vistas are stunning, the weather is consistent "sunny and hot" except during winter. The sand turns a golden brown in late afternoon. In addition, Dumont is less than an hour from Death Valley, an added bonus if one needs a variety of locales to shoot at. Just bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you.

Death Valley I will discuss in a future Blog.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ashland, Oregon

Dear Reader

About four years ago I was on my way to Palm Springs for a weekend of relaxation, when I received a phone call from one of my favorite friends, Norton. He asked me what I was up to and I explained to Norton I was planning on chilling for the weekend. Norton explained he was a transportation captain on a low budget film shooting in Southern Oregon, and he needed a motor home like my Neptune for his impending shoot and if I was interested, he went on and explained the budget was marginal, but I would have a lot of fun. After some wrangling regarding my pay scale, I agreed to do the job. We would be shooting in Oregon for about six weeks
in early fall, after the second day there, I realized that my Southern California wardrobe was inadequate for the Oregon weather. Fortunately I was able to purchase some better attire at local department store and I was OK for the rest of the shoot.

Ashland, Oregon is known for its skiing and the Shakespeare festival, what I found most appealing was the atmosphere of the town. We filmed for a week in Ashland, the weather was cold, but the
people were very warm. Our crew consisted of a number of native Oregonians, some California natives and the rest came from other parts of the US. Ashland offers a variety of locales to shoot at; including Mt. Ashland, the Rogue River and obviously the town of Ashland.