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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cougar Buttes

Dear Reader

I recently bumped into one of my clients at a coffee shop; he was frustrated because he could not find the right location for his upcoming shoot. The client, my friend, indicated he was looking for something different and asked me if I had any ideas. I had many ideas, but I needed something more specific, he indicated he wanted to shoot in the dessert and he wanted mountains in the background. This idea presents many possibilities, and he was in luck because I had my laptop with me. After about fifteen minutes he was blown away by some pictures I just I just shot at Cougar Buttes, an hour
east of Victorville in the Lucerne Valley. My colleague Steve Nadder, a location scout/security guard, introduced me to the location last January. I had an extensive
portfolio of this location because I realized the value that such a location could offer my clients. This is also the site of many films including the latest Tom Cruise movie “Valkyrie”.

This is how I like to assist my clients, if they call me with a possible location they would like to shoot at; in my vast library of locations I probably have such a picture in my arsenal. If I do not have that picture on file, I will find that location for them; in Lucerne Valley, Steve Nadder is one of my best resources.

Cougar Buttes is off a dirt road that is grated for easy access. Once there, the possibilities are endless. In the winter the San Bernardino Mountains are snow capped, and form the perfect backdrop that one could not find elsewhere. There is a different shot at every angle of the buttes, and since there are
several buttes, one has many options.
Victorville and Apple Valley is less than an hour from Cougar Buttes, so lodging is snap for any size crew. Sheri Davis or Dan Taylor from the Inland Film Commission can assist you with film permits and or other questions one may have for planning a shoot at the buttes.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Darwin Ghost Town

Dear Reader

Darwin Ghost Town, California was once a bustling city, just south of Lone Pine, about three and half hours north/east of Los Angeles. In 1874 silver-lead was discovered in the nearby hills, soon over 20 mines were in operation, over 200 homes were built; and at Darwin's peek over thousand residents resided in this harsh environment. By the end of the nineteenth century, the silver deposits were depleted and as such most of the inhabitants left Darwin.

Darwin offers an array of photographic possibilities, from the decaying wood frame homes, rustic mining equipment and a spectacular views.
A few years ago a magazine hired me for an interesting shoot; they hired a famous German photographer who was known to shoot still life in the dark. There was a twist, the photographer was going to shoot models in the same shot, without the use of lights. The agenda included four ghost towns in four days. Our days started at 3 PM and ended at 3 AM, we would go back to our hotel, sleep for a few hours and then drive to our next location, this was a grueling shoot because of the hours, but we had a lot of fun.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dear Reader

El Mirage Dry Lakebed offers some of the most scenic possibilities one could ask for from a location. The Dry Lake is immense, about three miles long and three miles wide; the lakebed offers such an array of looks, a crew could spend a week at this location and still have options. Surrounded by mountains and hills on a 360 degree arc, a flat mosaic pattern forms the floor of the lakebed. The sunsets and sunrises is a vastness of hues, as the sun slowly ascends from the east and melts into the west.

One of the biggest pluses to El Mirage is the close proximity to Los Angeles, about two hours. Victorville is about thirty minutes east of El Mirage, and offers great lodging choices, however do not be tempted to stay at Adelanto, though the town is closer than Victorville, this is an unsafe locale to stay at, in my opinion. There are many choices for catering as well, Sheri Davis or Dan Taylor at the Inland Film Commission (951 779 6700 ext. 231 or 223) can assist you with film permits, lodging, or any other questions or concerns you have. And note; do not attempt to do a commercial shoot without a permit, because rangers patrol the park 24/7.

Last summer I had a client call me and ask me if I had even been to El Mirage, and of course I indicated I have. My client had a lot of questions about the lakebed and I offered my expertise. He wanted to captured the early sunrise, so I figured he wanted a call time of 5 am, to my surprise the client wanted the crew and motor home to arrive at 1 am so that they could do
make-up hair and wardrobe and be ready to go by sunrise. With sleepy eyes we arrived at 1 am, coffee was brewing by 1:05 am and by 5 am the crew anxiously awaited for the spectacular sunrise. By 11 am we were finished and headed back home, it was a great shoot.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Columbia Gorge

Dear Reader

Some locations are difficult to duplicate, Mayer State Park about forty-five minutes east of Portland, Oregon is one of those locales. Nestle on the shores of the mighty Columbia River; this is the dividing line between two states, Oregon and Washington. Barges lumber up and down this river, sometimes against indomitable conditions. For filming one could not ask for a better canvas, the Cascade Mountains in the background and the Columbia River in the foreground. This is a favorite location for car shoots, editorials and commercials.

The best time of the year to shoot on the Columbia Gorge as it is nicknamed, is late June through early September. Weather conditions can change very quickly, so be warned. When conditions are optimal, one could not ask for a better location. Mayer State Park (MSP) tends to be a staging area for large crews who want to shoot on one of the many winding roads south of the park, which overlooks the Gorge. If one wants an organic view of the wind swept Columbia River, MSP has several miles of beach that can accommodate any myriad of possibilities for that perfect shot.
It was mid July, the sun was slowly rising above the sleepy town of The Dalles, a caravan of five ton and ten ton trucks, motor homes, and a trio of fifteen passenger vans and other vehicles, were headed west towards Mayer State Park on I-84. We pulled into the deserted parking lot, just as the sun turned the Columbia River into a fiery hue of orange. A symphony of activity ascended upon the base camp, as drivers positioned their vehicles in predetermined places on the lot. After I set up the
motor home, it was time for my favorite meal, breakfast; the other two motor home drivers joined me and we feasted on pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages and other delectable, and of course coffee. Small details are important to me; I like to lay out on my dashboard the latest fashion magazines for the women and magazines for the men (not porn magazines), and newspapers. Even on large productions I like to make coffer for the crew inside the RV and plenty of water in the refrigerator. I am always available to assist my crew in any way.

Accommodations are many; MSP is near Hood River to the west and The Dalles to the east. Hwy 84 is the main artery between Portland and MSP, Hwy 14 on the Washington side is not advisable for large vehicles including motor homes. Though Oregon may be missing some of the amenities that Hollywood crews are accustomed to, like 24 grip houses, almost anything one needs for a shoot can be found in Oregon. The OMPA and the Oregon Film Commission is an excellent resource for all your production needs and the crews are the best in the north/ west. If you need a motor home, remember Mike Green RVs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Additional Pictures of Amboy

What makes Amboy, California so interesting is the variety of shots one can find at this location. This is called a salt pond, water is flooded into these man made lakes, the water evaporates and leaves salt, which is then shipped to the Mid-West and the East Coast to salt the roads.

If you are interested in shooting at this location go to:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Amboy, the best Salt Flats in Southern California

Dear Reader

I want to stay on the subject of the Palm Springs (“PS”) area; when one considers shooting in PS, and one needs locations beyond 50’s and 60’s style homes or estates, did you know such locations are available nearby? I had a producer who was considering shooting at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, last spring. I indicated to that producer that Amboy had a private salt flats where they could shoot, withoutthe public encroaching on their set. I also indicated that Amboy was only forty-five minutes from 29 Palms or less than two hours from PS. My client was elated, I just saved my producer a ton of money. Of course the Producer hired me for the shoot and I had a great time.

There use to be two salt flats near 29 Palms, the Superior Salt Flats and Amboy. Unfortunately Superior Salt Flats is not open for filming; however Amboy in my opinion is a more suitable location for filming. Amboy has easy access to the dry salt lake, plus there are some great locations around the lake for filming. This is a great year round locale, although be warned summer temperatures can exceed over a 110 degrees, so dress properly and bring plenty of water. The nearest town is 29 Palms, which is forty-five minutes from Amboy and 29 Palms is the perfect place to load up on supplies and gas. Amboy is not the place to run out of fuel, there are plans for a diner and a gas station opening in Amboy sometime in the future. I will keep my readers informed.

The 29 Palms Inn is a great place to relax after a hard day of shooting, the Inn is best described as an Oasis in the desert surrounded by palm trees. When I stay at the Inn, I feel I have traveled back in time to the early sixties; the d├ęcor has the look and furnishings from that era, simple, yet practical. If one opens the window, a cool breeze engulfs the room, the sound of coyotes yelping, one knows they are not in Kansas or Los Angeles for that matter. The restaurant should not be overlooked, the menu is a culinary delight, you are not going to eat cactus burgers or road kill, one is enchanted to feast on steak or salmon cooked to perfection. The restaurant has a great assortment of wines too. If you want some good Texas barbecue, my favorite place is the Rib Co also in 29 Palms, the barbecue is cooked outside on an open flame, the ribs melt off the bones and the menu will have something for everyone in your group. For breakfast I love eating at the Carousel located off Hwy 62 in 29 Palms, if you like pancakes, eggs, sausages and other artery clogging foods, this is the place.

The 29 Palms Inn offers catering, but be warned the hours are limited and they do not deliver to the set. I usually bring my George Forman grill and cook breakfast and lunch on site, whatever you decide to bring with you, make sure you have plenty of water and fuel.

My blog is going to focus on one specific location, if you have questions regarding locations in other parts of California, the Northwest or surrounding States, please feel free to e-mail me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Palm Springs an Oasis in the desert; the perfect place for your next photo shoot, music video, commercial or feature film.

Dear Reader

One of the most over looked locations to do photo shoots, commercials, music videos or feature films is Palm Springs and the surrounding valleys. What makes Palm Springs a great location for shooting is the architecture of the homes, specifically the layout, one story homes surrounded by palm trees and mountains. The variety of distinct dwellings, some a throw back to the 50's and 60's when the Rat Pack roamed through Palm Springs with their a-listed colleagues. One cannot find a better destination to do their shoot, more hospital than Miami anytime of the year, with similar architecture, minus the 100 % humidity and bugs the size of rats.

As a motor home driver/owner who has been working in Hollywood, plus other locals from the Mexican border to the Canada for over nine years, Palm Springs is a City that deserves mentioning because PS is an underutilize locality. As a Producer, Agency, and Clients knows, the best location is a virgin location, a location that either has never seen a camera or is so singular that the possibility of such location allows photographic diversity and dynamics beyond the range of an ordinary overused locale. This logic I find to be impervious to the notion that anyone can find a good location, one needs an expert who knows the area and understands the entertainment industry, this is why I think Locations Unlimited (Sylvia and Thies) is the best resource for Palm Springs and the surrounding valleys.

My clients rely on me not only as a commercial motor home driver, but a person with resources that they can ascertain vital information regarding their shoot. Three years ago I had a client that was looking for s very specific location in the Salton Sea, an hour east of Palm Springs. My Client e-mailed me a basic map of the locations that they were interested in shooting at; she put me in touch with Sylvia (Locations Unlimited), I pick up a Thomas Guide at a truck stop in Indio to more accurately decipher the locations I would have to scout. In almost real time I was able to shoot the locations, download the locations to my Mac from my camera and upload the images to my Clients web page using my aircard. This is beyond the norm of a motor home driver, but I believe in diversity is the key to long sustainability in the entertainment industry.

I provide more than just motor homes for the "industry", I help my clients find locations and resources that will assist them with their shoots. Because of the remoteness of some of the locations I do catering and craft services. I like to be proactive than nonactive on my shoots, it makes my clients life easier and it makes my job more fulfilling.

My blog is going to focus on the entertainment industry in regards to my past and present jobs. I want to make my blog insightful and useful for producers and photographers and other such persons. I will provide information that can assist one in making a carefree and stress free shoot and provide location insights across the West and North West and surrounding states.