One of my most challenging shoots I have worked on in recent memory was a job in San Francisco (July 2010) for a department store in Germany. I knew this was going to be a difficult project before I left Los Angeles, the producer could not obtain parking permits in time so “we” would have to wing it. “Wing it” in San Francisco is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Fortunately I had been to SF numerous times, so I knew the city relatively well, I also learned what streets would be impossible to navigate a large motor home.
With that said, street parking on all my previous shoots were locked down. This photo shoot was going to be a enthralling, but I had a few tricks, a couple of cones, a sign that read “Production Vehicles” and a personality that could talk myself out of most parking tickets. Rule one I learned, stay with the motor home, the moment you walk away is the moment “they” can ticket you or worse. Fortunately, SF is accustomed to filming; therefore we were only harassed twice; even then I was able to talk myself out of a ticket.
The second day of this six-day photo shoot, China Town for a night scene. Of course there was no legal parking, there was a sign that read “No Parking between 4pm and 6pm”; it was now 3:35pm I found the perfect spot between two cars. Parallel parking a car on hill is no easy task; on a forty-foot motor home, the task is daunting. Fortunately for me I am a skilled driver or I like to think I am a skilled driver and I was able to park the RV, though it did require me to use the parking brake, get the RPM up to 1600 before I could engage the transmission to “Drive” or “Reverse”. One brave tow truck driver contemplated towing me, but I had him out weighed by 14 tons, only a “Big John” (large 40 ton tractor trailer tow truck) could tow me and there was none in San Francisco. Wrong, I saw a “Big John” wiz by me on the way to tow a disabled trolley car. Six in the evening could not come too soon, I made it, and I did not have to relocate the motor home. “ Two beautiful German models, silhouetted against the backdrop of China Town, the perfect shot.
The next morning we drove out to Rodeo Beach, about fifteen minutes north of SF, it was cold, misty and dark. Only surfers in wet suits ventured into the icy Pacific Ocean; the waves were small, the wind was light. Our two German models were freezing in their summer dresses; I leant them one of my warm blankets that I kept on the motor home and turned the heater up to 80 when they returned. The temperature never rose above 59; this is summer? According to meteorologist this is one of the coldest summers in the Bay area on record. Our crazy photographer came up with a wild idea; he wanted to shoot the models driving in a Ford T-Bird while in motion on top of the motor home. I was extremely reluctant at first, but when the Producer agreed to accept all liability if something bad happened, I agreed. To key to safety in this type of situation is communications and adherence to being careful, I made the photographer tie a rope around him and the ladder. I engaged the transmission to drive; the motor home lurched forward at a graceful speed, “we” drove for a quarter mile. The road was flat; the photographer got his shots. Next location is Baker Beach, for a sunset shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. A heavy fog engulfed the Golden Gate Bridge, the sun slowly melted into the darkness of the Pacific Ocean, the ladies were only too glad to return to the warm motor home.
To be continued....