Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Joshua Tree National Park (Substitute locations) & Film Permits

Dear Reader,

I recently had a client call ask me if she needed a film permit for a location on private property.  I did not know the answer, though I assumed the answer was yes; as usual I like a challenge.  I contacted Sheri Davis (951.779.6700) of the Inland Film Commission, a person who I know very well.  The answer is yes one does need a film permit in California for any location, private or public.  The cost of the permit varies from a couple of hundred dollars to five-hundred (approximately), plus monitor fees, peace officers fees, etc.…. depending the location and size of the crew.  Most locations need at least five days to pull a permit.  If you plan on shooting in a national park like Joshua Tree, you will need at least two months to pull a permit.  The reason, most parks, national or state do not have the staff to handle all the permits that come into their offices, so one needs to be patient.  There are always substitutes for Joshua Tree; in Pioneer Town, there is a wonderful butte that looks like the park and it is on private land.  Sylvia from Locations Unlimited (760.861.4144) can assist you if you have questions about these locations, plus she can assist you with other locations.

There are always other options when you can’t find the exact location you need, and I understand that sometimes projects come up at the last moment.  Recently I had a client call me and they needed to find a location for a music video that they were producing in a couple of days.  My client wanted a diner somewhere in the Mojave Desert.  My two favorite diners is the Four Aces and Club Ed (310-839-5722), because of the budget, Club Ed was the more affordable location.  I went scouting with the client and his team was blown away with Club Ed.  Club Ed is larger than the Four Aces; there is a motel, with several rooms in 1950’s décor, a swimming pool, a diner and a gas station, plus several 60’s era trucks.  For an additional fee you can shoot at the buttes behind the motel.  If you shoot on 150th Street, you will need the appropriate film permits and the CHP for road closure.  There is plenty of parking across the street, there are no restroom facilities, so you will need a portable restroom or a motor home, and the nearest town is thirty minutes away in Lancaster.  Lancaster is a great place to lodge your crew; there are plenty of restaurants and a mall.  Club Ed is about an hour and half from Los Angeles.  Film LA (213.977.8600) will handle your film permits, make sure to make two copies and assign someone to fill out the paper work, and have it ready.

California in general is a very affordable place to do your next project; the rules are different than other states, but very film friendly.  If you have any questions about this blog or location ideas please feel free to call me Mike Green 818 317 7099.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Death Valley-Bad Water, CA

Dear Reader,

Two years ago I worked on a photo shoot in Death Valley at Bad Water.  Death Valley is located about four hours east of Los Angeles off of Interstate 15 north of Baker.  The best time to visit Death Valley is from the late fall to early spring, temperatures during this time of year is very comfortable. The worst time to visit Death Valley is late Spring to early fall, the reason, extreme heat.  Death Valley is the hottest place in the United States, it is also the lowest point in the US. There are many places to shoot at in Death Valley, my favorite is Bad Water because one is surrounded by an oasis of emptiness, a dry lake depleted of H20, in a valley encircle by mountains.  Bad Water looks like you are on an alien planet, it is quiet, it is lonely, the perfect place to do your next project if you want something unique and different.

If you plan on shooting in Death Valley, Panamint Springs Resort (775.482.7680) is the closest lodging to Bad Water, it is also the only place that your cell phone will work.  If you have any questions about Bad Water for your next shoot, or if you need an RV call me Mike Green at 818.317.7099.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Los Angles-Many hidden Secretes

Dear Reader,

People ask me all the time about my favorite locations in Los Angeles.  First for some basic information, Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States behind New York 3,792,621. There are two LA’s, downtown LA and all the other cities that surround Los Angeles that is still considered LA; Hollywood, Silver Lake, Encino, Tarzana etc.… It’s very confusing, but this is the nature of LA, nothing is what it seems.  There are no “Hollywood Studios” in Hollywood, Paramount is located in Los Angeles, Sony is located in Culver City, Universal is located in Universal City, Disney and Warner Brothers are located in Burbank, confusing is it not?

This is what I like about LA, it is full of surprises; take the Hollywood sign, it used to be called “Hollywoodland” in 1923; it was mounted at the current location to lure people to buy property of course now it is a landmark.  This was never intended to become an icon for Hollywood, but it did.  This is a great location to shoot at, if only there wasn’t protected by an electric fence and barbwire.  Fortunately there are plenty of places to shoot this iconic sign.  The best viewing point is off of Beachwood Drive, north of Franklin Ave.  You can also reach the Hollywood sign from Lake Hollywood Drive off of Barham. If you take Barham Blvd, north from the 101 make a right at Lake Hollywood Drive and follow this road to the right it will take you to a dog park that has a great view of the Hollywood sign.

Griffith Park Observatory is another wonderful location to shoot at, not only from its architect and an interior from a bygone era, filmmakers have used this place in numerous films, TV shows, commercials and photo shoots.  Perched on top of the Hollywood Hills north west of Los Angeles the observatory has one of the best views of Hollywood, Beverly Hills and on a clear day one can even see the blue Pacific.  Looking to the east, one can view the skyscrapers of downtown LA, because of earthquakes there is a limit to how high buildings can be constructed, but every city has its faults.  Only Elysian Park has a better view of Los Angeles, located next to Dodger Stadium. 

Los Angeles used to have one of the best trolley systems in America; that was a long time ago, that era ended in 1960.  However, LA still has the shortest trolley car ride in the US known as Angels Flight, the trolley travels two blocks from Hill to Olive in the Bunker Hill district in downtown LA.  Angels Flight was opened in 1901 and still is in service today.  When you ride in the trolley you are taken back in time, it is the perfect place to do a photo shoot or film a period piece.

I am going to write a series of blogs about Los Angeles and the surrounding area, there are so many great locations some well known and some that are obscure.  I have lived in Southern California all my life and I have been involved in the entertainment industry for over twenty-five years, but I am always surprised when I find a new location, or a new restaurant.  If you have any questions about locations anywhere on the West Coast or you need a motor home call me (Mike Green 818 317 7099).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trona Pinnacles

Dear Reader,

I have had the privilege to visit some great locations in my lifetime, but one place that stands out is the Trona Pinnacles. The Pinnacles is located twenty miles east of Ridgecrest, California or about three hours north/east of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert. The tufa spires were formed between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago underwater, creating interconnected lakes from Death Valley to Mono Lake. The lake has long since evaporated, leaving topography best described as out of this world. This is what has attracted movie producers to this location, it is the only tufa in the United States, and it looks like an alien landscape.

In November of 2001 I was working on the last photo shoot for Marlboro UK, it was one of my favorite jobs. A small crew, they were photographing locations that one could only find in the western United States. One of the locations was the Trona Pinnacles, a location I knew about, but I never been to before, in fact I did not know the location was in Southern California. Once you get off the main road, the road to the Pinnacles is dirt and rock, I had to drive about five miles per hour so that I did not tear up my motor home, it took me about forty-five minutes to reach our destination. Once I reach the Trona Pinnacles I was blown away, it look like Scotty beam me to another planet, I thought for a second I would have to put on a space suit. The spires looked like volcanic cones some as tall as a skyscraper extending into the blue hot desert sky. It is hard to describe the Pinnacles, because the location is extremely unique, one of a kind, isolated from civilization. Other than one outhouse and a few roads, there are few signs of a human imprint. It was six in the morning as the photographer set up his camera on a tri-pod anticipating an eastern sunrise, it was cold, and I made some of my famous strong coffee to warm up the crew. They only needed one shot, but that shot had to be great, the sun had to hit the spires with the right amount of light and the right hue to work. The photographer shot one image after another, back then digital photography was in the infant stages, therefore professional photographers still used polaroid film to test their shots, and then once they were sure of everything they would use Kodachrome film. If you were on location the film would be FedEx to the nearest professional lab for processing. We were finished by nine in the morning; and we moved north to the town of Trona for the next location.

I have been to the Trona Pinnacles numerous times since that first shoot; I still find this place interesting it is a location perfect for fashion shoots, commercial, music video or feature films. The town of Ridgecrest is about thirty minutes west from the main road; this is a decent size town, with plenty of amenities and lodging for any size crew. For more information you can call the Ridgecrest Field Office at 760-384-5400. If you need a motor home and have any questions about the Trona Pinnacles you can call me Mike Green at 818-317-7099.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Inyokern Airport-A great place to do your next shoot

Dear Reader,

The other day I had a chance to do a photo shoot at the Inyokern Airport, about two and a half hours north east of Los Angeles or about an hour north east of Palmdale. This is a private airport in the middle of the Mojave Desert surrounded by Joshua trees and the Southern Sierra Mountains. A lonely place, unless you are a jackrabbit or a coyote. If you film on runway 18, you will have a great view of the Sierra’s, in winter it is not uncommon for the peaks to be covered in snow, occasionally the snow level drops down to the valley. Don’t fret, by mid-morning all the snow will melt and one will be left with a view of the mountains that will be stunning. Since Inyokern is high desert, in summer temperatures are hot, but not unbearable like one would find in Death Valley about three hours north/east. Since this is a private airport and film friendly there are not the usual restrictions one would find at public airfields. The staff is friendly and very accommodating; they really go out of their way to make sure your specific needs are met.

The town of Ridgecrest is about ten miles east of the airport; there is no shortage of places to lodge your crew. My favorite place to stay is the “Heritage Inn & Suites” (760-446-6543), the rooms are comfortable the pillows are soft; there is restaurant that serves great food. The Hampton Suites Ridgecrest is another great place to stay, or if you are really budget conscious there is the Motel 6, (760-375-6866) with parking across the street for large vehicles, rates are under $40, you can’t get cheaper, the rooms are adequate, cable TV, a table to do your work and a warm shower. My only complaint, the heater does not work well. In terms of food, there are plenty of good restaurants, check out YELP for your favorite food.

Scotty Seymour is the general manager of the Indian Wells Valley Airport District; he is the man you want to contact if you want to shoot at the Inyokern Airport 760-377-5844. Scotty understands the needs of producers and he will go out of his way to make sure you get what you need. If you need an RV and someone who is familiar with the surrounding valley please feel free to call me (Mike Green) at 818 317 7099, I provide local rates for my services and I am a good contact person.