Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Locke, CA (Rustic Chinese Village)

Dear Reader,
It rained the day before, the roads were still wet as the sun slowly merged from the cloud laden sky.  I kept one eye on the road, the other eye on my GPS, the directions were complicated, one wrong turn and I would be searching for a turn out.  Fortunately for me I did my research the day before, I knew where I was going, a tiny Chinese town founded in 1915 in the heart of the Sacramento Delta.  This was the first time I did a shoot in the Delta, the roads are narrow, the two bridges I crossed was just wide enough and tall to navigate my forty foot RV over it.  It took me two hours to get there from Oakland, I was early, the rest of the crew did not arrive until an hour and half latter; they were delayed by one of the drawbridges.  I latter discovered an easier way to Locke, minus the scary roads and the bridges that made me want to say, “Hail Mary.”
Locke is a small Chinese town founded in 1915 after a fire broke out in the nearby town of Walnut Grove.  Since Chinese Americans were banned from ownership of land at the time, they approached George Locke if they could build on his property.  Locke catered to farm workers and residents who lived nearby.  Very little has changed in this town, the main boardwalk looks like it did in 1915, and a small population still resides in Locke.  On weekends the town is bustling with tourist who search out the many bargains and unique gifts one could only find in this place.  At night one can enjoy a drink at one of the bars.  Across the street is a boat launch, so if you are ambitious and you own a boat, this is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a brew.  
What I like about this location is it offers something unique that you cannot find at San Francisco’s Chinatown, an authentic Chinese village from a bygone era.  A place one can utilize various backgrounds that are colorful and engaging, a boardwalk that beckons to be photographed.  Another plus, since this is a state park, it is an inexpensive location to obtain a film permit.  During the week is the best time to shoot at this location, the crowds are small or non-existent.  Weekends Locke is crowded with tourist, therefore I would not try to film during those times.  
For large vehicles from San Francisco, take the I-80 east to I-5 South and exit Twin Cities Road and go right.  At highway 13 go left, at Locke Road go left.  This is not the fastest route to Locke, however, in my opinion this is the best directions.  There is a parking lot that I was easily able to navigate my motor home into and room for other crew members cars or trucks. 

If you are going to do multiple days at this location, Sacramento is the closest place to base yourself at. In Lodi, there is a Flying J that has a dump station and fuel for large trucks and motor homes.  There are plenty of lodging and restaurants options in Sacramento and you won’t have the two and half hour commute to San Francisco.  If you have any questions about this locations or if you need an RV, call me Mike Green at  415.730.7127.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

El Mirage Dry Lakebed-Revisted

Dear Reader,

El Mirage Dry Lakebed is one of my favorite dry lakebeds in Southern California; it is less than two hours from Los Angeles.  The surface is dry and flaky made of clay, surrounded by mountains.  The access road is paved and the approach to the lakebed is easy.  The only problem is rain, when El Mirage receives rain, the lake can be closed for days or weeks.  Recently that problem can up, it rain two days before our shoot; my client was informed that her film permit was declined because of the closure of the lake.  She was very upset, the photo shoot was about to get cancelled, we started to look at alternative locations, then I had a brilliant idea, I called Dan Taylor (909.888.9011) at the Inland Film Commission, this department handles permits for BLM properties.  I explained our problem and Dan came up with a solution for us; the lakebed maybe closed but the roads leading to the lake are opened (Mountain View Road, Bella Vista Road and Colusa Road).  Since I did not have any pictures of those roads on file, my client hired me to scout the locations the next morning.  I used my iPhone 4S to take and send pictures to my Client; by 10am we locked down the location and had our film permit.  I also learned from talking to the ranger that you can shoot the lakebed from Lake Road, accessing it from Colusa Road if you talk to the ranger first.  From experience just bring the vehicles that you need to Lake Road, do not bring any large rigs unless you really need it; those vehicles can easily get stuck in the clay surface if it rains.  You can park the rest of the crew on Mountain Road just past the asphalt on the dirt road.

Shooting at El Mirage without a motorhome or a trailer can be an unwise decision; the restrooms are crude and stinky and are located at the entrance to the lake.  If you decide to film in the center or the northern sections of El Mirage, it is a good commute to the bathrooms.  In the summer it can exceed a hundred degrees, in winter it can drop to the low thirties.  The sunrise is incredible; the sunsets are even better at El Mirage.  If you want some privacy, during the week is a better time to shoot at the lake, weekends and holidays are always busy times.  Because of

The surface of the lake is brown and smooth; the perfect place to see if your vehicle can hit 200 miles per hour, just watch out for the ruts in the road.  There are some basic rules I learned from Barbara the ranger about El Mirage, arrange in advance to haul out your trash.  If you don’t have a film permit you will be asked to leave, even if it is a student film.  Film permits are relatively cheap.  Lastly, a ranger will usually inform you about the rules, read the film permit it contains a lot of information about the regulations.

With that said, El Mirage is a great place to do your next project.  If you have any questions about this location or any other dry lakebed in the area please feel free to contact me (Mike Green) at 818 317 7099.