Sunday, August 26, 2012

Red Rock Park in Colorado-A great place to film

It is 4:30 in the morning as the production trucks idle in the parking lot of our hotel the Denver Marriot West, the location managers car moves forward and we have a convoy about ten vehicles in all.  My motor home is in the rear, as usual, the lead car gets in the “zone” and I find myself on my own; fortunately I know where I am going.   (Red Rock was only twenty minutes from our hotel, it very easy to find, take I-70 west, exit 259, left at C-470 and drive about a mile and the entrance to the park is on the right.)  It was still dark when I arrived at the dirt parking lot, I found a flat place to park the RV, drop the jacks, opened the four slide-outs, I was opened for business. I had one of the PA’s drive me to the location which was about five minutes away next to the Amphitheater parking lot.  It is a process setting up for a shot, especially when you are trying to get the talent in the right position for the right light.  Red Rock Park with its steep canyon walls, amazing vistas and wild life, provided the perfect backdrop for the vehicles and the models we were filming.

Since we were so close to our hotel, we were able to break up the day so that we would get the perfect sunrise shot and the perfect sunset shot. Around ten we broke for the morning portion and returned to the hotel to get so much needed rest, I took a swim in the pool and then a nap around 3pm we returned to Red Rock Park. Our hotel was the Denver Marriot West (303 279 9100), located in Golden, Colorado.  The Marriot was clean, the rooms were spacious with high speed WiFi, coffee maker, hair dryers and more.  Even our high end clients were happy with the accommodations. Another bonus, there is a mall nearby that has a Whole Foods Market, Super Walmart, Safeway, Target and other stores within a couple of miles of the Marriot.  I found a dump station and fuel at the Flying J in Aurora, Colorado near Denver (303) 366 7600) about twenty east of the Marriot.

Red Rock Park is located about thirty minutes north east of Denver, it is one of my favorite new locations.  In many ways it reminds me of Vasquez Rocks, made of sand stone from the Quaternary periodRed Rock Park is made of red sandstone and was formed over 290 million years ago when the ancestral Rocky Mountains was eroded.  What makes this such a great location is the rock formation, it is such an amazing back drop, as much as I like Vasquez Rocks, Red Rock has many more options, and is four times larger than Vasquez, of course you will have to travel to Colorado to enjoy Red Rock Park.  With that indicated; Colorado now has a film incentive program available for eligible films, television, commercials and game productions for more information call the Colorado Office of Film Television & Media at 303 892 3840.  If you have any questions and you need a motor home call me Mike Green at 818 317 7099 I will be glad to assist you.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pikes Peak-the best road to film a car shoot....

Dear Reader,

Pikes Peak in Colorado, is one of those locations that anyone with a TV has seen on a commercial.  Usually it is a car racing down a winding road, a sheer cliff revealing nothing but certain death if the driver loses control. The car industry loves this road because it is unique, it has the reputation as being the best place to show off vehicles with its step inclines, tight turns and beauty. Pikes Peak is the definitive location for anyone who always wanted to know what their sports car could do up an eleven and a half-percent incline.  Once a year “The Race to the Clouds” is held at Pikes Peak, the race has a 156 turns, it is 12.42 miles to the summit, with an average grade of 7%.  

I made it up Pikes Peak in a forty-foot diesel powered motor home. Normally vehicles over thirty-five are not allowed on the road, but I was able to get special permission to since my client paid for the film permit and paid the extra fee to have two rangers lead me up the pass.  In winter the road to Pikes Peak is opened except when there is too much snow; however work crews are quick to clear the pass.  I admit, I was very apprehensive about going up Pikes Peak, I was not sure how the motor home would handle the thin air and if it would overheat.  I decided to take it easy, I watched my water temperature, the transmission temperature, the PSI gage for the turbochargers, and the other gauges.  At mile eight my engine peaked at 233 degrees, I could not take any chances, I pulled over and ran my Cummins at high idle.  I radio the ranger to inform him and her that I needed to let my engine cool off.  A few minutes later I was ready for the last two miles, I had to go wide on some of the turns, the rangers blocked traffic for me, and the engine did not go over 217 degrees, my decision to stop at mile eight payed off, I finally made it to the main parking lot.  I let the Cummins run at high idle before I turned it off ten minutes later.  The reason, this applies not only to diesel engines, but gas engines as well, if the engine is too warm and you shut it off too soon, you can crack a head or warp the turbo’s.  This practice also cools off the engine and other components.

A brief history about Pikes Peak, it was created about one billion years ago, not as a volcano, but as molten rock twenty miles below the earth surface.  A process known as uplifting caused the mountain to be pushed upward and after millions years Pikes Peak is the mountain we know today.  In 1803 Pikes Peak was obtained from France in what was and is called the Louisiana Purchase.  In 1860 the first road known as Ute Pass Wagon Road (now known as U.S. Highway 26) took miners to the gold mines.  In 1887 the first road to Pikes Peak was built, it was crude made of gravel and one had to pay an astronomical $1.00 per use.  

What makes Pikes Peak such a great place to film is the scenery, as I mentioned the winding roads, the 11% grade, the iconic view of Colorado Springs.  It is beyond a pretty location, it is a place that has a lot of  attitude, can a location be sassy?  Yes it can when it is Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak appeals to film makers because it is a one of a kind location, it cannot be duplicated. In my career I have been to some of the best roads, (for filming car shoots)  but Pikes Peak is the Rolls-Royce of roads . 

A few things to keep in mind about Pikes Peak, because the elevation is 14,115 feet winter is not the time to shoot at this location.  The best time to film at PP is the summer,  any other time of the year is a gamble because of the weather.  Hire a local crew who is familiar with the terrain and has the right equipment for the elevation.  There is a size restriction for large vehicles, thirty-five is the maximum length, however, larger vehicles are allowed with permission and a fee.  I was allowed to drive up Pikes Peak even though my motor home is over forty-feet.  I had a ranger in an SUV in front of me to stop the traffic as I had to go wide on some of the turns and a ranger in a truck behind me to make sure the vehicles behind me would see me.  I am glad I had a big diesel engine with plenty or torque to navigate up this mountain, because I needed every 950 pounds of power that my Cummins could deliver.  I also had to monitor my gauges, when I felt the engine in the RV was getting too warm, as a precaution I pulled over and let it cool off on high idle.  When I drove down the mountain, I put the transmission in the lowest gear possible with the exhaust brake engaged to keep me at a steady speed.  I did not want to overheat the brakes and get what is called brake fade.  

The best town to lodge your crew near PP is Colorado Springs about two hours south of Denver.  We stayed at Hyatt Regency in Colorado Springs, (719 265 9385), the hotel was clean, the service was good, there was even a complimentary breakfast.  The parking lot was adequate for all of vehicles including our car carrier, several grip trucks and my RV.  There are several gas stations nearby that sell diesel and a couple of restaurants in walking distance. For more information about filming at Pikes Peak call the Colorado Springs Film Commission at 719 685 7630.  If you need a motor home or you want my insight regarding Pikes Peak or surrounding area call me Mike Green at 818 317 7099.