Monday, December 16, 2013

El Mirage Dry Lakebed Revisited-A great place to to do your next film, photo shoot or commercial

Dear Reader,

The sun is slowing rising above the mountains to the east.  It is a cool crisp morning at El Mirage.  I wait for the crew at the entrance to the park.  If you are speeding along El Mirage Road, it is easy to pass.  Though there is a big sign that says “El Mirage”, people do get lost especially early in the morning.  When you have a large forty-foot motor home parked on the main road, it is easy to spot the dry lake.  There was a time about ten years ago that the road was not paved, it was a rough dirt road.  Unless you had a 4 X 4 vehicle, it was slow going.  Today the road is paved except for the last quarter of a mile.  The speed limit is twenty-five miles with speed bumps.

Once you get on the lake you can go as fast as your car or truck can go, just watch out for the ruts on the lakebed.  Any part of the road that is dark or grassy is best to avoid at any rate of speed. My best speed in my truck was 108 and that was scary.  In my motor home I try to keep the speed around 30, if I hit a rut, the results would not be pleasant for me, or my RV.

El Mirage is the closest of all the lakebeds to Los Angeles.  It is also the easiest of all the lakes to get to, thanks to the paved road.  The only issue is that the lake is on public land, therefore the public “can” intrude on your set.  Personally I have never seen that happen.  However if you have a major celebrity or a car that you need to keep undercover this location might not be your best option.  During the week, unless there is a major event going on, there are few people on the lake.  Weekends at El Mirage can be tricky, most of the time few people are there, unless there is an event going.  If there is an event that day more than likely the BLM will not issue a film permit.

El Mirage is opened year round unless the lake is closed because of rain, snow, heavy winds or as I indicated an event.  It can get very cold in winter; on some rare occasions snow is possible, though personally I have never seen the lake covered in snow. If it did snow both Interstate 15 and Highway 14 would be closed because of snow, therefore this would be a mute point because your crew would not be able to get to El Mirage.  In summer the temperature can hit over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit and on days when the Santa Ana’s winds are blowing one could fly a five year old on a kit.  Only once did heavy winds become a major issue.

I have written about El Mirage Dry Lake in earlier blogs.  I decided I wanted to revisit this location topic again.  Since I purchased my 4 X 4 truck last year, my truck has allowed me to explore more of the lakebed. The road is dirt, but as long as you drive slow, one can navigate any size vehicle on this road. What I discovered is there are several campsites nestled in the foothills just east of the lake.  There is plenty of parking at some of these camps, what makes it interesting is the topography, it is not flat, one is surrounded by a small valley.  There are hills and Joshua trees and desert shrubs.  This is perfect if your look requires this type of background, if you need the lakebed, the lakebed is just a short drive from the many camps.  When you scout this road, continue on Mountain View Road past the visitor center and head north.  You will see several dry campsites on both sides of the road.  The road will eventually end and it becomes extremely rough, keep that in mind if you are driving a small car, I would suggest a SUV or a 4 x 4 truck to navigate this road beyond the last camp site.  Consult with a ranger or personal at the visitor center.  Or call me Mike Green (818-317-7099) if you have any questions.

In terms of lodging and food there is the town of Adelanto, about twenty minutes south/east.  I cannot recommend lodging in Adelanto, it is not a safe town; it has a high crime rate.  For food there is Bravo Burgers (760-246-4813); Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill (760-530-9161); Subway (760-530-0803); Thai-Siam Restaurant (760-246-8122) and other such establishments.  For lodging I would recommend the Hawthorn Suites in Victorville (760-949-4700. Hawthorn is my favorite hotel because there is plenty of parking for large vehicles, there is a complementary breakfast and the staff is great.  The Ambassador Hotel (760-245-6565) is the closest hotel to El Mirage and has plenty of parking for large vehicles, and is nice, though I have not been inside the hotel in a few years, therefore you might want to scout this hotel out in advance.  The Hilton Garden Inn (760-241-7200) is the newest of the three hotels, I have not been inside this hotel yet; again you might visit this hotel in advance.

If you have a lot of expensive vehicles and equipment, you should hire a local security company like Steve Nader (760-508-1440); he has a team of highly qualified security personal to watch over your important equipment day or night. I would suggest hiring a security team because thieves know film crews have expensive stuff that is worth a lot of money.  I am not indicating that Victorville is an unsafe place, I feel for peace of mind anywhere a production lands for the night, having someone have eyes on the vehicles is a safe bet.

El Mirage Entrance
 Map provided by BLM.
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Entrance from El Mirage Road

If you need more information, film permits, local crew, call Sheri Davis at 951-377-7849 or Dan Taylor at 951-232-1271 at the Inland Empire Film Commission.  If you need motor homes, portable restrooms or location scout call me Mike Green at 818 317-7099.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tejon Ranch-A great place to do your next film shoot, commercial or TV show

Dear Reader,

It is early morning; the ground is covered in fresh snow about two inches deep.  The air is still; it is about thirty-one degrees outside.  As I exit my motor home I hear the crunching sound of new snow under my hiking boots.  I look wearily up at the sky; another storm is about to hit the valley, perfect conditions to do a fashion photo shoot at the lake. 

This is not Lake Tahoe or Mammoth Mountain; this is the Tejon Ranch about ninety minutes north of Los Angeles.  Tejon Ranch is the largest ranch in California.  It is so big there can be five big budget features filming at the same time with zero encroachment from the other sets.  T.R. has an interesting topography, from Mountains that are over five thousand feet high to the desert. 

Tejon Ranch has four seasons; in the fall the air can be crisp and cool, as winter nears, the area can see snow and rain.  The mountain can turn from green to white in a few minutes, though unlike the mid west, the snow only sticks around for a couple of days.  In late spring the ranch is covered in poppy flowers in hues of red and orange. The summer turns the green grass to brown; it can get warm the upper eighties or low nineties, rarely reaching a hundred. 

In my tenure traveling to the Tejon Ranch, for photo shoots, commercials and music videos, I have to admit I have not been to all the places on the ranch.  This is good thing, it means there are a lot of options and any time of the year gives TR something that few locations can give, a different look.  My clients have never been disappointed with the ranch.  The staff, Stephanie 661-248-6890 and Debbie Gabel 661-248-6890 is well season curators for the Tejon Ranch, they know what crews need and want.  Plus they are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the T.R. and all of the locations inside this massive ranch. 

One of the reasons I like working at the Tejon Ranch beyond the beauty of the property is one is still close enough to Los Angles that if a PA needs to run dailies back to the studio, it is generally less than 90 minutes commute back.  For truckers and other large equipment, there are several trucks stops both at the bottom and the top of the “Vine” that sell diesel, DEF, propane and gasoline.  At the Flying J there is a RV dump station, something that I find very useful on long jobs.  Another bonus there is a truck & RV wash at the bottom of the “Vine” 661 858 2090.  This is a ranch and a lot of the roads are not paved, keep that in mind before you decide to drive an expensive vehicle on these roads.

Depending where you are shooting on the ranch, Bakersfield is only about thirty minutes away with numerous restaurants.  However after a long day you might want to eat someplace close to your hotel.  Depending if you are lodging at the bottom of the Grape Vine (near I-5) or Lebec, which is the top of the “Vine”, there are some wonderful options for food.  If you are at the bottom and you need a Starbucks fix, 5844 Dennis Mccarthy Dr, Lebec (661-858-2034). Just keep in mind that if you think you can run in Starbucks for a quick cup of coffee, this is one of the busiest in the US, you might have to wait.  The plus side there is a drive thru.  For breakfast or any meal there is the reliable and always good 24-Hour Denny’s (9046 Grapevine Rd E, Lebec 661-248-3409).  One of my favorite places for Mexican food is Don Perico (9021 Grapevine Rd W, Lebec 661 248-6903), the food is awesome and drinks are even better.  Of course for fast food there is the Panda Inn Express, McDonalds, Iron Skillet Restaurant and other eateries.  This is a major rest stop for weary road travelers; that traverse up and down I-5 and Hwy 99.  You will not find any high-end restaurants; you will find food that won’t kill you anytime soon.  At top of the Grape Vine your choices are similar, a Denny’s next to the Flying J, Los Pinos Mexican Restaurant 133 Frazier Mountain Park Rd, Lebec (661-248-1148), Quiznos Subs 201 Frazier Mountain Park Rd, Lebec (661-248-6200) and my favorite pizza place period, Caveman Pizza 3620 Mt Pinos Way, Frazier Park (661-245-1474).  The pepperoni pizza is my favorite.    

Regarding lodging if you are at the bottom of the Grape Vine there is the Microtel Inn & Suites 661-241-6666.  I stayed at this hotel, the staff is friendly, and the rooms are nice; the Inn has free continental breakfast, a parking lot next to the hotel for large vehicles.  There is a truck stop nearby that sells diesel and gas, no dump station.  The Microtel is less than a year old; therefore it has a lot of nice modern updates, like free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs in every room, a lounge that is sophisticated with plenty of seating for impromptu meetings.  Also at the bottom of the “Vine” is the Ramada Limited Lebec 661-248-1530, this is an older hotel, that before the Microtel was built it was the only option.  The rooms are nice and clean; my clients like the Ramada, though I would rather stay at the Microtel because it is newer and is more upscale, plus there is more parking for the large trucks and motor homes.  At the top of the Grape Vine there is the Holiday Inn Express 661-248-1600, this was opened several years ago, so it is new, the rooms are spacious and you get free continental breakfast.  There is plenty of parking for all sizes of vehicles and you are only minutes from the main gate at the Tejon Ranch.  For budget minded crews there is the Motel 6 (661-248-6625). This is the best Motel 6 I ever stayed at, part of the reason is, it was once a different motel, owned by the Flying J, the rooms are really nice, there is a huge parking lot and the rates are extremely reasonable. In added plus, there is a Flying J and a Denny’s on the same lot.  You are only minutes to the main entrance to the ranch. 

This is my favorite ranch in Southern California, there are so many places to film at Tejon Ranch; one cannot go wrong.  If you have any questions or you need a local motor home, and someone who really knows this place, feel free to call me Mike Green at 818 317 7077.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Dalles in Oregon; A great place to do your next film, commercial or photo shoot

Dear Reader,

It has been a couple of years since I have been to The Dalles, about a hundred miles east of Portland, Oregon.  The first time I was there was in 2005 on a Ford commercial, we stayed at the Shilo Inn (541) 298-5502.  It is a decent no thrills Inn, plenty of parking for large vehicles, next to a 24 hour Chevron station that sells diesel and gasoline.  The best rooms are the ones that over look the river.  I found the staff friendly, but they are not use to large groups checking in; our producer got frustrated a few times because the staff got overwhelmed with changes in rooms that often occur with large productions.

The Dalles was use as our staging area, we drove to Wasco on our second day, about forty-five minutes southeast of The Dalles. Wasco is a small town with a library, liquor store and a few other stores.  What is amazing about Wasco and the surrounding towns, miles and miles of wheat, corns fields and other crops, with hues of golden brown blowing in the wind with white windmills darting the landscape like trees. At night the only thing you see are red lights blinking from the windmills and thousands of stars.   

The Dalles is interesting town, there is the Dulles Dam, the largest hydroelectric power plant in the United States tours are available at the visitor center.  From the Shilo Inn there is a good view of the dam, some assorted crumbling buildings and the The Dalles steel cantilever truss bridge which crosses over to the Columbia River.  Personally I think the view of the Columbia River from the Shilo Inn is a great place to do a photo shoot at, an added bonus you won’t have the leave the parking lot.  

The Dalles has the cheapest cab fare in Oregon, Five Dollar Taxi 541.926.7272, charges only $5.00 anywhere in the city, that is a bargain.  I took the cab to find an RV dump station that I discovered using, a web site that I employ for finding dump stations when I travel.  It was not an easy site to navigate a large forty foot motor home. I had to go wide and then back up to get the right pivot point.  The cost is reasonable $3.00.  To get to the Dalles dump station from the Shilo Inn, take I-84 west, exit West Dalles (2nd Exit), right at Webber Street.  Webber will turn into River Road as it veers to the left, at Kindt Drive make a right, the dump station will be on the left about a mile down.

The Dalles is centrally located next to numerous locations that producers like to shoot at, including Mayer State Park.  Mayer offers a great view of the Columbia River and it has a large parking area for crew parking, it is only minutes from The Dalles.  The Rowena Crest Viewpoint, this look out point offers a great view of Columbia gorge and the surrounding valley.  I have been to this location numerous times on different photo shoots and commercials.  There are two ways to get there, the best way to get there from The Dalles is to take I-84 west, exit 76 towards Rowena.  Turn left at U.S. 30 W/1st Ave and follow U.S. 30 and travel 2.6 miles to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint/Tom McCall Trail on the right.

If you are planning on filming in the Columbia gorge and the surrounding area please call me if you have any questions or if you need a motor home at 541 619 3934 or 818 317 7099.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Moab, Utah-A great place to do your next shoot or visit

Dear Reader,

It is early morning in Moab, Utah; the streets are empty, with only the occasional big rig passing through.  It is a lonely time of the day; it is my time.  My day starts early and ends late.  My motor home is already parked at the location; I arrived yesterday and position it at our base camp.  It is a scrappy dirt lot, that a water truck has to keep wet otherwise the camp would be buried in a red clay powder when the winds hit.  My ride arrives and in fifteen minutes I am at the motor home getting it ready for the day.  I check the generator to make sure it is not low on oil; today the generator is going to run long and hard to cool the motor home. I do a little last minute cleaning; it is going to be a challenge to keep the RV clean, I will need to keep my broom nearby.

I am at an event called “Rally on the Rocks”, at the Old Spanish Trail Arena in Moab, Utah opened to UTV/SXS.  A UTV is a small 2-person, 4-person or 6-person, four -wheel drive vehicle also known as a (Utility Task Vehicle). A SXS is side-by-side off-road vehicle, essentially the same as a UTV.  All the major manufactures like Can-Am, Polaris, Yamaha, Artic-Cat, and others are showing all their latest vehicles and letting people do a test ride.  The course is great; it has a lot of banked curves, and places to really open the throttle.  I know this because I had a chance to take a demo on the Can-Am UTV, the Maverick and their ATV the Outlander. 

I went inside the convention hall and dozen of venders were selling third party upgrades like tires, suspension systems, clothing and other items essential for the off-road experience.  There was even a company selling a trailer for the UTV, which had two queen size beds, a kitchen and a bathroom, that could easily be pulled by one of these vehicles or a small car.

This was not a typical commercial for me; there was no clothing stylist, no make-up and hair artist.   The crew size was small, a few production assistants, a couple of grip people, a few camerapersons, the clients and the production crew.  The talents are owners of UTVs/ATVs and/or people interested in purchasing UTV or ATV for the first time.  Cameras were mounted on the vehicles and the drivers tested the UTV or ATV on the course.  This was repeated throughout the next several days with a few variations.  This is what it takes to make a thirty or sixty-second commercial, a lot of repetition.  The commercial looks really cool because it (Commercial) took a lot of people including a good editor to make the product a must have item.  Personally after taking the Maverick for a spin, I was convinced that I wanted a UTV.  

When I first got the job I had to do a search on the Internet for Moab, Utah.  Moab is 725 miles from Los Angles or 354 miles from Denver.  It took me about fourteen hours to get to (Moab), driving up the Baker grade, past Las Vegas, through the top of Arizona and then taking Interstate 70 east for about a hundred and thirty seven miles, then south on US-191 for about 31 miles.

Moab is great place to shoot; there is the Arches National Park, a large rock arch that is a Utah icon. The valley itself is amazing, something you can only find in Utah.  In the town of Moab, there are numerous places to stay; I stayed at the Roadway Inn & Suites Landmark Inn 435.259.6147.  It was a nice Inn, the rooms are spacious and clean, adequate parking for cars, large vehicles can park on the street.  There is a pool with a slide and there is a 4 x 4 four tour.  It was a busy week in Moab; therefore our crew was placed in several different hotels.  Moab is a small town, very RV friendly; there is a dump station in town, plus numerous RV parks.  There are a number of gas stations that also sell diesel.  I stopped in Green Valley, Utah at a Pilot (truck stop) before I landed in Moab.  Restaurants lined the main street in Moab; my clients and crew had plenty delicious options in terms of ethnic and American foods.   There is a super market in town, so picking up our favorite foods and beverages was not a problem.

At last it was time to go home, the next morning I stopped at Denny’s for breakfast, then drove to Interstate 70 heading west.  I stopped off for the night in Primm, Nevada at Whiskey Pete’s 702.386.7867, played my favorite slot machine, lost a couple of bucks then called it a night.  If you have a CDL (commercial drivers license you get a discount at Whiskey Pete’s.

If you plan on filming in Moab, Utah, call the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission at 435.259.4341.  If you any questions or need a motor home please feel free to call me Mike Green at 818 317 7099.

Whiskey Petes-Primm, NV