Two days and two shoots later, the filming is done. On Friday, the first day of shooting was at a secluded canyon in the San Bernardino National Forest to the East of LA. The highway drive was ugly, lengthy, and harrowing. The sprawl of the city continues nonstop along the highway, slowly getting more run down and desperate. Generic shopping centers, industrial lots, and highway alike are coated in dust. The particulate spews from exhaust, gets kicked up from the road, and hangs in the air as a toxic fog. The highway is broad and grooved. Tumbling blocks of white stuffing slowed traffic. There were two near accidents. The relief of exiting the highway was soon confronted by the narrow winding road up the mountain.
Most of the day was spent taking photos, eating, and watching the surprisingly large crew go about their business. The site was beautiful and the weather mild. Two birch lined brooks babbled through the green (though sprinkler-watered) valley. Base-camp was set up near the road, while the rest of the equipment had been unloaded close to the shooting locations: theatrical lights (including a 50,000 watt truck mounted beast), reflectors, boom camera, chairs, monitors, props, artificial pollen blowers, fans, props, set decoration (including fake cat tails and saplings for the river), food. Motorized carts zipped around hauling equipment and people. Down the barrel of the lens was a beautiful romantic river, but right out of frame was the chaos needed to craft that mood.
All of Saturday was spend in an artificially steaming locker room at Cal State Northridge. The monitor room was set up in the lady’s washroom, with the chairs set up between the sinks and a row of toilet stalls. This was a well-organized production, leaving me with not much to do but eat. The feast included breakfast sandwich, muffins, licorice, coffee, fruit, cheese and crackers, smoothies, lemonade, soda, cake, salmon, salad, ice cream, tea, and candy. The stream of food is steady and hard to resist, either made to order from the food truck, available on the craft table, or prepared by a snack man who walks around like a party hostess. Sadly, there is more food than anyone can possibly eat, and much of it goes to waste. This is one of the many inefficiencies that jacks up the cost of advertising and makes me feel a little guilty for my privileged life.
I’m not complaining about free fancy hotels, food, and an active behind the scenes look at one of the weirder more pointless industries. It’s both exhausting, interesting, saddening and hedonistic. My morbid fascination is shared between Los Angeles and advertising. The two cross paths frequently, like cars crashing in the smoggy night.