In the Company of Gunga Din, Graboids, and Plenty of Stetsons

Today I head out to the desert. Things I’ve deemed necessary to bring along include a cowboy hat, baked beans and about 211 balloons.

One of the wonderful things about working in the film industry is the locations. It’s just an excuse to get out into the world, and if you’re not financing the project, it often means a free trip to somewhere incredible. The first shoot I worked on in LA, I was a freshman PAing for a grad student shoot, and I went out to Silverlake to shoot in an apartment. That might sound incredibly dull and mundane, but there was a crack dealer next door who was rather colorful and while we were unloading, we saw Elliott Gould standing on the curb waiting for a car. That was also the first time I saw the Hollywood sign. We could see it from the porch, off in the distance. It was a surreal experience.

Today, we’re headed out to Lone Pine to shoot an experimental film involving blanket forts and epic wanderings. We’ll be catching sunrise and sunset in the high desert, with the sun slipping in between the mountains, a sight I truly never get tired of. But it’s also just a chance to get away, and avoid that twitchiness I fail to make it out of the city for a couple of months. It’s really just an awe-inspiring landscape, and a lot of filmmakers in the past have agreed – High Sierra, How the West Was Won, Gunga Din, and the most geek-tastic, Tremors, have all been filmed out near Lone Pine. And although it was filmed in Utah, several hundred miles from where I’ll be, I still choose to liken our shoot to that of Doctor Who in America.

Lately, I’ve taken a shine to all things vaguely desert-y or western-ish, or just vaguely related to cowboys. Amazingly, I’ve even started like country music, an occurrence that hitherto had been unthought of for me – there was no music that would irritate me more than the twangy crooning of a country singer. Probably the reason why I’ve brought a cowboy hat, albeit it a very beat-up poor excuse for a cowboy hat. Also, probably wrapped up somehow in my decisions to do Route 66.

The American West is such huge part of the American identity. It’s obviously the icon that other countries identify as uniquely American – cowboys and Indians and the untamed frontier. It’s probably why Doctor Who chose to start off in Utah, despite the fact that the desert seems to have little to do with the actual episode. It’s just a cool place to be, so why wouldn’t you want to take any excuse to be there? And while I’ve been to the scrubby desert of Lone Pine and through the desert between here and Las Vegas, I’ve never really gotten a sense of the American West and the unending horizon and the frontier. It was strange to see America as the desert in Doctor Who, and just reinforced my desire to hit the road and travel across America.

Anyways, I feel like I’ve been rambling a bit. Isn’t the desert a place for unbridled thought though? I’m about to take off, so I’m a little distracted. So excuse the post if it’s a little meandering. In a few hours, I’ll be here –

There's no way Walter Chang's getting his slick mits on this for no 15 bucks.

though hopefully no Graboids... those terrified me as a child


Check back in a few days to find out what happened with those 211 balloons…

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