Production Road Trip Diary
“Blue Bus” is an independent feature that was shot as an experimental piece – there was no script, only an outline that changed and developed as shooting progressed. Cast of two and crew of seven embarked on a 9 day road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans shooting with 8 cameras, 6 of which were rigged inside a 1968 Blue Volkswagen bus. The entire road trip was shot utilizing ONLY available light, locations and characters they discovered along the way. As the road trip developed, so did the story line.
Thursday, April 17
2 days before takeoff!
Well, it's the day before the day before we leave for New Orleans! So much to do to get ready. The production office looks like a bomb went off with all the #$!% that we are gathering to take with us. We're making a movie people!!!
The bus is getting rigged with cameras today. There will be 6 cameras mounted, 1 coming up from the spare tire mount on the front of the bus, 4 mounted inside the bus for various angles of the two front seats and one coming from the rear shooting out the front of the bus. Additionally, we will have two other cameras shooting miscellaneous shots from the chase vehicle and when we stop along the way. We have one final camera that will be dedicated to shooting behind the scenes - now that's the cam that will be the blackmail camera (if you know what I mean). Our route is going to be primarily along Interstate 10 but with some detours here and there. The plan is to make it to New Orleans in 7 days.
Saturday, April 19
The Blue Bus takes off!
Crew call was at 6:30 this morning. So, it's the Blue Bus and a passenger van and a whole lot of equipment. There are nine of us on the adventure – 2 cast members and 7 crew. 380 miles to go today. Our goal for the night is Gila Bend, Arizona. Go ahead. Find it. It's the middle of nowhere! And we are staying at the Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend (well, if we get that far today). Seriously! It's a "theme" hotel. It has a pool in the shape of the space shuttle. How cool is that? Pictures tomorrow of our space age journey in Gila Bend.
Sunday, April 20
Day 2 begins...
Coming to you from the Space Age Motel in Gila Bend, AZ! Just wanted to give you a little background on what Blue Bus is all about. We are making an independent feature, a road movie about 2 guys on an adventure in a 1968 Blue Volkswagen Bus. So, there are three main characters - "Auggie" (Ron Recasner), "Joey" (Phil Scarpaci) and Blue Bus (yes, she most assuredly is a character, thank you very much!)
What's different about this is that we are not actually shooting from a true film script but rather, we are working from basic plot points and we are filming our two speaking characters, "Auggie" and "Joey", as they perform what we might call a feature length improvisation. Parts of the film will be based loosely on Ron's aka "Auggie"’s one man show called “New Orleans Revisited”. We came up with the idea of “Blue Bus” several years ago when Phil Scarpaci bought the darling girl Blue Bus. She (Blue Bus) has been a part of our production family since then and we have used her in mulitiple capacities. Blue Bus appeared briefly in our last film, “Welcome to September” and now she gets a starring role.
So, the idea here is that we are going from Los Angeles to New Orleans filming all along the way and then in New Orleans for a few days. We have mapped out our journey and we made our first leg yesterday from L.A. to Gila Bend, AZ. It was a long, long day yesterday - Blue Bus doesn't like hills or wind, both of which we had quite a lot. We did discover that when it's flat and there is a semi truck in front of you to draft off of, Blue Bus can get up to cruising speeds of 65 and she really enjoys that. This is 15 mph faster than we were hoping for which is great, but when the hills get a little steeper, her cruising speed drops to about 30 or 25 or even 20. Not so enjoyable!
Total miles traveled yesterday, 384. Arrival in Gila Bend - 10:45 p.m. State of all concerned: pretty much wrecked but we survived, Blue Bus made it with no mechanical issues and we shot some great stuff.
Space Age Motel is goofy - we were oversold on the pool. It's not in the shape of the space shuttle dammit, but rather a lunar module and it's forgettable at best. Bummer. But, there are some goofy touches to this place in the middle of the desert. The train going by every hour last night was interesting. The guys went to a bar in Gila Bend last night and from what I understand it was quite "interesting". Will get more details on that later.
Another solid drive today to get to Deming, NM.
Monday, April 21
Day 3, still in Arizona
Well, we didn't quite make it to Deming, NM last night - actually "quite," is a gross understatement as we are about 150 miles from Deming, NM. See, we got waylaid at Rooster Cogburn's Ostrich Farm in Picacho, Arizona.
What an experience! "Auggie" and "Joey" had quite a time with those feathered beasts. They bite! Not too hard but a little shocking nonetheless. Their motto is "A deer lickin' ostrich peckin', rainbow feedin' good time!" Woo hoo!
We also spent some time Saguaro National Park - Those are the spiky cactus that you see in the westerns - beautiful expansive horizons.
Since we couldn't afford a camera truck, we popped the back window out of the pass van (shhhh, don't tell the rental company!) and shot out of the back window. We got some amazing footage of Blue Bus in all her cruising glory. Sunset last night was beautiful.
We are starting our day today from, Wilcox, Arizona. Bet you didn't know this - it's the home town of legendary singing cowboy Rex Allen.
Blue Bus, the old girl, is doing SO well! We're all very proud of her. She has beenworking very hard getting up the hills and has made every one so far. "Auggie" and "Joey" pet her and tell her how great she's doing and she just purrs right along. Today is going to be the real test coming out of Las Cruces, NM heading up toward White Sands. 4000 foot climb. That is, unless the missile range at White Sands is firing and then they may close the road. So...have to listen to local radio in that area to make sure Blue Bus doesn't wind up becoming the target for a missile test!
Our camera rig on Blue Bus has really worked out well. On the very front of the bus, right above the wheel well, there's a camera mounted inside the "bird house". It's a box painted the color of the bus with a bird drawn on the side. That's so when we go by Highway Patrol they'll hopefully think we just love birds and are providing a place for them to nest! It's pretty funny looking but we've had no tickets so far, so I guess it's working.
What's really different about this project is that we are essentially creating and writing the script as we travel. Our two writers are traveling with us as we go and we are creating the story and content literally as we drive. Not sure is this has ever been tried before, but hey, breaking new ground is what drives us creatively!
Tuesday, April 22
Blue Bus continues...
We had a busy day yesterday. Started out from Wilcox, AZ and headed into Las Cruces, NM. We stopped at La Posta and had some Mexican food for lunch. Team Blue Bus all got to experience Green Chile and Sopapillas. Serious YUM!
We had an experience yesterday that just wouldn't happen in L.A. We needed to find additional wardrobe for "Joey" since he didn't believe he was really going any further than Phoenix and only brought the clothes he had on with him. See, he didn't have faith in Blue Bus like "Auggie" did and of course, she proved him wrong! (Typical woman!). We were in La Mesilla which is old town Las Cruces, looking for a clothing store that sold something beside REALLY tacky tourist shirts. Can't really see "Joey" wearing a shirt with sombreros and chiles all over it.
We found one store but it was closed. However, when we were in another store asking if there were any other clothing stores around, low and behold the woman who runs the store that was closed was in there and offered to open up for us. She even let us shoot "Auggie" and "Joey" shopping. Turned out to be a great little moment which is what is so amazing about this trip. We are discovering the story and the adventure and shooting it at the same time.
When we left Las Cruces, we headed up a pretty large hill or foothill or mountain, whatever you want to call it - we went from 3800 feet to 8000 feet within 12 or so miles. Blue Bus was not particularly thrilled about this - not sure if she doesn't like altitude or the fact that "Joey" gave her some super rich and fatty premium gas instead of her typical diet of regular unleaded. She made it, SLOWLY, but she did make it.
We headed for White Sands next. Happily the military wasn't firing any missiles yesterday so we passed through the missile range without incident. We came upon a checkpoint with all cameras loaded including the birdhouse on the front and caused a bit of a stir with the inspections officer. He couldn't quite grasp the idea that all of the rigging and why if we were going to New Orleans that we would be in the middle of New Mexico. He finally let Blue Bus through reluctantly and then stopped the pass van. When he asked what we were doing and where we were heading, we said "following the Blue Bus". At that point, he just shook his head and waved us through. Whew!
We got to White Sands and drove way into the park to the area where from a photo, you really aren't sure if it's snow or sand. It was magic hour right before sunset, the light was phenomenal and "Auggie" and "Joey" had a great time strolling on the tops of the dunes.
Blue Bus was in her glory as the backdrop made her coloring look quite lovely. Some of the crew attempted "sand surfing" down some of the hills. There must be some secret to that but we have no idea what it might be. They got more stuck than sliding for the most part.
TEAM BLUE BUS: Standing, left to right: Jacob Scarpaci, Kerrie Scher, Ron Recasner aka "Auggie", Phil Scarpaci aka "Joey", Stuart Asbjornsen and Pattie Kelly. Front row, kneeling, left to right Sean Brown, Darren Anderson and Stu McKee.
We then headed into Alamogordo, NM for the night. WORST hotel yet. There was nothing available as there is another movie crew here who actually has a budget and they took up all the rooms in the hotels that weren't scary! The beds felt like someone put a board with four feet on it and said, "nobody will notice, they're traveling and they're tired!" Not quite!!!!!
We are off to Cloudcroft this morning and then down and around southeastern New Mexico into Texas.
Tuesday, April 22
Haunted by Rebecca...
So as we were leaving Alamogordo this morning, red warning lights started going off on the dashboard of Blue Bus. We knew that we were going to do another long climb up to Cloudcroft so we stopped in a park and Darren aka Mr. Fix It, took a look under Blue's bonnet. Low and behold, Tony, the VW "expert" mechanic evidently left some of his tools behind the last time he went in for bus surgery before we left on the road trip. There was a screwdriver wedged in one of Blue's belts! Once the culprit was removed Blue Bus returned to her happy self and we started up the incline.
We got a couple of miles up and then the traffic was stopped for road construction off to the left. But this was no construction, this was excavation! A bulldozer pushed a HUGE pile of rocks off and they fell directly onto the road. Then a big bulldozer pushed them off of the roadway and we were able to move on. We let all of the vehicles through in front of us so they wouldn't get frustrated behind us as we went a whopping 25 mph up the hill.
Blue Bus made it up the hill with flying colors and we headed into Cloudcroft. While we were stopped on the road, we spoke with a wonderful gentleman who recommended The Lodge at Cloudcroft for lunch. We headed there and arrived to find a wonderful Victorian lodge nestled up in the trees. We had a GREAT lunch and then magic happened. "Auggie" and "Joey" began speaking with two of the women who work at the Lodge who just happen to be from New Orleans. We filmed some wonderful moments with them and "Auggie" even sang for them. It was quite marvelous, but nothing could have prepared us for what happened next.
Seems the lodge is haunted by the ghost of a beautiful red haired woman named Rebecca who is said to have perished in the lodge in the early 1900's. Another woman who works in the gift shop offered to show "Auggie" and "Joey" the Governor's Suite where rumor has it, Rebecca was murdered by her lumberjack boyfriend, even though her body was never found. They went into the suite and everyone felt quite a chill. And then completely without warning, "Auggie" had a truly mystifying and emotional experience in the suite which moved him and everyone there. I can't even begin to describe this event to you -- but the cameras were rolling and you'll just have to wait for the movie to find out exactly what happened! This was an amazing, phenomenal day in so many ways! We wound up deciding to spend the night here at The Lodge, saw an AMAZING New Mexico sunset from the turret on top of the lodge and had a most excellent dinner in the dining room.
Our goal today was to go approximately 266 miles and we went a whopping 16 so now we are preparing for a MAJOR run tomorrow with the goal to get to Kerrville, Texas by tomorrow night - a short jaunt of a mere 516 miles. Yikes!
Wednesday, April 23
Driving and Driving and Driving oh my!
Well, last night was VERY interesting at the Lodge in Cloudcroft. I think we were all a bit jumpy about Rebecca the ghost and were more than a little interested (ahem....nervous) that she might pull some shenanigans in the night. But I think sleep took precedence. There were some reports of crazy dreams, but overall, we all crashed so we could get up at the crack of dawn this morning. Since we didn't get very far yesterday, we had to make a HUGE effort today to get a considerable way through Texas before stopping tonight.
Leaving the mountains around Cloudcroft this morning was absolutely gorgeous. The apple trees are in blossom and we saw deer and elk grazing behind a bubbling stream that was running by the road. It was really quite lovely. As we headed into Texas, big storm clouds started gathering. By the time we reached Fort Stockton, we heard that there were tornado warnings in Pecos, TX where we were not more than an hour before.
Blue Bus is not into wind and she had a rather rough afternoon. She's also not sure about rain - but she grudgingly kept moving forward. Today was really a catch-up day mileage wise. We were attempting to go about 500 miles today, but when we got to Junction, TX, we threw in the towel. Side note, can you imagine naming a town Junction, TX? That's like naming it Street Corner or Stop Sign. Well, it is Texas - that explains everything!
Tomorrow is another big day traveling as we only have two more days to get to New Orleans.
Thursday, April 24
Better in the Bayou!
Well...our darling girl Blue Bus has made it into Louisiana!!!! We are all so proud of her. She made a mighty run to get out of Texas today (who can blame her?) and into the land of crawfish and etouffe, both of which we had tonight for dinner. Yummy!
So.... we departed Junction Texas this morning in waves. Blue Bus decided she wanted to leave early so she could get a head start (since her top speed is a mind numbing 55 for the chase van). Phil aka "Joey" and Stuart left with her and her competitive spirit (well, Phil's anyway) kicked in with a vengeance. They had an hour and a half head start on the chase van and with gas pedal floored and only one refill and rest stop for them, they actually beat the chase van to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Amazing run and congrats (for what, I'm not really sure, but they all seemed very proud of themselves, especially Blue Bus).
Once we all got to Lake Charles, we set up and shot some running shots of Blue Bus coming over the very cool Lake Charles Bridge. Then we set up at the base of the bridge, right at water's edge for some filming at golden hour as the sun set.
There was a family fishing close to where we were set up and they generously agreed to be a part of the background for our shot. The footage looks absolutely amazing. It's really been quite eye opening that we have been shooting only with available light. Profound thanks and kudos to Stuart Asbjornsen, our uber talented Director of Photography.
We were right in the middle of filming when Lake Charles' finest pulled up and asked us what we were doing.
After a short explanation, they became our new best friends (thank heavens, since we didn't have a permit!!!!) and recommended where we should have dinner, a place right down the road called Steamboat Bill's. Let me tell you, we consumed well over 5 pounds of crawfish, various kinds of gumbo, some etouffe and all kinds of seafood. The flavors were incredible and we rolled out there stuffed to the gills!
Last day of travel tomorrow, we are set to arrive in New Orleans in the early afternoon and then shoot in the city the rest of the day. We are a ragged bunch, but very motivated and excited about what we have shot so far and looking forward to an amazing filming, eating and cultural experience.
Friday, April 25
It’s just a little bit further! Right.
So, the day started off like all the other days of our road trip so far. With not enough sleep last night, Team Blue Bus rose to meet the final day of the actual road trip with New Orleans looming in our sights a mere 200 miles away. We rigged Miss Blue Bus with all of her camera finery and took off on Interstate 10. Our goal was to reach New Orleans via the 26 mile water bridge over Lake Pontchartrain. We thought that would be a very cool visual. We would duck off of I-10 onto I-12 and then take the water bridge. Great plan right?
Well......Blue had other things in mind. We had gone about 80 miles or so and were on one of the long causeway bridges that seem to be very prominent once you get closer into New Orleans. Right in the middle of this long bridge, "Joey" said Blue just lurched once and then had no acceleration whatsoever. The chase van was right behind and we all pulled onto the shoulder (I use that term very loosely) and put on the emergency flashers. It was not a shoulder, more like the EDGE of the road with guardrailing to keep you from falling into the swampy water below. Nice! We got as far over as we could but whenever a semi would go roaring by, the whole bridge, us included would shake and buffet from the wind.
We very quickly determined that our darling Blue Bus wasn't going anywhere so we frantically unrigged her of her cameras and mounts, threw everything into the pass van and then a caravan of semi trucks started flying by us as we were trapped on the side of the bridge. They had to be going at least 65 or 70. The first one went by without incident, as did the second. The third one saw us on the side and put on his brakes. Once he did this, the one directly behind him and the one behind that one both reacted by slamming on their brakes and moving toward the right shoulder because they didn't see us right away due to the truck in front blocking their view. Holy @#!%! Lots of burning brakes in the air and smoke billowing up pretty much scared the living bejeezus out of every one of us. We immediately threw ourselves into the pass van and hauled ourselves off of that damn bridge and went to safer ground to wait for AAA to come and save Blue Bus. We were very concerned about her because her hazard lights aren't the greatest. Once AAA got there, he informed us that the spot where she was stranded was very dangerous and that terrible things have happened up on that bridge. We all felt very blessed that everyone was okay - rather rattled I must say, but okay.
Blue Bus was hoisted up onto the bed of the tow truck and off we went to New Orleans. Definitely not the arrival that we had anticipated and planned for but we were going to get there - all of us and Blue Bus if it was the last thing we did!
Once we got into New Orleans, we headed for the French Quarter - tow truck and Blue Bus and pass van. We got some pretty hilarious shots of her being driven through the French Quarter. Heck, she was loving it, she had a bird's eye view!!! We then took her to "Auggie's" brother's house and put her there to wait for the transport company to come and ship her back to LA.
We had a lot more footage that we needed to shoot and as always we were behind schedule, so we headed out to the streets of the French Quarter once it got dark so we could shoot "Auggie" and "Joey" taking in the sights and smells of Bourbon Street. And smells there were. Yikes, it really stank I must tell you. Too many drunken people spilling drinks and yakking in the streets. Classy. We were actually glad Blue Bus didn't see any of that because it would have assaulted her delicate senses!
Once we got off of Bourbon Street onto some side streets in the French Quarter, we stumbled across some amazing street musicians who graciously allowed us to shoot them as part of our film. We finally stumbled back to our hotel and fell into bed knowing we have a full day of shooting tomorrow, and oh boy, rain is predicted!!!
Saturday, April 26
Making it up as we go.
Today was a day chock full of shooting in and around New Orleans. I’m not going to give away all the interesting story lines that have developed. You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out. But I will tell you, our first stop today was a cemetery. What an amazing site! Since New Orleans is basically below sea level, you don’t bury caskets in the ground, rather everything is above ground so the cemetery was full of all shapes and sizes of structures housing New Orleans families going back many generations. Really interesting and cool during the day but I think if you were here at night you could get the serious heeby jeebies never knowing who or what might be lurking around the next corner!!! After a morning communing with the dead, we headed back into the French Quarter for more filming on the streets in and around Bourbon Street. We ran across a marvelous street performer, “Big Mama Sunshine”, who composed a terrific tune about Blue Bus right on the spot! Too bad she couldn’t be there to hear it. It would have positively made her toes, er, tires curl in ecstasy!!! Check out the track in the movie! Well, the rain that had been threatening, came down with a vengeance. We were all drenched by the end of the afternoon but it was warm, we’re in New Orleans, who cares??!!
Sunday, April 27
The final day.
Last shot and the end of a 9 day adventure. Our last shooting location was in Auggie’s old neighborhood. Auggie and Joey sat themselves down on the steps of Auggie’s grandmother’s old house in the middle of the 7th Ward and we wrapped photography on what we hope is going to be a very interesting, very unique film. If you looked at the outline of our original story line, you simply wouldn’t believe how much it evolved and changed as the trip progressed. This has been a true adventure in every sense of the word for all of us, even Blue Bus! I really don’t think she had faith she would make it to N’awlins, but she did! Now the fun part begins, cutting together a feature from about 50 hours of footage!! The next adventure!