I have a tough time keeping my mouth shut. I’m a pretty talkative guy in general but when something exciting comes my way and I’m sworn to secrecy, it’s almost torturous. Case in point, several of the adventures I’ve been on over the last few months have included a non-discloser stipulation. Before I even get to find out the “what or where” most companies require me to sign and submit a statement saying that I won’t discuss anything I see, hear, witness etc until a specific date. For me, that is torture. Not because I want to spoil anyone’s surprise or disclose “classified” information, I just LOVE getting to do what I do and when an amazing opportunity comes my way, I want to share it…with everybody.
Last March I got one of those emails I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life. The subject line read “Professional rider needed for film shoot.” While there wasn’t a great deal of info in the email it stated that a manufacturer was in need of a few professional riders to help with filming their promotional videos for their entire 2013 lineup. I would receive a daily pay rate as well as all expenses covered for the ten day period. I still didn’t know where this would be taking place but at this point, I really didn’t care.
If I was interested, I was to sign the included non-discloser statement and await further instructions. After signing and submitting the NDA I received another email explaining that I was to book a flight to Las Vegas, rendezvous with another rider and make our way to a small desert town in Southern Utah.
The two weeks between our correspondence and my actually leaving for the shoot were somewhat of a blur. I was in South Carolina at the time visiting my girlfriend and exploring options for relocating. Afterward, I flew home and spent a few days with my dad, a trip we’d been planning for a couple months, took care of some loose ends, packed up my belongings and drove across the entire United States, spent Easter with my girlfriend and her family, moved into the new place and finally, boarded a plane for Las Vegas.
Very little about my life is synonymous with the Las Vegas lifestyle however Vegas just seemed like the right way to kick off an adventure like this. I met up with Austin (one of the other riders) grabbed a quick bite at a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant, watched him lose $100 that his dad told him to put on the roulette table for him, then headed out of town for whatever adventure was to come.
We got to our destination with just enough time to grab a steak dinner and hit the sack. The next morning we were greeted by our hosts and given a brief rundown of the week’s activities.
This was without a doubt the most professional operation I’ve ever been apart of. There was a team of about 20-30 people responsible for various elements of the shoot throughout the week. Our first order of business everyday was to report to the wardrobe coordinator to get dressed for that particular shoot. I was amazed by how many different combinations of gear, helmets, goggles and gloves were necessary for the different vehicles we were to be riding. Chelsea, the wardrobe coordinator, had her work cut out for her but she whipped us into shape in no time. By the end of the week I was checking for buttoned collars and making sure goggle straps were as straight as they could possibly be.
It amazed me how many people it takes to put on a project of this magnitude. From directors and producers to camera operators, rigging and lighting techs and even an “art department.” As professional as it sounds, everyone still likes to have fun. One of the art department guys brought a potato launcher with him for entertainment during the down times.
Most days were typically the same, early call time, drive to base camp, get dressed for whatever vehicle you were riding that day and head off down the trail. One day I was outfitted in full camo for the hunting shots on both a utility quad and a side by side.
We had quite a surprise one morning when we awoke to about four inches of snow outside our hotel room and a few of the crew members reported that base camp had almost two feet. Needless to say we got a day off.
While the opportunity to be a part of such a big production was an incredible experience, it wasn’t all fun and games. Because I was flying into Las Vegas I figured we’d most certainly be riding in desert so planning for cold weather was unnecessary. Well, not only did we have a snow day but temps hardly rose out of the 30’s on several days and more often than not, our specific wardrobe for that shoot didn’t include a jacket. We’d end up huddling inside a side by side with a jacket or blanket draped over us while the crew set up a shot, then remove the cover and do what they asked as quickly as possible so we could briefly get warm before doing it all over again.
One rather unique part of the shoot was a full day spent shooting a 3-dimensional segment of a TV ad that just starting airing this month. A completely separate crew brought in 60 DSLR cameras and set them up on a special rig. They spent an entire day calibrating them so that at the push of a button they would fire in split second intervals of each other. When the images were combined it created that 3-D imagery used in movies like the Matrix.
As the week wore on the crew began dissipating and the few of us left captured the remaining necessary footage. It was a great experience learning about the film industry and just how much work goes into making those little 30-60 second ads you see on TV and online. The producers are trying to highlight specific features of the machines so they set up a shoot and position the cameras just right to give the viewer the best perception of what is actually happening.
It can actually be quite challenging at times to give them exactly what they want. While the production team are as good as it gets, most of them have little experience with actually riding offroad so sometimes they ask for a certain shot or movement that is very difficult or just not possible. They’re taking into consideration light, shadows, backdrop etc so it’s sometimes difficult to be able to do exactly what they want, right where they want it.
We always seemed to make it work and the crew is quite honestly the most selfless, cooperative, team oriented group of people I’ve ever worked with. You’d think having numerous camera operators, producers, directors, rigging guys, lighting people and everyone else there would be incredible opportunities for conflict but there was none. Everyone knows what their responsibility is and focuses on their specific job. It was really awesome to see and the group really makes it fun. It’s work but everyone is having a good time and it’s hysterical to listen to some of the banter going on between people.
On our last day we wrapped shooting around 3 pm and Austin and I made our way back to Vegas. Being the high roller that he is, he managed to score a room at Caesars Palace for free or next to nothing and I ended up down the street at Treasure Island. We met up at the Cosmopolitan for dinner at a sushi place he’d been talking up since our arrival a week before. I’m undecided about sushi so I went with the roast chicken but I did have a smoked salmon roll and at his urging tried sake for the first, and last, time.
After dinner we cruised the casino for a while and both lost a few bucks at the roulette table. I met a super cool couple from Australia while we were playing and enjoyed hearing about their time in the states.
The whole experience was just ridiculously awesome and I can’t believe I had the opportunity to do something like that. When opportunities like these come along I often wonder what I would have thought four or five years ago if someone had told me I would get an opportunity like this. I’m pretty confident I’d have either laughed in their face or gotten mad at their cruel attempt at a joke. No matter, it’s been an amazing ride and I’ll hold on as long as it continues.
The commercial is airing nationwide but if you haven’t seen it here it is