Myself, Sam and Alex flew out to California on 10th April to do the recce, test shoot, location scout and time-lapse recordings for Latitude. I’ll start by mentioning that it was an incredible experience to be in the thick of it all, filming in Hollywood, San Francisco and other various places along the Pacific Coast but also a success in terms of we got the time-lapse footage we went out there to get, as well as obtaining quite a few cutaways for the main feature. This was our aim, as due to the limited time the rest of the crew have out in California (10 days) they will not have the time to capture anything but the footage involving the actors, whereas we had the time to sit on Hollywood Hills for an hour admiring the glorious view over Los Angeles as the sun set.
Sam did a fantastic job of booking hostels, car hire and planning a basic route to follow. She worked hard on this as it was difficult to find a rental place that would allow an under-25 driver, as Alex is only 22. Not to mention the car we got was a shiny white Jeep. Not bad.
After a long day travelling, having to stop in Detroit before arriving in LAX, we were shattered, and as much as we wanted to roam around and have an adventure, we fell straight to sleep in order to have an early start in the morning. The rooms in our Inglewood Hostel were nice and spacious in regards to housing cast crew and filming equipment, so thought they could potentially be a potential location for any hostel/bedroom scenes in the film. The Inglewood area itself however seemed to be a little run down and dodgy, so we didn’t feel too comfortable staying there. But we had comfortable double beds so it was all good.
DAY ONE – INGLEWOOD/SANTA MONICA BEACH/HOLLYWOOD
We woke nice and early (5am in fact due to the time difference) so we grabbed breakfast – which consisted of donuts and frosted loops – packed our equipment in the Jeep and headed down to Santa Monica State Beach to record some soundscapes and capture some time-lapse footage of the beach and fairground which was located on the pier.
I spent half an hour or so recording sounds of the seagulls, the waves lapping, crowds of people – general ambient sounds to use as background filler sound for the film. I wouldn’t go as far to say I enjoyed doing sound, but hey, with there being just the three of us we each had to double up on roles we weren’t particularly fond of at times. I had issues with wind noise at times but this was resolved by my makeshift wind-brake – my hoodie.
Once we decided we had recorded enough we headed over to Hollywood Boulevard to meet up with our american actors – Rachel Adams and Josh Ubaldi. These two guys are fantastic, they are really enthusiastic about working with us on this project. We went through their scenes in the script with them and discussed their character traits, possible costumes to wear, and availability for shooting – Josh playing the villain of the film, Zuck, and Rachel playing the role of Evi, Max and Percy’s love interest. This was great meeting the talent and we can’t wait to work with them.
Shortly after this we decided, while it was still light, to head up to the Hollywood Hills to see what the view was like and set up another time-lapse of not only the sign but the city behind us. However we soon lost our blue sky as well as light and camera battery so we made a note that we would have to come back for a second take later in the week. The footage from this take just appeared dull and saturated on screen, with no real contrast, so thought it would be best just to head back to the hostel and plan the route for the next day when we would be travelling up to San Luis Obispo.
DAY TWO – SAN LUIS OBISPO/MONTEREY BAY/ROUTE 101 NORTH
While in San Luis Obispo the weather was horrendous so we didn’t end up doing any filming. We searched around for some potential diners to ask about filming there but to no avail. The April showers really hit us hard, so we decided to move out of there swiftly on to some coastal locations, one being Monterey Bay, a small port on the Pacific Coast. We filmed small segments here, but again, the weather was against us and we just made the choice to head up to San Francisco as early as we could – we wanted to get there while it was still daylight as the drive up to San Luis Obispo from Los Angeles was tiring in the dark, more so for Alex who was driving. The 101 Highway was definitely where we spent most of our time in California, unfortunately. In hindsight it would have been much better logistically and in terms of cost to fly in to San Francisco and fly out of Los Angeles – we would have been able to get a LOT more done, as we wasted so much production time travelling.
DAY THREE – SAN FRANCISCO CITY CENTRE/APPLE STORE/PIER 39
Now I know Chicago is labelled as ‘The Windy City’, but San Francisco must come close… As beautiful as it is, the tunnelled roads sure do cause some bursts of cold wind. We spent the first of our two days here capturing time-lapses of the busy city centre including the trams passing by. It was all very interesting to watch as we don’t quite get anything close to it in Coventry. I managed to get some soundscape recordings too, however did get hassled by some homeless people of several occasions who would just not leave me alone while I was trying to record sound. As well as do all that, we looked around for possible locations, primarily a diner, sports bar and Apple store.
When checking out sports bars we found it difficult to find one that wasn’t completely packed or really noisy – perhaps it was a large sporting day and there was a big American sports game on but we just couldn’t find a bar that wasn’t busy.
We saw a brilliant 50s diner on Powell Street which would have been fantastic for a location. We chose to eat here for lunch; all part of our tactical plan to persuade the manager to allow us to use the location – we wanted him to see us eating at his business before we go up to him asking for his help. After our meal I spoke to Pablo Francisco, the manager at Loris, who offered $300 per hour, which I immediately said was too much, as that would be too big of a chunk from our already low budget. We managed to obtain all our UK locations for free, we wanted to do the same in California. I then suggested that the whole cast crew would eat here which would be at least $150 for just half an hour but he was adamant in his original offer – he mentioned how film crews have used his location before and caused problems for him. I mentioned how it was only a small crew with small DSLR cameras and no lighting equipment, but he was having none of it, so we soon moved on.
We also journeyed to the massive San Francisco Apple Store to see if we could use that as a location – we knew the chances would be slim but thought we’d give it a shot anyway. The manager gave me the email contact to write to asking for permission but so far I’ve had no response, so it isn’t looking promising.
The next day we woke up at 4:30 to head over to the hills and set up our time-lapse for the sunrise over Golden Gate Bridge and the city. We didn’t manage to get both the bridge and the sun in the same shot however, as our widest lens wasn’t wide enough and also we ran out of time to get a further distance away before the sun began to rise. Also, the automatic function on the time-lapse wasn’t working for some reason, so we had to manually take a photo every 3 seconds for about 30 minutes. Luckily we took shifts.
The view was just stunning, and it just reinforced my need to travel in terms of producing media after University. After we captured the sunrise we started to head off back down the 101 Highway, soon choosing to veer off on to Pacific Coast Highway for a more scenic view. The journey was longer, but wow, so beautiful. The sky and sea were so blue; Sam and Alex were laughing at me for how much I went on about it. So on Pacific Coast highway we passed through Big Sur, a huge forrest and national park, which Pete wanted to use as a location for a hidden Geocache in the script. We stopped at a couple of points during our long winding journey back down to San Luis Obispo. There were some fantastic ‘side of the road’ places to use in the film, as well as a stunning bridge and railway, with the sea just metres away.
Here is just a small glimpse at some of the footage we collected: