Part five in a series on Plymouth Rock Studios seeking West Coast support for its East Coast plans.
The Prius is the car of choice in Los Angeles, a city that manages to elude utter decadence with environmental elan. But the Prius is a tad squished for this band of on-the-fly filmmakers who are about to keep pace with a frenzied city.
Plymouth Rock Studios producer Josh Bethoney, director Ted Ryan and photographer Kevin Forti cram themselves into the Prius with their entourage of cameras, tripods and water bottles Bethoney has had the foresight to bring.
Meanwhile, Plymouth Rock Studios founder David Kirkpatrick and PRS executive Thom Black climb into the cherry red Ford Mustang convertible, calling out a few instructions to the Prius gang before taking off in a blur to Burbank, where they will hook up with script writer Brendan Higgins, who lives there.
It’s April 3, and that ever-present spectacular sunshine is out in force today, drenching this desert oasis and the San Gabriel foothills in the distance. Burbank stretches vast and clean to the horizon of these hills and mountains with cartoon colors, studios galore and the suspended pulse of a dreamscape.
If Los Angeles proper exists somewhere between fiction and reality, then Burbank has staked a claim for the surreal. You half expect to see Bugs Bunny pop his head around a wing of the Warner Bros. lot, or Road Runner to “Meep!” passed, Wyle E. Coyote at his heels – an ACME bomb strapped to his back.
Part of today’s plan is to capture shots of Kirkpatrick behind the wheel of his bomber as he revisits his old stomping grounds in Burbank, where he worked as production chief for Walt Disney Studios and Touchstone Studios simultaneously.
“He’s gonna have his head taken off,” Bethoney observes, glancing at Ryan, who is hanging out the window with his hand-held camera as the car flies along Ventura Freeway. One truck passing a little too closely causes some lip biting, but the roar of traffic drowns Bethoney’s appeal that Ryan get his butt back into the car.
Ryan has a type of distracted brilliance that says he’s in the zone. Bethoney’s in the zone, too, but has the practicality of the producer he is and can imagine the mayhem that would result from an unexpected decapitation.
He juggles the wheel and his cell phone as Kirkpatrick gives him locations. Finally, Bethoney pulls the Prius over, and he and the rest of the camera crew leap out of the car and race up the street to capture that shot of the Mustang – giving new meaning to “drive by shooting.” They cause some rubber necking as they sprint across this busy street wielding their cameras and their oh-so-Boston work ethic.
The frantic filming will last all day, as the crew makes its way to Walt Disney Studios on Buena Vista Street and Warner Bros. Studios on Warner Boulevard, where Kirkpatrick gestures to mythic buildings, designed by the same company that will design the studio for Plymouth – Gensler Architects.
The team also catches some unscripted moments between Kirkpatrick and Black, who have split objectives of promoting the studio project and filming "Plymouth Rock Studios – The Series." They’re building the plane as they fly it, and lapse seamlessly from Gensler discussions to improv parleys as Bethoney and Ryan circle with digital cameras and Forti snaps his award-winning shots .
Anyone at all familiar with the joy of filmmaking knows Bethoney will spend hundreds of hours on this footage later, ferreting out those diamond moments that spell entertainment.
In the land of film making, however, you can’t just go willy-nilly about with a hand held without someone getting their panties in a bunch. Security guards at the various studios right their heads, prompting Bethoney and company to hot foot it back to the Prius, shouting a warning at Forti with, “Let’s go, Let’s go, let’s GO!”
These hilarious Keystone Cop episodes happens a few times, until Ryan, who is only focused on getting the best shot possible, throws his jacket over the camera while he exits the car, completely unaware he now appears to be hiding a large machine gun.
“Hey, hey, hey!” the photographer and reporter call out from the back seat in time for him to realize his mistake. A headline flashes through the reporter’s mind: PRS director shot during shooting; mistaken for terrorist.
The frenetic pace of this shooting that began in the morning, continues into late afternoon until someone is so hungry she is beginning to hallucinate in cartoon.
After the Burbank blurr, the posse splits from Kirkpatrick and Black to collect shots on Hollywood Boulevard, where freaks of the world unite, shuffling cheek-by-jowl with business suits and tourists. Hope arrives for the reporter, as always, in the form of a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, LA’s equivalent of Starbuck’s. The guys leave her there as they race to catch footage of every whacko on Hollywood Boulevard.
This iconic street boasts the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theatre, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium and the Capital Records Tower. It’s an overwhelming assault on the senses and just downright fun. Who knew Winnie the Pooh had a star on the Walk of Fame? And Plymouth Rock Studio’s own Earl Lestz has one too? You don’t log 21 years at Paramount without someone taking notice.
Later, the crew climbs to the lookout deck of this open-air mall decorated with massive white elephants towering above on massive, white pedestals. The cameras zoom in on the Hollywood sign, off in the distance in Griffith Park, and the guys make plans to eat at some point. The suspense is killing the reporter, who wonders how long these guys can hold out. For her, the white elephants are the best metaphor thus far for this big fat dose of America she’s getting on the West Coast: Hollywood Boulevard – where white elephants have a spectacular purpose.