Looking Up – SolidLine Winter Internship Week 5: My First SolidLine Road Trip
by Sam Sher, SolidLine Intern

It’s a hard thing, realizing that memories are just that:  figments of the past that will never again happen anywhere but your mind.
When I was young my parents and I would go to Miami Beach every summer, and we drove for many of these trips.  This annoyed me at the time.  Why take two days to drive somewhere, when you could fly and be there in hours?  It was stupid.  I was so bored, sitting in the backseat of that car for so long, playing with action figures or reading.  I didn’t understand why my parents would choose this.

Well, like most people, I grew up.  I now have a deep seated love for long road trips, probably because of those trips with my parents.  I’ve done a few myself, and I feel a very personal connection to life on the road, taking it cheap, seeing the sights along the way, and getting a sense of that America:  the road America, the rest stops and the gas station oases; the diners and the people you meet.  That fringe world that is, but isn’t, in every city, town, and village across America.

In one of my favorite books, Travels With Charley: In Search of America John Steinbeck writes that “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.  And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.  We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” I agree wholeheartedly.  Every trip is different and each decides on its own when it begins and when it ends.  I once drove to the Grand Canyon and back in a week, just for the sake of doing it.  I departed on a Sunday night,  but the trip started about 2 weeks earlier, when I had a dream about being in the desert.  Until I departed two weeks later, that was all I could think about.  One of my dream projects is to re-trace the journey that Steinbeck took writing his book, hopefully making a documentary along the way.

I would give anything to take one more car trip with my parents, like the old days.  I regret that I never appreciated what those drives meant at the time, and the memories I have of seeing cities and towns along the drive, car chatter with my parents, and that moment-of-departure feeling, like jumping off into the unknown, are memories that I’ll always cherish.
But enough of me waxing nostalgic/poetic/romantic/my eyebrows, you’re here to read about my exploits as the SolidLine Intern!  Luckily my musings relate to this week’s post. BUT first, before you read about the amazing week, check out this video from the week!

This week I embarked on my first cross-country adventure with the SolidLine Crew.  Ed picked me up Monday morning at about 7:30am to grab equipment and head out to Rockford, where we were to meet Greg, load up the truck, and depart.  Because the equipment wouldn’t all fit in the Tahoe, we had to use Ed’s car as well.  This meant that Ed would be driving the Tahoe to Rockford, while I drove Ed’s car.  My car at this point was still buried under the snow, my favorite jacket buried inside it.

Maneuvering downtown traffic at that hour was tricky, but we managed to get everything loaded and head out fairly quickly.  Once we got to Rockford, we met up with Greg at the RV place, where he was having some work done to the truck before we left.  After that we met back up at Greg’s place, where we loaded everything onto the truck, filled it’s water tanks, and it’s fridge.  Around noon or so we were ready to leave the area, and we started rolling on the truck.  Ed took the first driving shift, while Greg worked at the table and I wrote last week’s blog on the couch.

Traveling in the SolidLine bus was quite different than in a car.  First, and most obviously, I was able to walk around and stretch my legs a little while moving.  Not being strapped to a chair was nice for a change, and I was able to use the restroom (a complete, working, restroom!) whenever I needed too.  We had a limited amount of water for use, so we needed to conserve, but besides that we had a stocked fridge and cabinets full of food.

On Monday, as we rolled down the highway through Chicago, past Gary, Michigan City, South Bend, and beyond, I was amazed at the amenities on the truck.  Running water, satellite tv, a fridge, microwave/convection oven, stovetop range, AND high speed wireless internet to top it off.  Usually when I drive I have my iPhone as a GPS and that’s about it for electronics.  It was impressive how comfortable the ride was.  Other than the occasional wave of motion sickness from the bumps, I was sitting softly on a couch with my laptop.  I spent a lot of the time thinking about the blog I was writing, other writing, and ideas for the future. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start spouting life-as-a-roadtrip metaphors.  Really.

After a while I went to sit up front with Greg while he drove, and he explained some truck signals to me, like how to flicker your lights to let a truck know that he was clear to merge back into your lane after passing you, and how to thank another trucker for doing just that.  When driving something the size of a semi there are a lot of things that must be taken into account.  The height of the truck, the length of the truck, and the fact that you can’t see what’s around very clearly unless you carefully pay attention to the mirrors at all times.  The height means that you have to be careful about overpasses, and you’ve got to make sure your route doesn’t include anything that might be destroyed by being hit with a semi.

Monday night we stopped at a Wal-Mart in eastern Ohio to buy more food and eat.  Chef Boe prepared some Manwich, and it was delicious (however as I write about it, it really does sound gross).  We drove a ways further, stopping finally at a rest stop somewhere in Pennsylvania, and went to bed.  This too was a new experience for me.  I had my very own bunk on board the truck!  My bunk was accessible via ladder, and was located in that little space above the “cockpit”.  It was a huge bed, actually long enough for me to stretch out in, but the ceiling was as high as my knuckles are from my elbow.  It was about as tall as a coffin.  At first this was a shock, and I hit my head a number of times forgetting about it, but I adjusted and eventually came to like the bunk.  With the ceiling that low there wasn’t enough room for me to sit and read comfortably, or use my computer really, so once I got into the bunk I hit the pillow right away.  Literally, it was right there when I squeezed up the ladder.

Our first film shoot was Tuesday at the John Theurer Cancer Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, where we interviewed a cancer doctor about new medicines for a specific kind of cancer, to raise awareness among doctors for these new treatment options.  The room that we were filming in was next door to a kitchen, so we had to deal with the noise of the ovens, which meant that whoever was monitoring and mixing audio had to listen carefully.  That was me, and I did, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve never heard so many doors closing and opening in a rhythm like that before.  Luckily we got everything we needed, and we were able to shoot around the noises.

We had been given a script for the doctor to read from the teleprompter, but the doctor had prepared his own information and was ready to make some changes.  After a couple of read-throughs from the prompter it became apparent that the doctor was better at just saying the information the way he had prepared, coupled with the fact that he’s an expert on the subject, and we just scrolled to black on the prompter and let him do his thing.  After shooting for a hours we we wrapped, packed up and were back on the road, this time heading to Reading, Pennsylvania for another shoot of the same type (pronounced Redding, NOT Reading by the way).

Tuesday night we stopped at a Wal-Mart again.  These SolidLine guys LOVE Wal-Mart by the way.  We cooked up a nice pizza and watched “The Whole Nine Yards”, which I had not seen.  The Whole Nine Yards was…

Wednesday we were up bright and early for a shoot at the Hospital in West Reading, Pennsylvania.  We loaded in through the back dock, and set up in a conference room.  We had a very short time with this doctor, so we had to be quick.  I again monitored audio, and thankfully this room was in a much better position than the last.  There was little extraneous sound, and other than running a few minutes over our time crunch, the shoot was successful.  We loaded up and by 2pm we were on the road home.

During the driving periods there are a few things I would do.  I spent a lot of time working on my blog for last week, and some of the time shooting footage of the drive.  I also thought a lot, but I already promised I wouldn’t make this a road-trips-equal-life metaphor.

We drove until 10 or so that night, somewhere in Indiana I think, , and I was able to experience the SolidLine Crew Beans recipe.  Those were some good, spicy beans that Greg cooked, and I look forward to tasting those beans again on the next trip.  This night we watched “Bad Santa”, which was far more entertaining than “The Whole Nine Yards”.  All in all it was a good night, and the trip was coming to a close.

The next morning we realized that the cold water lines on the truck were frozen, probably due to the -15 degree overnight temps. We had to thaw the ice in the line, which was quite NON-technical.  Greg used space heaters and blow dryers while I cleaned the interior of the truck. I scrubbed, swept, and swiffered until that truck was spotless! Greg and Ed told me I did a MUCH better job than previous intern Dave Rokos at cleaning.  We also emptied the fridge into a cooler, and packed up our things for homecoming.  Around noon or one we arrived back at the garage where the truck sleeps, and parked it away and said our goodbyes.  But this was not the end of our week!  Our most intensive shoot of the week, a promotional video for Everest Academy, was on Friday, and we knew it was going to be a long day of shooting.

On Friday Ed picked me up at 5:15am, and we met up with John, a friend of the former intern who was going to be PA’ing with us for the day.  We then departed for Lemont, IL, where we’d be shooting the Everest Academy promo video.  Everest is a Catholic school for K-8, and seemed like a great place.  We set up at around 6:45 or so, unloading into a staging room, and looked over our schedule for the day.  We’d be spending a half hour in one room, 15 minutes in another, etc, trying to capture as many classes and aspects of the school as we could in one day, while still fitting 5 formal interviews in.  It was stressful to keep moving, especially since we didn’t get to eat until around 3 or 4pm, but the rush is part of what makes these shoots fun and we captured all we needed to.  Lugging a jib, a b-camera, two kinos, and a backlight around from room to room was a challenge, but I think we pulled it off and I look forward to seeing the results.

We wrapped at Everest at around 6:30, and packed up our gear to head home.  We finally departed at around 7:30, marking 14 hours since Ed had picked me up that morning.  It was exhausting, but rewarding to think that we’d shot that much in one day.

It was a pretty rewarding week, overall.  Got to see the countryside, met some doctors, and shot enough footage for an entire promo video in one day.  Also, Greg has asked me to prepare a treatment for the ‘Real Fathers Initiative’ video that we’ll be shooting next week, so I’m excited to put that together and see how my Pre-Production skills stack up.

Finally, I was reminded of how much I love road trips, and I can’t wait to get back on the road again in March.  Like Steinbeck said, we don’t take trips, trips take us.  I’m already thinking about the drive in March, trying to figure out a plan to document the trip, and imagining the desert again.  I’m also thinking more and more about my idea to follow Steinbeck’s journey, and ways that I could go about making that a reality.  Until next time, I’m Sam the SolidLine Intern, and thank you for reading my blog.

-Sam

Copyright 2011 SolidLine Media a division of KV Media Group, Inc.

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