How to Love: #Disneyormusicvideo (Day 2)

In the beginning of my Day 1 blog, I explained the phrase, “Screw the shoot – let’s go to Disneyland,” shared by Dave and I, and definitely desired by all three of us. It’s the type of thing you joke about doing (putting aside what you actually have to do and indulging in an irrational decision) and play out in your head how much fun it’d be to attempt, but don’t actually try because you’re a realistic and rational human being. We’ll come back to that later.

The day began with meeting the incredibly helpful Daniel for some Chick-Fil-A breakfast (you have to start off a full day right) and going over camera details and instructions on how we should get footage to him. Daniel ended up being the nicest guy and had no ulterior motive to helping us out, other than just being a friend to some strangers from out of town with the same passions. We were blessed to have the opportunity to meet him and become friends with him.

Driving was the name of the game for Day 2. A lot of the film called for driving scenes, so we drove around Los Angeles for several hours, trying to get B-Roll of the city as well as shots with the city in the backdrop of myself or Jessica and myself in the car. If you are familiar with Los Angeles, you know how much driving plays a part in life over there, so you can imagine how much I was over driving by the end of our stay. We collected some solid film and turned the car around toward Glendora, gearing up for the evening’s group scene.

After Jessica was dropped off, we went to In-N-Out to talk out the film plan (that being our second time at In-N-Out in two days). The plan was laid out as the following: everyone was going to rendezvous with us at the bottom of the mountain at 5:45, leaving there closer to 6:00, and beginning our short jaunt from the parking spots to the location. That would leave us at least thirty minutes before sunset (at 7:08), and we could get some great footage at the golden hour. That was the plan.

Andreos, Dave, and I waited at the rendezvous spot for 15 minutes before discovering that traffic had waylaid a few extras. That’s okay, we thought – we built in that buffer of time for things like that. So the three of us headed up and sent our location to the rest of the folks so they would know where to park.

After leaving thirty minutes passed the projected departure time, Jessica and the crew finally made it up the mountain, reaching more questions than points on a map. After numerous calls and confused u-turns, they finally made it to the turnoff, and the sun was almost completely behind the hills. We had to adapt quickly, and transformed the vision of a scene at dusk to that of moonlight. Portable lights we packed along for the trip were well worth lugging around at this point.

Originally I had envisioned a group of people partying near an overlook of the city, playing around a fire for this scene. The overlook was incredible – the lights of the city shone like their own electric stars beneath the sky. Being in Southern California presented other complications when it came to the fire we wanted to create. There was a drought at this time, so we had to be inventive around the construction of the fire for this scene. In order to keep my government record unmarred, you’ll have to see the video for more details.

After a lot of stress, work, and my terrible acting, we finished the scene and called it a wrap. The shots didn’t go quite the way we had planned, but we were pleased with what we were able to accomplish and climbed down the hill with starlit smiles on our faces.

Driving down Glendora hills, we ran into Foothill Boulevard, and a rush of nostalgia washed over me with the sweet aroma of donuts. I lived just south of Glendora for two years during college, and facing Foothill head-on brought to mind my youthful indulgence: Donut Man.

Dave, Andreos and I rushed over to the tiny hut that holds the sweetest of treats, and jumped into the line that consumed the parking lot. While in line, Dave – being himself – struck up a conversation with the students in front of us, discovering that one of them was an employee at Disneyland. Dave and I both gave a sidelong look at each other and returned to the conversation. By the time we had retrieved our heavenly pastries, we began to part ways and the Disney employee, Nick, told us, “Hey, this is random, but you guys are really cool, and I know you’re only in town for a few days, but if you have time and want to come to Disneyland for free, you’re welcome to use my guest passes.”

Did you just read that? Because when I heard that sentence from Nick, I had to ask him to repeat it. I shook my head in disbelief and started laughing with Dave, as we both remembered one of our first conversations on the trip: “Screw the video – let’s just go to Disneyland!” That idea had never been realistic until this moment. We couldn’t believe it, and both set our donuts aside so we could properly laugh at the irony of the moment.

The day was a success: the three of us were full of sweets and heading back to Northridge for the night. The next day held Oceanside, and, potentially, a day at Disney.


How to Love: Timely Friendships (Day 1)

One of the greatest parts of making this project had very little to do with the actual video. More than anything, I loved getting to know Andreos and Dave, two men with very different personalities and perspectives, yet both examples of Jesus that I was lucky to learn from and grow with through the weekend.

Let this story illuminate how similarly our minds were set. Having lived in Southern California for two years earlier in life, I have a deep and warm love for the world’s greatest theme park, Disneyland. As we walked out of the airport, pulling up ahead of our rental car shuttle was a shuttle for Disney Resorts. The image of the Magic Kingdom sparked a thought that immediately poured into words: “Screw the shoot – let’s go to Disneyland,” I exclaimed to Andreos. And I was only half joking.

Our shuttle took us to our rental car, which we utilized to inaugurate our entry to California with a ceremonial In-N-Out Double-Double, Animal style. Andreos and I returned to the airport with delicious fries, burgers, and milkshakes happily digesting in our bellies, as well as another Double-Double in hand for Dave. As we picked up Dave and he began to taste the spoils of our travels, within moments he declared, “Screw the shoot – let’s go to Disneyland,” without any recounting of what I had said earlier, or really any mention of Disney at all. Andreos and I lost it. I’m not exaggerating – Dave said, verbatim, precisely what I had said only an hour before. Instantly our camaraderie went deep.

After a restful night at our host’s house, we woke up with plans of ironing out story and logistics, with hopes of filming a few scenes before the day was through.

Intelligentsia in Old Town Pasadena set the stage for a walkthrough of the storyboard with Dave. We went over specifics on some shots, brainstormed locations, and tried to figure out what we could accomplish each day, while enjoying my favorite California brew.

The biggest trouble we encountered that day (and definitely a problem we had tried to tackle in the preceding weeks) was a location in the hills. The vision I had for a particular scene was to have a group hanging out in the hills with a fire to illuminate faces and the city scape to brighten the backdrop. Hills can definitely be found around Los Angeles, but we faced a huge problem: we didn’t have any filming permits, and definitely didn’t want to be caught and fined. So the hills had to be discreet and safe enough for us to attempt lighting a fire in the midst of an L.A. drought, while still being able to see city lights in the background.

As I brought up in my last blog, God’s help along the way become more and more evident as certain things began lining up beyond our comprehension. I had messaged every person I knew in the area to solicit either physical help as an extra or location ideas, and was greeted with either silence or the response of regret and unavailability. While at Intelligentsia, my good friend Luke responded to me with a suggestion of a place perfect for this scene. The boys and I headed out to scout the area, and found a genuinely incredible location. We’d tried lining up this scene for weeks, and we could finally tell our extras when and where to arrive, and begin to brainstorm framing and flow to this part of the story.

We headed back to Pasadena as Jessica, a friend and the lead female in the video, met us in Old Town for the first scene we were to shoot. (Let’s take this moment to recall the part I wrote before about our lack of permits…) We found an alleyway we wanted to shoot in, but we had to be extremely low-key or we would be shut down and potentially fined.

As we began to shoot a scene where Jessica and I acted out a dramatic fight, people were passing by right and left, and not only was it difficult for us to get into character (I guess I’m an actor now?), but it was challenging to frame everything right and hide the fact that we were filming. Andreos was trying to direct us, but it became obvious we were up to something as Jessica and I would fight, stop, and then Andreos would coach us. Totally normal, right?

Limited success was reached after frustrations and challenges were overcome, but were ceased quickly as we spotted an Old Town Pasadena officer eying us and writing something on a pad. We definitely didn’t want to find out whether or not it was a citation, so we took off and called it a wrap for the day. Even though we definitely expected this sort of guerilla-style filming, it was a tough moment to walk away from positively, and we all felt pretty discouraged.

Andreos and I decided to regroup and plan out the following day at a coffee shop as we waited for Dave’s uncle to rendezvous with him for some hangout time. Sipping on Mexican-influenced coffee at a new favorite place, Compañia De Café, Dave got a crazy message.

Learning he was in town, a member of a filmmaker group that Dave is part of on Facebook reached out to him about getting involved with the project. Daniel introduced himself as a Film Colorist (someone who helps in adjusting the color of the film to be consistent and fit the ideal style), and asked Dave if there was room in the budget for him to help out with the film the next day. Dave explained exactly the scenario: he told Daniel I don’t even have money for Dave to be there, let alone another crew member. Daniel then rebutted with an insanely low proposal that would pretty much only cover his gas and an hour of his time, and offered to help out with coloring and transcoding, both of which Andreos had said weeks before that we would need to hire out for after filming. This isn’t the craziest thing.

Daniel, seeming to be just an outstanding guy and huge help, then offered to lend us the exact camera that Dave originally wanted to shoot on, but knew was outside of budget. Daniel didn’t attach a price, but simply asked if we wanted to borrow it. Not only did he offer the camera, he then asked Dave to pick from a list of about twenty different vintage lenses the ones that he wanted to use. Almost simultaneously, all three of our jaws dropped in disbelief. The camera that Dave thought would be most ideal for the style of film we were attempting had just been offered to us, with lenses that would double or triple the quality and aesthetic of the film.

Already I was sensing that in the midst of chaos and challenges facing us that weekend, God was behind us, and I couldn’t help but see Him in these connections coming together without us even trying. I went to sleep that night rightfully tired and excited to see what we’d tackle the next day, humbled thinking of what other surprises God had up His sleeve for us.

📷 Cover by Dave Altizer (Old Town Pasadena)

📷 Photo #2 by Dave Altizer (Intelligentsia)