Two naive Brits convince themselves that they've found a shortcut to success, as they embark on a road trip across
America, seeking fame, fortune and a pair of green cards.
Produced by Khaos Labs
Director and Writer
George Popi / Guy Ettlin / James Roberts
Shot on Red Scarlet-W
with Leica Summicron-R lenses
Making American Dreamers
When Guy first told me about the shooting across three countries on a micro budget, I thought he was mad! After seeing how they had meticulously planned every detail of the shoot, and how wisely they had spread their budget, I couldn't resist joining the team!
After reading the script through for the first time, I soon realised that this was very much shadowing the story that myself and a friend had gone through a few years prior, taking a road trip across America, him trying to find a girl for a green card... myself trying to find work in film. It was for sure a project that I could bring a lot to from a story perspective and had so many relatable moments that really struck a chord with me.
We started in London in the UK, for three days of shooting around the city and in Guy's old London apartment. We had a strong vision of the visual style in mind going into the piece, very similar to American Honey, but once seeing the chemistry of the actors on set, it adapted very quickly into a combination of commercial comedy style, crossed with the handheld indie nature of American Honey.
We decided from the very beginning that everything would be shot handheld. With a skeleton team, I was camera operating and DPing for the entirety of the shoot, with my 1st AC, Rodrigo Borda. It made for some difficult situations when also competing with a moving RV, forty degree heat in Nevada desert, or a bar location in Montreal that we had to make look like 5 separate locations in a single day... But it was an amazing challenge that my team rose to with no issues!
Our next stop from London was Montreal where we shot the majority of our indoor scenes. Locations included bars, apartments and the Montreal Casino. The Casino required precise planning, as not only did we only have the location for 8 hours, but we had to shoot 3 dialogue heavy scenes, and make the casino look like London and Las Vegas, without touching any fixtures... We managed this with a combination of lighting and colour temperature changes in camera.
For the London location we wanted to go for a classier cooler feel to fit the opening colour palette of our film, and for the Las Vegas casino, we wanted a warmer, more vibrant and colourful palette that again fit that section of the film.
From Montreal, we flew our skeleton crew over to Kelowna where we picked up our RV picture car. We shot for a week in Kelowna, aiming to match some of the aesthetics of LA. Our locations in Kelowna were all exterior, including forests, lake side beaches and INT/EXT from within the RV.
The biggest challenge at this stage was lighting scenes such as the camp fire in the dead of night, with a minimal amount of equipment that we could fly over from Montreal... We achieved this with a smart combination of practical from the RV and campfire, combined with subtle use of our LED fixtures.
After Kelowna, we all hit the road in the RV, travelling across the border to Yosemite. 11 cast and crew spread across an 8 person RV and a car, that was being used as a filming location and a means of rest, made for some interesting situations... Often stopping at Walmart bathrooms to brush our teeth and hand shower.
We managed to race to Yosemite just in time to capture the sunset for our scenes at this location, before moving on towards LA.
Once reaching LA, we shot here for another 4 days, in a mostly guerrilla style, as is the way with micro budget. All of our scenes here were day time, so we utilised natural light, combined with poly board bounces and 4x4 floppies, being hollywooded the whole time by my awesome grip and electric team.
Our final day of shooting was travelling from LA to Las Vegas through the Nevada desert. We shot a scene in the blistering heat of the desert (this being the peak of summer...) as well as scenes within the RV.
Once reaching Vegas, all that was left was our INT/EXT scenes from within the RV as they drove along the strip. The sheer intensity of light from the strip allowed me to go completely natural within the RV, with no need for any additional lighting.
There are far too many unforgettable memories from this shoot to recount within this page, but ending with a wrap party in vegas, showering for the first time in a week in a large hotel suite, and winning a couple thousand dollars at the casino with the most brilliant team you have worked with yet, is certainly up there as one of the best!