The date of the shoot was actually back on January 14th, but we only got the green light from the Travel Channel to share this out now (now being June). Mark your television viewing calendars for:
Sunday, July 29th 9pm/10pm central (check your local listings)
“Extreme RVs” on the Travel Channel (check your local listings)
Episode 508: Elegant Bling
This weekend will surely go on the list of most unusual things we have ever done, with or without Dory. Back in the Fall of 2017, we were contacted by Safari Condo, asking if we’d be interested in being a part of the television show “Extreme RVs” on the Travel Channel. I’m always enthusiastic to do things that promote the Alto, so I agreed. I got in contact with their producers via email and they asked me to share some background and send pictures. We did all that, plus videos, and heard back from them that they’d love to shoot the Alto. We worked out schedules with them and set a date for the second weekend in January, at Sunset State Beach, where I already had a reservation. All good, so we sort of forgot about it and continued on our camping way.
As the date approached and it seemed like this might actually happen, I began to become more focused on appearance projects. This included, but was not limited to: washing Dory, steam cleaning the upholstery, wiping down every visible surface, cleaning Bruce, and getting a crash course from friends in purchasing and applying make-up. Good lord, $75 for two tiny bottles, and I’m just now realizing how much money I’m saving us by not normally caring about my appearance.
On the Wednesday before the actual shoot, I spoke with the producer on the phone and she ran me through what to expect for the day. I learned about “hero shots” and “lifestyle shots” and kind of freaked out about all the interviewing it sounded like they were going to do. Richard joined me in freakage and we spent the next couple of days in a general state of nervous system activation. On the upside, I got to channel the energy into making Dory’s bathroom really really clean.
The day of the shoot arrived and I woke up, with no alarms necessary, at 4:30am. We were told to be hitching ready at 7:30, and we definitely were. The first thing that happened was the crew of five showed up at our site and put GoPro cameras on the inside and outside of Bruce. We got mics and a walkie talkie and were given directions to drive down the access road to the beach, do a loop at the end of the parking lot, and return to the campground. Right off the bat, this became a super cool adventure. We could hear over the walkie that the park ranger was blocking off traffic to make way for us. According to Gabe, the ranger, they are very used to doing shoots for all kinds of things at that particular park. In fact, he said they’d just done one the week before. So they all clearly knew what they were doing and all we had to do was follow directions. We heard them refer to us over the walkie as “The Talent” and “Our Hero” and that has got to be a high point of my entire life right there.
After our GoPro loop, we returned and they de-camera-ed us and got ready for the drone shots. Oh my God. If you have never been followed by a drone while driving, I highly recommend you find a way to do it. It maintained a fix on us all the way down to the beach and all the way back up. It would have been terrifying if we hadn’t been pretty sure all it had on it was a camera, rather than, say, a missile launcher.
The last driving shot was what they called “leap frog” where they would set up the really big cameras, we’d drive past them, pretending not to notice, then wait while they repositioned further down the road. Again, it is just really exciting to have so much attention focused on you and I WAY preferred that kind of attention to the upcoming interview attention. We finished our drive in a closed loop of the campground, so we had the whole place to ourselves for the day. They even opened the bathroom just for us, which, to a camper, ranks pretty high on the ‘wow’ scale.
Once we positioned in a good location, they filmed us unhitching. Then they got shots of me using the Caravan Mover to fake position Dory in the fake campsite. They shot the roof going up and down four times, using different angles and cameras. After that came the super awkward interview part. They set up two huge cameras, pointed at our faces, plus a big light screen thing that hovered above our heads. Dennis the Director stood next to the cameras and instructed us to try to incorporate the questions he asked into our responses because his part of the conversation would not be seen or heard. That is much harder than it seems when you’re doing it in the moment with two huge cameras pointed at you. We basically clung to each other in a vice grip of solidarity until it was over. I have utterly no idea what either of us actually said. I hope we were coherent. Dennis seemed to be happy, so maybe it wasn’t as bad as it felt.
After that came the “walk through” footage. Richard got to go around with them and explain all of the outside features, and then moved to inside shots to talk about the coffee machine. I am quite certain there have never been so many people inside Dory at one time. I got to explain the interior features. I wish I’d thought to take pictures of this part because standing in such a small space, with three other people and lights and cameras pointing at me, was pretty funny. After the big camera shots, they’d come in with close ups, like of my hand opening the shower curtain, or gesturing toward something. Each time they’d have me repeat some part of what I was saying, like: “And this curtain completely encloses the shower area…” We’d do each of these several times. We also had to be careful not to show or say any brand names of anything. Like I couldn’t say I liked to cook “Blue Apron,” and we had to turn food containers around so labels didn’t show. If anyone wonders why I didn’t talk about “Dory,” or the Altoistes “Facebook” group, that’s why.
Then we got a very long break while they did “Four Corners” shots. They set up various cameras, plus the drone, to get different exterior views from each of Dory’s four corners. Following this, they had one of their camera guys do interior “Beauty Shots.” Again, this part must have taken over an hour. We got to pass the time by chatting with Dennis and the people on the crew. They are really friendly, very down to earth people, so that was actually a fascinating thing to do. We got all kinds of advice for our son on how to go about getting jobs on shoots like these. They also sprung for a Togo’s lunch break, with chips even, so now we know what it’s like to really live in the Hollywood fast lane.
We were pushing into the afternoon hours at this point, and that’s when we got to fake set up camp and move into the “Lifestyles” section. Keep in mind, we normally set up and take down camp once in a weekend, and we’d already done a lot more than that. We were starting to feel the adrenaline wear off, and sadly, the fake shot of Richard bringing me coffee, in our fake outside setup, was actually Starbucks from a thermos poured into our cups. We acted out the whole thing, right up to the point where we were supposed to take a big old gulp. We both instinctively just held right as the cups came to our lips and looked out like, “Is that good?” Dennis laughed and said, “Seriously you guys? You’re really not even going to sip the Starbucks?” We looked back in a sort of “do we have to?” way, but didn’t want to be prima donnas about it, and took a sip like good talent.
They shot us fake riding our bikes and then moved back inside to film us fake setting up the movie projector. Richard got to set up the projector, but I got the task of setting up the screen. The only problem there is that I’m still working on an optimal way to hang that thing up so it’s not wavy. I do not have this down yet. Even so, I got to set it up and take it down four times and I don’t think any of the times looked especially smooth. I normally futz with the screen for twenty minutes to get it straight. I imagine by the time the episode airs, I’ll be super proficient. And hopefully they will edit it so I look like I know what I’m doing.
The last push was filming me making the bed and then filming us fake watching a movie. I have no idea how I must have looked by that time, but I felt sweaty and ready for nappy time. Again, the actual view we had was the camera person pointing a giant camera at us in bed, but we pretended to be watching a comedy I guess because we were both laughing. Finally, at the end of a very long day, we got one last shot of the rear view camera monitor inside the car. Astute Altoistes will notice the angle of the view is all wrong because the roof was still up at the time.
That was officially a wrap for the crew. They put all of their equipment back in their cars and said goodbye. We were left to take down camp and pack up for towing. Again. We realized at this point that we were no longer special because the park ranger came to scurry us along so they could close the gates. Man, we were very very tired talent by the end of this day. When we got back into our real site, we didn’t even fully set up. We just unhitched, grabbed some glasses of wine/cranberry juice, and went to enjoy the sunset.
The release of a couple of months of anticipation and tension started to wash over us and the first thing we both felt thankful for was that we could now be as messy as we wanted. In fact, we went back to Dory and I cooked up a Blue Apron meal and didn’t even wipe off the grease splatters. Richard intentionally scattered water droplets all over the place after washing his hands. And, amusingly, after all of the effort I’d put into keeping the windows clean, I could now see suction cup marks everywhere from the places they’d mounted GoPros.
Truly, this was a once in a lifetime experience for us. It was very exciting and I’m glad to have been a part of it. Would we do it again? I think we might be too old for the reality lifestyle. At least, I know for sure we’re too messy.
And that’s a wrap!
Side note: Richard wants it recorded that he got to go on a nice bike ride Saturday on San Andreas Road, to Larkin Valley, to Buena Vista. I was shaking sheets and de-grossifying the back of the toilet at the time.