Welcome to my blog

Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. Over the next several months I will be preparing, planning, and shooting a documentary on historic Route 66. My actual trip begins in June. I hope to be back by July to start writing, and editing. I hope this will be an interesting look at what goes into producing a television documentary, and how the documentary is coming along.

A little background about me...
I am a broadcast video journalist with over 20 years experience shooting, editing, writing and field producing. I decided to "retire" from local news in 2009 to pursue the next phase of my career. Much of my experience is in local tv news as a Field Producer, and ENG Photographer, but the fundamentals of producing long form stories are the same as producing shorter news packages.
You are telling a story, plain and simple. The better you plan the better the final product will be.

Thanks again for reading, and enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From Chicago to LA.. errr Santa Monica

After 20 days, we finally arrived in Santa Monica on June 20th. The Santa Monica Pier marks the unofficial end of Rt 66. We finished shooting interviews on June 28th, or so I thought. Our last interview was with Dan Rice and his fiance' Jessica Slating. They own and operate 66 to Cali (http://route-66-to-california.com), a store on The Santa Monica Pier that sells nothing but Rt 66 merchandise made in America. It is also the last stop for many weary road warriors who finish getting their kicks on the Mother Road. (I met a couple today from Norway who just finished their trip on the road.) Dan and Jessica meet everyone who has completed the trip with a friendly smile, and a welcomed seat on a captains chair facing the Pacific Ocean. Talk about ocean therapy!!! The view is enough to regenerate even the most road worn soul.
Well, as I said, I thought I had my last interview until Dan suggested I speak with one last person in Seligman Arizona. So, on our return trip home we will be making one last stop to interview a man named Angel Delgadillo. Angel is credited by many for starting the re-discovery of Rt66 after he helped establish the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, which set in motion the founding of the other seven states’ associations along the Route.
I hope to be home in Pennsylvania by July 10th. My niece, who is along taking still photo's for a companion photo book, has a concert to attend in north Jersey. And besides, we will have been traveling for over 30 days, and it's time to come home. I miss seeing my family, friends, and visiting my daughter's grave in Princeton, New Jersey.
The only thing that remains after our last interview in Seligman is to pick up some video of iconic Rt 66 images on our way back to Chicago. The trip out was dedicated to interviews, and making contacts. I have to say we have succeeded in that effort and then some! I left time on the return trip to get anything else we may have missed in our effort to keep to our timeline.
I am very proud to say we have kept to our schedule every step of the way. The final milestone of the trip depends on where we stay on July 4th. If it happens to be a town that has a 4th of July celebration I will have to cover it. What better way to close a documentary about the spirit of those who live along America's Main Street than with fireworks celebrating America's birthday.
Oh, speaking of birthdays, I just found out I share the birthday of Rt 66. We were both born on November 11th some 42 years apart. And I turn 42 this year. Maybe that is why I was drawn to shoot this documentary this year. I really couldn't say. I just wanted to tell a story about the people who live along one of the nations most famous forgotten highways.
I'll be posting some more video clips from our trip in a day or two.
I hope you all have a nice 4th of July! And as always, thank you for checking in!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Williams Arizona.mov

Almost there!!!!

Since we left the Route 66 festival in the northern corner of Oklahoma, we have crossed 3 and half states in 4 days. 2 and half more to go! We picked up the pace in order to make an interview with the manager of The Grand Canyon Caverns. The caverns were set up by President Kennedy in 1961 as a bomb shelter during the Cold War. Today, there is a hotel room set up more than 200 feet below the surface in the underground labyrinth that you can stay in. Our interview is 11am Friday in that very room.
I have to admit I wasn't crazy about Oklahoma once we got to Oklahoma City. For the most part, Oklahoma City wasn't that impressive. It was just another big city to me. There were a few nicely painted murals depicting the old west, and the role Oklahoma played in west ward expansion, and an artsy community called Bricktown which was trying to be a destination location, but wasn't quite there yet. There was also a solemn memorial to the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, including 19 children, that is worth a visit. The memorial was built just 5-years after the tragedy. It does make me wonder why, after almost 9-years, the September 11th memorial in New York City is still not built. But despite these few things, I found the people were not as friendly as those we met before we reached this point in our trip. Which surprised me because I have met a many friendly people over the years who are from Oklahoma City and the surrounding area who are really nice. I may have just not stayed long enough to find the real Oklahoma hospitality.
The driving was much easier prior to reaching Oklahoma City, too. Before that point, it was easier to navigate Route 66. Signs were posted frequently, and there was more to see along the way. Texas and New Mexico were about the same. It made it a challenge to keep on the old historic highway. The frequency of signs got better once we crossed into Arizona.
I was struck by the amount of wind farms we saw driving through Oklahoma, and Texas. It was a curious juxtaposition of oil derricks and wind turbines. Fossil fuel vs. clean energy living side by side.
Once we crossed into New Mexico the scenery changed. The views were just breathe taking! I also enjoyed seeing cargo trains running on the old Santa Fe rail road track. It brought me back to when I was a kid watching westerns. I've also enjoyed traveling through Arizona. Unfortunately, we've only been staying in key towns long enough to get enough broll to tell the story, but I will make a point to come back and stay longer in Flagstaff and Williams Arizona one day soon. They are just the cutest towns. They remind me of towns in Colorado. Old mining towns that have found their second life as relaxing little hamlets with cafes, themed restaurants, leather shops, and history. Great shopping if I had the time.
Well, I'll sign off for now, but will be sure to post some more video of the trip so far in a day or two.
As always, thanks for checking in!

Monday, June 21, 2010


Raw Goat Milk Anyone!!??

After leaving the Downstream casino today, we saw many signs advertising raw goat milk for sale at farms in Oklahoma. The reason we stopped at the casino was to cover a Route 66 festival honoring the people who live, work and love the road, and to raise awareness about Route 66.
The casino is owned by the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. The tribe, originally from Arkansas, was moved to the north west corner of Oklahoma during the period of American westward expansion in the 1800's. The Quapaw people are celebrating the 2nd year of the casino's opening. Christopher Cross and the band America were in concert, and the PR representative from the casino generously offered us tickets to the show. It was a nice break from the 10-days of traveling and shooting.
During the festival, I spoke with so many people. A man from Japan who has traveled the road 17 times told me the reason he comes back to Route 66 every year is the the same reason people say they climb mountains... because it's there. I also met a few young women who belong to an organization called Route 66 Young Roadies. They have a page on Facebook to promote Route 66 to their generation and beyond. They say they want their peers to know what the road has to offer because, as they put it, "it's history, and it's important". I then had the pleasure to interview Jim Conkle, the chairman of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, and Michael Wallis, a famed author of the road, and the voice of The Sheriff in the movie Cars. Jim so generously introduced me to his friends back in May via e-mail. He is the man I credit for helping make it possible for me to shoot this documentary. It would have been much more of a challenge to find the people I needed to interview if it wasn't for Mr. Conkle.
Well, we've stopped in Oklahoma City for the night. It's about halfway through the state so we should be at the Texas border by tomorrow night.
If you're a dad, Happy father's day! I heard a song on the radio I use to sing to my daughter, Lydia. It was a song by Johnny Cash called "Daddy Sang Bass". The song was followed by a stinger of a little girl saying Happy Father's day daddy. So I know Lydia was thinking about me today.
Enjoy the first day of summer, and thanks for reading about our trip.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Skyview drive in movie.mov

At least the Donner party didn't have computer problems.

With every adventure comes some challenges. The pioneers had wagon wheels that broke, babies being born, and occassionally, the Donner party got hungry. For us, it's the hard drives I'm using to store the video I shoot each day. After the third day they started to act up. I'm not sure what the problem was, but they are working again now. The worse thing about this was I had to back up all of my footage again. All 5 hours of video. (I'm up to around 10 hours now, and am averaging about an hour a day.) Luckily, I didn't lose any of the amazing stories I already shot. But it did keep me from blogging until now.
Well, it's now day 10. We are meeting so many people who are welcoming us with open arms, and who are more than willing to share their stories of life in small town America along Route 66 with us. They either live and work or own a business along the road. For the most part, even the small towns are doing ok in this economy, but the recession is taking it's toll. Either by affecting the number of tourist coming though and the amount of money they spend, or limiting the number of local jobs available to those who live in town.
It has taken us 6-days to travel the 301 miles of Route 66 through Illinois. As of today, we are more than 3/4 of the way through Missouri's 317 miles of the road. We will arrive in Oklahoma tomorrow for the Route 66 convention this weekend. Tonight we are stopping in Joplin, Missouri, the last major town before we cross over to Kansas(which only has 13 miles of the road running through it). So, for those counting, by Sunday we will have traveled over 630 miles so far. We'll pickup the pace after Fathers Day so we can get to Santa Monica by June 28th.
The day we shot at the Litchfield drive-in movie theater was fun (day 6). Iron Man 2 and Percy Jackson and The Olympians were playing, but the show almost didn't go on. There were severe thunderstorms rolling through. The theater flooded, and lost power for a while. When the rain stopped the humidity started, but nothing kept the families, and the teenagers from coming out. It looked like it was right out of the movies. Small town America at it's best. Small kids playing, teenagers throwing a football.
All along the way, the people have been great. We've met police officers who were riding for the Special Olympics, a son who lost his father to cancer a few months ago and is in the process of selling the vintage cars his dad loved some much(check out the auction website http://www.lukeleegaule.com/auc-06-26-2010.htm), and even a 100 year old women whose husband built one of the iconic restaurants on Route 66, The Ariston Cafe.
We've visited places like Devil's Elbow, and the Ghosttowns of Arlington, and Hooker Missouri. Today we met a man whose wife was born in 1926, the day Route 66 was formed. Before she past away, they use to celebrate the birth of the road and of his wife at the same time.
Well, I hope you are having a great June, and thank you again for reading about our trip.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"West bound and down loaded up and truckin'...

We're gonna do what they say can't be done. We have a long way to go, and a short time to get there". Paraphrased from the song Jerry Reed sang in the movie Smokey and the Bandit , but it sure sums up this trip so far.
We left on Monday June 7th at 6am, and made it to Chicago in about, oh, 15 hours. If that isn't crazy enough, my 75 year old mother wanted to drive the whole way. She loved it! She says she should have been a trucker in her previous life. Those of you who know her can attest to her love of driving.
It rained most of the day on the 8th, but that didn't stop us from making it to the top of the Willis Tower. The view was great, and the staff couldn't have been more accommodating. We did run into a small issue when I was shooting exteriors. Guards told me I couldn't shoot the building entrance with the name on it even though I was on a public sidewalk. A little Nazi in a free country, but I let it slide. They did allow me to shoot the tower from the other side without the name on the building. So I did. I didn't really need the name. It's kind of like the artist formally known as Prince. People know it's the Sears Tower even if you change the name on it. I guess with 911 security needs to be on the look out? But do I fit their profile??
We left Chicago on the 9th just in the nick of time. The corruption trial for Governor Blagojevich was starting, and the Blackhawkes won the Stanley Cup. The place is a mad house!
I've shot over 4 hours of broll, and interviews so far, and it's only day 3. Everything is going well. Actually, too well! We have great stories already, and the best are yet to come. I met a man who is a local union member struggling to find work. We interviewed the owner of The Polka Dot drive-in restaurant in Braidwood, Illinois who says business is good because of the tourist.
We stayed over night in Dwight, Illinois on Wednesday where a class 2 tornado touched down along old Route 66 late Sunday night. And an iconic Route 66 restaurant called the Riviera burnt down on Tuesday in the small town of Garner, Illinois. Al Capone was known to frequent the speak easy in the basement during Prohibition to plan his "charity work". Are we bad luck for these people??
As my luck would have it, a stringer approached me today while I was shooting an interview in town today. I guess I still have that news look about me, because he asked if I was here covering the Riviera fire. He had great flame video of the fire (as you may not know, news producers salivate when they see good flames, and yes I did) so I struck a deal with him and bought his footage. It's only a small part of the story, but I thought it would help tell the tale.
Well, tomorrow is another day., and who knows what we will find. I'll update as things go along. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

T minus... Friday, Saturday, Sunday

I just received an amazingly thoughtful gift from a good friend from high school. It's a journal to write the stories behind the stories we uncover. It came with a set of pens! I can't wait to use them, but the one bad thing about having a journal is my handwriting haha. Thanks Dave... for all the support!!
If you want to follow our trip on twitter my account is http://twitter.com/frederickmedia
Well, the itinerary is set. We arrive in Chicago late on June 7th, and start shooting on the 8th.
Our first interview is on June 9th in Morris Illinois. It's with a man and wife who have traveled Route 66 several times, most recently with a group of tourist from the Czech Republic. The road is very popular in Europe.
We have to be in Litchfield, Illinois by June 13th to shoot at the Skyview drive-in. It's only open on weekends so our window of opportunity is small. If we miss this window we'll have to catch it on the way back.
We will have to stay over night in Litchfield since the movies don't start until after 7:30pm. It should be a late night. Letters To Juliet and The Back Up Plan are showing until June 6th. I'll let you know what was showing the night we were there.
After Litchfield, we have five days to get to Oklahoma for the convention at the Downstream casino. That's about 330 miles. In between, we hope to come across many small towns (some ghost towns) searching for those hidden stories of survival, hope and the American dream. We'll spend 2-days at the convention, and leave on Father's Day.
That leaves five states to traverse in about 8-days. We have an interview set up with a young women who moved to Arizona with her family when she was in 8th grade on June 25th ish. She now runs the Grand Canyon Caverns. The Grand Canyon Caverns boast a "hotel room" set up in the caverns... some 200 feet underground. She has offered this up to do the interview in. Sounds pretty cool! I'll let you know.
Another stop will be Needles, California. The Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz, moved here with his family when he was six. They stayed for a little over a year. If you remember Snoopies hipster cousin, Needles, this may shed some light on how he got his name. Thanks to Debbie for that little bit of Peanutology.
Then onto Santa Monica by June 28th. We have a permit waiting for us to shoot on the Santa Monica pier. And maybe a day off to enjoy the beach before we turn around and make the return 2448 mile trip back to Chicago.
That would be a round trip of 4896 miles. I hope my little Honda can make the trip without too many problems. I know there is one oil change in it's future. Probably in California.
Whew, I'm tired just thinking about the trip, but I know it will be worth every mile.
Thanks for checking in!!!