by Sam Hutchins
As we put Albequerque behind us we found ourselves stopping frequently to take pictures. Nothing that was particularly relevant to the film, but great subject material still. Strange stuff, too. What possesses someone to live in a trailer next to the railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere? Perhaps the trailers inhabitants would ask the same about my life in New York City, but I know that answer. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how someone would end up out here unless they were running from something. Metaphorically we are all putting something behind us I suppose. Be it a bad relationship, lost potential, or what have you, we all have a past. This was a literal manifestation of it though, and the wind carried it like a warning.
Eventually we made our way to the edge of Vaughn. The Ranch View was just as great looking as we remembered it. We shot it extensively now that it was open. Odd that it looked borderline derelict last time we were here but was now open and serving breakfast. Function of its surroundings I guess, and it’s precisely that environment I hoped to catch on film. The whole scene had a palpable “In Cold Blood” vibe to it.
The owner, Pete, seemed a little shady, making him consistent with his surroundings. He spent most of the time we were there shooting the location trying to big time us. The impulse is understandable. It’s only natural to want to impress the people you meet, particularly when being visited in a small town. Still, did he think the director who has a Palme D’or cared that he is able to close up his diner and go skiing whenever he pleases? He went on the point where it was tiresome. In these situations it is incumbent on me to steer the person away from the director. That’s one aspect of my job that I dislike intensely. I’m not one to suffer fools gladly in my own life and it pains me to be professionally obligated to do so.
As we prepared to leave I asked him about the adjacent motel, also called the Ranch View.
“Oh no, you don’t want to go there.”
“Actually, yes, I do.”
“No, it’s closed. No one there.”
“Then whose car is parked by the office?”
He was at a loss for words, and looked to be a bit anguished. I took him by the arm and sat him in a booth.
“Look man, we’re going over there. I have to. It’s my job. So unless you give me a real good reason to tell my boss,” I nodded towards Kar Wai, “Then I’m going to check it out.”
“No, no, it’s cool. But whatever you work out with them, my deal is separate. And you can’t tell them that you’re paying me.”
Heh, looks like Mr. Big Time here doesn’t even own the damn diner. What a putz. No matter, even with our smallish budget I knew we could take care of this guy as well as the actual owners.
“Don’t sweat it, bro, I’ll take good care of you.”
After all the agita it turned out to be a waste of time anyway. The hotel, which looked wonderfully dilapidated from a distance, was unfortunately tidy inside. After bidding good day to the 300 lb woman who was pretty obviously Pete’s mother we pressed on. Everyone has his or her little dramas in life. I’m not there to get involved; I just want to do my job.
Vaughn proper was full of false promise. There was lots of great old signage in front of weathered facades, but nothing had been maintained. What appeared to be promising inevitably wound up being completely derelict. Overall it was a bit of a letdown. Should we decide to shoot at the Ranch View we would be a little short on other pieces to put with it locally. I did still like the look of the Ranch View but the dearth of additional locations combined with the vague menace it carried were probably reason enough to blow it off. That was kind of a drag as we had gone well out of our way to scout the place. C’est la vie. I unfolded the map to figure out our next move while we all had a smoke. There was only one road west, and nothing remotely interesting was in that direction. Scanning to the south a name on the map caught my eye. Turning to my companions with a big grin I asked them:
“Hey. You guys ever hear of a town called Roswell?”
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF THE SCOUTING LIFE.
Sam Hutchins has been working in film production for twenty years. He started as overnight security on the set of “Working Girl” while attending film school at NYU. Since 1995 he has been a location manager for some of the top names in the business. He’ll be blogging from a unique insider’s perspective on the filmmaking process, as well as speaking to his colleagues in the production community to share their experiences with you.