by Sam Hutchins
On the road to Houston
We finally could see the light at the end of Texas when we got to Houston. Arrived late, checked into the Doubletree Hotel downtown and crashed hard. We must have been quite a sight as we were road-weary from a couple hard days blasting through dust, sagebrush and ignorance. We encountered what was becoming a running joke at the registration desk with Stephane’s name. The clerk kept referring to him as “Stephanie” and insisting that he had been expected to be a woman. It only got funnier as he became more frustrated and insisted on the correct pronunciation of his name. Watching Stephane argue about the pronunciation of his name in his thick French accent all across the South provided endless amusement for myself and Darius.
Same old song and dance the next morning. I rose early, checked all three of us out, settled the room charges, brought the truck around, gassed it up and then sat and waited impatiently for my companions to materialize. I was desperate to get out of Texas but I sat there waiting. Eventually I pulled out a map and started to daydream. That’s a big part of what I love about scouting; I love maps, I love looking at them and imagining what they represent. I have well-developed instincts and a vivid imagination and scouting allows me to exercise both. Looking at the map of southeast Texas I saw lots of oceanfront land and places I knew to be rich in mineral resources. My mind ran to images of places much like Blade Runner just more industrial. I pictured nights full of vast oil fields, lonely roads snaking through brightly and colorfully lit landscapes. Constant rain and mist beneath towering metal derricks both onshore and off. I was probably far off from the reality but I imagined a lonely café hugging the roadside in such a place just waiting for us to find it.
Darius & Stephane
Of course reality intrudes. Stephane and Darius appeared and insisted we scout Houston proper. I fought to bail immediately and drive towards Galveston where my waking daydream led me but I lost the argument. The fact that Galveston was at the end of a long one-way road sealed the deal. I tried to BS them on that one but they knew me well enough to insist on seeing a map before agreeing to anything. Amazing how intimately you know someone after even a week in such close proximity. I’d gladly fib a little in service of what my gut told me was the right choice; they already knew that about me. It was set, then. We would explore Houston before driving east. I braced the concierge for assistance.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for the ‘hip’ neighborhood.”
Allow me to point out that we were in a relatively nice hotel and the concierge ought to be expected to have a decent working knowledge of the city.
“You know, an interesting part of the city. Someplace where people walk around, go to cafes, antique stores, bookshops?”
“Maybe by a university? Someplace with thrift stores? Older buildings? There must be a college district? Used bookstores? Record stores?”
Blank stare. I was getting impatient and becoming the stereotypical New Yorker America loves to hate.
“Where the hell do people go when they want to walk around and shop?”
The concierge’s features brightened.
“Oh, you mean the Galleria! It’s…”
I cut him off at the pass.
“Fuck that, no not the fucking galleria. Where’s the bus station?”
I might as well have pissed on his shoes given the look on his face but I couldn’t care less. He then made a big show of acting superior to me. After all, I was either travelling by bus or at least consorting with those who would deign to do so.
“I wouldn’t know, sir, but I assure you I can find out.”
He opened a yellow pages and verrrrry slowly went about locating the information for me. What a stunning disconnect. We stood a foot apart but there were miles between us. Perhaps it was me. Surely it was. New Yorkers are obnoxious, right? I was being obnoxious, yes, I was. At the same time some under-educated, over-moussed douche is judging me for my interest in the bus station. I’m no runaway teenager or sad salesman, Jack. I’m looking for filmable locations for an international genius filmmaker, and I represent his vision. I’m the tip of the spear and you’re just flesh in my way.
Clearly I needed to get the hell out of Texas. Fuck the bus station. I put the pedal on the floor and we were Louisiana-bound. No one tried to stop me.
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.