by Ray Alexander
On March 21, 2012, I went to Tehachapi, CA to observe the filming of a Chrysler commercial. Upon arrival it became apparent this was a Dodge commercial, even better.
My secondary agenda was to get my car in a background shot. The town is in the Tehachapi Mountains and I suppose the mountains came first. These mountains have a soft velvety appearance because they are covered with grass. They are very steep. When I first started racing motorcycles in the desert, the AMA sanctioned races in these mountains. CA-58 was a two-lane highway and traffic would stop to watch the insane motorcyclists plummet straight downhill. Today my wife noted, “There is a ravine at the bottom!”
As I approached town, I drove by a lot filled with hundreds of cars, apparently most of the extras are from out-of-town. Ahead, where the street is blocked, I turned right and crossed the railroad tracks, then continued toward the center of town. The next street that crossed the tracks was also blocked but had a lot of activity. I stopped, parked, and walked across the tracks. I saw several Dodge vehicles in Tungsten Metallic; a Charger, a Challenger, a Nitro, a Durango, a Caravan, and one red Dodge Dart.
They were preparing for a segment shoot. The extras were positioned, the phony police went to their cars, the drivers got in their cars and were sent away. I only saw one camera shooting through an ocean of extras that had been parted like the Red Sea. The Dart remained directly across the street. The line of Tungsten Metallic vehicles came by at about 45 mph, then the Dart laid rubber chasing them.
The production company brought everything with them including the police cars and street vendors for hot dogs, peanuts, and popcorn. The hot dog cart had buns but no hot dogs. Literally a whole store full of props, a lot of it American flag red, white and blue, a soapbox derby car, a school bus, a fire truck and a ’62 Imperial convertible. I don’t know the theme of the ad but with the snow hanging around, the 4th of July would be difficult to pull off.
I talked to several people about getting my car in a background shot. I tried to appeal to their artistic ego by saying; “It has ghost flames that are so ghostly, you can’t capture them on film.”
I finally got to the lady in the know and she said. “Not today, but probably tomorrow.”
The place was over 200 miles from where I live and tomorrow was not in my schedule.
The chase car with a large camera boom fascinated me, it had more electronic gear inside than a highway patrol car and a NASCAR car combined. The car started life as a Porsche SUV. It had some diamond plate welded high on the side with anchors for straps. This one had a mangled Magnum front fascia, the sun was not at an angle that allowed for capture of that detail. The Ram’s head was gone but I could see the depression and the mounting hole. The vehicle’s taillights were totally blacked out. The guy who was preventing me from taking a test drive said, “The vehicle is capable of filming at 120 mph.”
The production company prepared to do more filming. I had moved my car onto the main street and took the opportunity to get out before they closed the street again.
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