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A Foggy Day in Jenner Town: It Had Me Low, And It Had Me Down

The Harvest
We start shooting the vineyard at dawn. Jamie, our star winemaker, is helping the pickers and loading the truck with six tons of pinot noir grapes. He drives down the mountain ridge to the coast and then inland to the winery. I have a camera stuck to the windscreen shooting Jamie and the amazing views.

Now I need a ‘copter sequence. Jamie has agreed to re-create the drive. The must-have shot is Jamie driving the truck with his precious fruit along the Pacific Coast Highway. I have the Google Earth photo taped to my wall. I look at it every day. I will get this shot—no matter what!

Obstacles There to Overcome
1. The truck is not Jamie’s but the winery’s. The owner says Jamie can borrow it again, but not until the last harvest is in.

2. We need to load the truck up with six tons of grapes. Cost: approximately $30,000. Impossible. Tricia cuts plywood to fit the top bins and paints them a dark grape color. All we need is a thin layer of grapes. It’s late in the season, all the grapes have been harvested. Tricia finds a vineyard with merlot grapes that nobody wants. We buy them at a discount rate.

3. I need an affordable helicopter. A real ‘copter would cost $5K—plus lots of air-to-ground communication problems. I’ve seen Derek’s remote control helicopter shoots on the internet. I contact him and tell him my tiny budget.

The Day Before
Tricia collects the merlot grapes and drives to the winery, where Jamie is loading up the truck with empty bins.

It’s a beautiful day in Jenner, Calif. I’m with Derek and Martin, his camera operator, rehearsing the RC ‘copter shot. That night in the motel, we look at the tests. Perfect. I prepare my Oscar speech.

I View the Morning with Much Alarm
6 a.m.: I open the motel door. Fog. Thick fog. Where’s the car park gone? I lead the way in my car—headlights on. Where’s the road? The fog is so thick, I can hardly see the car in front of me. Eventually we make Jenner, where Tricia and Jamie are waiting with the winery truck “filled” with grapes. It’s fog, fog, everywhere. Derek can’t fly.

But the Age of Miracles, It Hasn’t Past
“Let’s take some shots up at the winery.” We drive up and up; suddenly it’s a perfect day. Derek takes aerial shots of the grape-laden truck leaving the vineyard. The last shot is Jamie disappearing into thick fog. Then the ‘copter vanishes, too. “It’s gone! If I can’t see it, I can’t control it.” But he does and magically it flies back out of the fog. A miracle.

Derek saves the ‘copter, I have some great aerials, and in foggy Jenner Town, the sun was shining everywhere.