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By Hammad Zaidi | April 3, 2012

For those of you who are counting, this is my 99th consecutive weekly column, which means that we hit the century mark next Tuesday. While I’m not sure what I’ll write about for my 100th edition, I’ll definitely strive to make it informative, engaging and fun. As for today, welcome to part three of our “11-Year Indie Film Journey.” Part one focused on the origins of my indie film and part two detailed the first half of my recent film-as-you-go road trip.

This column is going to chronicle the second half of our trip, which started in Kansas and would up back in Los Angeles. Okay people, buckle up, because the road trip starts now.

Kansas & Missouri
Filming in Kansas and Missouri reminded me how cooperative and helpful people in the Mid-West are.  In fact, aside from the occasional racist comment, like having a 17-year old kid at Dairy Queen asking me to repeat my order, because he was surprised that I didn’t have an accent, there were no hitches. More importantly, shooting outside of traditionally filmed cities like Los Angeles and New York, allowed me to blend in a unique visual texture that is inherent of Middle America.

Lesson #1 – Choose Creatively Original Locations
The reason I chose to shoot this film in places like Kansas, Missouri, and various parts of the Canadian Yukon, is because viewing audiences will be treated to backdrops that they haven’t seen or have only seen very little of before. This makes the film seem new ad different, as opposed to “just another no-budget indie film shot in L.A. or New York.”

No matter how many times I try to embrace Oklahoma, I just can’t. Sure, the people are nice enough, and the red clay dirt is visually more interesting than the flat, wheat-packed plains of Kansas, but the “sooner” state was one we would have happy to get through even sooner than we did! Of course, it didn’t help that my “dinner,” a double-fried shrimp plate from a locally famous roadside Mexican restaurant, taxed my stomach for hours. Then again, what the hell was I thinking by ordering seafood in Oklahoma? That was a bad call on my part.

Lesson #2 – Don’t Be Adventurous With Your Food
During a road-trip, it’s probably a good idea to stick to food that your stomach is used to digesting. Introducing your stomach to new ingredients, spices and ways of cooking, while you’re driving thousands of miles in less than one week, is just plain stupid. Not only is it a pain in the a*s (literally) but also it slows your production down, which ultimately costs money.

Texas & New Mexico
After staying overnight in Amarillo, Texas, we decided not to film anything in Texas or New Mexico, because our focus turned into driving 13 hours non-stop to Las Vegas. We decided that Vegas would be a welcome visual departure from the terrain we had been snaking through for the last day and a half. So, our mission was to get to sin city before midnight, so we could lose a bit of money gambling before we passed out from our taxing drive.

Lesson #3 – Be Prepared, Because Help May Not Be Close
The one thing that became apparent is that most lonely highways through smaller tows and counties are not patrolled very much by the police. While this fact allows for more opportunities to speed, it also allows for fewer opportunities for help to be right around the corner. For example, during our trip we saw about five total police cars, and two of them were in the cities. Thus, we saw three highway patrol cars during 3,548 miles driven. That’s about one cop per 1,182 miles. Thus, always check your vehicle(s) to make sure they’re in great shape while you are in larger towns. The last thing you want is to break down 109 miles from civilization.

Vaughn and I rolled into Las Vegas at about 11 PM local time. Thanks to American Express, we not only stayed at one of the finest hotels in Vegas, but we were upgraded to amazingly large suites for less than the cost of the Holiday Inn cost us in Amarillo, Texas the night before. Furthermore, we were also granted a “resort credit” that was far greater than the cost of our suites, and we were given a 6 PM checkout the next day.

Thus, we were paid by the hotel to stay there, because our resort credit far exceeded the cost of our suites. The funny thing is, we almost missed out on this killer deal, but a bad cell signal during the time we were making our reservation forced us to call American Express back, and when we did, I asked for any “special deals” that we may qualify for. Suddenly, AMEX gave us the keys to the kingdom and hooked us up big time.

Lesson #4 – You Must Ask Before You Can Receive
Once we confirmed our hotel deal through American Express, I was reminded that you should always ask for what specials are available to you. While some specials will always be offered, others are only triggered if you ask for them. You lose nothing for asking, but you may miss out on a magical experience by not asking. Thus, always ask for the best deal possible.

Back In California
After leaving Vegas around 6:30 PM, we were back home by around 10:30 PM, just skirting around traffic all the way home. Vaughn and I had one hell of an experience, grabbed some priceless footage, (priceless to me, at least) and we got 3,458 miles closer to completing this 11-year journey.

So, that’s where we are today. Now we get to shot some sequences and recreations here in L.A. while we seek to find ways to litter the film with a celebrity or two, to give audiences a reason to pay attention. I’ll keep you posted on our progress, or lack thereof.

I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I hope to borrow them again next Tuesday, when “Going Bionic” turns 100!

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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