Why the Western Wonder? | #siantreksamerica

Sunset over LA, Griffith Observatory

I've always wanted to talk about the trip that awoke the travel bug inside of me, but there hasn't really been occasion to until now. Back in 2013, when I was at university, I put my name forward to take part in accredited work experience rather than complete for a module in production practices. The work experience was with

The Elstree Project

; an on-going oral history project, that records interviews with those who have worked in front of and behind the camera, on productions made at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood.

I was incredibly lucky to secure a place on the work ex, and for all the opportunities it gave me. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Elstree Studios and working on something behind the scenes. I helped put paperwork together, organise the office, and suggest ideas about growing the project. I hadn't ever worked in film in this way before, and it was a great insight into how to run a successful project; which I've undoubtedly taken into my work since. The biggest aspect of working on the project for me though, was getting to assist on shoots and work in various production roles.

California Street, Burbank
Drive Thru Open, Burbank

I worked as the sound recordist on interviews with actors Kenneth Cope and Simon Pegg (I'm such a huge fan of the 

Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy

 that anyone who knows me will understand how much of a big deal this is!) and Garrett Brown, the inventor of the Steadicam and Steadicam operator on 

The Shining

... All of which were amazing in their own right, yet there were three interviews that stand out above all else - mostly because I still have to convince myself that they actually happened.

When I heard the project was going to film in America, and I was going too, everything just sort of stopped... Before this point, I had dreamed about visiting The States for years and years. The idea that I was going to do just that,

and film as well?!

I couldn't wrap my head around it then, and in some ways I still can't now. That being said, my memories of the trip are SO vivid.

San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco

I remember the team and I bundling into a taxi on a dark December morning, bleary-eyed and full of excitement, as we started making our way to the airport. Then touching down so smoothly in Los Angeles that I didn't even realise we were landing. I now think this may have been a sign of things to come; as I spent the majority of the trip feeling like I was floating on a cloud. We unpacked in the Travelodge Burbank motel, sleepily ate humungous pizzas, and hit the hay. Before we knew it, it was time to film our first interview.

During the trip I had the absolute pleasure of operating a camera on an interview with actor Joe Turkel (

Blade Runner


The Shining

), monitoring sound levels for editor and director Walter Murch, and booming for director Steven Spielberg in his private screening room at Amblin Entertainment. I wish I could say how unbelievable this entire trip was, but I still struggle to find the words to fully articulate my feelings about it. All I do know, is that I will always be so grateful for the opportunity, as I appreciate how once-in-a-lifetime it was... Yet, knowing how unique and extraordinary the trip was, I couldn't help but give into the overwhelming nostalgia and yearning to relive just a sliver of it in some way...

View from the Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory
Sunset in LA, Griffith Observatory

When we visited America we stayed in Burbank, Los Angeles; spending a few days touring the local area, Hollywood Walk of Fame and Griffith Observatory. I especially remember grabbing drinks larger than our heads from 7-Eleven, looking around in The Train Shack, and establishing a mutual disgust for taffy. The trip concluded in San Francisco, where we rounded off by exploring the city by foot, driving across The Golden Gate Bridge a few times, and eating the best pesto pasta I've ever had in my life. And so, as I attempted to choose the tour I wanted to book onto, one stood head and shoulders above the rest. As the Western Wonder kicks off in LA and finishes in San Fran, you can now probably guess why the choice was an absolute total no brainer for me.

The Elstree Project gave me so much; from filming parts of 

Forever and Ever: 35 Years of Kubrick's The Shining

*, working on a feature length Documentary (that can be watched 


), and an 


 credit too... I will always be endlessly grateful, but now it's time to make some more kick-ass memories of my own!

*A celebratory event where

The Shining

cast and crew were reunited at Elstree Studios, before attending a Q&A and 35th Anniversary screening at The Odyssey in St Albans. I don't think I have felt cooler than when I got to wear a Warner Bros. 'Event Staff' lanyard for this!

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