What Road Tripping in my 1969 VW Bus Taught Me About Filmmaking
What Road Tripping in my 1969 VW Bus Taught Me About Filmmaking
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” ~ William Shakespeare
“Luna” is my 1969 VW bus. She was a well-thought-out, long-time purchase. A transformative place that serves as a traveling home, an office workspace, a holiday destination, and right now at this very minute, my own coffee shop! Luna gives me so much love and joy that I dare not take her for granted. I make sure to give thanks for all that she does.
I stroke her steering wheel as I turn the corners, thanking her aloud for continually driving so well. I thank her for starting each key turn, even telling her she’s a good girl. I promise I’m not crazy! But Luna is truly more than just a vehicle to get me from point A to B as many others view their cars. She provides me emotional support with the comforting feel she brings. Maybe it is just the comfort that a vintage car brings, or the rich history within a VW bus that makes my time with her more enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I am grateful.
This may sound ironic because of how old-fashioned Luna is, but she truly brings such simplicity to my life. Inside the walls, I have a gear shifter with only four gears, wind-down windows, and a CD player. I have no air-conditioning! Because I have no phone charger or portal, I am unable to connect my phone and make phone calls while I drive.
Having less clutter and technology available forces me to look outside constantly, really looking at where I am. Traveling at a maximum 55 miles an hour also affords me the time to look out of the window in a different way. Seeing the view of the sea and palm trees, of people waving and smiling as I pass. I have no choice but to take my time, instead of it all being a blur rushing to simply reach a destination. Every single time Luna and I climb the hill near my home, it’s as if I see it for the very first time.
Seeing the Golden Coast in movies growing up, I had always wanted to experience what it would feel like to drive a VW bus down PCH, parallel to the ocean, soaking in the sun and the breeze. So you can bet when I first purchased Luna what road I immediately took her. Not only did I bring that vision to fruition, but I also was appreciative of the moment, acknowledging the true magnitude of what it meant.
Accomplishing the historic drive was one thing, but it was the time I took to really appreciate it that felt most empowering. I allowed myself to live in the simplicity of life, reveling in the joys that that can bring.
After the PCH drive, I decided to take that feeling to the next level. I set off for five days, four nights to live completely in my VW bus. I kind of cheated because I didn’t travel that far for my first adventure, only up the coast to Malibu. I had no specific plans, no idea where I was going to pull up and park. I had done the basic groundwork in planning.
I had all the equipment I needed, my generator, light, and my #1 priority, my kettle. (How else would I make my cup of tea each day? As a Brit you can’t go anywhere without your tea.) I had written a clear list of what I would need to take and what I believed my days would look like. I had found a free place to sleep outside Pierce Brosnan’s pad, so I felt safe.
In my planning I believed that each day would consist of waking with the sunrise, walking straight into Trancas market to wash and brush my teeth and have my breakfast. I would then find somewhere to sit all day long to read, write and get creative. The weather was perfect, every view was stunning. A few things happened that were unplanned.
I hadn’t realized how many people would stop and talk to me, take photos, want to find out who I was and what I was doing. I had made something look so cool everyone wanted to be part of it. After a day I realized I had to totally let go of my preconceived ideas of how my time away would look. The five days were turning into something very different than I had anticipated. I learned what I did need on this trip and what I could leave behind on the next one. I also didn’t think I would be so shattered after a few days. (Exhausted for you non-Brits). At the end of my trip, I basically needed a holiday to recover.
I found there were so many similarities between planning a trip and working on set as a director/producer. Mamet talks about how if you can put a dinner party together successfully, then you can produce or direct a movie. This experience felt similar, so…
1) Take your time to decide what your next project is. Really think about its purpose. Why do you want to do it? What’s your end goal with it? My goal was to go off for 5 days and chill out!
2) Say thank you and be grateful constantly throughout the process. I stayed present the whole time I was away.
3) Plan, keep planning, and plan some more. I was pleased I had planned because then when things changed, I was ready for it.
4) Write initial lists with any ideas you can think of. I had all my ideas clearly written but was not so stuck that I couldn’t pivot when necessary.
5) Scout the location first, understanding timings and rules. Several times I was asked to move my van, as I wasn’t aware of what time I should be at places and how long I could stay till.
6) Look at your budget. I hadn’t realized that it was better for me to not have pre-bought things. Actually buying items in real time would have helped me for parking and places to visit.
7) Check your equipment. Luckily everything worked and nothing broke down, but I realized how vulnerable I was without any backups in place.
8) Know who are your key players involved. It felt good to know I had people ready in case something went wrong.
1) Get ins and get outs are just as important and should be included in your filming schedule. I hadn’t accounted for what unpacking and packing up looked like in my travel time each day.
2) Lunch breaks are crucial. I realized how important it was to break up my day of travel or day of sitting with taking this proper time out.
3) Allow for creative time to sit and mull over possible ideas. Having that “nothing time” to let my brain work out what was best ended up being crucial and saving time.
4) Have time to be flexible and change at the last moment. Having had a solid pre-production for my trip meant I could change course at any moment without too much strife.
5) Budget. Listing this again, as during production is when money can dwindle the quickest with rash decisions. Really take the time to understand how every penny should be spent and what’s truly important. I didn’t need to have bought everything before I left. I should have kept some for during the trip. This made budgeting during my production that much harder.
1) Give yourself time after you finish filming to recover. I hadn’t realized that I would need to have a holiday after my holiday.
2) Did you get everything you needed? If you didn’t, what can you do to fix it? It’s ok to realize things weren’t exactly how they should be in production, because that just means you are going to make something else amazing in post. I had an outcome that I wasn’t expecting from my travels, but that didn’t make it any less impactful for me. If anything it made it more.
3) Have an incredible post team for support. I knew I had people after my travels that could help put me and Luna back together if anything went wrong.
1) To not be afraid. To push yourself, continuing to try new things.
2) Try not to overthink things, but still be prepared.
3) Have a good support network around you.
4) To not strive for perfection.
5) Enjoy whatever is thrown at you.
6) Simplicity can be the key. Equipment doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
8) Even one good project a year is incredible. Quality, not quantity.
9) Make it happen. And when you do, give yourself a pat on the back. Well done!
About the Author
I'm a storyteller and co-founder of Mother & Daughter Entertainment. For more info, check out or