Southwest Stories: The Road to Havasu

Join me and my crew as Southwest Stories heads east on California Route 62 for the Colorado River and Lake Havasu. We'll go kayak fishing (and get skunked because it was really the wrong time of year for fishing on the lake), catch a stock car race, dine at the Blue Baron, the Red Onion, and then we catch the Sidewynder River Rattler Band at the Flying X Saloon for a little Havasu nightlife.

What you don't get from this video is that we were in town shooting two episodes in three days. That's an insane schedule (most cable shows take a week to two weeks to shoot one episode), but we were on an extremely tight budget and that's all we could afford. As a result, our days in and around Lake Havasu City, tended to be long - sometimes around 16 hours. A less dedicated crew could not have pulled it off.

In this video, we were late getting to The Flying X because we had been stuck on the island shooting the balloon glow for the Havasu Balloon Fest (featured in the next episode of Southwest Stories). When the balloon glow ended, traffic had us stuck on the island for close to two hours - for what would normally have been a 10 minute drive. That's why you don't see me doing much in that segment - we got there too late to set up anything.

That's the way it goes when you shoot on a shoestring. I think it came out well considering. The sad part of all this for me is that the crew was so dedicated and talented, and they worked so hard on the shows for the second season, and the shows were so well received by viewers, but when it came time to look for sponsors for the third season, all that hard work didn't pay off at all.

Our PBS host station offered to put the next season into national distribution to all 350 PBS stations nationwide, with a total audience of more than 200 million viewers. What an incredible opportunity. But we'd need a real budget - a modest one compared to most cable shows these days, but still more than what we had operated on for the first two seasons (fumes and willpower).

National sponsors looked at the shows in our second season and told us they didn't look like $150,000 shows, so they wouldn't sponsor us. Never mind we filmed with a total budget of roughly 1 percent of that amount for each episode. Local sponsors like the folks at Lake Havasu City CVB weren't interested either, and wouldn't work with state tourism officials or local and regional government to support the national show. Locally in the hi-desert, tourism agencies would drop $50,000 a year to hire someone to run their Instagram and other social media accounts to reach a few thousand followers at best, but refused to consider supporting a show reaching millions.

It was disappointing, but should I find a professional underwriting recruiter with professional connections willing to take on the task, we're ready to produce an exciting season three, or a host of other shows, all rooted in travel, culture, and history, whether it's focus is California, Route 66, pirate history travel, the Southwest, all of the U.S., international, etc. In the meantime, I learn, read, write, and develop contacts.

And make friends. The Sidewynder band folks were really great. You can, of course, see the full fishing feature that came from this shoot, and below, there's a music video from it as well, and the song's title became the title of our next episode: Come Fly With Me.

You can purchase Southwest Stories DVDs for only $4.95.

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