Preparing for The Unknown
On February 23rd, 2017, I called my parents. I excitedly told them, “You guys are talking to the proud owner of a 36-foot RV!!” Instead of sharing my excitement, my dad replied by saying, “Jim…you know I’m really worried about this, right?”
And it makes sense why he would be worried. I’ve just made the boldest decision of my life— to leave my job, my apartment, and my whole life in LA to film a documentary. I don’t have any guarantee that this decision will lead to anything. Nothing is certain, and that is enough to make a lot of people worried. But luckily, I am not one of them. I feel like a baseball player stepping up to the batter’s box. Is there uncertainty about the pitch? Sure. But the only reason a baseball player steps into the batter’s box is because he’s confident he can handle it.
The idea for this project was born about three years ago when I was driving to Carmel, California, to film a wedding with my friend Justin. He is also a filmmaker working primarily in the music industry. We were in the mindset of a road trip, because the drive was five hours north of LA. The idea seemed simple — convert an RV into a recording studio, get a team together, and drive around the country making music with street performers. Film the whole thing, and at the end, string it together to make a documentary. Boom. On paper, there wasn’t much more to it.
The execution of this idea, however, has been anything but simple. We’ve been busy meeting with potential partners, designing a website, manufacturing merch, building a team of creative individuals to help us execute our vision, and turning an RV into a recording studio.
Let’s start with the RV. Searching for an RV on the internet will yield a lot of results. The most common thing you’ll find is somebody trying to rent their RV out for the weekend like an Airbnb. That’s obviously not what we wanted. Then you’ll find new RVs for sale for roughly 80 grand. Not gonna happen. We needed to find something that was under 10k, was very large, and had a decent chance of making it to New York and back.
Billy and I started our search in November. We spent two Saturdays driving an hour away to look at busses (we were going to convert a bus into an RV) before realizing that we would be better off looking at actual RVs. Ultimately we found one from 1997 (great year for RVs) that had 43,000 miles on it. That’s a good start — old RVs are way cheaper, but this one hasn’t gotten as much use, so it stands a chance of having a solid engine still. But it was almost two hours away from LA, so we had to make a road trip out of it.
We liked it, but we needed an expert to take a look and let us know if we were throwing away our money or if we were getting a good deal. We got the owner to take it to a shop, arranged for an inspection at the shop, and eventually found out that the engine is in great shape. We then drove back out and bought the RV.
The battle to turn a 1997 plain RV into a modern, good-looking recording studio is a long and grueling one. We had to essentially gut the entire RV. Carpet, furniture, mattress, wooden cabinetry, gone. Re-carpeting, re-upholstery, building a bunk bed setup, and outfitting the RV with the equipment necessary to record an album comes next. To be perfectly honest, we are still in the middle of this process, but the finish line is in sight.
The other big piece of the puzzle is compiling a team that is capable of pulling this off. Aside from the team that is coming on the road, which includes myself and Billy as director and cinematographer, Mike Jaeger as tour manager, and Chris Watson as our resident songwriter, there is an entire team that stays back home. We’ve been in meetings with our film production team, a handful of music producers that are going to help sift through and touch up the tracks we record on the road, and a huge group of friends and family that are going to help spread the word about this project. By now, we’ve gotten plenty of practice talking about our plan.
It all serves as a reminder that big ideas, no matter how simple they might be, are not easy to pull off. But as the saying goes, nothing worth doing is easy. So I’m going to hit publish on this post, grab my screwdriver, and finish installing the bunk beds that we’re going to sleep in all summer. Making a DIY movie might be difficult, but it’s the life we chose.