Memorable Moments: Skies Over Texas
Dallas video production company CRM Studios has been shooting all kinds of video projects for decades! Here are some of our more memorable moments from our history…
Way back in 2005 (which feels very strange to say), Landry’s Restaurants was looking for a new kind of film to feature in the renovated theater inside San Antonio’s “Tower of the America’s.” This new theater would feature 3D/4D interactivity—that is, a 3D film with added sensory elements like vibrating chairs, shifting floors, “ankle ticklers,” even different aromas! CRM Studios would get to travel all over this great state to shoot the project, which would become known as Skies Over Texas.
We embarked on this $1.6M project with great excitement, but we knew there would be some unique challenges during a total of 21 shooting days in various locations across the Lone Star State. The interactive film would need to appeal not only to Texans, but the millions of conference visitors that flock to San Antonio’s River Walk /Alamo tourism mecca each year for big trade shows and conventions.
Any adventure through the more rugged parts of Texas has some potential pitfalls, but this was CRM Studios’ second 3D/4D interactive movie after RadioShack’s Operation: Micron, so we were pretty confident in our ability to pull it off, no matter what might occur. When it was all wrapped up, we even got to sit in the audience on the first night the theater opened. That was a rewarding experience, especially considering the challenges we overcame along the way.
Here are some of the highlights from this year-long project:
Airborne Adventures of Texas!
Capturing exciting aerial shots over the many amazing landscapes of Texas was the visual thread of this film. In the days before drones, many interesting things might happen behind the camera lens during these shots that the audience (thankfully) doesn’t get to see. Of course, we all have a chance to laugh about them later— sometimes much later!
- We were asked to try to shoot a skydiver free falling off the Towers, but San Antonio ordinances wouldn’t allow it. We even got to meet with the city’s top brass to negotiate over it. We were …overruled.
- One of the restrictions we had to contend with was filming or even flying near President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. We couldn’t.
- On one of our scheduled helicopter days, we had 3 rental helicopters, valued at a cost of $30,000 for the day, just sitting on the tarmac with fog everywhere. The waiting was tense, but we did get what we needed.
- We then had to replace the building stunt off the tower with a skydiver from a helicopter over the tower; however, the FAA didn’t allow a helicopter’s doors to be opened during flight, which made the idea of jumping out of a helicopter much more difficult— as long as it had doors. Eventually, a local news station came to the rescue; fortunately, their helicopter had no doors. No doors? No problem! Up we went and got the shots we needed.
- Next came the wind. If a skydiver decides not to jump because they feel the wind is too strong, they don’t (and shouldn’t) have to. Luckily, we had a jumper who was experienced with wind but wanted to limit his risks to just a couple of jumps. He accommodated us, and we were happy to accommodate him. (You might remember him from the car commercial where he jumps off a cliff and lands in front of his house.)
- We had secured the Alamo to shoot a scene of our hero sky jumper landing right in front of it. With teams coming into place, we realized we had to move a crane about 4 blocks from its position—which would have been easier if the rental lift’s battery had been functional. We’d have probably had a better start that day.
CRM Studios’ teams have shot all over the world; that means we often need additional support on location for things like rigging and catering. Things can go sideways when working outside your regular support teams.
- One of the local catering companies we hired had subcontracted the job out to another caterer. This other caterer, most likely without their knowledge, had an outstanding warrant. On the way to the Riverwalk area production location, the giant food van was pulled over and the driver taken into custody— with all our food still sitting on the side of the highway. That day, our caterer was wanted by more than just the police!
- Meanwhile, back on the Riverwalk, no response from our “perp’s” cell phone forced us to head to the nearest Walmart for as much ice, water and Gatorade we could grab, while simultaneously dialing up local Chinese restaurants with pick-up orders for 50. That was bananas (and not the edible kind)!
Flirting With Disaster!
There are a few other incidents that were too memorable to not mention.
- Shooting at Caddo Lake was great fun; the water was the lowest it had been in 50 years. We had to jump/climb down off the piers some eight to ten feet into boats—just to get out on the water. “Draining the swamp” isn’t always a good thing.
- We had to shoot a scene with a giant alligator. Although this particular gator was trained (as much as you can train a gator!), the initial fear of the giant taking someone’s leg was soon replaced with the terrifying reality that the fastest way to get to the next shot was stepping over this 12-foot behemoth. No kidding…we’ve got pictures!
- CRM Studios now owns the record for the most paper towels ever purchased in Grand Prairie, Texas! Shooting at the famous Gopher Stadium after an all-day thunderstorm, we bought every paper towel within a 5-mile radius, just so visitors (who were all volunteers) would be sitting in the stands with dry tushies.
Here’s the trailer for the 8-minute mini-feature film that’s still running in San Antonio. Despite the challenges, this was a very rewarding project for CRM Studios, and the results were very well received and still enjoyed some 15 years later. No matter what challenges your video project presents, bring them to us, and CRM Studios can make it happen.