SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST (2023)
Amboy, California - 2023
Hitchcock’s acclaimed 1959 espionage thriller - North by Northwest - has long being a prompt for me; especially the sequence in which the fleeing Cary Grant is chased down by the crop spraying plane. It was cinema ahead of its time and I admit to watching that sequence more times than would be considered normal.
During COVID, we played on this storyline near my home in Devon, but in 2023 I drew up a more ambitious story that would be played out in the isolated desert community of Amboy, California. We had scouted the area intensely and knew our angles, our light and most of all the landowners.
The premise was to style the set as if we were indeed in the late 1950s and we recognised that we had a strong backdrop, as Roy’s Cafe is one of the treasure trove authentic landmarks of Route 66. From Roy’s looking east, the Mother Road stretches straight to the horizon in a way that plays to our preconceptions of Americana road trips. We then brought in a 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Vignale Spyder as the lead car and dressed the background with a Ford pick-up from the late 1940s.
But this was mere window dressing and my sense was that in order to transcend, this story required some heavyweight components. Flatteringly, Cindy Crawford agreed to be the main protagonist and I knew she would give Cary Grant a run for his money. Cindy is the best of the best and it is always a huge honour to work with her. Ascribe her a role and a look and she will nail it every time.
But we also needed a plane. Amboy has a tiny runway strip and towards the end of the day, when the traffic is lighter, a good pilot can flirt with the tarmac of Route 66. I needed a pilot whom I could trust and I found him in Greg Caldwell, who slightly reminded me of the heroic crop spraying pilot from the movie Independence Day. We had worked with him before and there didn’t seem much to trouble Greg - not even his plane’s aerial proximity to a $10m Ferrari or, more importantly, one of the world’s most identifiable and revered women.
There is a film noir feel to the image and I think the relatively flat light helps the rather menacing mood. But the credit lies with both Greg and Cindy who did exactly what I asked them to do .
I guess we may have broken some new ground here as well as a few rules. The BTS video of this shot is worth seeing, it’s one of our better ones.