Around The World In 17 Days #thejoelsonsworldtour
When EZ Productions called us with a gig that could possibly take us all over the world we were excited. When we walked onto the Sony Pictures lot to meet with the boss to see if we were right for the job we were confident. When we sat down at the big conference room table and sold ourselves to the boss we were us. When he asked us if we wanted to make a baby with Sony we were beyond thrilled…after all, he was offering us a trip around the world!!
We found out we’d be doing the job that Friday and boarded a plane 11 days later, first stop, Dallas, but real first stop: Mexico City! Mexico City has always been high on my travel list of places I’d like to explore. I was beyond thrilled to travel South!
I guess I should back up and explain what the heck we’re doing flying around the world… To make a long story short, Sony Pictures has a meeting and they wanted footage for their meeting of people around the world sharing their love of the movies. We were hired to travel the world to interview people, some hired, but most people randomly chosen by us. In order to interview people around the world, you must talk to people around the world; we did this by watching people walk by, finding interesting and unique faces and then striking with the speech, “hi, we’re from California, we’re making a documentary about movies, will you talk to us for 2 minutes”? I found that telling people straight away that we were from California allowed them to bring their guards down and at least hear me out. Once I roped them in, I asked the questions while Kevin manned the camera and Cory recorded the audio while chiming in with his own witty ideas for the interviews. I still can’t believe this gig took us to London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, and Mexico City. We got paid to work in all of these amazing cities! Wake me up, I feel like I’m dreaming! We seriously have the best jobs ever!
Now back to where I started, we arrived in Mexico at night after a long day of flying. Our guide was waiting for us with a sign that read, “Welcome Joelsons” and greeted us with a big smile. We instantly knew we were meeting someone who would be a lifelong friend. Pavel escorted us to our van where our driver Danny awaited us. For the next 2 days these guys would be taking care of us, driving us around, translating for us, and producing our shoot. The guys dropped us off an hour later at our hotel and told us to be ready at 6:30am for our workday; we were an hour and a half outside of the city, so we’d need to be picked up early. We dropped our bags and felt adventurous, and hungry, so we headed out and around the corner in search of a taco stand. A couple blocks up, we found it! A worker ushered us in and we found out very quickly that they do not accept credit cards and we’d have to go find some pesos, and quick! It was late and these guys were about to close. We scurried up the street to find the OXO with the ATM since not all of them have one. We walked what felt like way too far when finally there it was, gleaming like a beacon. As we hurried back, pesos in hand, our mouths salivated thinking about the tacos we were about to devour, when we arrived and saw the gate had been rolled down and they were closed. As we began to turn back to the hotel in disbelief, the man opened the gate and called to us, inviting us in and cooking us one of the best meals we had on the entire world tour. The alarm went off early that first morning. Breakfast was included in the rate of the room, thanks to our thoughtful producer, Paul! We arrived to breakfast half asleep at 6am to find a buffet of whatever our hearts desired. It looked like a wedding with no guests, white table linens and silver hot plates in perfect order, waiting to be touched. But it was dark out, and it felt eerie instead of inviting. We choked down a plate of food each, as we had no idea of what the day would hold. The guys arrived promptly at 6:30 and we headed towards the city. The traffic was no joke, we never drove faster than 35! We arrived in the city around 8 in time to meet Pavel’s assistant, Puma who quickly became one of our besties. The talent was set to arrive at 830, so we quickly made our way to our first location in the historical part of the city. About 10 hours later we finished our interviews and it was finally time to take a break. That was until we realized there was dust on the sensor of the camera and we needed to find a sensor cleaner. We went to 8 or 9 stores before we found one..see photo below, a half opened box from what appears to be the 80’s lol. After that scavenger hunt it was finally dinnertime. After recharging with dinner in Pavel’s neighborhood, we had an hour drive back to our hotel. We were surprised it had taken so long with our actors and knew the problem was the language barrier. The following day we’d be pulling random people instead of working with planned actors so our hopes were high. As much as I always love working with actors and hired talent, there’s something much more honest and inviting about working with regular people. Soon enough we were back at our hotel and back in our beds and before we wanted, our alarms were once again ringing reminding us that it was way too early for most people to even think about thinking. Breakfast was the same story as the day before and our van awaited at 630 on the dot. The ride was another long and slow one; Kevin and Cory napped, I took advantage of full range of fire and snapped photos all the way to the city. I’ve got to say Mexico was awesome! I’m bummed that we were barely able to scratch the surface, with so much work, there was no time for exploring this amazing city. We’ll be back. The people were some on the friendliest on Earth. People actually smile when they walk past each other there. It was a beautiful city, we can’t wait to make it a holiday destination next time!
Before we knew it, we were exchanging loving goodbyes to our new dear friend Pavel, we wished we could pack him up and take him with us. He dropped us at the aeropuerto, we hugged it out and promised to visit each other soon and then he was gone and we were onto the next one. Next stop, Paris France but not before a few hours at the airport. We made the biggest mistake of our trip at this airport. We drank the ice! If you only read and remember one thing, please remember this: Don’t drink the ice! Ever! Ever ever! We learned the hard way with daily reminders until Sydney. Lesson totally learned. Don’t drink the ice. After we drank the ice but before we felt it, it was time to board our first first class flight of the trip. When we boarded we couldn’t believe how perfect the plane was. It was brand new. Our seats were basically pods that turned into beds. The gave us overnight bags with more amenities than most hotels provide. It was going to be a smooth ride. We all talked about how dope our producer was for scoring us such a sweet ride. And being that it was a quarter to midnight when we boarded, the beds would offer us a real nights sleep and hopefully allow for zero jet-lag. After a bunch of wine and cheese and sleep we woke up in Paris. We were so excited to see our next country and meet our new guide, Una. It was drastically different here than Mexico weather-wise. Mexico had been scorching and Paris was cold and gray. The cooler weather was definitely welcome to our sun burnt skin. We landed in Paris in the evening time, just in time to check into our hotel and find dinner! We did just that and found ourselves eating olives and drinking beer at a sidewalk cafe overlooking a grand, old church complete with giant ornate fountain. I think it’s an opera house now. Regardless, it was the most romantic scene, exactly what one would imagine Paris to be like. We ended the night over big yummy pizzas and long thoughtful discussions. And then we found ourselves in one more wine bar that seemed to pull us in as we walked to our hotel and people watched while discussing the crazy world over red wine and cigarettes. We finally found our beds and slept like babies until 8am breakfast time. Thanks again to Paul for hooking up breakfast for us, definitely a time saver when you’re on the road not to have to think about where to eat first thing in the morning. This spot was interesting. It was like Grandma’s house, complete with the hot pink velvet couches and chairs with dark wood accents. If the hotel wasn’t haunted, which I’m sure it was, the dining room definitely was. I was hoping every morning that I’d see a ghost in there. Una picked us up at 9am that first morning, the French are a bit more on their own time than the Mexicans were so we needed to wait for them to wake up. Our first stop was ok. We had a beautiful backdrop and a half dozen good soundbytes so we moved on. Our next part of town was the best! It was exactly how you’d imagine a French village. Complete with fruit market, cheese shop, corner coffee shop where the old men meet for their first cup. It was grand. And the people were friendly and helpful and welcoming to our requests. We hit that and surrounding areas like Moulin Rouge and the nearby flea market hard and with about 40 interviews in the bag we broke for lunch. After a true French meal it was time to work again. We still needed to hit the Arc and the Tower before nightfall. We successfully nailed both and we’re very pleased with our day. A storm rolled in just as it began to get dark and the rain started to fall just after we wrapped. We ended the night over warm bowls of soup and full glasses of French wine. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day. The next day was similar to the first day, just different locations. This time we went to the Opera District, on the Subway, and to Notre Dam. We captured interviews until afternoon, grabbed sandwiches, said our goodbyes to our new amiga Una and we were off to the airport..again! Sitting in the Paris airport felt weird – we were already headed to our third city! The best part about it? A two hour plane ride! No timezone change! Woo!
Soon enough we boarded and soon after landed in London. We arrived just before dark. Our driver Brian picked us up and had us laughing the entire way to the hotel. It was our third country but our first English speaking country and we could tell this was going to be a fun one! The first thing we noticed was it was freezing! Just like my last time in London. I’m under the impression that it’s always freezing there. By the time we arrived to our hotel and got into our rooms, there was just enough time to find dinner before hitting the hay for a full shoot day the following morning. We found a quaint little pub complete with locals and a real woodburning fireplace, they even had veggie burgers, it was perfect! We woke up early the next day preparing to meet our London guide, Amanda. We found a breakie spot around the corner from our hotel and filled our cold bellies with some warm eggs. Like all the mornings before, we were never sure what the day would hold for us so we always started the day with breakfast. After breakfast Amanda notified us she wouldn’t meet up until the afternoon but we weren’t worried, after all, we speak the same language, so finding people to interview on the streets should be easy enough. After a half day and about 25-30 interviews in the can, we felt confident with how London was panning out for us. We met up with Amanda just in time for a late lunch and then proceeded to get another 20 something interviews. One of my favorites happened here, we had three guys and they flawlessly rapped Ghostbusters into Bad Boys which included a b-boy dance. It was priceless footage! We ended the work day at dark as we had in the last two cities and made our way back via the tube. We holed up in a pub and ate veggie burgers again. The next morning we started with breakfast and then got picked up by Brian, our driver with Amanda in tow and drove to some of the landmarks to meet up with our hired actors to get some bulk for the piece. We had 5 actors at 5 iconic landmarks which meant a whole day of shooting. We found we could cover a lot more ground with regular people. The hired actors ended up taking a lot longer because they thought more about the questions. They not only worried about getting the answer right but also how they delivered it. When we were shooting regular people we found a background to use wherever we were standing. When we shot with actors, we were taken to landmarks which were busy and we’d sometimes have to break for noise issues. It’s always funny when what’s supposed to be the easy option becomes the difficult one. Although it was an all day actor day, it was still another great one for the books. Our last night in London was upon us so we made our way to the pub for a pint and one more veggie burger. We laughed the night away and went to bed smiling. The next morning came early as they always do. We had to run the footage over to FedEx and then be ready to be picked up at our hotel at 9am to be to the airport by 10am. We made it and we boarded on time. At 1pm when our plane was supposed to take off, it didn’t. So we sat and sat and waited for four hours on the runway while they tried to fix the engine. When they decided it wasn’t happening they brought busses out to gather us up and take us back into Heathrow. This is where we discovered the Business Class Lounge. Oh what a world! So apparently in every airport, every airline has one of the secret lofts with couches and internet and a buffet of food and drinks and desserts. And by drinks I mean all you can drink, help yourself to any kind of spirit, wine, or beer you desire. We hung out there for the next three hours while they found a new plane for our trip to Tokyo. Cory and Kevin built a beer pyramid while we waited. By the time we were back on the plane, we were feeling mellow and ready for a good night’s sleep in our first class beds. How am I ever going to fly economy again?
We arrived in Japan in the evening the next night instead of the morning because of our delayed flight. Our guide, Shin was there to swoop us up and deliver us to our hotel. We had a bit more than an hour drive and chatted the whole way, quickly getting to know and like one another. He dropped us off at the most beautiful hotel we have stayed at yet, we again we saying how awesome Paul and Ettore were for booking us such great accommodations. We sorted our rooms and cleaned up after almost a day at the airport/airplane. Once we were fresh and clean, we were hungry for dinner so we set into the night on foot in search of authentic Japanese food. We were in Tokyo!! Unbelievable. We were all three in shock, it just didn’t seem real. We found a spot on the side of the road about 5 blocks from our hotel wrapped in plastic with paper lanterns as decor. We decided it looked promising and open so we ventured inside. Inside it was definitely a locals spot, lucky for us they did have 1 menu with English. The three of us hovered around the one menu and found many wonderful choices. I order the vegetarian fried rice with yakatori mountain yams and leeks and mushrooms. It was fantastic. The mountain yam was nothing as I would have expected. It was white and crunchy like jicama but seasoned like it was a steak. I’m still thinking about it weeks later. I need to see if I can locate it at one of our local Japanese markets. We went to bed early that night after a stop off to 7-11. They sell ties in 7-11! Like men’s suit ties. I guess the Japanese mean business when it comes to looking good. We retired and awoke to another meal… It was an amazing spread complete with a juice bar and omlette station and french toast bites to die for! We really enjoyed three days of that! Not every producer thinks of their crew like Paul thought of us. Because of EZ Productions we were fed and rested and ready to do the best job possible. Our first shoot day was actor day which took a long time as we knew it would, but the actors were friendly and it was great hanging with everybody. We finished our day meeting up with our other guide, Reina and her two friends for two more interviews. We wrapped the last one after nightfall, but because we were shooting the Sony A7S everything still looked fantastic. Another day down and the countdown started to be on home… We woke up early again for our second shoot day in Tokyo. Today we were excited because we were headed to the famous fish market with vendor lining an entire city block selling snacks and goods. We found so many willing participants in the market, we must have shot at least 30 interviews before our time ran out. This was by far my favorite place to take portraits. I could have spent an entire day here winding down and around the shops, finding interesting faces around each corner but I had a job to do and we had an actor booked so we had to be on our way. I’ll never forget Kevin complaining about how he wanted to eat something at the market. He was bummed. We were all so hungry, I’m not sure why we didn’t buy something. I guess we were all in the work-mode zone and we forgot we needed fuel. It’s a good excuse to go back right? Two more actors and then day was done. It was finally dinner time which translates into ramen time! We were so excited for the spicy delishiousness we ended up with. Our crew of 6 took up the entire restaurant and thank god we were the only ones there. It was in the top 5 for best meals of the trip. We got back to the hotel around 7 that night and decided the night was young and we didn’t have to do anything the next day until 3pm when we were getting picked up to go to the airport. It was our first night without work the following day. We thought it no better than hitting the town and finding a karaoke bar! Sine very little English is spoken in Japan we asked our hotel to find us a karaoke bar and call us a cab. It’d be our first experience in a Japanese taxi. The doors are automatic, no touching, they open and close for you. We weren’t sure of the reasoning but think it has something to do with either germs or manners. Another thing I loved about Tokyo is that everything is happy and fun and cute. For example, their city buses are painted with smiling characters, their deodorant commercials look like music videos with flowers growing out of armpits of sexy dancing girls. The girls working at Starbucks in Shibuya Station sang the orders as they made them. Toyko was unbelievable! We only had three days there, 2 were working and the third was only a half day and a half day to explore Tokyo just didn’t cut it. We’ll be back Tokyo! 3 pm rolled around quickly after a day of roaming Shibuya Station and surrounding areas, buying souvenirs and taking pictures and it was time to take my two monkeys to the airport for our fifth stop: Sydney, Australia!
Shin drove us to the airport that afternoon to send on on our way to our final stop, Sydney Australia! We were excited to head down under! We had had such a wonderful time in Tokyo and were excited for what Sydney had to offer. We knew it’d at least be easy since everybody would be speaking our language… We’ll maybe I spoke to soon, because Japan Air was not speaking our language. First the attendant at the check in desk pulled Cory’s suitcase from his hands insisting that he must check it. He pulled it back and we went through self check in instead. We had been traveling the entire time with just carry-ons. We decided that this would be our best best as to not lose anything in one country and then switch countries before getting it back. It was tough, but packing light and carrying on was the responsible thing to do. Plus we were flying business class, so there was always plenty of room in the overheads. Well, Japan Air didn’t think so. We got popped going though TSA for our tripod. It was five centimeters too long and they wouldn’t budge. That’s smaller than this sentence! It was a power struggle that we tried to fight and weren’t going to win. Cory had to run back to the counter and check our valuable piece of gear into the hands of the airline. Being such a crucial part of our gear, we were nervous. We boarded the plane and there was SO MUCH SPACE we could have fit 8 tripods. Assholes. But things turned around when our flight attendant was awesome. She poured us wine and we chatted about home, she had just visited San Diego on holiday with her family. It was nice to speak with someone who felt familiar. She took amazing care of us the entire flight. If they could all be like her… We landed and had a fairly easy time getting through the airport and even reuniting with our tripod! Dave was waiting for us with a sign. Our last producer. Our last sign. We started feeling a bit nostalgic as the trip was coming to an end. But not before one more FedEx run! Had to drop off footage immediately after landing. After that it was noon and we took the rest of the day off! Our first day off! Kinda, if you consider being in a plane and making deliveries a day off. But it was as close as we would get and we were going to enjoy it. We were all starving and found a spot down the street from our beautiful hotel, The Shangrila, called Brew. We walked in, the place looked homey and the menu looked perfect so we took a table for 3 and ordered a round of beers to start. Five minutes later the waitress came back to take our food order. Five minutes later a tall dark and handsome waiter came over and told us we were 30 minutes too early for lunch items and beer. We were heartbroken on the inside but politely ordered a round of waters and a salad. He offered to bring us a bowl of chips while we waited. Five minutes later we had a giant salad and a giant bowl of hot salty chips in front of us and life was good. It was the longest 30 minutes of our lives but after 30 minutes out came our beers and our lunch. The waitress, a third one, dropped Cory’s bun on the way. She apologized and said she’d be right back and Cory called her a jerk. He meant it funny but I still scolded him. And that’s when we really met Marwin. The second waiter, the one who’d brought us the chips. He came over and he and Cory made bun jokes and at that moment we all became friends. We ended up having breakfast at brew all 4 mornings while in Sydney. It was that good. And our new friends Olga and Marwin made it that much better. And as for the work, it went great as we expected it would. Of course we did have a lot of people turn us down for interviews and I had a police officer photograph my id for filming in front of the Opera House when we weren’t allowed to, but there were great moments too, like the kids we found that killed it and the actor’s that Dave secured were really phenomenal. And what’s not to love about the beach. Bondi Beach was gorgeous. The people we’re friendly (and babes). It was a great last two days of work. Our last day came too soon, we wished we had another country to go to other than our own, but we missed our cats and Cory missed Amy so it was ok. We went to Brew that morning for our last time and lingered and enjoyed a second round of lattes. Dave picked us up and off we went to the airport. Being the seasoned travelers we were now, we didn’t mess around. We went straight to the Quantas Airways business class lounge. The response was the same everywhere, “Who are you guys? Are you a band? Are you famous?” It was funny and a bit insulting every time. We had one old man approach while waiting to board and ask us if we were really in business class. Then he admitted we were probably the only ones in business class actually traveling for business, the rest of the gray haired people in first were all headed for cruises and island resorts. But back to the lounge..it was WOW. Pumpkin salad, microgreens, meringues, and whatever kind of booze fits your fancy. We hung in the lounge until it was time to board and as we were waiting in line, I laughed at Cory for having blue teeth from the candy he was sucking on. Kevin immediately laughed at me for also having blue teeth. In shock, I laughed, I didn’t have my candy yet! And then I giggled more, it was the red wine. A man nearby giggled with me. And then we boarded the best flight I think I’ll ever fly. Not the best because of flying over so much ocean with so much turbulence, but because we were flying in the nose, in pimp ass seats with about 20 other people. It felt like a private plane, there were 3 flight attendants assigned to the 20 of us meaning they were extremely attentive with the wine and the food and the mattress they offered mid flight not to forget the pajamas they gave each of us! It was amusing to watch each person go to the toilet to change into their jammies, and then the next one, and then the next until literally everybody was wearing them. It was great! They also gave us all Kate Spade bags with chapstick and lotions and toothbrush and everything else that might be nice to have on a 11 hour journey. I can’t say enough good things about Quantas. If it’s ever an option, that’s who I’m flying with! And then, just like that, we were back in LA. Back to reality, and back to economy for our trip to San Diego. Landing in San Diego felt so nice! Eating Mexican food at Ponces made it ever better. And then putting on our airline jammies and whooping the boys’ asses at Monopoly – great end to a fun memorable adventure with two of the greatest guys I know! Fingers crossed to doing this again next year!
All photos were captured on Kevin’s iPhone5, Rebecca’s iPhone6, and Rebecca’s 5D Mark III.