Basalt goes Hollywood | AspenTimes.com

Basalt goes Hollywood

Boom camera technician Steve Nolan, left, and Martin Cortes check adjustmenst of the camera stabilization mechanism while working on the set for a Jeep commercial in the Willits subdivision of Basalt Thursday afternoon August 15, 2002. Flying Tiger Films is filming the first part of the30 second commercial in Basalt and the rest at Highlands. Paul Conrad photo.

Even the commercials are moving downvalley these days.

When Hollywood searched high and low throughout the Roaring Fork Valley for the perfect place for a Jeep commercial, it was Basalt and not Aspen that caught the team’s eye.

The Willits subdivision was selected as the site to shoot an ad that shows how the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo outshines the competition in the luxury SUV market.

Flying Tiger Films of Santa Monica, Calif., landed the job a week ago and started scouring the country for the perfect subdivision, according to producer Lance O’Connor. Tops on the list of requirements were three high-end homes in a row, each with the garage on the right side when facing the houses.

“We searched from Mountain Valley [in Aspen] to New Castle,” said Karen Sellars of Aspen Productions, who is working as Flying Tiger’s location manager on the Jeep ad. They found what they were looking for on Saturday.

By Sunday they approached the homeowners with lucrative proposals to use their property and by Monday a small army of workers rolled in. O’Connor said there are about 60 people working on all aspects of the ad. Between 40 and 45 came from L.A.

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Rehearsal was under way Thursday afternoon, and shooting was planned for late in the afternoon.

Production designer Dick Carter, who splits time between Emma and Los Angeles, didn’t have far to wander to help prepare the houses for the commercial. His team of carpenters, painters, handymen and landscapers tweaked the already nice homes to meet the persnickety demands of commercial filming – at the film company’s expense.

Kris and John Reyhons bought a new house in Willits two months ago and were just getting around to making outdoor improvements. Now the improvements are getting done courtesy of Jeep.

The Reyhons’ garage was expanded, a deck was built in the back yard, the rail was improved on the front porch, flowers and landscaping was added and a swing set provided for their 4-year-old son. Their house received special treatment because that’s where the Jeep Grand Cherokee lives.

The Reyhons have been the hit of their neighborhood.

“Everybody already knows about it,” said Kris. “People come up to me in the grocery store and say ‘How’s the commercial going?’

“Everybody walks by 10 times to check it out,” she said. “Last night we had people coming over until 9 o’clock.”

The film company has been great to work with, she said. They’ve kept her family well informed and been generous with their compensation. They had to rent some of the Reyhons’ bikes, skis rakes and outdoor tools to stock the garage and porch of the vacant spec house next door.

The only time Kris said she cringed is when they asked to tear down a fence that was erected only a few days before. They will put it back at their expense.

The Reyhons have asked the ad makers if they could keep the Jeep Cherokee but they’ve had no luck. Kris said she has been promised 10 copies of the ad, which is supposed to be finished by Labor Day. She said she plans to send it to family members who want to know more about their house.

“You want to see my house? I’ll send you a commercial of it,” she quipped.

It sounds like a pretty cool commercial. It will show a BMW sport utility vehicle making the routine trip out of the garage, onto the driveway and onto the paved street, then a Lexus SUV merges from the next house.

But at the Reyhons’ house, the front of the garage is covered by a wall and the driveway is freshly sodded. The camera will swing around to the back and show the Grand Cherokee pulling out of the back of the garage and up a steep embankment.

That’s where computer technology will take over. The Willits scene will be mixed with a scene from Aspen Highlands that shows the Jeep climbing up a hill with Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells in the background. Jeep owners don’t do the ordinary, the ad suggests.

Through the use of the computer the three Willits houses will appear to be part of Highlands. (The starter castles actually being built at the base of Highlands didn’t fit the bill.)

O’Connor said the ad should be aired soon after Labor Day. He wouldn’t disclose the exact budget but said it exceeds $1 million.

Flying Tiger Films makes the Roaring Fork Valley its home away from home.

O’Connor said he has produced 12 advertisements in the valley in six years. He has often worked with Klaus Obermeyer Jr., who is a director that works with Flying Tiger. Henrick Hansen happens to be directing this ad.

O’Connor said he can count on Carter and Sellars to supply good crews for the work around Aspen.

“I bring a lot of work into here,” he said. “I know a little movie society in Aspen.”

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]