If – knock on wood – I was ever going to cop a case of SARS-CoV-2, it was going to be in the arrivals hall of Los Angeles International Airport.
Think of a warehouse that’s the size of 10 football fields, stuffed to the gills with lines of travellers that are elbow-to-elbow, and there’s not a bottle of hand sanitiser in sight.
In late February, we flew to Arizona to drive the new BMW X5M and X6M pairing, just as COVID-19 was rearing its head in various spots around the world. While it still seemed real enough, the US was singularly unconcerned, by the feel of it.
Flying overseas for a few days at a time to drive cars for the WC team was nothing new – and funnily enough, I’ve never brought home even so much as a case of the sniffles, despite travelling twice or even three times a month locally and overseas for the last few years.
The COVID-19 threat was real enough, though, that our travel party quietly joked amongst ourselves that if we had to lock down in our hotel in Scottsdale, it wouldn’t be so bad.
As of Friday 17 July, 135,000 cases had been confirmed in the state of Arizona, and 2500 people have died thus far. Ulp.
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As it turned out, we were amongst the last travellers to return to Australia before worldwide travel restrictions kicked in. I was actually due to head to Geneva Motor Show four days after coming back from Arizona, but that show was cancelled at the last moment, and we’ve been grounded ever since.
It was a bit of an unusual shoot for us as well. Working with a new crew is always a reach into the unknown, and the limited opportunities to film meant we had to be pretty flexible.
Luckily for us, cameraman Rene was not only a dab hand at the art of video capture – he’d worked a few Olympics and other big events in a storied career – but he was a very funny bloke to boot. He was also adaptable, working out a few technical snafus on the fly to keep the show rolling.
Shooting two cars in one film is never easy, either, and needed a bit of cooperation from a group of Argentinian journos to ensure both cars could be captured in one frame. We made sure to thank them at the bar later!
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I also used the visual trick of the hat forwards and backwards to separate the two cars – not sure it worked, but as I mentioned we had very limited opportunity to shoot the quantity of stuff that the WCTV editing crew need to make a clip.
The trip to Arizona could well be the last overseas launch for us for quite a while, and even though it was short, it worked out well. Hope you enjoy it!/Tim Robson