Posted by vern | Posted in Storytelling, Winnebago Experience | Posted on 29-12-2006
A NEW BRAND OF MOVIE TRAILER
By LORENA FERNANDEZ 21.DEC.06
A pair of young filmmakers give a glimpse into the RV subculture.
“We’re homeowners now, and the world is our backyard,” says Vern Moen, 26, while sitting in his kitchen table with his feet up on the sink. The table doubles as a desk when there’s work to be done, and folded correctly, it can turn into one of the four beds in the house. For one year Moen and his roommate Jeff Stone have lived in a 1973 Winnebago Chieftain motorhome as part of their ongoing project as filmmakers. “We decided that this is just an experiment that we could do to see how it would change our lives,” says Stone.
As members of a Costa Mesa-based church called Rock Harbor, Moen and Stone met and through participating in the cultural arts projects the church organizes. Moen says he learned to edit film at Rock Harbor, where he did several shorts of various themes. One of the shorts was a promotion video in which Stone played a major role, so Moen and Stone quickly became friends. They had decided to rent an apartment together, Stone says, yet before they could find something in their struggling artists price range, he found himself homeless for a couple of months.
Instead of opting for one of the 2,425 single beds of emergency shelters in the L.A. County, Stone decided to move into a tent at the Malibu Beach RV Park and turn his circumstance into a documentary. Through this experience, he says, an inspiration came out. “I called [Moen] one night and I was like ‘I got an idea, we should buy an RV and live at this RV park.’”
Under 30-day camping rates — which is the maximum amount of time an RV is allowed to stay, — two people can park their RV at the Malibu Beach RV Park for $1344 with an ocean view or $1155 with a mountain view, so what began as a fun idea soon proved to be perfect for a tight budget. “The prices to live there were way cheaper than any apartment that we had found,” says Stone. The two friends dropped the apartment search and started looking for RVs in what Moen describes as a “very involved process.” After one month of researching the motorhome market, they found the ‘73 Winnebago Chieftain in Puerto Nuevo, Mexico through the Internet. $2,500 later and the project began taking a groovy shape.
“We decided that if we were going to be living on the streets [the Winnebago] better look nice,” says Moen. The new roommates bought house paint and turned the brown motorhome white just outside Moen mother’s house in Oxnard. “My mom is very supportive,” he says, “she’s a Polish mother and she has some weird things, but as long as I’m safe she’s fine.”
The experiences Moen and Stone have been through in this past year are all recorded both in camera and in a journal they call Captain’s Log. “Personal hygiene was the biggest struggle,” Moen says, adding 13 is the record number of days without a shower. “We could actually take a bath in here,” says Stone, since they have a full bathroom with shower in the Winnebago, but the plumbing is broken so they use the space as their storage shed. For a while they collected rain shower on a tarp they put on the roof of the RV, and they even had aspirations to bathe in a public fountain, which has not yet happened, they say. “Eventually we upgraded to a gym pass,” Moen says, yet he admits most of the time they use other resources. “We developed a technique for staying clean and fresh-smelling,” Stone says, “body wipes, you know, a shower in a box.”
Though living in a motorhome may seem like an easy-going lifestyle, Stone and Moen keep their project organized and focused. Above the driver’s cabin they posted maps of L.A. and started putting pins with a color-coded key: Red pins signal places where they have lived, ranging from Van Nuys to Studio City to Playa del Rey to Venice, where they currently park. Blue pins mark the places they have showered in, black pins show where they have empty their toilet, yellow pins indicate friends house, where they might do a load of laundry or take a shower every now and then. White pins represent points of interest like a good bar or restaurant, and finally green pins are for resources.
In the life of two struggling artists, resources usually translate places where they can improve their skills, and for Moen and Stone those places only have two requirements: An electricity outlet and wireless Internet.
Since there is no electricity in the Winnebago, the roommates usually go to a coffee shop, a library or a 24 hour Kinkos to work on their projects. “It’s like a job: Punch in, punch out, buy coffee,” Moen says. They also use the Internet to publish their work. www.thehobosoul.com shows pictures of their adventures in the Winnebago and shorts they have produced.
When Moen and Stone decided to embark on the “hobo project,” their friends were skeptic about the idea. “They gave us six months,” says Stone, but this month marks a year since they started and the achievement of their goal. “At the beginning we just figure we would make it for a year, we didn’t know the challenges, but I don’t really want to move out, I really like it,” says Stone.
Moen, on the other hand, has pressure to move on. “I only want to move out because my girlfriend wants me to move out,” he says laughing.
Not only have they the two filmmakers met their goal, they have inspired their friends to follow on their footsteps. Three of Stone’s friends, he says, are now living in RVs, including one who is currently their neighbor. “We definitely want to do a documentary and somehow involve other hobos,” says Moen, adding they have met strange people along the way. According to the homeless count made by the Los Angeles County Homeless Service Authority in 2005, there is an estimated 3,740 people living in vehicles ranging from cars to vans and RVs. – Photos by Gary McCarthy