During World War II, the founder of Airstream, Wally Byam, was forced to put his budding trailer business on the back burner due to aluminum shortages. He went to work for the cause as an airplane builder. Following the war’s end, he set up Airstream in the very same airplane manufacturing warehouse. With new design skills and an improved design for aluminum-skinned trailers, Wally launched a trailer line that would become synonymous with the American open road. But he needed to test the road-worthiness of his post-war model on an epic trip.
In 1948, Cornelius “Neil” Vanderbilt IV — the black sheep and bohemian journalist son of business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt III — invited Wally to tour war-ravaged Europe. Vanderbilt wanted to capture the devastated landscape in documentary film. The two shipped an Airstream to Europe and embarked on a journey to record the decimated landscape, a remarkable feat, as cities were still in disarray and tourists were more or less absent.
In a similar spirit of road-hungry adventure and compelling storytelling, a filmmaking collective in Bend, Oregon is building a mobile production studio in a vintage 60’a Airstream. Meet Lola, the new mobile studio of Off the Grid Studios. Founder and filmmaker R.A. Beattie has traveled all over the planet shooting in remote locations. For years, he dreamed of a portable studio that provided all post-production needs. He searched high and low for the perfect fit until this year, when a Craigslist alert informed him of a nearby trailer for sale.
The owner originally planned to use the 22-foot Airstream as a Hawaiian food stand and completed all the retrofitting required for vintage trailers. But Lola was destined for film, not the food industry. Upon realizing the rig was too big, the owner sold it for a song.
Now that he’s got his trailer, Beattie aims to take Lola to the next level of innovation: sustainability. Her interior will be outfitted with low-impact materials, such as bamboo and wood salvaged locally in the Pacific Northwest. Power will be generated through solar panels and a biodiesel generator.
Outfitting Lola progressively means more work than a traditional overhaul. By taking the time to create not just a functional workspace, but an equally ethical one, Off the Grid hopes to create an example: If a media production company can convert its production space to standards of high sustainability, why can’t other tech-based practices do the same?
The rolling studio will provide the team a place to produce content on the fly, on-site in the field, with full capabilities, including a recording studio. Music, narration and other film sound features will be recorded to industry standards in the middle of the woods or at music events, such as the Sisters Folk Festival, where Beattie hopes to unveil Lola.
“We want to encourage artists to drop in and record,” says Beattie. “By taking on the challenge to create an entirely new studio format, we’ll be getting back to basics of what we truly need to produce high-quality content. Producing film and music sustainably is going to be a wild and inspiring creative adventure.”
Keep an eye out, y’all. Lola will be rolling down the road day now.