Two men stand beside the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS Concept reflected in a puddle on a fishing port in Chiba, Japan

Location fixer & manager for Mercedes EQS Vision Press Tour

If you’re in the automotive business and need a team, here in Japan, to be your location finder and fixer, we’re the team for you.

Three months of planning, 3000kms of driving in four days, one typhoon and a whole lot of coffee…

In fact, we got that good at doing it for our own shoots, that people started booking us to do it for their shoots and events, too.

We’d done some work with Empire Entertainment before. I’d also written an article and photographed one of the producers, Bruce Nachbar, at their Tokyo office for a magazine article just a few months before. At first they got in touch and asked if we knew ‘some cool places to shoot a car’. But it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to whether we could provide a full-blown location-finding and management service for them and their client.

Prototype and concept cars have some eccentricities

Above and beyond searching for locations that deliver the usual things – fulfil the brief for a certain theme or deliver a specific aesthetic – concept and prototype vehicles come with another set of challenges to the location manager: they’re very often not real, finished cars.

Such was the situation with the particular vehicle we’d be working with on this job: The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS Concept.

Location fixer & manager for Mercedes EQS Vision Press Tour
The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS Concept (Photo: Mercedes-Benz).

Typhoon season and the car musn’t get wet

The Vision EQS Concept is a big vehicle. Long and heavy with fairly low ground clearance. It’s an EV. One that required a specific kind of charging station. Not the standard kind you can find dotted around Japan. So it’d have to be fully charged overnight each night, back at its base in Kawasaki. The event we were managing – a series of photo and video opportunities for the motoring press – would be happening just prior to the Tokyo Motor Show. Late October. Often that means typhoons. Oh and, yes, the Vision EQS Concept couldn’t be out in the rain. And, as it transpired, there was a LOT of rain that week.

The typhoon in question dumped a lot of water on Japan in a very short space of time. 36hrs before this shoot started, I drove 300kms to my mother-in-law’s place in Fukushima to bale it out and dig half a ton of mud out of the place. She’d had the river in. 2m up the wall was where the tidemark was. It was an odd start to a very busy week.

Throughout our week of shooting, we lost two locations to the typhoon; inundated with run-off water. But, apart from that, the show went on. As it does.

Back to the beginning, to finding and securing the best locations

Each car has a niche, a market segment, a target audience. The motoring press then have certain things they like in a location. Finally, it’s Japan. The Tokyo MotorShow would be following our event and what we needed to provide in addition to everything else was ‘something quintessentially Japanese’. Often, simply, that means Mount Fuji. Or shrines. It can mean many other things, too, of course: futuristic, neon, maiko, sumo etc etc. When you start to think about what is ‘quintessentially Tokyo’, the list narrows down to Tokyo Tower and neon.

Location fixer & manager for Mercedes EQS Vision Press Tour
Shooting our rental car at Futtsu Misaki, to test out the location and get approval from the client.

We also needed locations where the car could be photographed whilst driving. This is not easy for normal cars even. This stuff can’t easily be done on the public highway.. Not legally, officially anyway. But, add to all the usual challenges the fact that this is a prototype (limited range, can’t get wet, needs a 20metre-long truck to carry it around everywhere, isn’t ‘real’ and therefore can’t be legally driven on public roads) and things start to get interesting.

Want a 7-day license plate and insurance for a one-of-a-kind car? Sure, we can do that.

Yes, Interesting. We love interesting and we love a challenge. So, despite Mercedes telling us ‘you’ll never get permission to drive this on public roads’, our lady in charge of securing local permissions managed to get a 7-day license plate for the car.

A contact of hers at an insurance company also managed to sort us out with a week’s insurance, for a one-off prototype car worth $2million, for the kind of money you’d blow on a nice meal for two. Sadly, none of the German crew or press brought international driving permits. And the car never got to take to the roads, just the private driving areas we’d secured. Shouganai, as they say here in Japan.

Locations found and managed by eyes that know cars, that know Japan

One of the biggest things we feel we bring to the party is that we know cars. We love cars. And we know and love Japan. We’ve decades of experience of living and working here. We’ve travelled to every one of the 47 Prefectures of Japan. And have shot in most of them, too.

How it works and what you get

Locations are places. Places means maps and we love maps. So, one of the first things we’ll do is head out, find a ton of suitable candidate locations, throw them all on a Google Map and share that with you. It’s easy, you can see the photos we’ve shot there, using our car as a ‘stunt double’ for your vehicle and you have all the usual access to StreetView.

As we get deeper in to the process, we’ll also provide you with maps that detail all the local conveniences: restaurants, toilets, car parks. The kind of things you’ll then need to pass on to your crew or the attendees if it’s an event. Approximate car positions are marked. For the Police we provide detailed, illustrated plans of how we intend to manage safety on the highway.

A full service, from start to finish….

Some of what we provided for Mercedes on this job:

  • Staff fluent in Japanese and English.
  • Location hunting across four prefectures of Japan.
  • Creation of detailed maps and local area guides for the client, to help them understand each location.
  • Liason with local Police and securing of permissions to shoot on public highways.
  • 7-day licensing of the car with Kanagawa Prefecture, issuance of license plate, insuring car for use on the public highway.
  • Liason with prefectural film commissions.
  • Securing of permissions from private and public landowners.
  • Provision of safety and security staff.
  • Provision of licensed drone pilot.
  • Creation of ‘Location Guide’ for press attendees.
  • On-site management of each and every location during the shoot.
  • Studio booking and equipment rental for overseas photographers attending the event.
  • Logistics planning for entire local and overseas crew.

Amongst the locations we secured were…..

  • Public highway at the famous ‘1000¥ Banknote’ view of Mount Fuji, above Lake Motosu.
  • 90,000sq metre asphalt driving area, bayside in Chiba, with drone permissions.
  • Lakeside locations at four of the five lakes in the Mount Fuji area.
  • Zou no Hana Park, Yokohama
  • The Nippon Maru sailing ship, Yokohama
  • Red Brick Warehouse, Yokohama

A few more photos we grabbed during this event…

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