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Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

From Panem To Hollywood – How FROSCH transported the stars of The Hunger Games

If you’re anything like me, you have been following everything Hunger Games since you finished book 1.  With picture and video leaks dominating the web, this has undoubtedly been the most highly anticipated movie of 2012 launching its leads into superstardom and skyrocketing the series to literary classic status only 4 years after its publication.  One of our FROSCH Entertainment agents, Marnee Revri, was lucky enough to land the travel production contract for this major Blockbuster! As soon as I found out I kept poor Marnee at her desk for what felt like hours as I turned green with envy when she told me she got to go on set and talk to Jennifer Lawrence!  I felt our little chat was too fun not to share so I asked her if I could do a quick interview to pass onto our social media fans.
 *Spoiler Alert* If you haven’t read the book yet, cancel your weekend plans and go get it NOW, oh, and I wouldn’t continue reading!

1.      First and most important question, are you on Team Gale or Team Peeta? 
Team Peeta! I always love the underdog. But I also liked that he had clearly cared about her from afar since they were little.  Like the story about him giving her the bread when she was trying to find food on the streets.

2.      What led you to coordinating the travel for the Hunger Games movie production? Have you worked on such high profile projects before?
To be quite honest it was sheer luck.  We were originally considered for the RFP because it was sent to the FROSCH Entertainment office in LA.  Because they were planning on filming the movie in North Carolina, it was recommended that I take on the project due to state tax laws.  It was the largest I have ever done!

3.      Were you a fan of the Hunger Games series prior to working for the film?
No, it is not a book I would have normally read, but I like to learn everything I can about my clients and what I will be doing for them. Once I started it I was hooked. I finished all 3 books in a week!

 4.      Did you realize this movie was going to be something special immediately? If not at what point did you realize what a huge following it had?
I knew immediately after I read it.  This is a story that, even though it’s a little science fiction, is very relatable.  You can really draw so many parallels to the way our society is shaping out.

5.      As their travel agent, where did your role start and end? (e.g. did you organize travel when they were scouting locations all the way to the movie premier? 
Everywhere and anywhere I was needed.  The contract began a little over a year ago when they had already chosen on the location (which was partly why I got the contract).  It started with set designer and builders and I have continued to handle some travel for a producer until just before the premiere.

6.      Your home state, North Carolina, is the filming location for The Hunger Games’ District 12.  How did the locals react to this activity? Has there been any tourist buzz for fans wanting to visit these sights as there was with Twilight Saga?
I have not really seen or heard of any crazy fans; most was filmed in the mountains, with indoor filming in a huge warehouse in Charlotte so there wasn’t disruption in any main public areas.

7.      Besides North Carolina, what other locations served as a backdrop for Panem? What location served as the Rocky Mountain city of the Capital? The Hunger Games arena? 
To my knowledge all the filming was done in NC.  They may have done a few retakes or additional scenes in a Los Angeles studio but the bulk of the film was here. Most of the filming for the outdoor arena was done in the countryside at night because of weather.  They also had at least 7 sets in the warehouse in Charlotte, such as the house scenes, the train and the training arena.

8.      The ornate and elaborate costumes of the tributes and Panem’s elite Capitol-dwellers are practically stars themselves.  What special considerations did you have to take to transport these types of props and costumes?   
The majority of the costumes and wigs were actually made by local stylists in Charlotte. They had an army of seamstresses/hair dressers and makeup artists there the entire shoot. They did have to bring in an additional 20 extra hair and makeup assistants for shooting the final parade in Panem which was filmed downtown Charlotte.  One pivotal costume that had to be transported was Katniss’ “FIRE DRESS” that she wears when she’s first introduced in the capital. This was quite a production as it was an expensive and delicate dress that had to be flown in from California!
9.      Were you able to see the set? What was that like experience like? Was it your first time on a film set?  Yes I was able to visit the set in Charlotte.  It was an amazing as it was the first true set I have been on.  It was quite surprising to me how much is now done on computers as the actual set seemed quite basic.  Probably my favorite part of visiting the set was seeing Woody Harrelson’s trailer “hippy trailer”.  I gave it this nickname because he is an extremely environmentally conscious person. He’s a vegan and requires that all of his costumes be made out of special “green” material.   Another thing that really amazed me was that I brought my nephew from Ireland on set with me and he was bragging to his friends back home.  The fact that during filming it had already developed a following overseas really blew my mind.

10.   Did you get to have any one on one contact with the stars of the movie? Any particularly positive experiences from that?  
Not really.  I mostly spoke with someone from the production team. I did get to speak with Jennifer Lawrence once when she called to confirm her ticket.  She was very nice.

11.   Any word on the rest of the franchise? Will you be doing their travel? If so, do you know where Catching Fire will be taking place? 
All I am hearing right now is gossip but given how popular it’s become I don’t think there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that they will film the remaining 2 books. Obviously I am hoping they will invite us back to do the travel for the remainder of the trilogy.  We worked very hard for this production.  I have heard rumbling that a good portion may be filmed in Hawaii.

12.   Any other fun stories from the production that you would like to share?  
It was an amazing experience and I have made lifelong friends, we made an amazing team that just seemed to work really well together.  We remain in touch today.  I have also received wonderful letters of recommendation from production and was recommended to the North Carolina production offices as a preferred vendor when booking production travel in NC.  I’m hoping this is just the beginning of my career in the big Hollywood production industry!

Have more questions? Feel free to reach out to Marnee at ( 

(Photo: michi003 on Flickr)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Insider Interview: James Smith, Photographer

A few weeks ago, we shared some info on the photography tours that Insight Vacations has recently added to their collection. Since then, we’ve met the professional photographer who will be on hand during one of those trips, James Smith. James, who also writes a travel/photography blog (we’re partial to this post about travel agents!), talks with us today about photography tips and his favorite places to shoot in Europe. James has worked in the travel industry for years as a cruise ship photographer and videographer. Now, he’s sharing his knowledge with guests who are passionate about improving their own vacation photography.

photo: Insight Vacations
What camera equipment is worth the baggage fees?
It entirely depends on what kind of photography you're interested in. There are some remarkably good pocket cameras that can make some excellent prints. Even some mobile phones are more than capable. However to get the most of your images, I would bring a digital SLR camera, a mid-range lens (the one that came with the camera will be fine) and a flash for portraits and evening events. A tripod is very useful for low-light shots where the exposure is slower and can blur the photo. It's also great for making panoramic landscape images that need to have a steady horizontal axis. There are lots of tripods that are both lightweight and compact.

They say the best time to shoot is dawn and dusk, for the subtle lighting conditions. Will there be concessions made during the tour to make sure photographers have a chance to shoot during these times?
Great photos are achievable at any time of day, though the strongest contrasts are when the sun is at its lowest. There will be times after the tours for shopping and photography.

The guests can feel free to get up bright and early before breakfast to get a few shots in, though they should be careful not to miss the coach!

Do you have any tips or easy changes that people can make to bring their photos to the next level? What are some common mistakes or pitfalls that budding photographers should avoid?
(1) Never delete a photo from the preview on the back of your digital camera; wait until you see it full size. It might be worth saving or editable to become something special. (2) Always have a spare battery, memory card/film and lens cloth. (3) Take plenty of shots and shoot your subject from different angles. Move around it/them and pick your favourite.

In the destinations of the tour you’re part of, what are your favorite scenes & subjects to shoot?
I'm really looking forward to Rome. Although I've been previously while working for Princess Cruises, it's such a beautiful city and there's enough to keep a Photographer of any level busy for years. I'll have to bring a few memory cards, plenty of batteries and keep snapping. The Vatican often stop people bringing tripods and big equipment in, though the common digital SLRs are so common-place I wouldn't expect any issues.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, James!
For more information on this trip, call your FROSCH travel agent, or visit

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hotel safety & savings tips

Many corporate clients are operating on a tight budget for business expenses, and part of my job is finding the best rates for flights and hotels for travelers. The flight part is easy--it is the hotels where there is a gray area.  Anyone can search online for a cheap rate, but many do not take into account location and safety issues that should be a part of the decision for choosing where to book.  I stand firmly that I will not book any hotel that I feel is unsafe; be it due to location, or type of hotel/motel.  Sure the "X" hotel is cheaper and in the area they want to stay, but not only is the area unsafe, but the property has doors that open to the outside like a motel.  Why even risk it?  And lets not even have the conversation of bedbug possibilities…

Safety is important, and below I've outlined some guidelines to consider for when you travel and stay in a hotel:
  • If possible, choose national hotel chains with indoor room entrances
  • Use your business card for your luggage tag inserts, never your home address
  • Ask for 2 keys when checking in so the perception is you will not be alone
  • Avoid staying on the ground floor and when possible, choose a room close to the elevator
  • Use your deadbolt when in the room
  • NEVER use the "clean my room"  or "pre-order breakfast" door hangers
  • Always put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door when you leave the room
For the best rates on hotels, at FROSCH we have various vendors we use for below market rate at many hotels including the major chains.  This is another perk of using a travel agent, as you will receive preferential rates for not only hotels, but car rentals, vacation packages, and various other travel expenses as well.  Often, even if the nightly rate you receive is the normal published rate to a hotel, FROSCH has relationships with many hotels whereby we can provide you with special amenities including early check in and late check out, complimentary breakfasts, and room credits.

By Debra Burman-Gisby.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Travel tip: safeguard your luggage!

What an easy and simple travel tip to protect all your stuff if you're checking a bag for your flight. Note: those zip ties can be purchased at Target and grocery stores, too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Graffiti hotel

Would you stay in this crazy hotel room? It's in a hotel called Au Vieux Panier in Marseilles, France.  Every year, the hotel offers up a blank canvas in the form of blank hotel rooms to local artists and designers who let loose their paintbrushes (or, in this case, spray paint nozzles) to create a work of art.

In this case, the artist embraced the unexpected by offering up a high-contrast, unbalanced room: half chaotic street art imagery, half quiet, clean white. Could you get a good night's sleep in this room?

(via Honestly...WTF)

Friday, March 9, 2012

A good rule of thumb

I have a mantra for my corporate clients and that is "Check in the day before your flight… do not leave for the airport unless you have checked in online!" Repeat 3 times daily and you will never miss another cut off to a flight and be denied boarding, or worse, have your ticket suspended.  I have had clients at the airport trying to check in for their flight at the cutoff and be told, "Sorry, we'll put you on the next flight," even though they had plenty of time to crawl to the gate.  

I have literally had clients call me from the car in a panic as they did not abide by the mantra and they encountered traffic or an accident on the way to the airport and were sure they'd miss their flight.  The worst part is many low fare tickets today require you check in and or cancel before flight time or your entire ticket is suspended and of no value.  In essence, you have no ticket anymore and need to purchase a new one at today's price.  

Every ticket has fare rules, but the average flier doesn't bother to understand what they've purchased other than its "not refundable." When you purchase a ticket from FROSCH the basic fare rules are printed on your itinerary, but lets face it, who reads all that when you get your confirmation.  I cannot stress enough to treat every reservation as if it had the most restrictive fare rule, whether it does or not.

If you did not check in and you are not going to make your flight, your corporate agent can do one of two things; if it's within an hour of flight time we can go online for you and check you in, or cancel your segment and rebook you for the next flight, hopefully with a same day confirmed change (which is free for many status fliers depending on the airline), for only $50/$75 rather than a $150 change fee plus fare difference.  These same day confirmed options may or may not be available, dependent on the flight's sales capacity.

As a corporate agent I'm like a "mama bear" to my clients, as I know they travel so much they can't keep on top of the small details with regards to their travel and that is why they pay me to do it for them.  At least twice a week I get that panicked call, "I'm going to miss my flight and I didn't check in!!"  But they know I have their back and appreciate what I do, even when they get my inescapable lecture for not heeding to the mantra!

By Debra Burman-Gisby
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