When advertising a mountain lake spanning a 200-mile area that crosses state lines, it’s hard to encompass all the amenities and activities that Lake Tahoe has to offer. Drawing nearly 15 million visitors each year, Tahoe’s tourism is split into two regions: North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe South. The southern division recently rebranded itself as Visit Lake Tahoe, and hired long-time collaborator, Rachid Dahnoun, to produce a destination reel featuring a host of Tahoe’s seasonal attractions.
It’s pretty wild to see 10 years of work culminate into one minute of an edit. Because all of those productions were separate, every shoot was unique. But at the same time, it’s everything that makes Lake Tahoe what it is.
Rachid has been working and living in the Tahoe area for 20 years, balancing the time between the lake and his Bodega Bay, California home and office. He found his way to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority through an existing local resort client, who brought him in to shoot stills and direct videos.
The need came about to create motion assets alongside stills and I started building teams to do that. It’s actually how I got started in directing. We’ve shot I think 15 different productions separately over the seasons, highlighting different activities, and created what the client calls “a war chest of B-roll” that we work with.
From action shots speeding down snowy slopes to quintessential fall family shoots, Rachid and his team covered every type of activity in all four seasons of the year. At the onset of each project, he is very much a collaborator in the narratives, shot lists, and writing the creative brief. Then Rachid works on executing each aspect of production, including hiring all talent and crew.
We’ll sit down with the client and ask: “What do you wanna create this year? What’s missing? What activities haven’t been shot or need to get refreshed?” I think your collaborators can be some of your biggest assets. And of course, I’m not afraid to share my opinion, but I’m also not afraid of being wrong either!
Each video shoot took place over a 1-2 day period, working in the off-season (after Labor Day in September and before Memorial Day in May) to help minimize crowds. Switching between outdoor and indoor locations, the demands of the crew are always relative to the type of shoot. Lifestyle scenes are planned more acutely with specific shot lists for the talent to work with, while action shots — like a skier ripping above Lake Tahoe — leave room to play around with the movement and natural elements.
We don’t run big Hollywood style crews. Instead they’re anywhere from a four person team to as large as a 15 person team, depending on what’s needed.
Rachid’s background in action and landscape photography aids both his cinematography as well as his connections to professional adventure athletes local to the area. But coordinating expensive shots like the boat ride (seen above) can be nerve-wracking in terms of gear, rigging, and talent. Sometimes they have up to three boats on the water, one that is a part of the shoot, and another two for the client and crew. Over his 20-year career working in the Tahoe area, Rachid has built a team that he trusts to help navigate these dynamic and multifaceted shoots.
We’re rigging pretty big setups on moving boats, where you’re hanging a RED camera with a cinema lens on it over the side. So of course you don’t want that to go into the lake!
As a resident who has witnessed Tahoe grow, Rachid had a personal stake in the identity he wanted to help craft for Visit Lake Tahoe’s rebranding. His intimate relationship with the community and businesses that thrive year-round, help contribute to the energy and culture he highlights in the video. From 10 years of footage to 1 minute of film, Rachid captures the genuine beauty and adventure of this crystal blue gem tucked in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
I was really excited about the fact that we were able to craft the first major video asset for that release, which is gonna drive the whole thing forward. So I’m definitely proud of having a big creative say in what that looks and feels like.
See more of Rachid’s work on his website.