Lewis Fenton, Executive Producer of Tattoo Highway, explains the challenges and novelty of filming a TV show on a large traveling bus.
Much of this show takes place in Thomas' bus as he travels across the country tattooing. What unique challenges did filming on the road present?
Lewis Fenton, Executive Producer, Tattoo Highway: Three words: B-U-S. The bus, despite the numerous upgrades and tune-ups prior to the trip, can only go about 50 miles per hour downhill, and can barely go uphill at all. It overheats and breaks down constantly. Some of this made for good content on screen as it was extremely frustrating for the cast, but it also made our lives miserable off-screen.
How difficult was it to get people to be tattooed on camera and how did you chose the individuals you wanted to feature?
LF: A lot of people remember Thomas from his days on Inked and have continued following Thomas on his websites. When our casting department contacted people who had reached out to Thomas through his websites and spread the word that Thomas was making this unique journey, the response was huge. We combed through all the submissions looking for a combination of two elements: 1) a beautiful and original tattoo idea and 2) a compelling story. Ideally the client has both. We never had any issues at all with filming the clients. They were psyched to be a part of this odyssey. The cameras just made the event more memorable for them.
What was the idea that originally inspired the show?
LF: A while back, Thomas completed a big order for his clothing line and had $30,000 in the bank. That same day he came across this crazy pink tour bus on an online auction site for $28,000. Nuff said! He called me after the purchase to explain he was taking his tattooing on the road, and wanted to know if I thought it would make for an interesting show. He was going with or without the cameras.
What are some of the myths associated with the tattoo industry and how do you feel Thomas has debunked them in this show?
LF: The sheer number of people that have tattoos has done a lot to destroy many of the stigmas. No one with any awareness still considers tattoos to be unsafe or only for social outcasts. What makes Thomas so interesting is that he shatters the stigma that tattoo artists are all angry and unapproachable people. He has an incredible ability to connect with any type of person in any type of situation in a very personal way. His ability to associate with everyone from very religious families to hardcore gangsters is what makes him so compelling as a character.
How do you feel that Tattoo Highway separates itself from past series to explore the tattoo industry?
TS: With Tattoo Highway, we discovered that actually being in the client's environment, sometimes even in the client's home, enhanced the experience for both the client and the artists. Some of the tattoos became extremely emotional affairs in a way that would never occur in a shop lit for television and the artists just punching in every day.