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The second annual Jalopnik Film Festival kicks off at the Classic Car Club Manhattan on Wednesday November 5th 2014. The festival moves to Williamsburg at Nitehawk Cinema for film premieres. Tangent Vector’s APEX: The Story of the Hypercar has its world premiere. Based on the trailer, APEX should be a fantastic film. Volvo enthusiasts will be most interested in watching the premiere of Ignition written by Casey Phillips and produced by 8112 Studios. Check out the trailer for this year’s festival:
Soon after the winning script announcement, a friend connected Douglas Sonders from 8112 Studios with me to help find a suitable Volvo P1800. Within a day of reaching out into the swedespeed community, we had identified three great P1800s for the film. Thank you to each of the Volvo owners who contacted me. Before we could finalize a decision, Volvo Cars North America informed Douglas that they wanted to use a red P1800 owned by John Holtzapple, President of Volvo Club of America. John’s P1800 was featured in Season 3 of Jerry Seinfeld’s online show, Comedians in Cars and Coffee. (http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/tina-fey-feces-are-my-purview ) It is a beautiful Volvo that John has owned for several decades.
Three production companies collaborated to bring Casey’s story to life: [email protected] , 8112 Studios and The Focal Range. For more than 12 hours, I watched a crew of 28 professionals setup, film and modify the script on the fly when dialog did not flow as well as expected or when a certain bolt on the distributor would not break loose. As I spoke with the crew, several from The Focal Range were from the DC Metro area and 8112 founders Nicholas Cambata and Douglas Sonders were from Northern Virginia just a few miles from our swedespeed office.
The Call Sheet for the general crew and production was 6:00am on an early October morning. At 5:30am the crew departed from a very interesting Ramada Inn that embraced a literal open door policy. Filming took place at a large, red barn in rural New Jersey. The location scouts made a masterful selection. The landscape was picturesque offering the perfect backdrop for this story. Once on site, the production was completely self-sufficient with power generators, cameras, a crane, laptops, a printer, large and small lighting, scaffolding, communication headsets linking the crew, a make-up artist, delicious food, a fog machine, and yes, a Port-O-John.
This experience has given me a new appreciation for filmmaking. The process is truly an art that requires a vision, patience and a team focused on storytelling. There is a tremendous amount of planning. For example, for one shot the crew spent 30 minutes setting up for what appeared to be less than 15 seconds of film. From a viewing monitor, the script supervisor, Emily Carragher, followed a detailed notebook and if something in the shot was off or did not appear correct on camera, she communicated to the team. Multiple takes for a shot were common. As an outsider, the process of bringing this Volvo story to life was fascinating.
I met freelance makeup artist Mena Childs, owner of Xcel Makeup Artistry ( www.xcelmakeup.com ), also from the DC Metro area. Through word of mouth, she found 8112 Studios and was hired for “Ignition.” The Directors determined a look for the characters while Mena asked many clarifying questions. When I first encountered Mena, she was mixing makeup to match the consistency of motor oil. I looked at what she had mixed and it was very close. We walked to my XC90 where I pulled the dipstick to show her oil. She took several photos and meticulously studied the oil. Within a few minutes she had updated her makeup mixture and it was perfect. She is a true artist with a passion for an attention to detail.
Each member of the crew focused creating the ideal environment through which the actors revealed the story. Joe Rose played the role of Grandpa. Both he and Kyle Colin as Erik brought the script to life. John Holtzapple and I watched in wonder during the emotional scene when Grandpa first talks to Erik about the P1800. The creaky old barn was eerily silent as Joe sat on the stool and spoke his lines. It was a powerful moment and I look forward to seeing the final cut.
When you watch the barn footage, take note of the background set design. This barn was completely empty before Production Designer, Amanda Deprez and Art PA, Tasha O’Dell applied their incredible talent. Notice the old chairs hanging on the wall, bales of hay, the American flag in the corner, the hubcaps on a support beam and spider webs on a ladder propped against a wall – all of these elements were added to the barn. The swedespeed contributions to the scene were a few Volvo blue boxes on the table.
The star of the film is John’s beautiful, red P1800. Looking as if it just rolled off the assembly line, this charismatic Volvo was given every precaution. Douglas insisted extreme care be taken in and around the car. For example, to simulate dust, the production staff used non-abrasive brown flour that would not scratch the paint. Around 6pm, the crew was setting for the scenes around the engine, to include the installation of the distributor on the 1800’s four-cylinder engine. While the crew broke for dinner, Douglas and I attempted to remove the distributor. Like all good parts, the second bolt would not break loose and as a result we were unable to remove distributor. We could see a look of concern on John’s face and we decided not to try and force the bolt. After some discussion, Douglas and Director Nick Cambata, decided to alter the script and use the cap, rotor and plug wires as the parts to be installed enabling the ignition system. After dinner, the crew continued to shoot around the P1800 until well past 11pm.
Everyone on the crew performed his or her job with humor and professionalism; with the emphasis on humor. When not directing scenes, Nick was talking with Douglas and the cameraman about how they were going to cover the next scene, then with the actors and others on the crew. The team kept busy the entire day and I want to thank each of them for their hospitality. I enjoyed chatting with John about all things Volvo and I know he was excited to have his car in the film. I look forward to watching the final cut and the Behind The Scenes(BTS) footage. Making a film is hard work but the result can be something memorable. Thanks to Volvo for getting behind this project. Check out the gallery on the right side of this article for more behind the scenes related photos.
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