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Breakneck Barcelona: Turning City Streets into Race Tracks

Palma Pictures, 4 months, 3 weeks ago

EP at Palma Pictures Michael Nouri takes us behind the scenes of Pennzoil’s ‘Joyride’ short

Breakneck Barcelona: Turning City Streets into Race Tracks

Since launching online last month, Pennzoil’s ‘Joyride’ has accumulated over one million Youtube views.The short film, created to highlight the benefits of Pennzoil, sees a Ferrari 488GTB take a 660-horse power ‘Joyride’ round the city of Barcelona. Executive Producer at Palma Pictures Barcelona, Michael Nouri, discusses how the shoot was made possible.

Q> What was the brief for the project?

MN> The brief was to show off the performance benefits of Pennzoil in a vehicle traversing an urban area at high speeds. There was no solid location in the initial brief so we had to be flexible. Our main consideration when choosing the setting for ‘Joyride’ was to make sure it spoke to both Pennzoil and the car brand chosen. We had our scouts out all over Spain, looking at a large diversity of locations; Madrid, race circuits, airport hangers, ports. The final decision was to take the shoot into the heart of Barcelona, demonstrating a contrast between cityscape and fast driving tracks.

Q> Was the car model used chosen to suit the location?

MN> The client chose the car (a yellow Ferrari 488 GTB) for the spot and then we shaped the location to the car. Other films in the Pennzoil series had featured American muscle cars but the Ferrari was chosen due to its high performance on Pennzoil. We ensured the location would suit the rapid speeds the car would be travelling at, as well as aligning with both Pennzoil and Ferrari’s brand perceptions.

Q> What aspects of Barcelona made it a perfect fit for both brands and the film brief?

MN> There is a real diversity of modern architecture, traditional streets and residential areas in Barcelona that gave an interesting variation to the backdrop of the joyride but also allowed for high-speed driving. However the benefits of shooting here are also matched by the fact that, unlike a rural or industrial area, there were a lot of restrictions around when and how we could shoot. But our location manager was fantastic and made sure we were in areas in which we could really push the shoot to the limit.

Q> Did the number of restrictions mean increased preparation and pre-production stages?

MN> The whole project started in November 2015, and was shot in January 2016. It all evolved organically from the initial treatment. You can never have 100 percent control on the day but we planned scenarios in advance as much as possible to reduce the amount of risks on the day. Our main challenge was going to be shooting in the residential areas of Barcelona. There are strict restrictions there on how fast you can travel by car. This is actually a result of the noises created at high speed, disturbing residents, and Ferrari’s have a pretty impressive roar on acceleration.

We had to work very closely with the authorities to ensure we adhered to these restrictions. The guys at Ferrari were very skilful at finding creative solutions to the noise without compromising the quality of the car and its movement, so this did give us some leeway on shoot days.

It’s a very delicate balance when orchestrating a shoot like this. On the one hand you need the client to feel confident that they have chosen the right place to film whilst also bearing in mind the wants and needs of the authorities and the locals.

Q> How long was the shoot?

MN> We had four shooting nights in total, beginning at sunset each day and finishing between 4am to 5am in the morning. Shooting in January, the night was much longer than it is now.  We’d be ready to shoot from 7pm, and we’d have lunch around 12am midnight and 2am. A very backward schedule to get used to!

The first shoot day was located out of Barcelona in Hospitalet which is an industrial suburban area – chosen as we could control the environmental conditions.

Day two, we were in the city.  This was the toughest day because we had the highest number of restrictions on the shoot as it was a residential area.

On the third day we took the shoot to an open space out of town in an industrial area to shoot drifting shots and interiors as well as the Tiptronic system. There are a fair few cockpit shots in ‘Joyride’. It was essential these were shot in a very controllable space like this.

On the final day, we took the whole company and crew 300km away to a private race circuit in Aragon. We arrived around 3 to 4pm, started shooting the box and the race track scenes, and finally the barrier scene. After that it was due time to get back to the hotel, get a beer and try to get some well-earned sleep!

Q> Sounds like you had to prepare your body clock before the shoot!?

MN > Yes it took me a good three days to adjust back to normal afterwards. Everyone needed their beauty sleep once we wrapped the shoot!

Q> What special equipment or skills were needed to pull it all off?

MN> We had three camera units, an aerial camera, a Russian arm (plus operating crew) and a camera unit on the ground to capture the footage.

There was also a professional precision driver, Rhys Millen. He was one of the best I’ve ever worked with and pulled off the stunts we needed to make the joyride as heart-racing as it was.

The agency also bought the editor in to advise on the shoot. It was particularly helpful to have him there as he was skilled at gauging the best angles and shots to catch the fastest impression of the car. In doing so, he was also able to show the client a pre-vis of the running footage. This meant we could manipulate certain shots in the residential area to make the car seem like it was going as fast as it was on track.

It was our role to build a strong and trusting relationship with the authorities (and everyone exposed to the shoot) to ensure there were no obstructions. In these type of shoots, the final decision is always down to the policemen on site. If they think the actions you are taking still disturb the public they can reduce what is outlined in the permit.

Funnily enough I have ended up working with the same policeman in Barcelona a few times on car shoots. I think it is important to make sure authorities and other parties feel like they are part of the family, as they could be part of your next project.

Q> It sounds like a real team effort. How important are maintaining these relationships?

MN> Most definitely. I believe filmmaking is team-work and it is important that we do everything in our power to make sure that people we work with, want to work with us. It’s a small industry here; there are maybe three or four top notch production services companies working on big jobs and at the end of the day we all work with the same tools – the same freelancers, location managers, gaffers, authorities and so on.

That’s why it is also so important to us to gain a deep understanding of the client and their project from the outset. That way we ensure a unique bespoke service that makes all the difference when it comes to using the tools available to us. At the end of the day it’s key to keep people motivated to work with you, especially in the busy season when the availability of certain professionals can make all the difference.

Q> Have you serviced many car shoots of this nature in Barcelona since your mainland office opened in 2015?

MN> We have shot cars in Barcelona but this project was exceptional for its speed.  It’s not every day you have someone asking to drive a Ferarri at 120kmph through the city. We have shot cars all over Spain. Recently we’ve shot with Mercedes Benz in Barcelona and for BMW in Madrid and South of Spain

We have had a great year this year and have had the opportunity to work on some exciting long-shoot projects. I’ve got real confidence in the work we are doing here on the mainland and we have some exciting projects coming up.

Category: Automotive , Services

Genre: Action , In-camera effects , Luxury , People , Scenic , Stunts