Tuesday, 22 June 2010

My first documentary

This blog has been quiet of late, but there’s just one reason for that: I have been planning and filming my first documentary film about drag racer, Nigel Holland of Aveago Racing. Nigel has Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT), a condition that affects the peripheral nerves causing motor problems and muscle wastage. It’s hereditary, very rare and he's had it all his life.

Nigel describes himself not as a disabled driver, but a driver with a disability. It’s an important distinction, because so far Nigel has taught me that to be a great drag racer (and he is), is it’s not so much about your mental attitude, but your attitude to life.

In this sense, Nigel is exactly the same as any other drag racer – they all share the same ethos and this is: ‘Why not? Have a go. You only live once.’

Well that and, ‘I want to go very fast, because fast is fun.’

Last Saturday I went with Rich from Cox & Jones to film Nigel race in the Nationals at Santa Pod. Nestled on a hill in the middle of Bedfordshire, Santa Pod is the spiritual home of British drag racing. This tailor-made two lane black top has drawn drivers from all over the world to race not against each other, but against themselves.

Think drag racing and you might think of two guys leaving the starting line to make it across the quarter mile mark first. But that’s not drag racing. That’s American Graffiti. That’s Hollywood. Drag racing is about racing against your dial in time. Before a run, a driver will say how quickly they'll complete the quarter mile. So if Nigel dials in 14 seconds, he has to get as close to 14 seconds as possible. A run of 14.1 or .2 is good. But if he races 13.9 he loses. I can't think of any other motor spot where you race against a pre-determined figure. It's pretty abstract.

The science of predicting your dial in time can run from simply sticking your finger in the air (to guess which way the win blows), to running all sort of computer controlled tech. One racer simply asks his 14 year-old son: 'he's never been wrong yet.' But essentially, the driver who knows his car best, wins.

People race all sorts of cars. On that Saturday there were pro teams who would think nothing of spending thousands on exotic fuel and then stripping their gleaming engine down to the pistons after each run. But there were also teams who were simply dudes with cars. All week they'd go to work until Saturday when it came to move the Megane away from the garage and roll out their lovingly restored American muscle car. Except the one guy who actually races his Megane. He was pretty good too.

This means drag racing is a very equal sport. Anyone can do it as long as they have a ride and a driving licence. Most of the serious teams started out as Run What You Brung enthusiasts. Or they got into it via junior dragging – racing the track from age eight in scaled-down cars capable of 80 miles an hour.

This 'have a go' attitude was everywhere at Santa Pod. The pits were full of teams who would think nothing of taking time from their busy schedules to tell you everything about their cars, their tactics or simply what they thought of the sport. I met at least two husband and wife teams. There were plenty of kids running around and a fair few were racing.

Other stuff:

  • Drag racing is loud. I mean louder than a Sunn O))) gig

  • Film on the track and expect to get covered in rubber and oil

  • If you're an idiot, like me and stand behind a car during a burn out, expect a faceful of gravel too

  • Get near a top fuel car, get sprayed with methanol

  • You will smell burning rubber for the rest of the week

  • You can turn a Fiat 125 into a drag racer

  • The jet car is about the scariest thing I've seen in a long time and whoever drives it must be as crazy as they are deaf

  • Some teams flavour their fuel – chocolate, grape, strawberry – there's no reason for this except it smells nice

Right now I have 5 DV tapes to upload and go through. The I have to work out how to put this film together. I'm entering a 26 second edit into the London Design Festival with 26 and IVCA. But I want to do a longer cut. I'm also filming again next month.

But I must say none of this so far would have be possible without Nigel Holland and his family and friends all devoting their time freely to what is essentially a personal project and my first film. Everywhere I went on Saturday, people could not have been more accommodating. It wasn't so much, 'why are you filming me?', more 'why aren't you filming me!' It was an incredibly positive place to be.

I must also say a big thanks to Jo Harris and Santa Pod Raceway who've made everything happen so easily. I couldn't have asked to deal with a more pleasant and reasonable bunch of people.

So better do a good job of the film then eh? No pressure.

Posted via web from the antigob

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Legoland 30-5-2010

Download now or listen on posterous
legoland_30_May.m4a (18900 KB)

This was an exciting practice; we're starting to nail the songs. That's not to say there aren't problems - sometimes we miss the beat/note, whatever. But these tunes are starting to feel whole and I have even started on my vocals. They're not great and you won't find any in the above podcast, but it's a start. Writing lyrics is such an interesting proposition; I've never had to write anything like 'em before. At the very least, it's good exercise for me as a writer.

But what's great here (I think), is we're starting to build pace, we sound exciting and at some points - especially with FD's lead at the beginning in 'splode - the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Of course that means we have to practice more, I have to write more and try and sing at least. I wish I could really sing, just like I wish I could really fix things. I think I'm definitely going to fall into the mumbling monologue school of crooning. Sorry Mum.

Legoland - Now We Are May (podcast)

  1. Das Rock
  2. 'splode
  3. D-note
  4. Nineseven

TN - Guitar

FD - Guitar

RJ -Drums

Posted via web from the antigob

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

King of Kong

Seth Gordon’s documentary, King of Kong follows Steve Wiebe attempt to break the Donkey Kong high score record, but it could almost be a Will Ferrell film. It has a classic Ferrell ‘bad guy’ – reigning record holder Billy Mitchell – a man with a hot sauce empire, a collection of patriotic ties and a particularly lavish mullet. Mitchell set the record in 1982 with a score 874,300 and considers his gaming career as his greatest achievement – second to his family of course. Not surprisingly his wolfish hackles are raised when newbie Steve appears on the scene with his Jimmy Stewart persona and 1,006,600 high score videotape.


Steve is not the luckiest man – his band never made it, the baseball career stalled and when he tried becoming a Boeing lifer like his daddy, well, he got laid off. But he’s a like able guy with doting kids and a wife who will do anything for him – even travel across the country to see him take the crown in a live Donkey Kong challenge.

King of Kong is not without its controversies. But who knew the world of video gaming was so exciting? I would have never imagined a scene so fraught with accusation, pious behavior and rampant ego. Definitely one to check out.

Posted via email from the antigob