Friday, May 28, 2010

The Memoirs

The race had long been forgotten by most historians by the year 2000. There were a few books published and of course the three memoirs of the teams that finished: Schuster for the Americans, Koeppen for the Germans, and Scarfoglio for the Italians. Most of the printed sources we found were in English but the German story by Koeppen had never been translated from cover to cover. Kerrie and I had just been in Berlin at the History Producer's Conference and met the film liaison officer for the Canadian Embassy. She in turn introduced us to Miriam. After a few notes back and forth she was on board: translating the book, and confering with Herr von Siemens in Munich. Herr von Siemens was a Protos collector and a bit of an authority on the German point of view. In the end I flew to Munich to oversee the interview but Miriam actually conducted it, all in German ... and then provided us with an English translation for editing. It was during that visit that we visited the Siemens Protos archives and were given 10:1 plans of the original Protos designed for the race ... but that is another story.

Early in the research stage we discovered Jeff Mahl, the great grandson of the American driver/mechanic George Schuster. We met with him several times in Florida and Buffalo. In the end, we used the unpublished memoirs of Schuster in the film as it felt more authentic than the Schuster/Mahony book.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In the Beginning

It was during the winter of 2000 that Ray and myself started chatting about the race after a commercial shoot. I had heard of the Greatest Auto Race but knew very little about the details. Ray had been a fan since he was 12 years old when he read George Schuster's brief memoir. I liked the idea and decided to do some research. Afterall, if we were going to do a film we would need to have it completed for the 100th anniversary ... and we would need the research to tell the story.

And it started. The internet was able to tell me the story, but mostly from the Schuster point of view. We did find Scarfoglio's and Koeppen's memoirs which we purchased. We did find a relative, Jeff Mahl, of George Schuster. We started piecing it together. Yes, there was a story here but we would need massive amounts of Photos (which we did not know if they still existed), any motion picture footage (which we heard had been shot as news reel footage), interviews with historians ... oh, and picture cars for the actors to drive "around the world in." By the end of 2000 we had decided to make this film ... or at least follow it as far as we could. As the research process began, producers started looking for funding/broadcasters ... and doing up the budget.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1908 Greatest Auto Race: In the beginning...

The Greatest Auto Race on Earth took place in 1908. Today, it's hard to even imagine what these men went through as they travelled from New York, across the USA, across Japan, Mother Russia, Germany, and on to Paris. The film The Greatest Auto Race on Earth is a documentary we produced to advance the story and tell this fantastic adventure story to a new audience.

We're going to try to let you know how the film was made. One of the interesting details is in the construction of the Thomas Flyer and German Protos replica cars. Yes, we built exact full scale running replicas of the cars. If you look at the photo closely, you'll notice that the brakes are not period but modern GM disc brakes. This was, of course, for safety. The challenge was to mount hand-made (by Dale Anderson at Anderprop) wooden artillery wheels to the discs. This was ingenously designed out of foam core, then a CAD drawing, and then made out of steel using a computer assisted cutting system. So, we have a safe car ... but they are not period and some of the brass era enthusiasts would see that; as a result, through careful editing, Computer Graphics by Rat Creek, and colour correction the disc brakes never appear in the film. The cover of the DVD case had the discs Photoshopped to appear as old school riveted drums.

But, why don't we go back to the very beginning ... January 2000.