Just kidding, I also got popcorn, a t-shirt, 2 drinks spiled on me and the chance to chat with most the Jalopiniati. Oh also I met up with fellow Opponaut Dave Burnett( aka. "Puppyknuckles") and drove his 2012 Mustang 5.0, more on that later.
The opening party for the 2nd annual Jalopnik Film Festival(JFF 2.0 from here on out) was held at Classic Car Club Manhattan the night before the screenings. The winning submission from Volvo's contest was shown to the crowd and I was quite impressed. It was beautifully shot, the acting was excellent and the concept was clearly well thought out. Might have been a bit predictable but when it comes to automotive short films, you're not exactly re-inventing the wheel.
Now I didn't know a soul there which was a little awkward a first given that it seemed like much of the crowd was composed of Gawker employees. After the film was shown I spent most of my time looking for Doug because I wanted to talk him into letting me drive the Ferrari. Though I didn't see him, there were a number of guys looking very DeMuro-esque, I assume they were part of a fan club or something.
I did cross paths with Ballaban, Okulski, Hardigree, Musial and Spinelli. All of them were very friendly, probably because of the copious amounts of Blinker Fluid they'd been consuming. If there's one way to make sure a bunch of
automotive nerds enthusiasts have a good time at an event where most of the people haven't met, it's to make sure that there's no shortage of social lubrication. I'm glad this was the strategy because it totally worked, I had a great time chatting with the guys who are responsible for giving me an outlet for my automotive related ramblings.
I snapped a few pictures, chatted with a couple folks about Oppositelock and cars and who knows what else, the Blinker Fluid had taken hold rather quickly. Having waited in the longest men's restroom line in history and hors d'oeuvres in short supply, I decided to call it a night knowing full well that I'd be doing it all over again the following day.
I got to Nitehawk Cinema just shy of 6pm, enough time to snap a couple of shitty pics of the cars on the street and grab a drink prior to the 3 hour screening. I didn't recognize anyone there, apparently Tavarish was out on the street taking pictures, Andrew Collins was around as were the RCR guys but I don't have the slightest clue what they look like. I just went in, got my free t-shirt, a glass of tequila and sat down, ready to be entertained.
Some of the films being shown I had already seen given that I follow Petrolicious, /Drive and Regular Car Reviews like nearly deaf trust fund kids follow Phish.
I should mention that my expectations might have been a little high coming into this. My background is in film and I have a tendency to hold things to a very high standard. That being said I submitted two pieces to the festival and neither were chosen so I expected the work that had been chosen to be really good. I'd seen "Ignition" the night before but it was good to watch it in a theater with proper sound and ambiance.
The second film was "Nagoya Streets" which was a montage of lowrider cars in Japan set to a decent beat. Pretty cool I guess but not really my thing, I was glad they kept it short. Editing is everything in film and nothing kills a piece quicker than it being too long, something even the most amateur filmmaker should remember above all else.
The third film was Petrolicious' ode to the glorious Ferrari 250 GTO. I've watched this short many times on YouTube but there's nothing like seeing and perhaps more importantly, hearing, a film on a proper screen. Petrolicious is on another level when it comes to car content, the stories they tell and the cars they feature are hands down the best. It was an absolute joy to experience their work in that setting and it was easily my 2nd favorite moment of the night.
You might be saying to yourself, "but wait, if their work is the best then how can that be your second favorite moment of the night?! What are you even talking about?! Do you know what it means to be the best?! It means there's nothing better, nothing!"
Well here's the thing, while I love beautifully captured content, I love funny content even more. Just about anybody with quality camera equipment and access to some pretty vehicles can go out and make content that's just as good as Petrolicious. I'm not belittling their work, it's just the reality of the world we live in. They have a knack for choosing really interesting people to interview and for that the get my respect.
However, it's a lot harder to go out and make something great with not so professional grade equipment and lack of financial backing. It's why I like Doug's videos and why I think there's no excuse for big companies to be putting out subpar content(looking at you Edmunds, AutoTrader, Cars.com etc. etc.). What I'm getting to is why my favorite moment of the night is when "Ayrton's Wish"(good but felt like a PR film for his foundation and Sony)ended because RCR's BMW 330Ci video followed it.
Watching their amazingly amateur work on the big screen reinforced my belief that good writing and good audio are paramount when it comes to filmmaking. You don't have to have the fanciest camera or most insane shots to have a great piece or work. Budgets give you access to those things but a big budget isn't indicative of quality, just look at Michael Bay's career. The RCR guys make do with what they have and while they may eventually get a sponsor, giving them access to dollys, lighting packages and 4K cameras, I don't think they need any of that. Hell, the DIY nature of their videos is a big part of what makes them so fucking great, that and the hilarious, dead on breakdowns of many a cultural icon. They got my vote for the audience award, don't know if they won but that'd be pretty rad if they did.
Following the high of the RCR short was the low of the night. Remember earlier when I said editing is really, really important and that nothing kills a piece of work quicker than it being too long? Well "Where They Raced" was way too fucking long. Really interesting subject matter, especially given that I live in Los Angeles but goddamn, I felt like the thing was never gonna end! I'm not trying to be mean or belittle anyone's work but this was just not a festival quality film. Where RCR doesn't need good equipment to be relevant, this low quality Ken Burn's knock off needed everything. Better cameras, better direction, editing, lighting, audio, graphics. The only highlights were some of the people whose stories were told but even then, they were awkward and not engaging. I was glad I had my complimentary entree to eat during this film but that only took about 10 minutes out of what felt like an hour and a half.
When it finally did end, I felt like I'd been through the wringer. I was questioning my life choices, unsure if I was cut out to be part of the automotive world given that I just couldn't stomach such long winded pieces that rely heavily on nostalgia. Then a short about turbine trucks racing on the salt flats came on and my heart told my brain to shut up, just enjoy the ride.
And so I did.
Turbine Truck vs. Turbine Chopper, FY Racing and APEX were all visually stunning. APEX was the best looking piece of the night given that it was shot in 4K but the /Drive guys. It was a rough cut of a yet to be finished documentary so obviously it had some flaws but for the most part I thought it was damn good.
FY Racing told the story of what it's like to be an unsponsored rally team, something I've always found fascinating. The guys on the team were damn funny, there was a natural ease to being in front of the camera which goes a long way. Would be pretty cool to see a whole season of television devoted to these folks, not just the FY guys but multiple unsponsored racers.
Turbine Truck vs. Turbine Chopper wasn't really about anything but it did look really cool. The director was the first person to come up and introduce himself at the opening party so, kudos for being a nice guy with an appreciation for the areal camera work.
After the show was over I mingled around for a bit, part of me was still holding out hope to see Doug and the Ferrari but it was not to be. I snapped some more shitty pictures, swapped some business cards and then headed over to Skinny Dennis' to meet up with some friends that wouldn't know the difference between a Maxima and Avalon.
As I sipped on some unholy frozen bourbon treat I reflected on JFF 2.0 as a whole and if it'd been worth the trip. Travis had seemed surprised that I came out from California just to meet fellow Jalops and watch some content in a theater. While that had been part of the motivation for my cross country travel it wasn't the sole purpose. As is often the case with a trip, it's not the destination that's important but rather the journey. JFF 2.0 sparked the idea to go east for the week but so many other things made it worth it.
Prior to the festival I spent 3 days in Vermont with my family. I shot some driving footage with my old WRX(now under the care of my father) found my old Matchbox/Hotwheels collection(more on that soon), dug up some automotive artifacts and got to hang with my mom on her birthday. All in all I decided it had been well worth it to come out and I still had a whole day left in the city.
How I was to spend this day was decided later that night or early Friday morning, not quite sure. Either way, it was many drinks after my moment of reflection that Dave Burnett came and met me at the bar. I've been following Dave's on Oppositelock for awhile now and you should too. Anyway, when I first decided I was going to come east for JFF 2.0, I hit up Dave on Twitter and said we should shoot something with his Mustang.
Now I don't know about you but I think it's pretty damn cool that we live in a day and age when you can get in touch with a perfect stranger, propose that you meet up with the intended purpose being to drive their car. That this actually came to pass is a testament to human decency and makes me have some hope for the future. Mutually beneficial collaboration, it's a beautiful thing people.
With the knowledge that I had to get up and be useful the following day I said goodnight to Dave and his lovely girlfriend, headed for the Subway, desperate to avoid all temptations to get a late night snack before falling into a mellow coma.
When I finally awoke from my slumber I wasn't so much hungover as I was exhausted but there's really not much of a difference between the two at my age. A cup of $5 coffee and a $3 donut later I was ready for whatever was left of the day. Dave picked me up just as the clouds began to break and we headed to Greenpoint to a super secret riverside location.
Driving Dave's 5.0 affirmed my belief that the greatest pleasures in life are those of the simple persuasion. This car is positively spartan compared to most of the vehicles I've been driving lately and that added so much to the experience. No navigation, no lane departure warning, no heads up display, no bullshit. Just a big V8, a manual transmission and an aftermarket exhaust that'll make your pants shrink.
There's much more that I want to say about the 'Stang and my experience driving it around Brooklyn but I'm saving that for another article, one that'll be accompanied by a video complete with all the throaty exhaust noise ya'll can handle. Besides this piece has gone on far too long and I'm grasping at straws.
I do however have to keep my word and share one more bit of information. I told the RCR guys that I would ascertain "what this was the official car of" as they always do in their videos and after much deliberation I think I have an answer.
2012 Ford Mustang 5.0, the official car of catching your reflection in the mirror and confidently thinking, "yeah, I'm gonna be alright."