Are Painkillers at Heart of Arctic Golf Trip Idea? Film Creator Vic Zast Isn’t Sure
(APRIL 14, 2011 – CHICAGO, IL) Vic Zast, a man who has spent a lifetime creating something from nothing, never expected his idea to drive from Chicago to the Arctic Circle for golf to be anything other than a fine time with buddies.
But as each layer of this fascinating tale began to reveal itself, he decided to make a movie.
The result is a documentary short film named Our Longest Drive – a journey of discovery to Inuvik – the farthest point north on the continent. Our Longest Drive will be taken by three retired men plus the ashes of a fourth, members of a Saturday morning golf foursome, this summer.
First, there was Await Your Reply, a novel by Dan Choan, which Zast read while flat on his back after open heart surgery – an incident in Choan’s book sparked the idea.
“It might have been the painkillers that clouded my thinking. But driving to Inuvik seemed so romantic,” he said.
Then research led to his realization that there was a golf course in Inuvik – so what if it’s only three holes, threatened by grizzly bears and cut out of the tundra, he thought.
“Golf must be a powerful agent to compel people in the Arctic to build a course,” Zast believes.
Finally, Zast received the encouragement of friends to make the movie – this is not something you’ll do again, they said.
“When Mike died, we all realized that everything could end tomorrow. Why not do this?” Zast concluded, referencing the fourth traveler who will be making the journey in an urn. Zast has no false illusions that producing the movie will be easy and understands that the endeavor poses risks.
“It’s all about believing in yourself and working hard to bring a good idea to life,” Zast said. He has never made a movie, but he’s the creator of some of the world’s best selling fragrance brands. Zast is also a sports writer, who invented a second career to keep active in his favorite pastime – thoroughbred horse racing.
After traveling 16 days, Zast and his band of travelers expect to play golf at midnight on the summer solstice, when the endless light of the long northern days make it seem like there’s no end to anything.
The car trip will span three time zones, seven US states, two Canadian provinces and two territories. The last 500 miles are on gravel road. The road has no emergency services or population centers but one – a way station where eight people live, serve food and pump gas.
“Will we make it? – that’s the question I expect our followers to ask” Zast said.
To Delight of its Unlikely Chicago Producers, Our Longest Drive Begins and Ends on the Golf Channel
Four buddies drive to the Arctic Circle to play golf. One of them is dead.
(CHICAGO, IL – October 1, 2012) About 9000 films are made in the United States each year. Of that number, fewer than five percent are screened. Nevertheless, three retired Chicagoans, with no film industry experience, and a 28-year-old director, making his first long form project, were able to beat the odds.
On Tuesday, October 16, the Golf Channel will begin airing a six-episode prime time television series of Our Longest Drive, the 5500-mile RV trip that the men took from Chicago to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, north of the Arctic Circle where the road finally ends, to honor their dead pal – the victim of complications from juvenile diabetes.
“Since selling my perfume company, I’ve kept busy with writing about horse racing. So I know about longshots,” said Vic Zast, the idea’s originator and Our Longest Drive’s leader. “When you come across a great idea, you’ve got to act on it,” he said about convincing his pals Jim Thompson, a retired ad executive, and Dan Johnson, a retired CPA, to join him on the junket.
Nobody recalls which of the three men suggested taking the ashes of Mike Allen along for the ride. “He played golf in our foursome every Saturday, so naturally it was only right that he’d accompany us,” said Thompson. “He was a heavy load while alive. This wasn’t that much different,” said Johnson.
In the Golf Channel series the men set out for the Arctic to play golf at midnight of the summer solstice on a grassless three-hole golf course. They tote Allen’s urn – a 10-pound cherry wood box – to every stop on the 17-day journey.
The 28-year-old director is Martin Rodahl, the president of his own Chicago-based film company named 71 Degrees North. Rodahl, a Norwegian by birth, spent time above the Arctic Circle as a child, so curiosity of what the Earth’s northern-most regions are like now quickly convinced him that Our Longest Drive was worth closing his business up for a month. He signed up on the spot when Zast told him about what the men were planning.
Rodahl’s four-man camera crew followed Zast and his buddies through seven US States, two Canadian provinces and two territories for almost three weeks of 12-hour RV travel, filming non-stop, at times through the night. Our Longest Drive is exceptionally well-produced, despite a very limited budget fueled in large part by contributions from friends and Kickstarter.com donations.
“We have nearly 400 hours of knockout footage, which can be a curse because of the time it took to go through it,” said Rodahl. Brian Sepanik of The Colonie, a Chicago-based post production house, serves as the series’ primary editor. “I never tire of seeing these guys and enjoying their antics, no matter how much film I watch,” said Sepanik.
Our Longest Drive premieres Tuesday, October 16 at 10:30 PM EDT on the Golf Channel. In keeping with the spirit of the production, the Our Longest Drive cast will host an invitation-only premiere party at the Gene Siskel Film Center, complete with red carpet arrival, an RV limousine and cold beer.
Collaboration of Chicago production companies on film about Arctic golf trip results in first network TV series for 71 Degrees North
Our Longest Drive, a story about three men who drive the ashes of a friend for one last round of golf, being televised Tuesdays at 9:30 PM Central on Golf Channel
(CHICAGO, IL – October 18, 2012) In producing his first network TV series, Martin Rodahl, the Norwegian-born Chicago filmmaker, assembled a coalition of Chicago companies that are stretching in new directions, too. Although the companies have worked for America’s leading companies and brands in the past, like Martin, Our Longest Drive, a six-week series running on Tuesday evenings this fall on the Golf Channel, represents a journey they haven’t taken.
“Our Longest Drive is my largest endeavor to date,” noted Rodahl, the owner of 71 Degrees North, the busy commercial and branded content production company that closed for a month last summer to document the travels of four retired men, one of whom was dead, to the Arctic Circle for golf on the summer solstice. “I loved the story behind this adventure and wanted to learn how life in the Arctic has changed since I spent time there as a kid,” Rodahl said.
Rodahl assembled a crew of three other men, all graduates such as him from Northwestern University’s film school, who accompanied him through seven US states, two Canadian provinces and two territories from Chicago to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada – a road trip by RV and Jeep that lasted 18 days and covered 5500 miles. He came home after 30 days with 400 hours of footage.
“It’s rare when someone embarks on his first long form work and has it picked up by a network,” Rodahl noted. “The Golf Channel is the perfect spot for this story about adventure, discovery, loss and legacy, and, oh yes, golf. The network saw in Our Longest Drive a way to extend its audiences beyond its core. The experiences of the characters and the wisdom of age they impart from one episode to another render the series important,” he added.
Although Rodahl admits he’s had excellent help from his collaborators, he served on the series in roles other than director and producer, including part-time cameraman, scriptwriter, editor and salesman. “I’ve been on Our Longest Drive for over two years now,” he said. “We finished a rough cut of a feature-length film before Golf Channel caught wind of our progress. Vic Zast, the originator of the idea, contact Golf Channel even before meeting me, but his plea for sponsorship went unheeded because he and his friends were unknown entities. I can’t take credit for making them the compelling characters that turned heads at the network, but had we not framed their activities in a fascinating story, they would have had 400 hours of home video.”
Zast, a horse racing journalist with a background in the perfume business, is happy with 71 Degrees North’s involvement and the Golf Channel outcome. “I know how difficult it is to place something on network television, and to do it at first try at age 67 is a dream come true,” he said. “I knew from the beginning that we had a good idea, even though I developed it on drugs while recovering from heart surgery. But we were lucky to find the one filmmaker who fit the job of telling our story like a glove,” Zast remarked.
Our Longest Drive premieres Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 10:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel.
Wide Angle Photography Key to Providing Youthful Slant to Retired Men’s Trek in Golf Channel’s New TV Series
Primetime Golf Channel series, Our Longest Drive, a Tour de Force for DP David Lassiter
(CHICAGO, IL – November 7, 2012) Our Longest Drive, this fall’s new hit from the Golf Channel, moved down roads not traveled in several ways, not the least of which is that the six-episode series uncovered the unique photographic style of David Lassiter.
Employing a variety of wide angle lenses, Lassiter, a 26-year-old Los Angeles-based freelance cameraman, managed to coax youthful exuberance from the travels of four post-retirement men, one who was dead, that made Our Longest Drive a commercial as well as artistic success.
Working as director of photography, Lassiter followed the Our Longest Drive characters through seven US States, two Canadian provinces and two territories, over 5500 miles for a game of midnight golf on a grassless course in the Arctic.
Director Martin Rodahl knew that he had the makings of a good story before engaging Lassiter’s services. But until Lassiter and he began plotting techniques for shooting, he wasn’t sure it would play well with audiences. It did.
“Martin and I talked fairly early on about how we could take the road trip genre of story-telling and turn it into something we hadn’t seen before,” said Lassiter, about why he became intrigued with the project. Rodahl and he met four years ago in their senior year at Northwestern University film school and have made about 30 TV commercials together while working professionally since.
“Our Longest Drive seemed like a project where I could experiment with wide-angle photography,” Lassiter explained. “There’s something about how, when you move with these wider lenses, the world rushes past you and you get the feeling that you’re dashing forward. There’s something young and fresh and rock ‘n roll about that, and it’s not something audiences would expect when you’re travelling with older gentlemen,” he said diplomatically.
Lassiter was joined by three other photographers on the 22-day shoot, all former Northwestern classmates, including Rodahl, who also worked a camera. The crew produced, on average, 25 hours of film each day. The four-man team accumulated more than 450 hours of footage, using primarily three wide-angle lenses. Nick Perron-Seigel and Jason Chiu were the other photographers.
“Our primary camera was a 12-24mm, but it was mainly set at 12mm,” said Lassiter. “We also had a 17-40mm lens for close-ups and an 8mm fish-eye for landscapes,” he added. Lassiter’s favorite shots using the wide angle cameras were in Episode 5. In this episode, called “Young Men,” the characters stop at the side of the road to drive golf balls into the tundra. “The footage captures the unbelievably grand vistas,” Lassiter noted.
Because the characters had a due date to meet – they chose midnight of the summer solstice for their tee-time, Lassiter’s crew had only one chance to capture the shots they wanted. Our Longest Drive was documentary by description and the cast kept moving to make their appointed rounds. In addition, after long days without a break in the shooting, Lassiter had to wake up several times during the night to change batteries on cameras working overtime.
Lassiter wanted most of all to take a shot of the never-setting sun as it traveled across the nighttime Arctic sky. “I got that shot at Eagle Plains, which was one location on the trip that got to me emotionally. We were at the end of civilization,” he said. Eagle Plains, Yukon has a population of eight people and lies a few miles south of the Arctic Circle on a 500-mile gravel road without services or Internet. Lassiter’s shot shows the sun starting out at the left of the frame and then dipping down to the horizon but never finding it before climbing back to a similar spot on the right.
Lassiter wants to do more long form work. He sees Our Longest Drive as a lesson as what can happen when you cede control and just show up without many pre-conceived ideas. Our Longest Drive is about serendipity. The only thing planned by the cast was the route. The rest is discovery, a quality Rodahl believes viewers will experience from Lassiter’s innovative photography.
“David’s camera work stands out in a production that’s at the top of the game in terms of story, script, characters, music and message,” Rodahl said.
Miami Composers Create Unique Music for Golf Channel TV Series about Golf North of the Arctic Circle
Our Longest Drive took the cast and film crew as far north as you can go. Series music score produced by two young men living as far south as you can go.
(Miami, FL – December 3, 2012) Florida is one of the first places you think about when you think about golf. So it’s not a surprise that Shawn Sutta and Adam Robl, two composers who are the co-founders of Audiocastle, a creative Miami, FL music post production house, were asked to write the music score for the new Golf Channel primetime hit series Our Longest Drive.
What is a surprise is that Our Longest Drive is about an RV trip that four retired golfers, including one who is dead, made to the Arctic Circle. Miami is as far away as you get from the Arctic on this continent, and Sutta and Robl, both in their mid-20s, are relative newcomers to film composing. To say the instruments they used were expected would be a stretch that’s as long as the 5500 miles that the series’ cast and crew members drove.
In their first year of film composing, the duo – alumni of the University of Miami’s School of Music – has scored music for a Special Olympics PSA, several documentaries and television commercials, and they are currently nominated for a Suncoast Emmy for their music on CBS’s Shark Week. For Our Longest Drive, Sutta and Robl used (and misused) an impressive arsenal of instruments ranging from xylophones and glockenspiels to charangos bowed like violins. They employed ukuleles and toy pianos as well as whistles, claps, snaps, wild singing and even beer bottles.
“One night, after a recording session, Sean and I were drinking beers when one of us blew into an empty bottle and got a nice tone out of it,” explained Robl. “We started tuning multiple empty and half empty bottles and a symphony followed,” he said. Robl and Sutta’s symphony of beer bottles ended up underscoring a scene of a train ride from Skagway, Alaska to Carcross, Yukon, Canada in Episode 4 of Our Longest Drive.
Audiocastle’s soundtrack for Our Longest Drive, which is entirely analog, covers a spectrum of emotion ranging from absurd and playful to deeply introspective, matching the masterfully-crafted story told in the Golf Channel series created by Martin Rodahl, a 27-year-old director who owns the Chicago-based film company 71 Degrees North. Rodahl worried at first about how he could tell the story of aging adventurers while keeping his series intriguing to young audiences, and he believed music could help him achieve that goal.
“Although it was important to have music that conveyed the danger associated with the men’s journey, I also wanted music that provided a light-hearted, youthful backdrop to the action. These are men acting like boys,” Rodahl said.
Rodahl cited one scene, in Episode 2 – in particular, one that takes place at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in which the men fumble with technology when trying to conduct a radio interview – as an example of how Audiocastle’s score was spot-on. “Considering shooting locations like Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada – as far north as the road goes, I didn’t expect to find the right music in Miami. But I did.”