Chicago Team Wrapping Effort For Doc Our Longest Drive
June 10, 2012 by Andrew Schneider
It’s cold in the Artic Circle. When three Chicago friends, Vic Zast, Jim Thompson and Dan Johnson set out on an adventure, being chronicled in the documentary project titled “Our Longest Drive,” they needed a director. They chose Martin Rodahl.
The project, which filmed last summer, followed three golf buddies who decide to drive the ashes of their friend to a three-hole golf course 5,500 miles from Chicago in the Canadian Arctic, the town of Inuvik. They plan to tee up at midnight on the Summer Solstice, the day when the light is endless and suggesting that, though their friend Mike is dead, some things never end.
A graduate of Northwestern University and native of Norway, Rodahl is no stranger to the northern climes. His grandfather worked for the U.S. military in Alaska and his father was born in Fairbanks besides. His grandfather did research on First Nations people of the Artic too.
So he pitched for the project and was selected. He current works independently through his production company, 71 Degrees North.
“It felt really weird because, on a spiritual level I was getting closer to my family,” Rodahl says. “That’s what attracted me to the project. Going north is like going home for me.”
The road trip covers 17 days, three time zones, seven US states, two Canadian provinces and two territories. It is Rodahl’s first feature-length documentary and explores the nature of friendship forged by these three men through golf that prompts the three survivors to undertake a journey to remember their lost fourth.
One of the interesting things was seeing how quickly the travelers got detached from their former lives,” Rodahl says. “They quickly grew used to the fact that their cell phones didn’t work and adjusted.”
That was in line with what they learned on the road: many people living along the way told stories of having cars break down in a remote area where repair parts took weeks to arrive and when they finally did, they had settled down and never left.
“That was a story we heard more than once,” Rodahl recalls.
They drew inspiration for the music from the road as well – as the trip progresses, music that’s local to each area will complement the original score composed by Shawn Sutta of Audiocastle.
“We wanted to make the road a part of our film,” Rodahl says. “So we embraced the music that comes from the cities and places we visited.”
The Our Longest Drive crew includes Director of Photography David Lassiter, a long-time Rodahl collaborator; Midwest cinematographers Mike Bove and Jason Chiu and documentarian Nick Perron-Siegel. Post production efforts have been spearheaded by Brian Sepanik, Bob Ackerman and Mary Caddy of The Colonie, audio mixing and sound design by Cory Coken of Noisefloor and color by Tyler Roth at Optimus.
They currently have a rough cut finished at one hour, 45 minutes and Rodahl says they’re hopeful they’ll have it done in time to submit it to festivals this summer with a goal to premiere in 2013.
As lead editor on the project, Brian Sepanik has had to wrangle 350 hours of footage across five cameras.
“It’s a massive post effort,” Rodahl says. “But I think it’s one of those things that, once in a while you come across the project that you recognize its potential from the state. In this case it was just too good an opportunity to give up and having support from all of our vendors has been crucial.”
It’s a very Chicago-centric production: most of the vendors are local, the three travelers are local and the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, issued a proclamation when they began the trip that was presented to the mayor of Inuvik at the final destination. The U.S. Ambassador to Canada even visited upon their arrival.
“I think it will end up being genre-defying,” Rodahl says. “Visually it’s just stunning. It was an amazing trip, beautiful and epic in size with a heart-warming story.”