The Triple Nickel From Behind The Camera
Photography by Saam Gabbay
Besides my long time love of motorsports, what really enticed me to make this film was rather unexpected: it was Stacie’s speaking cadence. The way she enunciates words, where she puts her pauses, and her descriptive language have such a particular beat, texture, and signature. My friend Mick says it’s “matter-of-fact romantic”. I thought it would be great to have her describe her world on film.
I’m a fan of motoring of all types. Vehicles have been shot in every conceivable way, and I think it’s challenging to bring a new angle to the table…and that’s what we tried to do.
I particularly enjoy doing observational documentaries. I believe that making work is a partnership, whether that’s openly agreed upon or not. People come together and bring their skills and superpowers to the table to get somewhere. I very deliberately try to create a curious space during filming, where even my own preconceptions are set aside—if for a moment—to make room for the story to emerge. Stacie was very generous in allowing her inner workings to be expressed in that space, and I was thrilled to be able to capture that window into her life.
Once in production, we have a combination of preparation and chasing rabbits! By preparation, I really mean having faith in one’s own capabilities that instincts will take over, instincts honed over years of experience. And knowing full well that we have no idea if wind and weather or machine and human will collaborate with us when we show up with cameras. Inside the uncertainty and an empty canvas there’s a sense of nausea, really, and I believe the creative process is a conversation focused on helping to reveal that which needs to be revealed, and having faith, or at least hope, that the story will present itself.
What I’m trying describing is essentially improvisation, which is very different from “winging it”. Improvisation for me is the practice of bringing one’s skills and instincts to the table, along with curiosity for all others involved.
Luckily, this was one of those productions where we had lots of open doors. In El Mirage, I was psyched to have my close friend Spencer with me who is an expert driver and has a great filmmaking sensibility. On the lake bed, It felt like the three of us were in a dance, me with the camera, him driving, and her on the motorcycle, developing more trust and taking more risks. Stacie’s boyfriend, Jim Downs, helped cover Utah and has a storied background as an author and producer. And yes, Greyhound did its just-in-time delivery magic.
Then, it was up to the Petrolicious Video Editor, Nadia. We spent time collaborating together on how the different storylines would be woven into the film.
This sort of filmmaking is so naked in a sense. Very little equipment, and very little in the way of production planning. I think it created a deeper sense of connection and appreciation for all involved, and it seems to have ended up being something that is as much about the heart as it is about Stacie’s new engine. There are a few scenes I love watching even after 100 viewings, graceful things that happened when Spencer and Stacie were speeding past each other (with me leaning out of the camera car completely covered in a powdery dust from the lake bed).
On a personal note, it’s so great to get to know someone this way, which I find similar to taking a walk in a new city or listening to an album from start to finish without multi-tasking on other things. I listened and observed Stacie, and as a result learned about someone who was driven by her values and, importantly, open about her process. And she did all that in a way that was inspiring.