Story By: Evan “Evo” Yates
Photography By: Andrew Link
The Gymkhana films featuring Ken Block and his rally rides going on tire-shredding escapades have always proved entertaining to car guys of all backgrounds. But to those not exactly interested in rally-car racing or Ford Fiestas, there’s been a bit of a disconnect. With the Hoonigan team now at the helm, Gymkhana Seven has shattered expectations, setting itself apart with American muscle and some unbelievable locations.
Although the story behind the film’s main character—the 845hp AWD 1965 Ford Mustang “Hoonicorn”—is fascinating, the build process has been explained to the teeth (Google it!). What hasn’t been explored is the pink elephant in the room while watching the 12-minute flick: How the hell did they pull it off? For starters, the Hoonigan team chose to expose the grittier side of Los Angeles in the film as opposed to posh Beverly Hills.
“Movies like Training Day and video games like Grand Theft Auto were our inspiration,” explains former RIDES editor-in-chief and current Hoonigan co-founder and chief brand officer Brian Scotto. After locations were scouted, locking them down was a whole other animal. Thankfully, using previous Gymkhana films as a testament to their professionalism, and having the proper production team on deck, the Hoonigans were able to literally shut down Los Angeles. “We worked with a company called Logan Productions that were already trusted by the city to secure locations and permits,” explains Scotto. “It took over six months to finally lock down everything.”
Gymkhana Seven was filmed over the course of five days, shutting down streets and even freeways with help from the boys in blue. And although a cruiser is the last thing you’d want to see while hooning, having the cops visible in the production was actually part of the concept. “We have a brand responsibility. Showing the presence of police reminds people that this is a controlled situation,” says Scotto. “The last thing we want is for some kid to hurt himself trying to recreate what Ken is doing.”
The film utilized more than 50 GoPro HD cameras mounted either in or around the car—as well as attached to drones—and seven RED professional-grade cameras, ultimately netting 27 terabytes of footage to sift through. “It’s weeks’ worth of footage,” says Scotto. And among those terabytes of digital video are countless takes, which is something the Gymkhana haters have always highlighted. “Ken ends up taking a lot of flack on the Internet for not doing everything in one take,” says Scotto. “But what a lot of people don’t realize is it’s on the production side, not the driver. If he has to do it 10 times to get the best angle, we’re going to do it 10 times. Other shots, like the Randy’s Donuts scene, we did in one take.”
After completion—unlike other brands that attempt to force footage down the throats of America via paid advertising—the Hoonigans stayed true to the Gymkhana formula: If it’s good enough content, it will go viral.
“We could either spend the money on the marketing or spend it on making a better product,” says Scotto. “It needed to do well on its own. That’s the strength of viral; if you make something good, it will go.” And with each Gymkhana film amassing 20 million views at a minimum, the Gymkhana series isn’t going anywhere—especially with the Hoonigans behind the wheel.