I’ve Had Brighter Ideas

Posted on by Zach Billings
Categories: In My Shoes, Internal Combustion Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nissan GT-R HDRWhen was the last time you sat, legs dangling over the road and both hands occupied, in the trunk of a minivan as it bounded down a narrow road at 40mph? For me it was in fall of 2010, with five grand in camera equipment in my hands. What was between me and the $80,000 supercar 6ft away? An unbuckled seatbelt.

In fall of 2009 we stocked in a 2010 Nissan GT-R at work. After a full year sitting on the dealership lot, we decided we needed a new way to get rid of it. We started GTR Giveaways, a website made to raffle off the GT-R. All profits would go to charity and the invoice price would be recouped to cover the cost of the supercar. The raffle was set up so that 3000 tickets would be sold at $50 each, and one lucky winner would take home a brand new GT-R.

In order to promote GTR Giveaways, we decided to make a promotional short film with high quality video and interesting footage of the car on and off the road. We started by filming static shots and a few on-the-road shots from the back of an SUV. As my department and I started surfing through our footage, we realized we needed something more interesting. We referenced the popular British motoring show, Top Gear, for ideas.

What we came up with, was the idea that I would hang from the trunk of a Nissan Quest as the GT-R drove just behind the camera car. In my hands was the department’s 5DMkII DSLR on a Merlin steadicam. It requires two hands to operate the Merlin with the 5D on it. This meant I would have to sit with my legs hanging out of the car and I would have to lean all the way forward so I could film right in front of the GT-R. I’ve had brighter ideas, to be sure.

To add a light degree of safety, I used one of the seatbelts from the third row of seats in the Quest. I extended the seatbelt to the desired length, then yanked on it to make it lock. I put the seatbelt strap across my shoulder so that, so long as I was applying pressure against it, it would stay locked. The dilemma was that if, even for a moment, I released pressure, it would unlock and I would be unrestrained. Not thrilled about the prospect of face-planting into the bumper of a GT-R, I did my best to keep the seatbelt locked. The maneuver was not without scares.

Short of, maybe, the Top Gear camera crew, I’m fairly confident no one else has ever done what I got to do. I got to watch a GT-R driving at 40mph from a mere 6ft away, with nothing but air separating us. It was a special moment whenever I took a brief break from the mentally and physically strenuous filming. The end result was well worth it.



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