Ken Block Reveals Secrets Behind Gymkhana 5 -- ROAD TESTAMENT

Uploaded by drive on 19.07.2012


MIKE SPINELLI: Hey, welcome to Road Testament.
I'm Mike Spinelli.
You know me from things like the internet and also you know
somebody from the internet--
Ken Block is here.
Hi, Ken, what's up?
KEN BLOCK: Hi, Mike.
MIKE SPINELLI: Good to see you.
Thanks for coming by.
You just had a very good week.
We're going to be talking about Gymkhana 5, one of the
fifth of your videos.
But you want to really check at Ken's interview with Leo
Parente on Shakedown coming up later this week, and you
talked all about the motorsports angle stuff.
So it was really good, I just watched it being shot so I
know it's awesome.
So, Gymkhana 5, right-- so you're on the fifth one,
headed toward like a billion whatever views.
What made you choose San Francisco?
Was it the obvious Bullit stuff?
KEN BLOCK: Bullit is always an influence on something like
that, coming for motorsports and sort of
the marketing side.
Bullit is a reference I hear a lot.
But with the other Gymkhana films, they were all done in
private facilities that we were able to rent and have to
ourselves, but I'd always wanted to take that sort of
driving and take it into real city streets.
So the idea of doing San Francisco has sort of always
been there with us, but I didn't really know that it was
quite possible till we actually went up to scout a
location just outside the city.
We thought it was OK, but not good enough
for one of the videos.
So we were coming back into the city and the location
scout said, hey, you want to check out some locations
around San Francisco?
I thought, sure, I'll check them out, and they actually
ended up being amazing locations.
I had asked for some more stuff and they came back that
they found more, so we had two more scouting trips up there,
and it was on.
MIKE SPINELLI: The cool thing about it is how unexpected it
was and just like you said, the four previous to that were
in places that you really control every bit of it.
Obviously, you guys plotted out the San Francisco thing
and you did all that, but it was cool to see it going by
stores and stuff, and real stores, not on the Universal
lot, which was also cool.
So when you scout a place like that, who do you call?
KEN BLOCK: The good thing about San Francisco is that
there's a lot of movies and TV shows shot up there, so
there's a film commission that's very good to work with,
the city's very good to work with, and the police actually
are used to doing this.
It's the same here in New York.
You see sets all the time alongside the road or blocking
off streets or whatever--
it's just something they're used to doing.
So when we set out to find more locations and do things,
they just ended up being great to work with.
I absolutely loved it being out on that
bridge all by myself.
It was like the zombie apocalypse.
It was very cool.
MIKE SPINELLI: When did you shoot those scenes?
Because there's nobody around.
You don't see another soul or another car.
Was that early morning, like Sunday?
KEN BLOCK: The bridge, the opening shots on the bridge
and the off ramp and then the two shots after that in the
Financial District were all shot on a Saturday, so that's
when you have the least amount of traffic on the bridge, the
least amount of people down in the Financial District.
All the rest of the stuff was actually shot on Wednesday,
Thursday, and Friday.
Once again, the neighborhoods are fairly empty during the
week-- people are off at work or whatever--
so it actually wasn't much of an issue at all blocking off
these streets.
The people there and the city and the cops were just great
to work with-- it just worked out to be amazing.
The hardest part for me, though, was the fact that
these other facilities--
like, we'd go to do something in particular and set up all
the cameras and say, OK, I'm going to warm up the car and
get myself ready.
I couldn't do that in the city.
We had this small area where something was set up and they
get everything set up and say, OK, you can go, and I just
have to go for it.
But that's part of the challenge, I guess.
MIKE SPINELLI: Do you set these things up somewhere else
in a neutral environment and then sort of test out what
you're going to do, or do you just go there and set
it up and do it?
KEN BLOCK: The only thing that I did that with was right at
the beginning--
I go backwards through two barrels.
That was just something I had in my head for awhile that I
wanted to figure how to go backwards through something,
and that I actually had to do--
we had one day of testing for the car before we started
filming to make sure everything was OK.
So I set up that situation and learned how to do that before
we started filming, but everything else was just all
done on the spot.
MIKE SPINELLI: Including the drift jump, which is all the
rage and now everybody's talking about that.
KEN BLOCK: Yeah, the drift jump, that comes from rally.
On the gravel, we have a lot of crests and jumps, and if
it's a jump into a left hand turn, you have to set up the
car over the crest, so a lot of times we come over crests
sideways in the air and land into the turn.
So it's something that has become a bit more popular--
like in drifting, there's been a couple shots of guys
drifting over bumps and stuff.
I kind of wanted to take that and see how far I
could go with it.
MIKE SPINELLI: Like I've seen, especially in rally, you see
that you're going over a crest and you're coming in sideways,
but the angle just seemed to be much, much greater than any
other angle I've seen.
KEN BLOCK: Yeah, well, that's the thing with rally.
That's one turn of 1,000 on a stage, so you try and do it
the best that you can.
With the gymkhana stuff, we kind of take every situation
and do everything at maximum attack.
And so in that particular shot, I did four or five
before that to kind of build up the speed and figure out
the exact speed and the gearing.
I started off a little bit slow, not knowing what the car
would do and how far it would kick it out.
And finally on that last one--
I think it was sixth or seventh one--
I did it in third gear, just threw it in as hard as I
could, and it worked out quite well.
MIKE SPINELLI: Yeah, it worked out very well.
When you set these up, you're 100% tarmac.
I was thinking, would you ever consider doing one that was
partially gravel dirt or something, or do you just
really want to keep it to what a real gymkhana might be like?
KEN BLOCK: It's basically gymkhana on steroids, is the
way I look at it.
Gymkhana itself is a very fun, more grassroots type
like autocross but with sliding the car.
And in this, I've kind of taken that and gone as far as
I can with it.
It's sort of a combination of gymkhana and
tarmac rally skills.
But the general idea, really, is to try and push the skills
and push my car as hard as I possibly can.
MIKE SPINELLI: So tell me about the barge.
Because I talked to some of the guys you worked with on
there, and they seemed to be more scared than you were.
KEN BLOCK: Well, the funny thing about the barge is we
had this really great pier.
I wanted something right by the water, so there's a couple
of really great piers right on the water in San Francisco.
Well, the original one that we wanted got rented out to
somebody else that week, so we moved on to Fisherman's Wharf
and found some great stuff there to do.
That got taken away by something else.
Then we found out Fort Mason had some really cool stuff,
and that eventually went away because we couldn't get the
right permits.
So I kept pushing, let's find a ferry or a barge or
something, and eventually they came back and they said, look
what we found.
60 by 170 foot piece of concrete that
floats on the water--
I said, oh, thank you.
So we had this entire day just to do the part that's in the
main body of the video, which is where I go on and go off
it, but I was looking to try and make the credits just more
interesting than what we've done before and more
Typically the credits have been just the leftover shots
or bloopers or whatever, but I wanted something really much
more interesting.
So we asked if we could take the barge out and I could
drive on it when we were out in the bay and they said yes,
so we went out and did that stuff.
It was actually really surreal.
It was wild being able to do that.
Yeah, people were more nervous than I was.
They put an oxygen tank on my co-driver's seat and they put
a boat next to the big barge that had a diver on it in case
I went in that they could--
and it's only somewhere between 30 and 50 feet deep, I
think, out there in the middle.
But it's deep enough to kill me.
MIKE SPINELLI: You can drown in a bathtub.
KEN BLOCK: And the biggest fear of mine was the throttle
sticking or something going wrong with the car that I
couldn't control, because we had left a lot of the edge of
the boat open and didn't put barriers up, because I wanted
to look really good and look more dangerous.
MIKE SPINELLI: It wouldn't have look as good if there
were a bunch of Jersey barriers.
KEN BLOCK: Yeah, so that's why most of you look at the shots.
It's really mostly just on the ends where those barriers are,
but at one point the throttle did stick wide open.

MIKE SPINELLI: What did you do?
KEN BLOCK: You just clutch and turn off the engine as quickly
as possible and luckily, it was in a semi-safe place.
I was coming around on the slide and it stuck wide open,
but the car was aimed at one of the open areas.
But I liked that I was able to react quick
enough and it didn't.
MIKE SPINELLI: Well, that's good.
So coming from skate snowboard background, we all grew up--
I mean, you were around the same age--
watching skate videos go from these things that people
passed around on VHS tapes or even Beta back in the day, to
the DVD thing, to YouTube, and just watching the quality just
get better and better.
Do you always have that in mind?
Is that something that you consciously look to merge the
motorsports thing?
KEN BLOCK: I grew up in era of when skate videos were really
well produced and really popular, and seeing them
premiered in theaters in Southern California.
I saw H-Street and Plan B and Girl Videos all premiered in
these places.
I just loved that feeling of seeing those guys do what they
do and seeing it put together so well to great music.
I love that feeling, and being able to take that and somehow
get it into motorsports has been my goal, because getting
people to see these things in that sort of light and really
like to watch these video parts over and over is
something that I knew would be good marketing for us and
something that I would truly enjoy watching too.
And I think a lot of people don't understand that
To me, it's really obvious.
But a lot of people in the motorsports world just have no
knowledge of snowboard and skateboard videos and the sort
of impact that they have on those kids.
MIKE SPINELLI: Yeah, it's true.
And the impact now with YouTube, obviously you've
turned that into an institutional kind of thing,
which is awesome.
Cool, Ken Block.
Thanks for coming by, man.
KEN BLOCK: Great questions.
Thank you.
MIKE SPINELLI: Yeah, no problem.
Ken Block, Road Testament, thanks, man.
See you later.