FEATURED:// Interviewing GT-Racer series director Alexander Davidis

With the "The Algarve Special" now out on DVD, it's time to properly introduce the man who spents so much creativity on bringing classic car racing to our home cinemas, PCs and mobile phones. The ever growing GT Racer series (twelve installments so far as broadcasted on DiscoveryHD Channels worldwide, UKTV's Dave and more) perfectly captures the atmosphere of Classic Le Mans, the Spa Six Hours and La Carrera Panamericana, to name just a few . . .

"Shooting digital video with the new Nikon D3s certainly has its challenges. But the shallow depth of field makes the picture so beautiful, the result really looks like 35mm film."

Looking at Alexander's referenced 1960s classics: John Frankenheimer's 'Grand Prix' (first 3 litre formula F1 season), James Goldstone's 'Winning' (Indy 500) and the 70s cult hit (one take, 1000 foot of 35mm film reel) 'C'était un Rendezvous' by Claude Lelouch, it's clear where Davidis is coming from.

"Filming the Algarve Special with the new DSLRs - with their super shallow depth of field - made it incredibly hard to keep everything in focus - almost impossible in the kind of environment that we were shooting in. If you are off just an inch all looks soft because it's out of focus. My cameramen were really struggling with it."

And I saw the filmcrew raise their eyebrows but only on the first day. As time went by and teamspirit grew. Soon everyone became confident in the project. At night back-ups were made and during this lengthy proces (transferring lots of terrabytes means waiting!) playback showed the magnificent results. Even in this raw state. This was going to be a good one!

"When you get it right it is just absolutely awesome. In a way it is back to basics - like when we used to shoot film. It is an entirely new approach to shooting video. An approach however that can look more beautiful and costs less that the way we used to do it."

Algarve Special - AC Cobra

In the beginning

"I guess it was early childhood conditioning when my interest in cars started. When I was a little boy my dad gave us 50 Pfennig if we could spot a Volvo P1800 on the streets. Later he bought that car and it was our regular family-transport. When we got older the Volvos grew too. By the time I was 18 and allowed to drive we had a Saab 900 Turbo. At the time the 900 could hold up it's stick against a number of rather exotic cars. So I was blessed with experiencing fast driving fun on the 'Autobahn' from the start. Later my dad's wood and leather clad Daimler Double Six was responsible to develop my preference for British cars."

Algarve Special - Corvette C2I totally agree with Alexander that people tend to love the cars that they already admired as kids. Seeing them on TV and film helped a lot. The GT Racer Series brings the 50s and 60s right back to 2011 and shows us our favourite cars like the Aston Martin DB4, Jaguar E-type and Ferrari 250 SWB - on the track and in action.

Just after my first Spa 6-Hours visit in 2006, I was disappointed to learn that there was no DVD out there that had captured the event in a way that I had experienced it. Until I saw the "Shaken & Stirred" film, GT Racer's original pilot. To me Alexander seems to be the only director out there picking up historic racing seriously and coming up with very much worth while films. So I asked him about that:

"I guess every director has a personal evolution that shapes his style. My ambition was always to combine visually exiting stuff with emotionally exiting stuff - already when I was doing commercials and image films. When I went to my very first historic racing event in the UK, Aston Martin Club Racing, I was struck by two things:

First, the visual aspect of it: I just could not comprehend why there was nobody shooting this. So the first thing I did was, I bought a camera and started to take stills.

Algarve specialAnd second: I was expecting an elitist crowd of rich British old-boys but what I found were a bunch of people from all works of life that shared just one thing: A passion for classic and racing cars. I happened to share that passion too, so that was it. There was no class conceit whatsoever. Very refreshing and unexpected particularly in the British society."

"The whole affair touched me equally on the VISUAL and the MOTIONAL level and that is what I want to bring across in my films. I usually do not dwell on the details of who won what with which car and how many exact horsepower a car has but on the experience as a whole."

As a teenager Alexander wanted to get into advertising on the agency side. He studied communications at the University of Arts in Berlin and he was always interested in conceptual stuff. After Following his masters degree he went to New York City with a plan to start at an advertising agency. But as he checked them out, interviewing for jobs, he felt that they did not look like the creative hotbeds that he had envisioned and that they were certainly not ran like it either! But more like big corporate insurance companies and that approach was just not for him. He got aware of the option to start working at a commercial film production and met fellow German Ex-pat and now Hollywood movie director Marcus Nispel.

"I was overjoyed to see that he ran a little company called Porfolio Artists Network, which was exactly what I was looking for. The two of us hit it off instantly and he hired me on the spot as his art director. It was great. Basically - apart from directing - the full creative workload from concept to final finish was done by the two of us as a team."

Algarve special - Alexander Davidis

Future plans

Back to the present: Alexander is in full swing bringing us superb photography and amazing films: classic car racing with the scent of Castrol R and the drivers' adrenaline added as a fourth dimension. I asked about his future plans:

"It is only March. Most race organizers are putting their schedules together for the year just now. There are a number of new projects on the table but nothing is locked in yet. What I do want to mention however - because it took us some time and effort to set it up - is that our films are now available as iPad, iPhone and iPod-Touch applications at the Apple iTunes Store. Please have a look at them via the links on our website and on our new micro site."

"For all those racers on their way to an event in planes, trains and automobiles, who don't want to carry their heavy laptops around: The films look just great on these new devices!"

Classic Cars Monthly invites you to have a look and browse around. We'll keep you in the loop about Davidis' activities. Enjoy his films - be it on a tiny smart phone or a huge flat screen!

Words: Albert Mensinga, February 2011