As Formula 1 prepares for its Texas premiere this weekend, the Paramount Theatre is preparing for a premier of its own on Thursday night. On Nov. 15, 1, a documentary documentary film exploring the exhilarating and unvarnished true story of the rise of Formula 1, will be previewed at a special red carpet event to kick off the inaugural F1 USGP.
Presented by SXSW and Circuit of The Americas, 1 will take viewers through the golden age of Formula 1, when drivers were rock stars navigating dangerous terrain. Ahead of the screening, CultureMap visited with the film's producer, Michael Shevloff, and director, Paul Crowder, about the origins of the film and the history of the exilerating sport that's ready to make its Austin debut.
CultureMap: What are the origins of the project? Are you all big fans of F1 racing, or was it a totally new subject to learn about?
Michael Shevloff: The idea for the film was hatched between myself and Jonathan Bracey Gibbon, a very old friend and a journalist in England. We always wanted to make a documentary on Formula 1 and after Paul made Once In A Lifetime we knew we should make it with him. I suppose that really the seeds were sown when we all shared a flat in Worcester Park above a Kentucky Fried Chicken. I had grown up on the fringes of Formula 1 and going racing on a Sunday with my parents and was making film, Jon was a motoring journalist and Paul was a musician and engineer. We would all regularly go to Silverstone or Brands Hatch to watch the races and we religiously watched Formula 1 together.
At that time Paul was a big Nigel Mansell fan and Jon and I were Piquet followers. We then partnered with Nigel Sinclair and Spitfire Pictures. Paul had made several films with Nigel, including Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who and Last Play at Shea, so they already had a great working relationship. Nigel loved the project and has been a fantastic partner ever since we all joined together on this.
Paul Crowder: I specifically remember one weekend we were repaint[ing] the apartment we lived in, and Michael had just finished his room, I went into his room and painted "MANSELL!" in huge letters on one of the walls. I later went into my room and found "PIQUET!" painted on mine! Michael and I always talked about working together when we were younger — he makes the films, I'll do the soundtrack, as I was a musician at the time… so while they were youthful dreams, there was a seriousness about it actually happening one day.
CM: Was the film's release always planned to coincide with the race coming to Austin?
MS: This is just a preview or a sneak peek. The film will be released next year. We decided quite early that we wanted to somehow screen there, for maybe just a few people. Nigel Sinclair and Glen Zipper at Spitfire had premiered their Oscar winning film Undefeated as well as Back and Forth at SXSW and so in talking they offered to present the film with us. We then started talking to The Circuit of The Americas and they got excited, and it seemed natural, to co-present the evening as it was a perfect opportunity to help kick off the Grand Prix weekend.
PC: I am very excited to be at the Circuit of the Americas as I have not been to a USGP since 1989 in Phoenix… and to be able to kick off the weekend is a great honor for all of us involved. The U.S. has always been a very big part of the F1 season in the past and it really is great to see it back on the calendar as a regular race.
CM: Is the film helpful for non-racing fans or is it geared more toward the F1 die hard fans?
MS: The film is a story about a journey that Formula 1 has taken, from a time when it was dangerous and not organized to what it is today. It is about the drivers that were risking everything just for the exhilaration of racing on the edge and it's about those who stood up to change the sport. So the story is a broad story that should appeal to the uninitiated. Our goal has set out to capture the essence of Formula 1 so that those who do not know the sport will understand the real appeal.
But in making it real and paying attention to all the detail and the legacy, and in trying to find the soul of it, it is most certainly a great film for the fans. We have 12 world champions in the film, past and current and countless other great interviews: Bernie Ecclestone, Lord Hesketh, Max Mosley. We even have wives and mechanics telling their story, so it definitely appeals to the die hard fan.
PC: I think this will serve the non fan well, as Michael has stated this story of courage and tragedy and triumph is so infectious… and this will satisfy the uber fan in the same manner. Plus, for them we have such a fabulous collection of footage and for the first time its all together, previously the footage we have used has only been available in their separate versions, now F1 fans can see these incredible events and moments as they have never been it presented before.
CM: Racing used to be the pinnacle of sportsmanship. How has racing changed so drastically as a spectator sport as time, and the "golden age," have passed?
MS: We look very fondly back at the 1960s and '70s because they were the formative years of the sport. There was a raw appeal because the rules were being made and so the boundaries were being pushed at such an amazing speed. Television brought in sponsorship and so there was more money and more resources. And as kids we would go to a race and be able to freely mix in the pits and paddock with the teams and the drivers. Today things are very different. One can track all the news and the drama behind the scenes minute by minute and the television coverage is fantastic.
When you go to a race today it seems like a much bigger event that is much more about the overall experience and not just the race. But don't be mistaken, it's just as fantastic to get out there and hear the incredible noise and to see first hand the cars operating right on the edge. It's only when you watch these guys go around a corner at 170 mph that you get the full impact of it. And the cars are unlike any other formula. The level of technology makes them in a league of their own, and if you take a good look at them, they are incredibly designed works of art.
PC: They were real life gladiators… they all went into the Colosseum every weekend, and not all of them came out, but it did not stop them doing it, they were "men of the right stuff." I don't think the mentality is there today to contemplate dying during a race… nor is there any reason that they should. They all understand that if you crash your car feet first at 200-plus mph it could end badly, but they don't expect it to… in the past they knew that if something were to go wrong, they may not get out of it.
CM: Lastly, which stars can we expect to see on the red carpet at the sneak peek in Austin? Who can we expect to geek out over?
MS: It will be a large crowd of Formula 1 folks, that's for sure. We have drivers, team principles, team members, the organizers of the sport and on and on. So firstly I think there will be a great group of people who travel with the F1 circus. Sir Jackie Stewart is coming and Emerson Fittipaldi will be there too. Both of them are a big part of the story. But there will be other big name drivers and F1 figures, and maybe even a few of the current drivers. Beyond that the Formula 1 weekend is turning out to be a popular event in a great city, so you never know who is going to turn up.
The unveiling and screening of 1 takes place at the Paramount Theatre on Thursday, Nov. 15.