The phone rang. A voice on the other end of the phone asked me if I would be interested in taking part in the Air Racers 3D IMAX movie being filmed about the Reno Air Races. Would I? Really? Of course I would! More phone calls, more emails, small moments of hysteria, and I was on my way to Reno to take part in the project.
From the press release: "Through the eyes of first-time competitor and rookie pilot Steve Hinton Jr., son of champion air racer and acrobatic pilot Steve Hinton, the film will chronicle the preparation for and competition in the world's fastest motor sport: the legendary Reno National Championship Air Races. The film will be in Imax 3D and 2D theatres in the US beginning in the fall."
Sounds great, right? While I had been hearing about this film for years now, getting the chance to be part of it - even a small part - was amazing. I arrived on Friday afternoon while they were still shooting some of the Unlimited action. Strega and Stevo were on hand as well as Brant Seghetti in Sparky, Matt Jackson in Wee Willy, Stu Dawson in Here Kitty, Kitty. A helicopter was set up with the 3D camera with Kevin LaRosa, long time aerial filming giant at the helm. The scene looked quite similar to the races during the first few days of set up. It was eerily familiar.
Because of the short notice, not all of my crew members could be there. However, Matt Williams and Don Dull were on hand with Manager, Jason Fisher being left behind. Matt immediately took to polishing Ruby to make her sparkle like the gem she is. Quick meetings with the production crew, locating my car, hotel, etc., Thanks everyone - we'll see you tomorrow.
The next morning, we were told the pilot brief would be at 8am. During the races, the Biplanes brief at 7am and the door closes on the briefing room at 6:59 and if you're not inside by then, you do not race that day. So, this was almost a luxury! We arrive around 7am and start getting the airplanes ready. We head over to the briefing room at 7:45 and nothing happens until around 9:15. We are all laughing about the difference between filming and RACING.
As mentioned, majority of the film would be about Stevo and Strega. But the producers wanted to show some background to the races, the airshow acts, the other classes which compete and the action outside of the Unlimiteds. I was chosen to represent the Biplane Class, while Phil Goforth and Jay Jones were there with the Formula 1 Class. Just like during race week, we would fly earlier in the day and would work together.
First thing we do is attach one of the 3D cameras onto my right I-strut. My crew is on hand to make sure everything is done to their satisfaction. They are in charge of keeping me and Ruby safe - so no camera movement, or too much weight, etc. Now we're ready for show time.
The helicopter takes to the air and provides constant feedback and direction. Taxi to the run up area, taxi into position, helicopter follows my takeoff down the full length of runway 8. Then, we went to altitude, and I followed Kevin's direction for "beauty shots". I flew towards the camera and away from the camera, making sure we had the perfect background. These shots are going to be amazing - the mountains still had snow on them and the sun was hitting the hills creating incredible color. What a morning to fly!
When my airwork was complete, the helicopter followed me down to my landing - not my best, but not my worst either. We ended with some shots of me taxiing into position and having my joyous crew greet me for the debrief. Actually, we do precisely that after every race. Cameras and people were everywhere, so my signature twirl was a little more risky - but authentic.
The rest of the day was spent watching the other classes. Lee Behel and Kevin Eldredge flew for the Sport Class. Denis Buehn and John Zayak were on hand to represent the T6s while Heather Penney and John Kokshoorn flew for the Jet Class.
The movie should hit theatres later this year. I'll keep you posted and hope you circle your calendars.
Reno prep begins in earnest now and next month's column will be about the new racers who attended PRS. Until then, Fly low, fly fast and turn left.
Ruby Red Racing
IMAX Filming in preparation for the Air Racers - 3D movie
Credit: 3D Entertainment