Director Ben Conrad unleashes the eighth installment in the viral Gymkhana series with rally driver Ken Block, proudly presented by Ford Performance, XDubai and Hoonigan. This time Ben captures Block pushing the limits of what a car should be able to do in the ultimate exotic playground of Dubai. The pace is relentless, the direction dynamic, leaving the viewer in a perpetual white-knuckle state for the duration of the nine-minute film.
Hailed as the “most watched and most shared branded web franchise of all time” by Adweek, Gymkhana has racked up a view count of 200-million-plus and won numerous accolades including two Gold Pencils from The One Show.
“The goal with each Gymkhana is to outdo the last one, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do, but it’s a welcome challenge,” says Ben. “With Gymkhana 8, we wanted to have a more cinematic approach, which Dubai certainly lends itself to.”
With the epic desert background, we’re transported right into the driver’s seat of an adrenaline-fueled race through macadam mayhem as Block busts through berms, shreds concrete, and stuns the senses with insane theatricality. Heart palpitations ensue as Block threads the needle in one stunning stunt after another.
Faced with capturing automotive tricks on different locations including remote desert roads surrounded by dunes, a cheetah inside a race car, a park underneath the tallest building in the world, the Burgh Khalifa, and an airport runway with a 747, Ben and his production team jumped in headfirst. The most difficult segment to plan, coordinate, and shoot was Sheikh Zayed Road – a 12-lane highway considered one of the busiest roads in Dubai. On top of that, Ben and his crew captured the astounding visual of the Ford Raptor on two wheels, with only three hours to shoot that whole scene.
A feat in itself, Gymkhana 8 as a whole is a rousing demonstration of what can be achieved when creative partners get behind the wheel to defy constraints and create a never seen before experience – no magic, no visual effects. Conrad worked with his team months in advance creating innovative systems to capture dynamic shots, such as an array outfitted with 50 GoPros to shoot a stunning shot that takes the viewer from inside the car to the exterior in one seamless move.
Conrad is no stranger to this process. ” I want people to understand that what they are seeing in these films is Ken doing it for the first time. Any so-called rehearsal happens at that moment. For whatever reason it always ends up that the most difficult scene ends up being the first one we shoot.”
This is the fifth Gymkhana installment directed by Ben Conrad, and the first project to be released out of Ben’s just-launched multidisciplinary film studio GenPop. The ante is upped once again with the GenPop debut, solidifying Ben’s enviable ability to capture the raw power of car and driver no matter the challenges. With Conrad’s other automotive work, which includes the groundbreaking viral films for Castrol and the Recoil series featuring off-road champion BJ Baldwin, it’s safe to say Conrad is on the forefront of automotive filmmaking.