Within 24 hours of BJ Baldwin’s Recoil 2 going live on the net it had easily garnered more than one million views. Without a doubt it went viral.
If you haven’t watched the film yet, it’s probably a good idea that you click below, because in this post I’m going to give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at what it took to shoot it…
Whenever my schedule permits, I like to venture off track and shoot racing in the dirt. I’ve been following BJ and his off-road antics for a few years now, so when I heard that he was shooting a follow-up to the original Recoil clip, I knew that I had to be on set.
The video was shot entirely in Ensenada, Mexico, which is located about four hours south of Los Angeles in the heart of Baja Mexico. All of the obstacles were natural, nothing was built for this video, and that is one of the main reasons why it was so awesome.
While the storyline was fun and gave it gave BJ a reason to ask his friend Dan Blizerian to make a cameo. But make no mistake, the shoot was not fun and games – it was a very serious production with a serious crew.
When it came time to create Recoil 2, BJ knew that he had to hire the best in the business.
Enter the viral video dream team: Brian Scotto, brand director for Hoonigan, and Ben Conrad, director of Ken Block’s Gymkhana 4, 5 and 6.
Brian Scotto was also the creative director for Ken Block’s Gymkhana, and I worked with him closely when I was the set photographer for Gymkhana 4. Mr. Scott and BJ both came up with the concept and storyline for Recoil 2.
I also met Ben on the set of Gymkhana 4, and since then he has been pretty busy working on big hollywood blockbusters.
Together with BJ Baldwin as the wheelman, they have created a short film to remember.
Even with a large film crew from Southern California as well as a production team from Mexico City, there was no way anything could have been shot without the cooperation from the city of Ensenada. Lucky for BJ the people of this beach city absolutely adore him.
BJ considers this his second home. The Baja 1000 always starts off from Ensenada, so being a two-time champion, it really means a lot to him to be welcomed with open arms from his fans.
It didn’t matter where and who, everyone wanted to take photos with BJ and check out his 800hp trophy truck.
It’s a good thing we had a police escort everywhere we went. Following BJ while he was in his truck in the police caravan was one of those ‘pinch me am I dreaming’ moments.
Without the help of the local authorities, there would be no way we could control the onlookers or close the necessary streets to keep it a safe production.
The shoot took three full days, and I will highlight some of the best stunts over the course of the production, day-by-day.Just Step On It
When BJ says he is going to drop into the neighborhood, he actually means it.
I just don’t even want to think about the amount of red tape the production team would have to cut through just to get something like this approved in Los Angeles.
Whenever we got to a new location the people that live in the area would come out to see what all the commotion was about. This gave us the opportunity to ask them if we could stand in their driveway, or even get climb on top of their roof.
It’s crazy how nice everyone was and how much they wanted to help. This dude provided me with this sturdy ladder to climb on top of his house. There I found many of the neighbors with the same idea.
The resulting shot? Oh, just BJ dropping into a cul-de-sac to say hello. It may look super-easy to just drive off a ledge, but there is a method to his madness.
BJ actually hit the brakes right before he went off the ledge. Doing that popped the front wheels up so the truck did not land with a massive nose dive. Even with the proper technique, he bottomed out the trophy truck with ease.
The next shot was what looks like a massive set of dirt stairs. In reality it was the start of a seemingly abandoned housing development. Some of the drops were up to nine feet tall.
Yet again, the production crew looked for higher vantage points and asked the local home owners for their help.
This house had the perfect view of the steps from its balcony.
It took a few tries to find the right line that was safe. A flipped truck this early in the production would have been a bit of disaster.
I know that some of you guys think it’s lame that these stunts have to be shot a few times – but this was a real production, and not some Mickey Mouse, run-and-gun type shoot.
Safety was always the number one priority, and the best way to ensure that was to slowly work up to the limit of what the truck was capable of.
Another advantage to shooting a few takes is being able to capture different and unique angles. There is always a limited amount of cameras and crew that can go around, so every bit of footage helps to make the film just that much better.
The last shot of the day was a massive street jump. As the sun was going down BJ strapped in and went for it.
It was absolutely nuts how many people came out to watch. And why not? This was literally all happening in their backyard.
The sun was setting quickly and the crew got the last few shots in. At this point we had already been shooting for 15 hours.
The hours were absolutely brutal, and you could tell the whole production felt it. Moving from location to location I would always fall asleep in the vans. Even a 10-minute nap was enough for me to feel refreshed.That Incline
The next morning we headed to the center of town where a major intersection was shut down.
Stray dogs running into the middle of the shot was one of the issues that the production constantly had to deal with. The guys would run out yelling to chase them away.
The location was this roundabout and it was great because there were many elements of ‘urban off-roading’ that BJ could knock out in one shot.
Right in the middle of it was this taco stand, which the production used to hide one of the cameras.
It’s also where I got the best taco that I have had in my entire life. From now on – no matter where I am in the world – when I eat a taco I will think about Recoil 2.
It was basically a three-part scene. The street had two levels – a paved one and an elevated dirt street that strangely ran parallel.
BJ took the high road at speed, while the camera car chased from the paved road.
For these shots the guys from Ultimate Arm were called in.
Before the two roads met BJ just drove off the ledge. Because why not?
It actually surprised me to see how fast the trophy truck got around while pitched fully sideways on the pavement – and it produced a decent amount of tire smoke as well.
Every scene was carefully planned out and BJ always walked the driving line to make sure it was safe.
And this ladies and gentlemen is urban off-roading.
The next scene was definitely my favorite. Here’s BJ doing a pre-flight check of the wind direction.
The stunt was simple: BJ had to clear an entire intersection, from one side to the other.
The way these streets are designed puts San Francisco to shame. I swear I almost broke my ankle just trying to walk down the hill!
If you forget to put your parking brake on you will most likely smash into a house down the street.
For this shot, the crew needed some big glass and I was happy to lend them Big Bertha. They shot the scene from about a 1/4 of a mile away.
Out of all the wonderful shots I took on set, I think this one is the best. It really tells the story in one picture.
BJ always manages to nail a perfect landing. I just love that lowered truck look.
This scene was actually a bit improvised, as BJ was just resetting back to his mark when he went a bit too fast.
He popped over the curb and it launched him skyward. This is what we call a happy accident.
With the sun going down there was just one scene left to shoot for the day. BJ had to drive through this river at full speed.
It seemed no matter how fast the crew would move from location to location we were always chasing the light.
By the time we were on the last scene the sun had set completely, and the crowd of spectators had grown exponentially.
While everyone packed up BJ spent time meeting and taking pictures with his beloved fans. All racing drivers should be this nice.Beach Party
As the days progressed we shot the more risky scenes, which of course made sense. The tunnel shot is one of the opening scenes, and while it looks pretty wide here, the truck barely fits through because of that ditch on the side. It’s much harder to drive through when going full speed while doing a 360-degree spin.
To add to the danger? Why not soak some sand with gasoline and set it on fire? There’s an idea. Please kids, don’t try this at home!
The crew are professionals with proper safety equipment, and the Ensenada Fire Department was on hand in case something went wrong.
At first BJ tried doing it without the fire, and after about four attempts he realised that the inside of the tunnel was just too slippery and he couldn’t get any traction to turn the beast around. But he said to light it up anyways.
The production told him he only had two tries with the fire, and if he could not make it, then they would have to scrap the 360-degree spin idea. He nailed it on his first try, but he did not make it all the way out of the tunnel. On his second try, however, it worked perfectly – and that’s the take that you guys see in the video.
Also on set was one of the biggest ricers to own a car that has graced the pages of Speedhunters. Hertrech Eugene was Director of GoPro On-Board Cameras, so all of those crazy in and on-car angles in the clip are due to his handiwork.
The last part of the video that we shot was mostly for the storyline – although it was still cool to see it all come together.
For this shot we had two helicopters – a Huey with Dan Bilzerian, the girls and BJ’s dog, Combat, and a camera chopper to shoot an angle from the water.
So what was it like shooting with Dan? He was definitely fun to work with and was constantly cracking jokes over the course of the shoot.
This is a great moment with Ben, the director, getting a nice close-up of Combat.
How many professional models can you fit in a Huey? According to Dan, not enough…
Combat didn’t mind all the company – but he was really just in it for the treats. Best dog ever.
One of the things I did not expect was how much rotorwash came off that Huey. It propelled sand rocks and broken glass fast enough to break skin. I kept my distance.
Here is a great shot of Dan and the girls dropping BJ off for his little run to the beach.
And there goes Dan and the girls for some chopper-to-chopper pick-up shots.
After three days of torture, there was just one final scene left to shoot.
The scene was BJ jumping over the girls onto the sands of Ensenada Beach and parking next to little private party.
Yet again, we were chasing the light and there were still many pick-up shots to shoot for the storyline. But most importantly, the stunt had to be executed correctly.
First BJ had to make the jump so it could be determined if it was safe for the girls to sit on the steps. You can see in this photo that there was a tiny ramp built for this scene to ensure there was plenty of clearance.
Driving into the ocean was actually not an accident. It was always planned that he would roost the water. The truck was actually coated with oil to help it from flash rusting… It didn’t help though…
I swear that BJ was going to get stuck because he really went deep into the water, but not missing a beat, the Monster driver kicked up an epic roost and parked it perfectly in position for the scene.
There was still more than enough time for some ‘golden hour’ pick-up shots.
It really could not have been planned any better: three perfect days of shooting for an amazing short film.
It was a long three days for everyone – especially for the man behind the wheel. He was more than happy to take off his race suit at the end of the final day.
Of course, the crew was there to film it. Why not, right?
Being on set for this kind of production was really eye-opening for me. While I don’t think I’d want to be a set photographer for a big-budget Hollywood movie, I will gladly shoot behind the scenes on one of these viral videos any day – especially if it’s south of the border.