Gymkhana 3 Directors: The Martelli Brothers

The Directing/Producing team of Matt and Joshua Martelli (AKA “The Martelli Brothers”) have been kicking ass and taking names lately. The duo has turned out a multitude of web films in off-road, rally, MMA, and drifting. They also produced and directed several new action packed commercials for General Tire, Mastercraft Safety, and FORD this year. A few weeks ago the Brothers unleashed the third installment of the Gymkhana series, Gymkhana THREE, Part 2; Ultimate Playground; l’Autodrome, France. The release has already pegged an amazing FOURTEEN MILLION downloads on YouTube, and it’s still going strong! Race-Dezert.com got the chance to sit down with the Brothers and talk about Gymkhana THREE and what’s next on their radar.

How did you guys start directing together?

Matt – We grew up really close as kids, and it was always our goal to work together. When we started Mad Media and began working in skateboarding we fell in love with filmmaking. Fortunately we had clients like Osiris Shoes that we were already producing print and web content for – so we bought a few DV cameras and a copy of Final Cut Pro and jumped in. From shooting and editing, came the need to produce and direct. And we just developed a style over the past decade for doing both together as a team.

Josh – Over the past ten years we’ve been fortunate to grow Mad Media into a full service “4K capable” production and post production house. Which means we work with some very seasoned cinematographers at the highest level of film acquisition now. It’s been a very natural progression from being behind the camera operating, to directing and producing, but we both really love shooting so you’ll see us out there shooting on nearly every job.

Do you guys ever disagree?

Josh – All the time, but we usually work it out. It’s good to have different perspectives.

Matt – Yeah but just to be clear, I am usually right.

How did you get involved in with Ken Block ?

Matt– I knew Ken in college – way back before DC, and we stayed in touch over the years. When Ken joined the Subaru Rally Team we were already producing HD content in off-road, and he invited us out to see what Rally America was all about. We were hooked immediately and began shooting the series for Subaru and DC Shoes. Shooting the rally races led to a bunch of other work with Ken and Subaru, including several of the WRX STI national ads – and eventually the Gymkhana series. Ken’s an amazing athlete and driver, but also understands marketing very, very well. So we were a great fit for each other right from the beginning. As his career has grown – so have our capabilities and the quality of the tools we have to produce with.

Josh– Being close to DC and Ken here in San Diego definitely helped build a great working relationship. But I think the key thing is that he often acts as a producer of his own content. Meaning he knows exactly what he wants to see and communicate. That’s rare for an athlete, and even a client in some cases. We’ve developed a style for producing together that makes the resulting work really stand out.

Did you ever think Gymkhana was going to big as it is?

Matt– Not at first, because all the examples of Gymkhana we had seen prior were pretty tame, but once I saw Ken do the 120mph drift at El Toro, I knew people we’re going to freak out.

Josh – When we had the rough edit together, we reviewed it with a bunch of friends and colleagues of Kens. That’s really when it set in. People we’re totally blown away and we hadn’t even really begun to edit the piece. But the response caught us all by surprise. It was initially posted to Ken’s personal site but we crashed their server and had to move it to YouTube!

What do you think has been the key to the success of Gymkhana series?

Matt – First of all, we have a great crew of talented people we work with here at Mad Media, who are as passionate about car culture as they are about making great films. That goes a long way because they know instinctually what our fans want to see as we’re shooting. Obviously Ken was able to throw down an amazing collection of tricks  – often on the first or second take by the way – and that was very important. Then there’s the presentation of the content. Each time we produce a new clip we read all of the comments on YouTube, and watch how people react to specific markers. So while we’re constantly trying to refine the final pieces, we also know what will and won’t be accepted by the viewer.

Josh – Five years ago when YouTube was just getting started you could pretty much throw up anything and get decent views. But as it’s grown into a mammoth library of content, it’s been the democratic nature of viral films that now push them into the spotlight. At the end of the day the content has to be remarkable. There has to be some kernel of “oh shit” involved. The GK films have that – and frankly they’re just fun to watch.

How many times did it take Ken to do GK3 tricks?

Matt – Certain tricks were much more technical than others, and adding the gravity of the wall to the equation was a big unknown factor. Nobody was sure how the vehicle would perform. He did multiple takes for most of the stunts, but generally it didn’t take him more than a few tries to nail a trick. There were a few scenarios that required him to do the same trick two to three times for the cameras, and we were blown away as usual at how technical he was about doing so. The guy is a machine.

Does it really do 0-60 in under 2 seconds?

Matt – Yes, 1.9 to be exact. The new Gymkhana car is amazing! It’s faster than a Formula 1 car off the line!

What are the specs of the car?

Josh – It’s 2011 FORD Fiesta prepared by Olsbergs MSE

The car was purpose built for Gymkhana THREE.

660 Horse Power with 660 Lbs of foot torque to the wheels.

Carbon fiber everything, custom everything including the Ken Block logo e-brake.

Anti-lag and launch control…the Gymkhana THREE car is all business, and business is good.

Why do you think nobody else has put out a viral film on the same level?

Josh – Producing the Gymkhana projects was very tough. We worked our asses off and there were huge hurtles to overcome. For GK2 it took weeks of planning just to blow up the semi-trailer. For GK3 we had to deal with everything from shipping twenty-six cases of gear to Paris, to making sure we didn’t destroy a French historic landmark! Finding the right athlete, vehicle, and location are just a few of the initial challenges.

Matt – Unique stories and concepts drive great entertainment. Let’s say you have a famous athlete, amazing vehicle, and cool location. It’s not a matter of just turning on cameras and hitting record. If you aren’t passionate – as we are – about what you’re shooting than it’s going to show. I think the reality is there are very few production groups with the opportunity to shoot this type of content, this way. It’s a gamble for the sponsors and the people funding the project, because someone involved has to have the expertise to know what will and won’t translate well to the viewer. Will it be perceived as authentic? When does it cross a line and become a commercial? We are in a distinctive position to provide original creative ideas, the professional production staff needed to execute them, and targeted marketing guidance for how to present the content to the audience. In other words…we know it, because we are the guys watching this stuff on YouTube!

What’s next for Mad Media?

Matt – We have multiple projects in different stages of production – as always.  At the moment, trophy trucks and short course trucks are at the top of the list. We just finished producing a fantastic Mint 400 show, which we premiered to a select VIP group at the Off-Road Expo last weekend. And there are a few secret projects in the works specifically for Race-Dezert.com fans.

Josh – For us Gymkhana is just the tip of the iceberg. The whole point is to show people what’s possible if you think outside the box. That means great athletes doing amazing things in the vehicles in new and interesting environments. For us on the film side – we’ve never had a cooler collection of tools to work with in terms of capturing this stuff. So expect to see us pushing the envelope just as much as the athletes that we film!

In case you were not one of the almost 14 million people who have already seen Gymkhana 3, here it is for you viewing pleasure.