T

he glossy cement-floored garage is serene and spotless, apart from the row of sinister vehicles lining one wall. Parked diagonally, all coated matte black, a Mini Cooper S, a Mitsubishi Evo, two Porsche Cayenne Turbos and a high, wide off-road behemoth rest menacingly. Each vehicle is poised in a squat pounce-ready position, bristling with an aura of modification. It is clear that all are capable of breathing deeper and striking harder than their stock brethren. But the most noticeable modifications are the large welded posts mounted to each, some on the nose and some on the rear. Also painted matte black, these finely engineered posts appear indigenous, almost as if they came stock, the way a large winch looks right at home on the front bumper of an old Jeep Willies or Bronco. They are however, elaborate camera mounts, the product of Pursuit Systems. Pursuit is a sub division of Shelly Ward Enterprises, which has been facilitating the film industry with all things automotive for nearly 30 years. From car prep to stunt work to transportation, Shelly Ward and his company have had their grease-streaked hands in everything from Mercedes ads in the ‘80s to Transformers. The Dr Frankenstein behind these hi-tech, high-speed camera car monsters and their appendages is Mike Majesky, VP of Pursuit. For the past eight years, he has been responsible for the design, engineering and fabrication of Pursuit’s industry-leading camera cars and mounting systems. A self-taught all-around tinkerer and fabricator, Majesky is a car guy who worked in the film industry before finding a home in the immaculately clean facilities of Pursuit. Designing and building mobile camera systems, he ensures that his cars can provide whatever action a director wants to capture. From the simple post and beam mount, to the matte black paint that each vehicle wears (to reduce glare and prevent lighting interference), everything that Pursuit does has a purpose and is as functional as it is attractive. Riveted panels that look like they belong on an A10 Warthog secure stepladders to the bodywork of a Cayenne; a custom carbon-fiber hood scoop directs airflow around the camera and into the intercooler of the Evo. While some of their competitors utilize the Mercedes ML Class and Cadillac Escalades, Pursuit have made the Porsche Cayenne their modified muscular workhorse. With its mounted rig, in profile it looks like a convertible SUV with a black robo-giraffe squatting in the back. Different shots require different set-ups, so the mount can be fitted with a 12, 16 or 20-foot crane that can revolve 360 degrees and move vertically from 16 feet up to 6 feet below the ground plane. The possible angles are further enhanced with the controllable camera head mounted on the end. The interior of the crane car is as technically developed as its exterior, lending it a military aesthetic much more than that of a luxury SUV. Five passengers can be accommodated, at times necessary to monitor the banks of video screens,

SH y JonATHAn PHoTogRAPHULL SH TExT CHRI

ights, ... l ameran! c ractio t
SCEnES BEHInD THE M CARS WITH LA’S FIL

APIRo

Here: The rigged Cayenne on the road Left: The Pursuit garage

2

gARAgE

gARAgE

3

intercom systems and controls to orchestrate the shot. The trained professional crane operator cradles in his lap a control unit that evokes x-Wing fighter fantasies. With a slight flick of the wrist the near-silent arm rotates with only the faint whine of an electric motor. When the arm stops and inertia wants to force the end to wobble to a stop, the gyro kicks in and stops it dead without any residual movement. If you stand on the bumper of the truck and bounce the chassis, the end of the crane remains stationary, maintaining a perfectly level height. For all of the gyro-stabilized, electric powered, mechanical engineering aboard the Cayenne crane rig, it is a docile giraffe compared to the cheetahesque Mitsubishi Evo in the stable. Already a fast, stiff, apex-melting chassis to begin with, the Pursuit Evo is, as Majesky puts it, “about as modified as an Evo can get”. Essentially, this car is a matte-black rally car with a fourpoint harness-draped Sparco race bucket backseat. The Evo is utilized for high speed, hard cornering, hard braking shoots and is most at home in winding canyons or on racetracks. Usually fitted with the post and beam stationary camera mount, the Evo is ideal for close, fast shots, most recently seen chasing the powerful new Lexus IS-F through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca for an upcoming Lexus spot. Though the Evo gets most of the high-speed action gigs, Pursuit’s 250bhp MInI Cooper S is also on hand for the tight, quick close-follow shots. “We want to be able to outperform the picture car,” says Mike Johnson, the company president, in reference to the vehicle being shot. That’s not always an easy feat considering all of the excess weight of the camera, crane, mounts and other equipment. Controlled chaos and ballet are two contradicting analogies Majesky uses when describing a typical high-speed shoot. So many variables face the crew and driver that do not exist in any other driving situation. Majesky has seen some “extremely talented” race drivers futilely try their hand at camera car piloting. on a racetrack, you may be bumper to bumper, wheel to wheel, on the edge of traction and control, trying to anticipate the movement

far, however, the Pursuit team has been fortunate enough to avoid any serious mishaps. Smooth camera ride was paramount when Pursuit where called to work on the acclaimed Baja 1000 documentary Dust to Glory. Passionate off-road enthusiasts, the pride in Majesky and Johnson’s voices noticeably turns up an octave when discussing this project. “We actually had to enter the race,” says Johnson proudly. Though they didn’t complete the 1000 mile hell-race, they did start and finish the event and captured some incredible footage in between. They hold director Dana Brown in high regards for the imagery and the emotion of the film, and mention his name in the same breath as John Frankenheimer, and seminal films like Ronin and Grand Prix, when discussing some of the most influential camera car and chase footage to date. The vehicle utilized for the Dust to Glory film is the most bespoke piece of machinery in the Pursuit arsenal. It is a hand-built tubular framed off-road buggy, dubbed the M1, which is capable of 110 miles an hour via a Chevy V8 engine on dirt. It can carry four people plus all of the mounts, monitors and equipment the other vehicles require. The buggy is so versatile that it is often used on-road, when other vehicles are unavailable. To date, the Pursuit cars have seen action on films such as The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Talladega Nights, The Island and the upcoming G-Force, as well as a number of television and print advertisements. When asked what the perfect chassis would be for a camera car, both Mikes agree there is no singular one. Certain vehicles serve certain scenarios. By this logic, a director will inevitably come along with a new shot that has never before been executed and the Pursuit garage will need to find room for a new addition. They remain tight-lipped on current productions, but with increasingly demanding film requirements, they aren’t resting on any laurels. While they do employ a specific cost vs. profit formula to justify the cars they build, you can’t help but wonder what these guys might do if the opportunity arose. Speaking of which... can’t you get a two-seater Minardi pretty cheap these days?

opposite, from top to bottom: Inside the Cayenne; Mike Majesky; The Evo’s carbon air intake; The Pursuit Evo

Here:

The custom-made M1

‘We’ve almosT haD heaD-oN collIsIoNs WITh TRucks; We’ve beeN RuN INTo by sTuNT DRIveRs...’
of the cars around you. on a film shoot, however, you’re likely to be doing all of the above, but with 300 pounds of gear strapped to your bumper, three passengers barking at you to push the limit of the car, surrounded by traffic, never on the preferred line and staying focused on literally staying in focus. Throw in an explosion or two for good measure and it’s not surprising why the abilities of even an extremely talented race driver might not translate to the movie set. It definitely helps to have a racing background, but you also need to have a film industry history and a keen understanding of filmmaking. For this reason, Majesky himself usually pilots the Pursuit vehicles. “It seems like everyday, there is a nearmiss,” he says when asked to recount an incident on set. “We’ve almost had head-on collisions with semi trucks; we’ve been run into by stunt drivers,” he adds ruefully. So 

gARAgE

gARAgE

5