Two individuals bonded together through the expectance of a newborn baby, yet with different priorities

Ghost of a Chance is a snapshot into the relationship of a young working class American couple. Two individuals bonded together through the expectance of a newborn baby, yet with different priorities – racing through their lives, we question whether one man’s childhood dream is more important than three people’s reality. Director Manes Duerr collaborated with his friends and colleagues Jakob Pietsch (AD) and Michael Schindegger (DoP) – all based in Vienna.

We wanted to create a snapshot of a crucial moment in a couples life/relationship. The constant moving of the race car in circles on the oval track became kind of a metaphor for chasing a dream, while also being stuck at the same time. You can easily swap the racing with any other job where people want to fulfil themselves – sometimes at any price.

In the end, Ghost of a Chance became kind of a mixture of our personal experiences.

After a quite intensive start we had to let things slide a bit due our jobs. Also, we weren’t sure where to shoot – we definitely wanted set everything in a rural environment and let the story play in this (for us) exotic world of amateur stock car racing.

During a commercial job in LA I had time to scout this race track in Willow Springs and immediately fell in love with it. I pitched the project to Slim Pictures, my US representation and they were ready to support me, which was super exciting and of course motivating!

So, the DoP, the AD, together with my sister who was a PA on this project, and me went to LA last January to prepare the final steps together with Vanessa Elliot the local producer. The final casting decisions, costume, the race car and finding all locations but the race track were still to be determined. And I remember us working on the script until the last day before the shoot…

lots of them said they’ll only do it if they drive the car themselves

The right stock car especially was hard to find. Since it was prior to race season, many owners were afraid  the cars would get damaged during the shoot. The owners mainly built the cars themselves and often putting a lot of their private funding into it. So, lots of them said they’ll only do it if they drive the car themselves. This is almost never possible in film due insurance, legal but also professional reasons. A precision driver needed to drive the car.  We finally convinced the owner of our hero car to hand his baby over. But only because we were lucky: Coincidentally the hired precision driver was his ex-father-in-law.

Marrying adrenaline with new family responsibilities certainly creates the interesting contrast. We easily can ask ourselves why go through all that trouble? where in fact any other job could of told the same struggle. But it’s the adrenaline, risk and fear that pushes this familiar story up to the next level. And that’s where we understand Manes’ ambition to get the right stock car, and the right track. After all that pre-production, the team just had a few days of shooting to get it all together.

The Shoot

Finally, we had three shooting days – one at the race track and two days in the house, respectively around it.

On the race track day, we wanted to generate as many shots as possible. So, we had two cameras, Michael Schindegger, the DoP, was doing hand-held B-Roll stuff with the male actor as well as static shots and pans of the race car, while I was with another camera operator in the pursuit vehicle doing the car shots. This way we also were able to get the most out of the beautiful evening light, which clearly doesn’t last too long.

It turned out impossible to find a real hospital or doctor nearby the house location. But this was LA and so we found this almost ready to shoot hospital studio set-up.

The house was situated in the middle of an almost desert-like area but with lots of greens right next to it – almost like a little oasis. This way we were able to have some location variations without moving or travelling too much.

The “Ghost of a Chance” crew was super dedicated despite the tight schedule

Nevertheless, our schedule was tight but the crew was super dedicated – so we managed to shoot everything what we had planned and even more. And I think almost everything ended up in the film – we only had to kill one scene.

I remember this little “shock-moment” when the whole crew arrived at the race track on the first shooting day and we saw all these workers tarring and fixing the tarmac. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding with the dates and finally we could convince them to leave the track. I loved the run-down look of the track, so fixing it, was the last thing I wanted and much less on the day we had to shoot.

We shot Ghost of a Chance on Arri Mini with Todd AO anamorphic lenses. For the race track we had a camera pursuit vehicle – just to be faster – it would have been impossible without it.