Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

A week from yesterday I was sitting in an emergency room, bleeding through my homemade bandage of paper towels and an old ace bandage. My right arm sliced open by a car almost comically enacting revenge on me like a jilted lover (or the mythical “Christine” from the Stephen King novel).

While I waited for the ER staff to admit and eventually stitch me up, I had plenty of time, what felt like an eternity honestly, to ponder – how did I get here?

The Z build has become a lot like a bad relationship. The type of relationship that in your heart of hearts, you knew was doomed from the start. The brief highs never seem to outweigh the long periods of exhausting lows. But still, you keep trying. You keep thinking, I can fix it; I can SAVE it! You invest all your free time, energy, and money – and there are brief periods where it looks like you’re going to make it work – but it never seems to pan out. Always ending up right back where you started.

Eventually you hit rock bottom and do what you knew you should have done from the start… end it. The Z knew her time was up: I had reached my rock bottom. But sometimes just as jilted lovers do, she had to have the last word. 15 stitches later, I heard her loud and clear.

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Ztuner Engine Build and Jsworks Documentary Shoot

It’s nearly midnight on Saturday as Harry and I work to get the newly assembled VG30DETT loaded up and into my rental trailer – battling exhaustion and swarms of Florida mosquitoes… It’s been two straight days/nights of filming & engine building. Tomorrow I set off for the final 1200 miles (of my 2400 mile journey) back home.

Harry’s been a real trooper. I don’t think he quite knew what he was in for when I asked to film all of this for the documentary. Constantly stopping to recompose a shot, move lights, or just answer one of my many interview questions; took what was normally a few hour assembly job, and turned it into a two-day affair. The long hours and lack of sleep have made us both a bit loopy, but it’ll all be worth it in the end.

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You Disappoint Me

It’s been quite a while since my last build update. And to my diehard Z fans out there, I must apologize; you’ve been a patient bunch. Building a track car is hard work. Any car guy worth his wrenches can tell you it’s a huge time and financial investment; making a documentary alongside the build has made it even more challenging.

Between film gigs (hey, I’ve got to pay the bills somehow), investing in some much needed production equipment, and filming for the documentary – progress on the Z has basically been at a standstill. There literally haven’t been enough hours in the day (or money in the bank for that matter) to keep this build going at all times. So unfortunately, the Z took a backseat while I focused on other aspects of the project.

If you remember from the “Throwing Good Money After Bad (where do we go from here)?” post, the build was at a crossroads. Should I scrap the whole project? Rebuild the motor and press on? Find a running Z and move forward? These were just a few of the ideas repeated ad nauseam in my head.

This was a big decision, and the whole direction of the project lay in the balance. Until now… You know where we’ve been; find out where we’re headed! Let’s get down to business.

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Harry Sandhu Ztuner

This week I’d like to introduce Harry Sandhu from the shop Ztuner. Harry is not only a sponsor of the build, but someone who can truly relate to the ideas behind the film – as he’s coincidentally an amputee himself. What are the odds that the car I’m building, and one of its premier tuners/mechanics, is also missing a hand like me? Crazy right?!?

I found Harry through my sponsor Ashspec. Ash asked if I had heard of the shop Ztuner – mentioning that its owner Harry had been “building cars & slingin’ motors” for years, all without the aid of a left hand. Needless to say, I immediately reached out to him.

Harry was excited about the project and got behind not only the build, but also the film itself (agreeing to be a participant in the film)! And since coming aboard, he’s really helped steer my build in the right direction – his wealth of knowledge never ceases to amaze me. (More on Harry’s role with the build in a future update.)

Ztuner is based out of Sarasota, Florida. With me in the Northeast, we’ve only spoken through phone calls and e-mails up to this point. So when Harry called and told me he was flying up to NY for a dyno tuning session put on by the NYZC (New York Z Club) – I knew I had to meet the man in person and film it for the documentary!

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I’m excited to announce the launch of the first teaser trailer for the documentary! This is the first installment in a series of “teasers” I hope to create introducing the cast of the film.

Next up will be the teaser for Jerod – a double amputee mountain climber we filmed a while back. I’ve got a film shoot scheduled for early July that will be the setup to introduce Harry Sandhu – a sponsor and friend of the build who also happens to be an amputee.

Things are really progressing quickly and I’m really stoked with all the progress. If all goes well, the goal is to have a full 3 minute trailer (and accompanying crowdfunding campaign), up and running by September.

As always, I wouldn’t have gotten here without the help of my sponsors and crew.

Further updates for the documentary will be compiled here – jsworks.org/documentary/

Finally, I’d like to add that I’m still looking for other amputees to appear in the film. So if you know an amputee out there pushing the limits of their disability (or just getting started on a journey to do so) –  Please write to me at jsworks.blog@gmail.com

Hope you all enjoy the teaser!

Jay

Thought I’d post a quick update and express my heartfelt gratitude to all those interested in the documentary film/Z build! When I started this project, I never could have imagined I’d be getting blog traffic from all over the world.

As we approach the 5000-view mark, I’ve been reflecting on what this all means to me. It started as a vision to make a documentary about amputees doing what they love – showing anything is possible when you put your mind to it… that amputees don’t see the world through, or buy into, a disabled label – sans the sappy violin treatment.

But it’s become so much more than that for me. Through the making of this film I’ve rediscovered myself in a way… become more comfortable with who I really am and how the world may or may not perceive me. More importantly, how I perceive myself.

(Damn, I just gave myself the sappy violin treatment).

But in all seriousness, making the documentary (and building/racing the Z) has and will continue to be a huge challenge for me. But what about life isn’t a challenge when you really think about it (for anybody – able-bodied or not)?

I’m very close to having a teaser trailer completed for the doc (that I’m really excited about), and although the setbacks with the Z have been more financial than anything else, the car is slowly coming together. I hope to get back to regular updates on the car’s progress shortly.

I wouldn’t have gotten this far without a lot of help – many thanks to Jack Wrenn, Frank Caratozzolo, Mike Lazart, Kelly Brennan, Barbara Kopple, and many others who have helped along the way. And thanks to all my sponsors for the continued support – Ztuner, Ashspec, and SPL.

Finally, a big thanks to my fiancée Abby – who’s been a HUGE moral support through all the up’s and down’s this film/build has brought. She’s talked me down from the ledge several times (figuratively speaking of course); I wouldn’t have had the strength to continue without her.

I hope you find my journey entertaining, informative, uplifting – really, whatever you want it to be.

Jay

Double Amputee Mountain Climber

This week I’d like to take a break from the Z build to introduce Jerod – a local prosthetic technician, mountain climber, and all around nice guy. Who despite the loss of both legs AND being a diabetic, climbs the highest mountains… literally!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Velveeta on that one.

I had the privilege of filming Jerod a while back for the documentary, and even went climbing through the mountains of the Delaware Water Gap with him. Truly an amazing experience, and something I’ll never forget.

Double Amputee Mountain Climber

I met Jerod through my fiancée’s father Mark, an avid climber himself. Over dinner one night I mentioned the need to reach out to, and film, other amputees pursuing their dreams for the documentary. Mark mentioned Jerod, a local climber and friend from the gym that just happened to also be an amputee.

Once Mark got the ok that Jerod was interested in the project, I reached out to him. After a lengthy conversation, we hatched a plan to film him hiking up to, and eventually climbing, one of his favorite spots in the picturesque mountains of the Delaware Water Gap.

Double Amputee Mountain Climber

I asked if he could take me there beforehand to scout the location, so I’d know what we were up against when we filmed, and he agreed.

Like a true novice (and city boy that I am), I showed up in a pair of Chuck Taylor’s – I.E. sneakers… only to find out this was no simple hike on a freshly groomed trail to get to the climbing spot… It was an adventure in itself!

Double Amputee Mountain Climber Delaware Water Gap

Double Amputee Mountain Climber Delaware Water Gap

We’re talking ditch your car on the side of the highway and duck off into some thick brush to start the semi-vertical ascent through rocks, trees, loose ground and other hazards just to get to the base of the climb.

What did I get myself into?

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They say bad luck comes in threes. If that’s true, then I definitely hit the trifecta this week.

The irony of my last post title “Firing on All Cylinders!” couldn’t be more palpable. After dropping the cross-member to install Ashspec’s 2.5” intake piping (and BDE motor mounts), I grabbed a hold of the driver’s side turbo compressor wheel to check for play.

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It’s been crazy the past few weeks! Between the Z build, working on the documentary, and just working in general (to earn a living) – I’ve barely had enough time to sneak in a date night with my fiancée, let alone manage the blog.

So I thought I’d compile a sneak peek of a few things I’m working on to give you an idea of what’s been happening up to this point.

On the documentary front – I took the plunge and purchased (on credit cards) a used but capable HD camera, hard drive recorder, and associated gear. Up to this point, I’ve been calling in favors and borrowing pretty much all the gear we’ve used to shoot.

I’m funding the doc out of pocket at the moment, and all the expenses of a shoot add up quick! So I’m eternally grateful for friends like Barbara Kopple (and the Cabin Creek Films family) as well as Frank Caratozzolo for the use of their equipment.

But with the car build and documentary in full swing, I really needed equipment on hand to shoot at a moments notice (and stop bugging my friends in the process). All it took were weeks of wading through mind numbing technical specs (and pestering tech savvy friends like Frank and Jack Wrenn) to settle on a camera… For you tech geeks out there – I went with a Sony HVR-V1U HDV camera and Atomos Ninja HD recorder (allowing uncompressed HD capture out the HDMI port). Full review of this setup coming soon.

Speaking of Jack Wrenn, I’d like to take a moment to introduce him. Besides being one of my closest friends since college (where we both pursued our Media Communication & Technology degrees), he’s become an accomplished all around film & TV guy in his own right.

 

Jack’s been with Philadelphia’s Center City Film & Video for over 6 years and worked on shows for networks such as – A&E Biography, DIY Network, WE Channel, SI Network, and Comcast On Demand (as well as met a number of high profile celebrities!)

So when I decided to pursue the crazy idea of making this documentary, he was the first person I called. Jack’s been down since day one, volunteering his free time to be my principal Director of Photography (as well as Grip, Gaff, and Audio all at the same time), and I wouldn’t be at this point without all his dedication and hard work.

 

 

We had a successful shoot a few weeks back utilizing all the new gear. I spent a day ripping into the Z, removing most of the stock parts in anticipation of all the shiny new stuff!

Click past the break to see a sneak peak of the upcoming installs and sponsors.

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I’ve always wanted to weld, even as a little kid. Maybe it was a youth spent watching shows like The A-Team & Dukes of Hazzard that did it, but the thought of building something out of a pile of metal has always appealed to me.

I consider it an art form, and the welder an artist. Like a painter, but with a torch… creating car art. How cool is that!

It’s one of the many things I missed out on learning from my Dad (sadly he passed away from cancer when I was a teenager). He was a mechanic, and owned a shop that specialized in transmission rebuilds (another thing I missed out on learning).

He could weld. And I still use a transmission brace he designed out of angle iron (that attaches to a common floor jack) to this day. I often stared at it; annoyed… I couldn’t build something similar without someone else’s help.

 

So last year when Eastwood had a dynamite special on their brand of welders, I finally threw caution to the wind and bought one. But I guess I didn’t throw caution far enough, as it sat in the corner of my garage untouched for over a year. I was afraid to use it.

 

Enter Monroe Career & Technical Institute, the local Vo-Tec school. I would get their flyers in the mail yearly. Every year I’d look at the adult education welding courses, and every year I’d say maybe next year. But this time I had no excuse. I owned a welder & had a smashed up Z in need of fixing! So I was determined to learn how to use it.

 

 

 

After registering for both MIG & TIG courses, I took a stroll over to the welding classroom just to make sure they were cool with someone like me taking the class. The instructor Mr. Smith (that is his real name by the way) couldn’t have been more helpful. He had no issues whatsoever, and even gave me an old TIG torch to take home and practice with before the TIG course began.

 

MIG welding was fairly straightforward, and I was decent right out of the gate. It just takes practice, lots of practice… but I got better every day. Within a class or two, I was already laying weld on the Z in the garage. TIG on the other hand is a bit more complicated.

For those that don’t know, unlike MIG, which only requires one hand, TIG welding requires use of both hands (and a foot). My work around for this was to buy a wrist brace at the local drug store and strap it to my right arm. This held the filler wire while the left hand held the torch.

Although I don't own a TIG welder yet, the experience alone was well worth the class price.

Even got a local tailor to custom sew me a welding glove to fit my right arm. She did an awesome job. It worked so well I just went back for a second pair! Take a look at what she wrote on the ticket, thought this was hilarious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t thank Mr. Smith enough for all his help and welding advice. In only 12 short courses I went from zero to welding hero (at least I like to think that anyways). There’s a lot of welding that needs to be done throughout the Z build, and I’m glad I no longer have to pay someone to do it!

Be on the lookout for future in depth (welding/bodywork/suspension) tech posts; along with the documentary profile of Jerod – A local prosthetic technician, mountain climber, and all around nice guy. Who despite the loss of both legs & being a diabetic, accomplishes more than you could ever imagine. I had the privilege of filming Jerod last summer, and even went climbing through the mountains of the Delaware Water Gap with him. Truly an amazing story. Stay tuned!

Jay