Filmmaker Martin Rodahl of 71 Degrees North aced a double eagle with his first long-form project: an original mini-series for The Golf Channel, about three friends who drive the ashes of their late friend to the Arctic Circle for golf at midnight the summer solstice.
After nearly two years in the works, half-hour episodes of “The Longest Drive” air Tuesdays at 9:30 CT on The Golf Channel, through Nov. 20, with encores throughout the week.
Rodahl closed his company for a month last June to document the travels of three Wilmette friends, now retirees, who had played golf every Saturday at the Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette for more than 20 years.
Vic Zast, a horse race journalist and businessman, came up with the idea after reading about a golf course in the Arctic Circle while recovering from heart surgery. He pitched the idea to his friends Jim Thompson, a Leo Burnett executive and Dan Johnson, a CPA, as a way to honor their late friend, Michael Allen, who also had worked at Leo Burnett.
Interviews with friends and relatives add to the tribute to Mike Allen.
Rodahl and cinematographers David Lassiter, Jason Chiu and Nick Perron-Siegel, spent 18 days last June shooting the travelers’ adventures as they drove 5,500 miles in an RV and Jeep through seven US states, two Canadian provides and two territories from Chicago to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada — two degrees above the Arctic Circle.
The three friends played golf on an Inuvik course amid glacier peaks on June 21, when the sun rays directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines and simultaneously start summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere
Rodahl and crew amassed 400 hours of footage and began editing with The Colonie’s Brian Sepanik when they returned from the North last year. They just finished episode four.
Cory Coken’s NoiseFloor handles mixing and sound design and Company’s Tyler Roth the color correction. Miami-based composer Shawn Sutta of Audiocastle was responsible for the original score and music licensing.
They raised $8,000 towards the production costs on IndieGoGo, surpassing their goal of $7,500.
“The network saw in our series a way to extend its audiences beyond its core. The experiences of the three friends and the wisdom of age they impart from one episode to another makes this story universal,” Rodahl says.
Rodahl, a Norwegian native who was delighted to reconnect with the Arctic Circle, cut a short trailer and sent to The Golf Channel after Zast’s pitch to the network was ignored. But when the network saw the trailer, he says, “they fell in love with the characters and saw our series as a way to extend its audiences beyond its core.
“The experiences of the characters and the wisdom of age they impart from one episode to another makes this story universal.”