Steve Mizelas – Speed Dreams

Speed dreams was conceived by a freelance producer / director, Stephen Mizelas who had built a relationship with a group of mechanics living just outside Glasgow. Their plan was to become World Land Speed record holders with a vehicle they had built by hand in their shed. Their dream was to reach a near impossible 315mph in a 1-litre engine at the Bonneville Salt Flats Utah. This place, known as 'the salt,' holds near mythical status among speed freaks and petrol heads (made famous by Donald Campbell in his Bluebird).

Initially, this was a Top Gear skewed item but it evolved into an aspiration tale of friendship, obsession and proving ones self.

Whilst driving down after the initial recce with the team from Glasgow, Stephen felt that although the subject was fascinating he felt more vehicles would help sustain an hour. Little did he know that the BBC would want two 60' min films?

The Scottish garagistas had mentioned that they would be sharing a cargo container to the USA with six bikers to save on costs.
On the journey down the M1 Stephen called each one for a quick interview. All were superb characters: passionate, generally eccentric and all had a very individual story of why they were going to Bonneville Speed week.

Their stories ranged from a biker, who had once owned his own bike business. He was now a the Great Yarmouth Beach cleaner; another team were planning to rebuild a bike of a recently deceased friend (and scatter the ashes on the salt flats) running a record in his honour and two amazing shed engineers who had literally built everything from the piston up with their bare hands. Stephen shot ten minutes with each of them outlining the plans, their bike and what it feels like to go at ultimate high speed. Stephen cut the taster over a weekend, presented it to an exec and on the basis of the film it was commissioned a month later as 2 x one hour episodes.

This was an out-an-out documentary, Stephen had no idea what would happen – apart from the fact they all had to get on that shipping container: How would they fare?  Would anyone get a record on the salts?  Could they die trying?  What strains, was it was putting on and their families, working every hour of the day in their everyday jobs and evening and weekend bike building? From the onset of filming, the characters were revelations, made us laugh out loud, gulp in sadness and marvel in their engineering.

The edit was a pleasure and the stories told themselves with little commentary. The stories were told through the characters talking candidly on camera – from relationships and love to loneliness and death.

Creatively, Stephen was given free reign to self shoot the film (him and a soundman). Self-shooting allowed the budget to spend on ‘toys’ for the imminent speed week.

For the main shoot the crew experienced the Salt Flats at their hottest and most hostile - dealing with 45 + degree heat and no shade the crew followed the highs and lows of the week. Parts blowing up and bikers being diagnosed with serious illnesses whilst out in the US, having their dreams shattered and realised.

The crew took with them a specialist camera team to rig all the vehicles. Their task was to capture the sheer adrenalin of going ‘full out on the salt’ on their home made vehicles and the moment of pure isolation and peace the contributors felt after they’d come to a stop, sat alone in the centre of 100 square miles of salt. They also captured the fear of a driver of being trapped inside a vehicle as it filled up with a poisonous methanol at nearly 300mph.

The films received pick of the day in The Sunday Times, Independent on Sunday and Guardian and were Front and centre on Iplayer for both weeks. 

The Guardian wrote that Speed Dreams: The Fastest Place on Earth (BBC2, Sunday) was a lovely film about a bunch of men, many of them hairy, and all better at doing clever things with metal than talking or being attentive to their long-suffering lady friends.

Why can't the BBC produce more decent documentaries like this? Can't wait for next Sunday's episode. > > - What a great show!, I was just about to go to bed and came across it and was hooked for the next hour, interesting, funny and emotional in equal spades.

People knock the BBC but from a petrol heads viewpoint this was them at their best. > > I take my hat off to all those involved the level of ingenuity and engineering was excellent and everything that is "Great" about Britain > > -why do people pay the licence fee? Oh I forgot its for the few programmes like this. > > - Some decent TV for adults on a Sunday evening with an IQ of more than 3 !! > > - Fantastic series enjoyed all two hours of it completely. > > - Make more please BBC!

I echo those last comments.  So many people asked when is episode 3, and every year we have been back, is it being filmed again?

Steve French