Drive & Direction : Magnus Walker & The Spirit Of AMG
Mr Cameron Thuman talks drive and direction, as well as his latest car movie with celebrated Porsche collector Magnus Walker (Urban Outlaw) and Mercedes-Benz. Mr Magnus Walker's tribute to the underdog 'The Spirit Of AMG : The Silber-Sau'.
Since the release of the movie 'Urban Outlaw' in 2012, we have been drooling over Mr Magnus Walker's classic car collection. The Urban Outlaw documentary introduced Mr Walker's rather unique passion for customised Porsches and his dreamy Downtown LA garage + studio. Directed by Mr Cameron Thuman, Magnus's latest automotive short film is a collaboration with Mercedes-Benz titled 'The Spirit Of AMG : The Silber-Sau'. We spoke to the films talented young Director Mr Thuman about The Spirit Of AMG's narrative, working with Magnus Walker and other movie projects.
Could you introduce yourself and where you’re from?
I grew up as a half-pipe skier in Park City, Utah, and found my love of film through skiing. The thrill of chasing my friends down the mountain capturing a cork 900 led me to eventually ‘finding’ a home as a Director. Approaching filmmaking from an athlete’s perspective is what I believe has given me an edge in my career, it’s the drive and passion to push limits and approach every project locked in so I can out-do the last. No matter the film, a part of me will always be thinking back on my days as a competitive skier. Currently, I am directing commercials, branded content, and narrative films in Los Angeles.
What inspired you to start making films?
Every fall, in my hometown, production companies like 4bi9, Stept, and Level 1 would premier their yearly ski movies. I would collect my stash of DVDs and watch the ski films with my dad and friends, over and over again. At 12, I started to make ski edits and by the time I was in high school, I’d link with athletes from all over the world as they travelled to Park City.
I went to Chapman University’s film school which had an immense focus on character building and storytelling. At 19, I worked full time as a Producer’s Assistant on A24’s Hereditary which was a transformational experience, teaching me the business of film. Following that, I worked on productions for Paramount, Fox Studios, and Netflix movies. With these experiences, I felt like I knew how to get a start with my directing career.
At Chapman, I was in charge of running a weekly networking dinner that Bill Gerber (A-list Producer) and Joe Rosenberg (Former CAA Senior Agent) hosted. It truly ignited my goals listening to their stories and Joe’s support enabled my passion to go straight into directing. Today I find myself pulling inspiration from David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, and Christopher Nolan’s careers. Their journeys and distinctive works are huge inspirations.
How would you describe your style and why are cars often chief protagonists?
My style is best known for infusing a cinematic storyline with striking visuals.
Tonally, my work tends to lean into themes of drive and determination, and visually each piece has its own unified aesthetic with a high-end polish.
Cars make enchanting protagonists because they have their own defined personalities. From being on a set with a McLaren F1 to a Tesla Model S, my favourite moment is always the car being unloaded from the box truck. It’s the only break in the day and you admire its presence, taking it all in; it’s the calm before the storm.
Could you tell us about your latest project with Magnus Walker ‘THE SPIRIT OF AMG: THE SILBER-SAU’ and how did it come about?
Surrounded by 40 air-cooled Porsches, Magnus, Dilan Mistry and I were catching up at Magnus’ loft in the Arts District.
Magnus pitched Dilan (Founder/Executive Producer at NativeFour) and me on a project: The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center offered him an opportunity to shoot with the Silber-Sau (Silver Pig) shortly before they were flying it back to Germany. I realized we would only have one day with the car, a challenge to make a stand-alone short film, but I too felt just as passionate as Magnus and wanted in.
When searching for our narrative approach, we found the key factor would be obtaining archival footage of the Red Pig from AMG’s Germany team.
Drew Gardella (ASC nominated Director of Photography) and I aimed to create a timeless vintage but modern feeling through interlacing three formats together: Digital, Archival, and 8mm film. This approach supported the voice-over’s reflective tone and derived an intimate feeling.
The Spirit of AMG: The Silber-Sau was distributed by Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Benz Museum, and Mercedes-Benz USA. Since then, the film has become highly regarded within Magnus Walker’s audience and the greater automotive community.
What’s it like working with Magnus Walker, and what did he love most about this particular Mercedes-Benz?
Magnus and I have worked together on four films (Night Rider, 45 Years of Boost, Ascension, and The Spirt of AMG) and each time I never know what to expect… but I know I want in! He has an incredible eye and when it comes to set, my team and I know it will be pedal to the metal. Quite literally. There isn’t a minute wasted. Magnus likes to capture every shot in as few takes as possible, which also means filming in between setups on the way to a new location.
It never gets old to hear over the walkie from Magnus “3,2,1 and I’m taking the corner.”
In a sense, I think the story of this car reminded him much like his own story, an unknown kid from Sheffield, England who defied odds and became a multi-cultural icon. Similarly, the Red Pig is an unlikely story, one that reminds us that underdogs can come out on top.
What was it that fascinated you about the 1971 Spa 24-hour race and the legendary ‘Red Pig’?
Definitely, it’s historical significance. It reminds me of a tale that you’d share over a campfire. Very few people know the extent of its story; hopefully, our film helped change that!
What did you think about the ‘Silver Pig’ Mercedes?
It’s loud as hell! It sounds like you are in the cockpit of a WW2 bomber.
Mercedes Benz Classic Center did a beautiful job on its timeless presence. The car is stripped to bare bones, has modern underpinnings, and the AMG stickers make you feel like you are at the Spa 24-hour race.
What locations did you and the team choose and what equipment was on hand for the shoot?
Magnus felt the car belonged on Angeles Crest Highway (ACH) — Los Angeles’ Mecca for all car enthusiasts.
The Silver Pig, burning its tires for the first time ever on ACH, would be making history in itself. Max Stafford (Associate Producer), Drew Gardella (Director of Photography), and I scouted ACH extensively. A few of the locations seen in the film include: “Donut Pull off” on ACH, the tunnel on Angeles Forest Highway, and “9-mile” on Upper Big Tujunga Canyon.
Regarding equipment, we had quite the arsenal on set:
How much time did you and the team spend in post-production?
We spent about five weeks in post-production which was a cross-collaboration between our editor (Christian Whittemore in LA), writer (Grayson Whitehurst in Brooklyn), sound designers (Bytheway-May in Utah), composer (Lydon Quill in LA), and colourist (Dylan Hageman in LA).
Together, our main goal was to craft an authentic brand film blending the lines of an inspirational documentary with an action film.
Our style takes the audience on a journey and tells the story from Magnus’ point of view.
Program-wise, it was edited and colored in DaVinci Resolve, the music was composed in Ableton, and then it was sound designed in LogicX.
Can you tell us a bit about Magnus Walker’s collection of air-cooled Porsches, did you have any personal favourites?
If I could own one Urban Outlaw Porsche it would have to be his Blue 1976 930 911 Turbo! I love its vibe and the blue interior seats are just way too cool.
Do you have any other film projects you are most proud of?
Iron Head is one of my favourite productions. Making a movie is unlike any other filmmaking process. You are mentally all in, working with a group of people every day for months, and you look back at the whole experience and are almost shocked that it actually happened.
The 20 min film is a tragic crime drama about loyalty in a brutal world, revolving around the dichotomy of two siblings and their everlasting connection. The audience is transported into a highly thematic Neo-noir story set in a lonely and barren 1990’s Los Angeles with fourteen on-screen locations.
The film has been well received in North America and around the world. I was a Young Director Award Nominee in Cannes France and we received a highly coveted sponsorship from Panavision (Woodland Hills).
Apart from a passion for filmmaking, what else do you enjoy doing in your free time?
When it comes to skiing halfpipe and slope-style, nothing beats Breckenridge in Colorado.
Since living in Echo Park I love walking over to a Dodgers game and on the weekends you can find me in Hermosa – LA’s best beach town.
Any future goals and business interests you could tell us about?
My eyes right now are on directing global spots, campaigns, and web series for commercial and branded content clients.
I’d like to take the momentum as a short-form director and eventually push that into the Feature film and TV Series scene. My dream is to structure a career to be working with cars and automotive enthusiasts, athletes, and lifestyle brands directing story-based content while eventually making crime/action thrillers with a distribution company like Netflix.
Favourite book: Essentialism
Podcast you’re into: Impaulsive
Favourite Hot Wheels: Magnus Walker Urban Outlaw Porsche 911 “277”.
Favourite Place to wake up: White Lake – Adirondacks
Bucket list: Ski trip to Japan
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