‘Four59’ follows the story of a spectacular and unique car: a 1955 Ferrari 25oGT Competition Boano (chassis #6) that first raced in the 1956 Mille Miglia.  Its current owner dug in on its history, finding several mysteries, but tells the back story and meets the original family that owned and raced 459.  He also determined he would drive the car in the Mille Miglia himself after a full restoration.  Filmmaker Sean Fannin followed the team from the USA to Italy, and on the Mille Miglia itself.  It’s a spectacular film that The Vintagent is proud to support!

We have the full film above, and Nadia Amer’s interview with Sean Fannin below:

Nadia Amer (NA): Your film about the Mille Miglia and the Ferrari 256 GT Boano (#459) is spectacular. What compelled you to make a film on this particular race and how did the project come about?

Sean Fannin (SF): Thank you! Filming the Mille Miglia has been a bucket list event since I started shooting automotive content. I have shot other races, but the Mille Miglia has always been special because of my family’s Italian heritage. My grandmother has always told me stories of where her family is from, but I had never spent any substantial time in Italy to properly take in the culture. As for this opportunity coming about, I was at a dinner with Eric Oberlander and his family the night before a project in Baton Rouge. Eric mentioned that he was going to participate in the Mille Miglia in a couple months, to which I told him that I would love to shoot such a project. To my surprise, Eric invited me to shoot a piece that documented his involvement in the race. We didn’t have much time to fully plan for a project such as the Mille and it’s many moving parts, but we decided that this was an opportunity neither of us wanted to pass on.

A stunning vehicle from any angle, the 1955 Ferrari 250GT Competition Boano was hand-built with an aluminum body and a racing heart. [Sean Fannin]
NA: You seem to have a passion for cars.  Have you filmed other races? How does filming the Mille Miglia compare with other projects you have done?

SF: I have filmed La Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, the World Stratos Meeting in Biella, Italy and Peking to Paris, which traverses from Beijing, China to Paris, France. Each of these races has their own trials and tribulations, but the production process is relatively the same. You keep up with the car(s) you are shooting as best as possible and grab footage whenever possible. The Mille differed in the sense that the other races introduce competitive sections where the drivers main goal is to be faster than the rest of the field. The Mille has competitive sections, but they do not rely just on speed. Instead, these regularity sections require the driver and navigator to work in unison to drive over pneumatic tubes at a predetermined interval. This doesn’t mean the Mille is void of speed. Speed in the Mille is introduced when trying to get to your next time stamp. Drivers don’t want to be late, or early, or they will be penalized, so they reduce their chance of missing their checkpoint by arriving as soon as possible. This allows them to drive up and collect their stamp right on time.  As you’d imagine, the competitive bug hits pretty quickly and driving from checkpoint to checkpoint becomes very spirited.

NA: How long was the planning process and what kind of crew and equipment did you have with you?

SF: The planning process for this project was shorter than usual because I met Eric only a few months before the race started. Throw in the requirements to travel under a pandemic and logistics became very tight. In terms of filming crew, it consisted of just myself, with my wife Abigail as my assistant. Adam Martin, Eric’s crew chief, doubled as my production driver and occasionally grabbed a shot for me if needed. In all, Eric’s team came together whenever needed to get the job done. They were a great group to work with. As for equipment, I brought all the goodies. Two camera bodies, two GoPros, gimbal, car mounts, drone, external recorder and mics for that lovely engine note. Being a run and gun style project I made sure that everything would fit into two smaller sized cases, which allowed us to stay light on our feet and not have to rule out any locations due to gear restrictions. 

The Mille Miglia is a feast for the senses. Especially following a spirited Austin-Healey 100M. [Sean Fannin]
NA: What camera systems did you use and at what resolution and frame rate?  Was there an artistic or technical requirement that drove the decision making?

SF: I have always used a Panasonic LUMIX system when shooting my own projects. For the Mille Miglia I brought my LUMIX S1 with a LUMIX S 24-70 2.8 Pro lens. This pair handled all handheld  shots. For stabilized shots I paired my LUMIX S5 with the 24-70 on a DJI Ronin S. A Sigma 100-400 paired with a 2x converter was used to give us reach on those long shots. This two camera setup allows me to be as quick on my feet as possible when dealing with so many unknown shooting scenarios. We shot 4K UHD ProRes 422 and ProRes RAW at 23.98 FPS by pairing the LUMIX cameras with an Atomos Ninja V recorder. A DJI Mavic 2 Pro handled all aerial shots. The main driving force behind this camera system is the need to be compact as possible when operating in such hectic and unknown situations. You find that there is limited time to set up shots on a project like this because you are constantly on the move, so you only get one chance at a shot for most of the race. So, I wouldn’t say that there was a specific artistic direction that drove the decision making, we were more focused on the ability to keep up with the pace of the competitors. However, we knew that we wanted to pull in the highest data rate possible when recording, so we shot in RAW as much as possible. 

NA: You have such a wide range of shots.  Were you given an all access pass to shoot or were you required to get permits from each town? Were there any obstacles to shooting in a foreign country? Did you find the production process to be different in Italy vs. other projects you have done?

SF: We were not required to get permits from each individual town, but we were required to get credentials from the Mille Miglia organizers that allowed our production vehicles into the city centers. There is a race route that the race participants follow, but not all vehicles following the race, mechanics and such, are allowed to stay on this route in certain areas. A media pass gave us access to important areas of the route. We are forever grateful to The Vintagent for partnering with us on this project and providing an outlet to gain the credentials needed. The obstacles that you face when shooting in a foreign country are typically the language barrier and not being familiar with the area. These are obstacles that can be easily managed, but every once in a while a communication barrier will turn a simple issue into something much bigger. Bad weather can be another factor that provides a bit of a headache, it rarely brings shooting to a halt, but it does complicate the shooting process when there are many moving cars and people. Luckily, the weather cooperated and we had sunshine for the majority of the race. If you have never participated in a race like this you may not be familiar with the Tulip road books that are used to navigate the race route. A tulip is a pictorial representation of the route. Each junction along the route is drawn as a small diagram which shows the design of the junction, and the route to follow at that point. This can be an issue if the driver and navigator aren’t seasoned at reading these directions. As I mentioned before, Eric’s crew came prepared and Adam Martin was well acquainted with the navigation skills needed. I had previous experience with the Tulip books during the Carrera and P2P, so I shared navigation duties in our car as Adam always got us exactly where we needed to be. You can always plug in a GPS coordinate if you get lost, but you are likely to not take the race route, which is where all of the action takes place.

Blasting through the Italian countryside and numerous small towns and villages, the Mille Miglia is nominally a rally, but inevitably becomes a race. [Sean Fannin]
NA: There are some very engaging mounted angles that make the viewer feel like they are part of the race.  How did you get these shots?  Did you use gimbal heads or some other mount?  Can you provide any more detail on the techniques and equipment used in getting the various shots?

SF: The mounted shots were captured using GoPro 9 Black cameras. Once the cameras were mounted in the morning they stayed on until we had an opportunity to meet up with Eric and rearrange or pull the cameras. I prefer to mount my S5 for these shots when I am shooting in a controlled environment, but the nature of the race didn’t allow for this as there would be multiple hour stretches before we could pull the cameras. So, we decided on various mounting points for the GoPros and placed the cameras wherever a mount would stay. Eric and Scott were gracious enough to start and stop the cameras at points of interest, while also handling their driving and navigating duties. With myself being the sole camera operator we knew that simply having coverage of the race was going to provide great leverage in post.

NA: Can you explain a bit about how you chose your shots and how you decided to position yourself to get the best shot and/or capture the “story” or moment?  Did you ever feel like you were in danger?  Were you as stressed as Eric Oberlander described his state of mind?

SF: When it comes to getting shots for a project like this it is a constant mix of selecting a few points of interest from the route book paired with simply showing up to a location and quickly seeing if anything jumps out to your eye, sometimes within minutes of the subject driving through. With only one camera on the ground I knew that variety was going to be key, so my main goal in each location was to get as many shots from as many different angles as possible. I always go for quality over quantity, but for a shoot like this the extra footage in post really paid off. Danger is inherent in races like this, fast cars on open roads with a lot of moving parts and people, but at no point did we ever feel like we were in harm’s way. We probably were in harm’s way, it just never feels that way once you slip into the speed of the race. As for Italy itself, we always felt welcomed throughout the entire route. Italy as a whole was a perfect backdrop for such a historic race.

Seeing and hearing historic racing cars on narrow streets, the exhaust note reverberating everywhere, is stirring stuff for spectator and driver alike. [Sean Fannin]
NA: What was the most difficult part of shooting and the production process in general? Did you have to make any tough decisions?

SF: The most difficult part of shooting was capturing the higher energy driving while traversing roads that were still open to the public. Now, this is nothing new when it comes to races like the Mille, but you always want to get the best footage possible while staying safe and out of the way of the race car and other drivers. Another tough part about this project was that we only had one person shooting. We captured plenty of footage along the way, but there was the constant struggle of deciding which locations were most important. We had to skip some of the areas that were of interest, but we needed to use that time to get to our next location before Eric and Scott. However, we are very pleased with the results and I would like to believe that these restrictions only made us more creative when making decisions. Overall, this was a difficult project to wrangle with a skeleton crew, but everyone involved came together to pull it off. 

NA: The B-roll of the towns and people is breathtaking.  What kind of drone did you use? Did you need a permit for that? Did the permitting process differ in Italy vs. your other productions? 

SF: The drone used is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. My kit is based around being light and compact, the Mavic 2 Pro’s form factor fits perfectly into this equation as it travels in my main camera case while producing a great picture. You can have the Mavic 2 Pro out of the case and into the air within a minute or so, making it a significant tool to have in the kit. It was essential to capture the atmosphere of the Mille. There is no better way to do this than by immersing yourself in the crowd and by also showing the point of view that only a drone can capture. The race cars are the star of the Mille, but it’s the supporting cast of people and places that makes the Mille special.

On the way to a fantastic meal and a rest for the evening in a celebratory atmosphere. [Sean Fannin]
NA: The archival footage and photos really add depth.  Where did they come from? And did you use the parallax technique for animating the photos?

SF: The archival footage was purchased by Eric OBerlander. It is an authentic reel of film that his team found for sale on eBay. We didn’t know if there was any footage of car 459 or Franco Marenghi, but Eric was willing to acquire the footage regardless. After we received the digital conversion we realized that neither made an appearance, but we were thrilled with the footage that was present. It gives a great sense of the atmosphere that surrounded the Mille in that time period. The photos came from Eric’s own dive into the history of car 459, along with the photos that the Marenghi brothers gifted to Eric. I wanted to make the photos more dynamic, so I created a simple parallax effect using Photoshop. Nothing too crazy when it comes to the world of animation, but hopefully it brought the photos somewhat to life.

NA: It was a touching scene where the son of Franco Marenghi, the original owner of the car, got to drive his father’s car that participated in the 1956 Mille Miglia.  What was it like to meet Alberto Marenghi and his brother? 

SF: We were thrilled when we heard that the Marenghi brothers agreed to be a part of this project. It was special to have such a direct line to car 459 and its original driver, Franco. They were gracious enough to share the photos and stories that they had accumulated over the years, some of which answered unknown questions about the car and its involvement in the 1956 Mille. It was a special moment to ride along with Alberto as he manned the wheel of the car that he had been told so many stories about. Both brothers shared stories of their father that added an extra layer to the story that Eric Oberlander can now add to the history of car 459. Alberto and Vittorio were the key piece of the puzzle that made this story come full circle, showing once again that car culture traverses all boundaries.

It’s not all groomed roads and cosseted driving for these precious vehicles…note the Mercedes 300SL with the ‘gullwing’ open for a bit of air in the notoriously hot cabin. [Sean Fannin]
NA: How many hours of footage did you shoot and how long did it take to edit? How many days did you shoot?

SF: I am not sure exactly how many hours of footage we shot, but we shot for nine days. Eric participated with a team called Scuderia Sports. This team spends three days training for the Mille while also enjoying the sights and food of the area. We shot Eric participating in the Scuderia Sports exercises and then in the race. Once the race started our shoot days typically lasted anywhere from 17-19 hours. You wake up early and get the car to the start, this is when I would place the GoPros for the morning session. Eric would set out for the day and we would hang with him for a few hours. Once we captured enough car to car footage we would then jump ahead and look for locations to shoot passing shots and drone footage. We would repeat this process, basically leapfrogging throughout the day. We would then arrive at the final checkpoint at night and head to the hotel. We would then prepare to do it all over again in a few hours.

NA: Eric Oberlander, Scott Laroque and the rest of the team seem like a fun group.  How did you meet them?  What was your relationship like and do you have any behind the scenes stories you care to share?

SF: I met Adam Martin years before I met everyone else on the team. I filmed his father-in-law’s Paul Newman Datsun 240z in my hometown of Cincinnati. I met Eric and Forrest in Louisiana while shooting Eric’s Baja Bronco for a separate project. Adam is friends with Eric so he showed up to hang out during the shoot. I met Scott during the Mille. The team was a fun bunch, always laughing and making the most of the experience, but also very focused when it came time to compete. For this being their first time competing in the Mille, Eric and his crew hit the ground running and never looked back. They finished as the top American team, which was one of their personal goals. I was proud to cross the finish line with team 459.

As cars go, a 1950s Ferrari competition coupe is about as good as it gets. [Sean Fannin]
NA: What was it like for you personally to be part of such an historic race?  What is your overall feeling of the experience? Would you care to share your most difficult and joyous moments?

SF: My head is still spinning from taking part in the Mille Miglia. The people, the landscapes, the food, the wine, the cars, the history… with the added layer of being able to capture such a unique story along the way. I can’t think of a better way to see Italy than chasing a vintage Ferrari through the Italian countryside. My most joyous moment of the Mille was definitely crossing the finish. Energy is always extremely high and everyone is celebrating the completion of a common goal. Also, it was special to have my wife along for the ride. She acts as my assistant on bigger projects, but had yet to come along for a race or rally. I’m not going to say that she was a fan of the 19 hour work day, but she loved the experience of the Mille and finally was able to see what a race like the Mille is all about.

NA: The sheer number of unique shots lends itself towards a hectic shooting schedule. Are there any entertaining statistics you would like to share?  (ie. how little sleep, how many locations, etc.)

SF: Sleep? What is that? All jokes aside, sleep was one of the aspects of the race that we weren’t too familiar with. Eric and Scott had a later start time due to the Ferrari being a 1955. Because of this, we would typically get to the hotel each night around midnight. Food, showers and a cold beer were a must upon arrival. For myself, this was then followed by two hours of prepping for the next day. Transferring footage, charging batteries, arranging all of the gear and having another look at the schedule for the following day usually allowed for roughly two to three hours of sleep each night. Eating from the hotel vending machines wasn’t out of the question if no surrounding food options were available. Nonetheless, you understand the machine and you roll with it. 

Enzo Ferrari and the three winners of the 1956 Mille Miglia standing behind ‘459’ in an amazing period shot. [Sean Fannin]
NA: Thanks for the interview!  Would you like to film this race again and what is your next project?

SF: Thank you for your interest in this project. I would love to film the Mille again. You become part of a bigger family when you take part in these types of races. You leave with incredible stories and lifelong friendships. I fully plan to make it back to the Mille, as well as the Carrera and Peking to Paris, to capture the amazing stories of the people who compete in these events. What’s next for me is wherever my camera takes me. I love to shoot, and all the technical aspects that come with it, but what I love most is the adventure of exploring new areas and meeting interesting people. I have no doubts that I will return to the Mille to tell more of the fantastic stories that it has to offer.

A whole lotta racing history in a line…Austin-Healey, Lotus, AC, Mercedez Benz, Alfa Romeo… [Sean Fannin]
[Ed: Thanks to Sean Fannin for his special ‘Vintagent edit’ of Four59, to Nadia Amer for her interview, and Nadia Fugazza for introducing Sean Fannin to The Vintagent]

Related Vintagent Stories:

Nadia Amer is Director of Education Initiatives at Motorcycle Arts Foundation, a Contributor at The Vintagent, a journalist and a filmmaker.  Instagram / Linkedin
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