Vic Zast, a Blood-Horse contributor and former racetrack executive, knows what a longshot is. About 9000 films are produced each year in the United States. Fewer than five percent of the films are screened. But he beat the odds.
Our Longest Drive, Zast's story about four buddies including one who is dead, who drive from Chicago, IL to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada – 250 miles above the Arctic Circle – to play golf at midnight of the summer solstice, premieres Tuesday, October 16 at 10:30 PM on the Golf Channel. Click here to view a trailer and learn more about the show.
Zast and his co-producers are hosting 175 invited guests for a closed screening of the primetime TV premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street in Chicago's Loop.
The premiere, titled “The Guy in the Box,” is the first episode of six 30-minute primetime episodes that will run on Tuesdays this fall. Golf Channel reaches an audience of 40 million viewers in 62 countries.
What makes Zast's achievement seem even more unconventional is that Our Longest Drive is his first attempt at filmmaking. “Having spent 30 years in the perfume business, I'm comfortable with creating something from nothing,” he explained. “My idea was too good to pass up. If we were going to make the effort to drive as far as the road goes, we had to bring a camera crew along.”
Zast's adventurous quartet traveled 5500 miles in a 21-foot RV, across seven US states, two Canadian provinces and two territories. Their trip took 17 days, driving 10 to 12 hours daily, with the goal of tee-ing up on a grassless three-hole golf course at midnight of the summer solstice. When they were finished, the four photographers they took along had amassed 400 hours of footage. “You try to fall asleep or swing a golf club with a camera six inches away from your face,” Zast said about the experience.
Golf isn't the only game Zast played on his adventure. In episode 4, his buddies and he break camp in Chetwynd, British Columbia, Canada, where they park their RV in a motel lot and borrow the motel's wi-fi signal. Zast summons up twinspires.com and the men bet among themselves on a replay of the 2011 Belmont Stakes – a race that took place five hours earlier but they couldn't watch in real time because they were driving through Internet-less wilderness. Of course, none of the guys bet on longshot winner Ruler on Ice. It's ironic because to the ice they're headed.
“Horse racing and golf are similar sports in that each offers up an unconquerable challenge,” Zast believes. “If a horseplayer won every bet he made or a golfer shot par every round, he'd be bored. Having your dopamine pumped up so high from frustration is one of the reasons you become addicted to these sports,” Zast said.
Zast, an open critic of Luck, the short-lived HBO series about horse racing, seems more reluctant to fault Luck's creators these days now that he's in the business. “Nobody starts out to make something that goes wrong. The creators of Luck had a budget a thousand times bigger than I. There's no comparison in the type of scenes each series brings to the screen,” Zast said. “But Our Longest Drive is a good story and I believe that the characters are likable.”
With this in mind, the 67-year-old entrepreneur, in his maiden start in television, is hoping that his Our Longest Drive Golf Channel series emerges a winner. It wouldn't be the first time a longshot came in for him.
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