Brilliant Mind Behind the "Petrolicious" Series
Just a few years ago, entertainment for automotive enthusiasts was pretty limited. After Top Gear, there was a very precipitous drop-off. Outside of the ill-fated Car Show, and a lukewarm start to Top Gear America, there are plenty of terrible reality TV shows that feigned cultivation of car culture, but were nothing more than Orange County Choppers with cars. More of these shows appear every year.
Then, something happened, the individuals that wanted to make quality automotive content stopped bothering with the tired process of pitching an automotive show– something that has historically never done well in American television. Instead, they have taken to the web, producing some of the most breathtaking content gearheads have ever seen. One outfit is the YouTube-funded DRIVE. The other most notable source for automotive viewing goodness is Petrolicious, and it's winning viewers over by the thousands.
Afshin Behnia is the brain behind the growing web series, which combines beautiful cars with compelling stories by the owners and insanely attractive production values. It is the antitheses of the "girls in bikinis and motor oil" approach to car culture that traditional television producers assume of car folks. This is quality programing that is making the automotive landscape a better place. "The Idea was on the back burner for the last few years," explains Behnia via a phone call last week. "I was previously with a software company, prepped for sale, so I began to look beyond it. I had always been into cars, especially vintage cars." Like many enthusiasts quickly found in the last decade, the quality of automotive programing did not match his passion. "I sought out good content on YouTube, and was disappointed by what I found." That is when Behnia decided to take matters into his own hands, "I had the idea of a site dedicated to the celebration the culture and lifestyle that comes with owning a classic car. It had to be something beautiful. It had to be the opposite of reality TV." So mid-2012, Behnia invested with his own money and assembled a crew of like-minded people. It was at that time that he started looking for subject cars and peopl. A lot of the time, the content came to him, or was present through his hobby of the automobile. "Being into cars, I have a number of friends who were into it as well," explained Behnia, "Through various track events, and other types of car events, these great people and their cars were just kind of around."
As of late, with the site getting traction, and the videos gaining popularity, many people have now been coming to him, which presents a new problem: "One challenge is geography," he says, "a lot of stories are outside of our geographical range. We wish that we could get to every car in every country, but of course that's impossible." As of now, just about all the videos have been shot in Southern and Central California, but the Petrolicious crew is looking to hit the East Coast soon. Up to this point, all of the production has been done in central California. Just like the crew's location determining which cars are filmed, the stories of the cars themselves determine how vehicles are shot. "To some degree the inspiration is visual, like how the car itself looks," explains Behnia. "These cars and their beautiful styling play a role in the aesthetic. Everything else is determined by the personality of the owner and his/her story."
A typical shoot for the Petrolicious crew is a day, but a second day may be added if more material is needed. Post-production (ingestion, editing, distribution) can go as quick as 2-3 days, but can sometimes take as much as a week. Each cycle of shooting and editing are singular steps in Afshin Behnia's long-term vision for the series. "Our goal is to become a regular destination for those interested in vintage vehicles," he explains, "but more than that, our goal is three-fold: to entertain, inspire and inform." Behnia says that reaching their goals has been far more attainable by the work of the team's Executive Creative Producer and Afshin's wife, Kika. Behnia admits that she has been instrumental in overcoming many of the production challenges associated with a project in its early stages.
Now that the product has left its infancy, the team is looking to expand, and produce different kinds of products. Next in line are various practical resources for vintage car ownership. That includes how-to repair and maintenance videos, as well as buying guides. "We want to inspire," says Afshin, "but we also want to be able to educate those that we are trying to inspire about these cars." With the bar being lowered on traditional cable with every new automotive reality TV show, Petrolicious has already made a dramatic impact on the automotive community. Their videos have let the world know that car guys are not entertained by 30-minute ads for car care products. Petrolicious does everything in good taste, and where an automotive infomercial will make its producers a quick buck, the work of Afshin and his team will leave a legacy of quality entertainment. That is something for which the entire Petrolicious team can be proud. Photos: Petrolicious