Charlotte Fantelli is known for her male-skewing documentaries, her motorsport docs such as Journey to Le Mans and Gentleman Driver, her involvement with Stallone, Frank That Is and Sylvester Stallone narrated ‘Becoming Rocky’. We catch up with her on the release of her latest high-octane thrill fest ‘Hunt Vs Lauda: The Next Generation’ which premiered in London early November and is available on DVD and digital from December 19th.
Charlotte, we see you once again entering the very male dominated world of motorsport, why is this such a draw for you?
Ha, it’s funny really I have been enthralled by the smell of petrol and the sound of engines for as long as I can remember. It was never really anything to do with gender or the politics surrounding it, but rather the feat of human and mechanical excellence, the passion, the drive and I suppose the danger. It is something that has always impassioned and excited me.
Have you ever wanted to race yourself?
Good question. Yes, yes I have. Although I come from a humble background and my first foray into racing was not on a track but rather street racing, and after losing my licence three times, I decided it was better to leave the racing to the pros on track. I was lucky enough to get into business with someone who was also into racing – in a much more ‘grown up’ way and this gave me access to the sport in a new way.
So you have already made three or four racing films, what is new about Hunt Vs Lauda; The Next Generation?
Any motorsport fan knows these iconic surnames, none are more noteworthy in motorsport history. Therefore, when I was approached by Jose Thomas, the guy who had the vision to make a ‘Rush V2’ with the sons of the two legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda, it piqued my interest immediately. I got to work pulling apart the story, delving deep into the characters and shaping what I knew would be a deep dive into the worlds of these two iconic motorsport families and tell the story in a whole new way – one generation on.
The premiere was a great success, a lot of very renowned individuals in the room, how did you feel showcasing your work to such a great bunch of industry professionals?
I actually relished the opportunity. It is not often you can sit in a room full of your peers and get their full attention for an hour an a half. To think I had the likes of Dean Baker [Tom Hardy’s business partner of Hardy, Son and Baker], Adam Matalon [famous US producer], David Polemeni [Director at BMG] and the like all transfixed on my work, it is exciting and exhilarating. A marvellous opportunity. Of course there are nerves because nothing is perfect, but industry insiders know how damn difficult it is to make a film, especially on a lower budget and I know they would utterly respect that. So I truly enjoyed the moment and felt very blessed to be in that position.
What was it like filming with the families of two motorsport legends who you obviously admire?
It was great. I also had to put my preconceived ideas aside and as a Director go in with a journalistic mindset to discover what is new, where the fresh stories were coming from and how these two guys Freddie Hunt and Mathias Lauda could captivate an audience in their own right. For me it was about getting the audience to connect with these two characters and, by the time the final race came on screen, to be shouting the name of the guy they wanted to win. It was wonderful journeying into the past, but more than that, it was about creating a story right now with these two individuals who in their own right are epic racing drivers, stepping out of the giant shadows cast by their fathers.
You travelled to some wonderful destinations making this film, what are your favourite memories?
Honestly, I love what I do, I cannot pinpoint one part that was the best, I can say travelling with my wonderful crew is always great, it is a bit like being in a rock band; RV’s, time on the road, aeroplanes, a few too many wines, some games of poker and a heck of a lot of work… Being in an intense environment with people you get very close, there is a camaraderie like you don’t get in many workplaces, I love this about the job for sure. Of course good looking racing drivers working out, stripping off and getting behind the wheel of fast cars is also a fun thing to film, I am not going to lie. But for the most part I enjoy the team spirit you build on a production and the hard work and challenges you have to overcome.
And what was the most challenging?
Well, personally it was the fact I was recovering from a major car accident and going into the filming of this I was in the early stages of brain injury rehab. I didn’t share my struggles with many people and continued to travel and work 12-16 hour days whilst struggling to stand up sometimes. I’d be on a plane one minute, doing brain rehab the next, then running round with a camera on my shoulder directing a team. It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it.
Wow, that sounds tough, what made you carry on with the project after such a life-changing event?
I don’t think I know how to do anything else. I had a heart issue a few years back, had my heart stopped twice in Resus at 5am, I think I was back at work at 9. In some ways it is crazy, in others it is what keeps me going. When you love what you do it keeps you driven, it keeps you alive. That and family of course.
You are a wife and a mother, how do you balance it all?
I don’t know if I do to be honest, I think like any working parent you always kick yourself when you miss something and you are constantly making choices and feeling torn. However, it is about making sacrifices and being prepared to take the consequences. Life is about have the courage to make choices and live with the result of those choices. I am lucky enough to have a partner who has taken the ‘sensible’ job with sociable hours and holidays who can do much more of the home stuff. I recently took myself off a shoot to make one of my son’s concerts, it was truly amazing and I am so glad I did! I had to then reshoot the show I was meant to be working on, but it was 100% worth it. I don’t always get it right, it is a fallacy to think anyone has the perfect balance, but I try my best at work and at home.
And why male-skewing? Why do you prefer to make films with a male target audience?
I like to think I know what men want [laughs]. No, I don’t know really, I think part of me is very male in personality – if that is even such a thing anymore… I think perhaps I have more traits that would be traditionally thought of as masculine. I like celebrating strength and success, I love beautiful women and great physiques, cars, fitness… I see nothing wrong with celebrating hard work and the achievement it brings. Whether that is in the form of winning races, entrepreneurship or celebrity, I enjoy showcasing the best of what a person can be. It is this spirit that is captured in a lot of the films I make, if that is male-skewing so be it, but I am a woman and I love being inspired by powerful individuals undertaking inspiring challenges.
So what is next?
There are a few series in the offing and I continue to grow my production company Branded Studios with my partners here in the UK and in the US as we develop opportunities across the factual and format spaces. Long term I also see myself moving into the drama space, but all in good time. The secret is to always pursue the goals but not to forget to enjoy the journey, and boy I am enjoying the journey right now!
Hunt Vs Lauda; The Next Generation is out on the 19th December on DVD and digital, preorder on Amazon now Here.