Behind The Scenes of Devin Olson’s “From Dreams to Screams: Fury 325”
Back in November, we interviewed Devin Olson of Devin Olson Media about the process of creating a theme park documentary, as he has done quite successfully with his “From Dreams to Screams” series. His next installment; “From Dreams to Screams: Fury 325” will be officially released on September 1st, but Devin wanted to give Coaster101 readers an early chance for viewing. He also took a few minutes to answer some questions we had about his latest video.
C101: You told us in our last interview that your goal for the Fury 325 Documentary was to have the viewer think “I really feel like I know the people behind the ride.” Do you feel that you accomplished that?
DO: Whenever you set out on a new project, there’s this certain threshold you reach during production where you feel like you’ve accomplished the main goals. I definitely knew we had the first of those main goals on March 25th when we wrapped up the final interviews for FDTS: Fury 325. Granted, we still had a few more months of production left until we wrapped on June 10th, and more goals to accomplish, but I really felt like I knew the five people we based the story around on March 25th. And if I felt like I knew them, then the only way viewers of the documentary wouldn’t get the same sense would be if we completely butchered post-production somehow. With each past documentary, I felt like we got a little closer to my subconscious goals for this series each time, but for the first time ever, I feel like we nailed it this time around. No longer is the documentary mainly about the attraction itself, but it’s about the people behind it — and when you get to know the creators better, you naturally get to know their creation along the way. Telling their stories is really what makes me tick.
The Spine of Fury 325’s First Drop ©Devin Olson Media
C101: Tell us how the process evolved compared to your original timeline/plan?
DO: Well, for one thing, I never thought production would continue well into June, but it became apparent in March that there would be no way to wrap it up then; there was just too much riding on compelling visuals to accompany the even more compelling stories, and the original plan for a 15-minute documentary eventually transformed into a roughly half-hour piece when I started editing and realized that, even with all the possible fat trimmed out of the story line, we were still looking at well over twenty minutes not counting breathing room. But I do think that the depth of stories does justify those extra minutes, and I may be biased, but every time I watch through the entire doc, I feel so disappointed that it’s ending so soon. Yet, in the end, with the amount of incredible B-roll and soundbites alone that had to hit the cutting-room floor, I think a half-hour is the perfect compromise.
Tawaan Brown films Fury 325’s Train. ©Devin Olson Media
C101: Is there anything that happened during filming that made you think “Wow, this is a great soundbyte or visual, and we need to include this?”
This was a constant theme of the production process. I can truthfully say that each interview had several moments where I started silently rejoicing that we’d just somehow gave a star of the doc the freedom to delivering a powerful soundbite that we didn’t even see coming. I think my favorite story in the entire piece comes in the last couple minutes. And it’s really a magical moment when you’re sitting there simply asking a somewhat bold, personal question without knowing exactly what type of response it may elicit. Your interviewee could brush it off easily enough, or even decline to answer, but seeing that person become vulnerable on camera, letting emotions shine through as you get that lump in your throat, and then you realize that tens or hundreds of thousands of other people will get to share in this emotional moment — those moments are really a big part of why I do what I do. The ride is fantastic, but the stories are why I do this. We could easily ask about ride facts and present a fun-filled documentary about the difference between a hyper-coaster and a giga-coaster, and how a coaster works, but that’s already been done and being done and will be done. What I really care about are the people, and I think that deep down inside that’s what anyone else truly cares about too, whether they realize it or not.
C101: How was the Fury 325 Project different than any of your previous projects?
DO: Aside from the personal aspect I know we’ve talked about in-depth, the level of production going on here was insane compared to previous documentaries. I estimate that I alone took around eight trips related to this project, whether it was up at the park to film construction, or filming a day in the life of a team member for the project, capturing footage of another park entirely for backstory, or actually capturing the ride in motion. The access and cinematography I think is also a couple steps above anything we’ve done before, to the point where I was having trouble keeping shots under 10 seconds sometimes because I just didn’t want to cut them (3 seconds should be the average for a project like this). Then you have the length, that I mentioned already. Technically, this is the first From Dreams shot in 4K, which I think anyone with an eye for video will notice right off the bat. Story-wise, we rely heavily on the stars and very little on voiceover, versus before where it was more or less half and half. There are shots in here that took hours or months to complete, that I’ve never seen attempted in the theme-park world. And last but not least, you have the soundtrack. A good deal of the music you’ll hear is being composed specifically for this documentary by none other than the very talented Tawaan Brown, who’s my right-hand man and one of my best friends in the world.
Tawaan Brown and Devin Olson at Fury 325’s Entrance. ©Devin Olson Media
C101: In your filming/interviewing, what were some of your favorite “fun facts” about the ride or the people involved?
DO: I think that, in digging deeper into the stories of the five people featured — Rob, Ronnie, Mike, Clint, and Elizabeth — I loved hearing the exposition for each person. For instance, one of them started out doing some random welding work around Carowinds, one of them started out being hired by a contractor that had a gig at Universal Studios Florida, and one of them gave up a degree in teaching against his mom’s advice to work at Dorney Park full time. Then there’s the specific planning process for the ride, which I always love hearing about. It’s always part function, part form; in example, the first turn was simply functional in order to get from the open land near Hurler to the open land at the front of the park, but then the bridge and entrance flyovers were specifically arranged to create a very psychological effect on arriving guests, much like the Gatekeeper effect up at Cedar Point that we touched on in our past installment of the series. And of course, you have a few funny stories along the way, like how one of the interviewees completely ruined his son’s day to go ride Fury for the first time (without his son), then tried to make it up to him. And that’s part of the magic — taking viewers for a ride on the spectrum of emotions.
C101: Was Fury 325 able to overtake Millennium Force in your eyes?
DO: I could simply answer this in one word, but I think that, in order to due the answer justice, I need to elaborate a little. Before I rode Volcano at Kings Dominion for the first time in 1999, there had been some ambivalence about what my favorite coaster was. Then, it was sealed for the next eight years until I had the chance to make it up to Cedar Point for the first time in 2007 and experience Millennium Force. That changed things once again for me entirely. The past eight years, Millennium Force sat in that crowning spot on my “top steel coasters” list, and I fully expected it to realistically remain there even after experiencing Fury on that fateful day in March of this year. After my first ride, I knew that I could safely say I had a new number-two, but I think that was my caution speaking, mixed with a little nostalgia for Cedar Point’s famed coaster. However, after re-riding time after time after time, including experiencing this beast in the back seat and after dark, I can safely say now that it’s overtaken Millennium Force as my number-one.
DO: To be clear, there’s a lot of overlap on the Venn diagram: both rides share the length, the smoothness, the intensity, the airtime, the lack of restraints, the comfort, the re-rideability, the pacing. And yes, Millennium Force has the unparalleled visual ride, the tunnels, the sheer unforgiving speed into the final brakes, but Fury’s first drop is just a hair better, trains are just a hair more comfortable and less restraining, the lateral airtime is something I’ve never experienced altogether on any other ride aside from Outlaw Run, and the layout offers such a phenomenal lineup of elements (not the least of which is the most graceful turnaround I’ve ever experienced), and the layout in general is just more fluid than Millennium Force’s somewhat mechanical flat turns into straight hills. It’s like the mayhem of Intimidator 305 or Maverick’s transitions but with the grace and comfort of a typical B&M coaster. If the pattern repeats itself, we’ll see what may come along in 2023.
C101: What is your next theme park project?
DO: We always tend to have at least half a dozen in production and another half a dozen right behind in pre-production. I can safely say that with all the material captured with the initial purpose of FDTS: Fury, we’re working on a separate documentary about the crew that put the ride up. Some of our other projects for the immediate future involve other companies behind some of the beloved themed attractions out there today, and we’re expanding comfortably to document some attractions in that one degree of separation from theme parks, like a new water park right here in our backyard in Georgia in a few days and a zoo in Texas in November. I’d love to speak on a lot of the other projects for the fall, but we either have NDAs signed or the details are still premature at this stage in the game — definitely some unique opportunities on the horizon though, and I thank God every day not only that I get to have a small part in this industry every day, but mainly that I get to interact with the amazing people in this industry and call some of them friends.
C101: Any final thoughts?
DO: I can’t go anywhere or do anything online without getting asked about this documentary and when it’s going to be launched, and I love the amount of support it’s gotten, far beyond anything we’ve done in the past. We’ll be officially launching the documentary September 1st, but stay tuned for details on how you can watch it early right here at Coaster101! I can’t wait for everyone to share in the journey that our team has gotten to experience for the better part of the past two years, and here’s to the official release soon!