The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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Malta to get its own version of Top Gear in the form of a web series

Jacob Borg Tuesday, 19 May 2015, 12:10 Last update: about 9 years ago

Overdrive Malta presenter Matthew Cesareo speaks to Jacob Borg about the launch of his new motoring show, which will be streamed exclusively online and is modeled on the BBC programme Top Gear.

Malta will soon be getting its own version of the popular BBC car programme Top Gear, hosted by two presenters, Matthew Cesareo and Mark Ellul.

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Mr Cesareo explains more about the programme, called Overdrive.

“I am leading a team of independent film makers who are passionate about cars and film making. We are not doing this for the money, in fact we are funding the project ourselves.  We want to share our passion with people.

“We are going to use high-end equipment to merge cinematography with a normal programme like Top Gear. We wanted that feel on a Maltese programme, which is currently lacking in Malta.

“We chose motoring because there are a lot of motoring programme in Malta but they are not that exciting in terms of visuals and audio.

“What we want to do is entertain people with the comic elements, the reviews and give them knowledge in a fun and entertaining way.”

Top Gear’s Dunsfold test track is almost as famous as its former presenters, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

Malta boasts no such tracks, so the team has to improvise.

“We are planning to do the filming across Malta, with beauty shots of cars and stuff like that. We are planning to take track shots in Sicily and even in the UK.”

Car v public transport race from Malta to Italy planned

The British programme is also famous for its over the top challenges, which often see its hosts racing across counties and even countries in old bangers. Overdrive is already planning to organise a similar challenge

“One of the challenges in the works is a race from Malta to Italy. One person will use a car and another will use public transport. We are heavily inspired by Top Gear, but we wanted to give it the Maltese feel.

“I think Overdrive will also be appreciated in foreign countries. We are actually going to release it with subtitles both in Italian and in English. We were contacted by a company in Italy after launching our teaser trailer, and they asked us to send them the first episode to see if they would like to dub it and have subtitles made for it.

“The episodes will be streamed exclusively online.”

Although the project is at the moment exclusively funded by its creators,  the team is receiving support from a number of car importers and manufacturers.

“Something that shocked some of the big manufacturers is that we did not request money, we just wanted the cars.

“We do not want to accept money because if we want to review the car, it’s purely because we want to review it and we don’t want to be biased. If someone pays you, you are not going to tell them their car is crap, so if there is any sponsorship we want it to be something unrelated to cars, which we already have people interests in doing.

“It is not about the money, if we get money out of it, then it will either go on equipment, or we will be giving it to charity. We are already organising a charity event for Puttinu cares.”

Such a project is incredibly time consuming, particularly as all the partners fit it in-between their fulltime jobs.

“I work on this project during any free time I have, which is very limited at the moment because I am a new father and I work a fulltime job. Any free time I have I am investing in this project.”

Another element being taken from Top Gear is the contrasting characters of its presenter, with the over-the-top Jeremy Clarkson and the more pragmatic Richard Hammond and James May.

Mr Cesareo will be leaving the Clarkson-esque antics to his co-presenter.

“I am the down-to-earth guy who looks at cars from a practically aspect, particularly their versatility and comfort and how they are going to perform in Malta.

“Mark Ellul will be the one still stuck in his teens, he likes power and the speed and all these sort of things.

“The reviews will be distributed between the more serious element and the comic one.

“We don’t want to bore people. We want people to be hooked and say wow, I didn’t know that about the car.

“If we are reviewing a car, we won’t only just talk about that car. We are going to look into how it was developed, and what in its history let to its development. So it is something new and informative.

“We are working with car agents, tuning agents and local car clubs such as the classic Fords, we have been in talks with the Malta Grand Prix Federation.”

First car review

The first programme will feature a BMW 420 M-Sport, which received an 8/10 from Top Gear.

“We are going to show people how it evolved from the 320 Coupe which was discontinued and why it turned into a 420. We are launching the first episode this week.”

As yet, there is no fixed schedule for when the individual programme will be released.

“We are not going to be stuck to a schedule, if there are very interesting cars we are going to review them. We will be interviewing collectors with very interesting stories behind their collections.

“There are a lot of hidden gems around Malta. We met a guy who has a World War 2 era basement with cars and motorcycles inside which he can’t get out because he built a house on top of it.

“These were cars and motorcycles that his grandfather left him and he just locked them away in the basement. It’s amazing, there are a lot of small stories like this around Malta and it’s nice to share them.”

One aspect that Overdrive will not be taking from Top Gear is a studio audience.

“Right now we are not going to have a studio element, we are going to have features because we do not want the programme to be too long seeing that it’s going to be online. We are looking at 10-15 minutes features, you can either stream it online or through an HD download link to enable people to watch the show on their smart TVs.

“We are thinking of doing a spin-off mini-documentary showing the restoration process of a particular car we got our hands on. We are going to show people what goes into a barn find to the actual finished project.”

Overdrive hoping to attract a female audience

Although petrol heads are usually predominately male, Overdrive is hoping to attract a female audience as well.

“We basically started testing some groups with the different entertainment elements, first we were targeting guys, but out of a 100 per cent, 30 per cent were female, and we were confused. We started thinking how we can get this up to 40 per cent, and we managed with the comic elements and the kind of information we are giving out.

“We try to be technical but not in a confusing way, because sometimes people are too technical and the female audience don’t relate to it as much.

“Women would like to know more practical information about the advantages of choosing one car over another.

“We were surprised at the interest of the female audience to be honest. I think the music plays a very important role in it, because we wanted to keep a relationship with local entities, so we commissioned an upcoming band called Jane Doe, who have composed the theme song of the show and are composing more songs for the soundtrack.

“It’s an element that females more than males enjoyed, because the songs are not the usual commercial songs you are used to hearing, they are more melodic and bring out the passion and artistry in the filming.”

The first Overdrive episode will be launched this week.

The programmes can be followed on http://www.overdrivemalta.com/ and by liking the Overdrive Malta Facebook page. 
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