N5’s high-speed thrills gain online traction

Having attracted more than 1.6 million YouTube views across its five episodes, web series Petrol is looking to further tap into the auto-enthusiast market.

Petrol, a five-part Toronto-shot web series, has driven impressive traffic since it first went live on YouTube earlier this year.

Produced by Toronto’s N5 Pictures with funding from the Independent Production Fund (IPF), the scripted series has amassed a combined 1.12 million views for its first two episodes, and has more than 1.6 million viewers for its five-episode first season.

Director Ant Horasanli, who produced Petrol alongside Reza Sholeh, told Playback Daily that he realized the size of the market for auto-enthusiasts while making a documentary, Redline – The Culture of Street Racing, in 2002.

Made on a budget of $250,000 (with funding from the IPF and private investment), the show was filmed in Toronto over 30 days last summer. The series follow five highly skilled drivers who are assigned various high-risk missions by a mysterious figure known as “The Employer.”

Prior to the series online launch, the team behind Petrol targeted racing forums and chat groups in order to promote the show, with certain episodes being promoted on forums that tied into the car/motorcycle brands and models featured in the episode.

The popularity of the first season has also drawn interest from brands within the auto industries, said Horasanli, with engine oil manufacturer Bluechem as well as Red Bull expressing interest in becoming involved in a follow-up season of the series in some capacity, though neither have signed on, as of press time.

Despite the drop off in numbers for the final three episodes of the season, Horasanli said the Petrol has exceeded the producer’s expectations in proving that this type of content could find an audience online. 

While other genres such as sci-fi and horror are currently more saturated with content, the market for racing-based series (aside from at the feature-film level, with franchises such as Fast and the Furious) are an untapped space, he said.

The producers are currently shopping the series at the American Film Market, where Horasanli said N5 is pitching season two of the series both as a potential TV series and as a web series. Should the show receive a second-season greenlight, Horasanli said cameras would begin rolling next summer.

Petrol stars Tyler Blake Smith, Kane Mahon, Kevin Corrigan, Jamie Elizabeth Sampson, Robert Gulassarian, Jimmy Yu, Mark Rival. Cinematography on the series was handled by Tyson Burger and Tomasz Kurek.

N5 Pictures’ previous credits include Lost Journey, which was distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media.