Adventurous Durangoan is ad’s focus

Courtesy of Discovery Communications

Durangoan Josh Flure, standing in the background during filming, suddenly became a TV star this summer. He appears in an advertisement for Subaru that is airing on the Discovery Channel.

December found him surviving a death-defying, end-over-end crash on a New Mexico highway.

April found him leaving his hometown of Las Cruces, N.M., for Durango and a new job.

August found the 28-year-old appearing regularly as an unlikely star on national television.

And these are just the highlights. To call the past few months in Josh Flure’s life turbulent might be an understatement.

He seems to be enjoying the ride, but it has to be a bit disorienting for a guy working as tech support at Mercury Payment Systems to suddenly find himself the focus of a Subaru advertisement airing on the Discovery Channel.

“I’m not normally the type to get in front of a camera,” Flure said in an interview last week. “I wasn’t, anyway. I used to be really shy.”

It’s possible you’ve seen the 1-minute ad, based on Flure with cameos of a 2012 Outback. (In real life, he owns a Subaru Forester.) Scenic shots include Flure driving on a deserted highway, grabbing gear out of the hatchback, technical climbing up a rock face, then scrambling up to the top for the “hero shot.” The voiceover is Flure describing why he loves the outdoors and briefly why his vehicle is important in that lifestyle.

“You never know when you’re going to pull over and have an amazing experience,” he says in the ad.

Or a harrowing experience.

The string of events that led to his fame apparently began in December, when he and two friends were returning from snowboarding at Ski Apache near Ruidoso, N.M.

Flure was exhausted, so he turned over the keys to his 2004 Forester to his friend for the drive home. Flure was sleeping in the back seat and woke up just before a car slammed into them from behind. The impact sent the Forester sliding sideways off the divided highway, then into a high-speed cartwheel.

“I felt weightlessness, and then it was just aggressive impact after aggressive impact,” he said.

The car landed in the fast lane on the opposite side of the divide, coming to rest on the passenger side door. Flure kicked out the sunroof to escape. He had minor injuries, and none of the three men was mortally wounded.

A volunteer fireman who saw the accident told him, “That car was flipping so fast and so violent. ... You guys should have been dead.”

On one of his YouTube videos – he’s made several featuring his Forester on four-wheel-drive roads – Flure included scenes of the accident and thanked the car for saving his life. He also noted that he’d gone out and bought a 2005 Forester that was a spitting image of the one demolished in the crash.

A talent coordinator for Bunker New York, a film production company, dropped a message in Flure’s YouTube inbox saying they were looking for Subaru owners who aren’t afraid of a little adventure.

Flure responded and forgot about it, partly because he doubted its legitimacy. But a couple weeks later he was contacted by Bunker again: “Your story was amazing and we would like to speak with you about attending our shoot ... in New Mexico.”

Flure, who was at work, went to the breakroom and called the producer. Suddenly, with permission from his new bosses at Mercury, he had made plans to shoot a commercial the next week.

“I was shaking at that point,” he said. “That happened all at once within a couple hours.”

On June 27, he drove to Santa Fe to begin a whirlwind three days of filming near Ghost Ranch, just north of Abiquiu. He had little idea what to expect.

“There was no rehearsal time. There was nothing even scripted,” Flure said.

He didn’t even fully realize until shooting started that the subject was him, not the car. The concept is for people to bond with Flure and his love of the outdoors, and thus bond with the Subaru.

“Josh was terrific,” Matt Katzive, executive producer for Discovery Creative who was at the shoot, wrote in an email. “Our goal was to find someone with a deep passion for adventure and the outdoors, so Josh was a natural fit.”

Flure joined the director and film crew the first afternoon as they drove around looking at locations. They asked him what rock formations were suitable for climbing.

“Well, technically, I wouldn’t climb any of this crap,” Flure told them. “It was absolutely garbage rock. It was hollow and crumbling and falling apart.” They managed to find a spot that would suffice.

He spent most of the second day waiting as technicians fitted a camera on the Outback. Then Flure began his career as professional stunt driver, performing about 15 drive-bys in which he rounded a corner.

The next day was more driving, with a camera mounted on the hood and a “nuclear-powered light blasting me in the face.” The director lay in the back seat and gave Flure instructions – look this way, turn that way.

“On the third day, I felt like a veteran – ‘This is fun. I can get used to this.’”

The finished ad began airing in mid-August during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. It will continue to air through the end of the year, Erin Calhoun, senior director of communications for Discovery Communications, wrote in an email.

“The first time I saw it I was completely taken aback,” Flure says. “It turned out much better than I thought it was going to.”

For the first couple weeks, each time the ad appeared he received a batch of emails and calls from friends, blown away that their buddy was suddenly a star.

“It’s still me,” Flure said. “It’s not going to my head or anything.”

And at $150/day, it didn’t go to his pocketbook. Maybe someday he’ll get another such once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but, for now, he’ll cherish his day job and his trusty 2005 Forester. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.

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