Two days, two milleniums, two continents. One man, one goal - make great cycling video. Our bike shaman Ronalds tells about two of his experiences with filming cycling action.
This is the first time in my life that I work in an office, at a desk. My job here so far has been writing copy for the site- buying, sizing guides and so forth. It's an awfully long time since I've done any creative writing at all. I'm talking decades here! It's taken quite a bit of focus to get the words flowing in a communal office environment, where other topics are constantly being discussed around me. I've had to relearn how to block out my surroundings, focus on what I'm doing and just get on with it. It seems I have learnt well.
It is friday afternoon. I'm wrapping up whatever piece i was working on. I think I was quite pleased that I'd written something nice about kids bikes. I can sense Andris is setting something up behind me, but I'm not paying attention. There's always something going on.
“We're going to have a presentation.”
“ Oh – okay”- I can now see that a projector has been set up. Time to pay attention to what's going on . Andris had prepared a very professional storyboard presentation for a video shoot – multiple locations, involving all of us riding, hitting cues, taking direction, being on it. I'm thinking “ This is really professional for a preliminary storyboard”- but I'm working with professionals- so that's not surprising.
“ We shoot tomorrow!”- Huh?
“ Be there at 10...we'll message you where.” - Say what? “ We've been discussing it all week; didn't you hear?” I may have overheard something about drones- but I'm used to talk of such technology amongst the young ones and obviously paid no heed. I'm starting to feel a sense of deja-vu here- this isn't the first time I've been involved in the mayhem of a video shoot at next to no notice.
1998, Melbourne, Saturday morning- the time that does not exist.
I only got home a couple of hours ago- Friday night carried on into Saturday morning like usual. Time for sleep, maybe shops later- if I come alive enough. Saturday mornings were usually quiet at the West Melbourne party house- everyone's hung over, nobody's moving. But our back door was always unlocked....so....
A knock on the frame of my non-existant bedroom door- a previous tenant had burned it for firewood- it was that kind of house. It's Simon – and he's quite exited. Talking really fast – I'm just catching snatches, comprehending less. Something about Petri, video and all sounding really, really urgent. I'm trying to wrap my brain around what he's saying but my brain's refusing to start, like a kickstart motorcycle on a cold morning.
“We've got to be there in half an hour!” Whaaat??? The engine kicked into life and was idling roughly-
“Coffee, cones- GO!” As I took care of the essentials I made sense of what Simon was saying. Him and Petri were booked to do stunt riding for a techno groups video shoot, Petri had some kind of emergency and couldn't make it so they needed someone to fill in who could bomb stairs on demand, and hit cues. The crew was all assembled, everything was in place- it had to happen today!This was before even mobile phones were common-let alone the internet- so when something was organised, it was a lot harder to un-organise.
“Oh- You've got to ride Petri's bike!”- WHAT?- “ Continuity- they've already done shots with it, so.....”-just when everything was starting to make some sense, this bombshell was nearly the end of any enthusiasm I was beginning to muster. To say that Petri's steed was different to mine is an understatement- two very different paths taken to a similar end. Petri's rig, as you can see,was a frankenbike beyond most others, I'd never ridden it, and didn't particularly want to now. But- the things you do for a mate- I was going to have to.
We met up with the director on the roof of his building, just around the corner. Morgan was quite the guy. He was explaining all these different shots and locations rapid fire and most of it was going SPLAT over my head into the wall behind me. I'd managed to wake up enough to get myself this far, but the catastrophic headache was closing in. All I comprehended was that, essentially Morgan was some kind of a gun on rollerblades and we were going to be chasing him around the City on our bikes, or Petri's in this case. Okay- I can do that! I just wanted to get on with it so we could get done and I could take my brain back to bed. I'll deal with whatever I have to do, just don't ask me to comprehend it.
The first few locations were easy . Mostly learned how to make it look like you're riding fast, while riding slow. Hit cues over and over, take after take. Proving that you don't need to know what's going on to take direction. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it – service with a surl!
The final location for the day was the most crucial- we were to chase Morgan on his rollerblades down the Chapter House steps out the back of St Pauls Cathedral- next to Minuteman's old base. This shot was the reason I was roped in, not somebody else. There were a few of us who were known for going big with stair gaps, launches and hucks. I viewed Melbourne's topography as an endless venue for such play- so I was the next choice after Petri. Normally you'd hit these steps up once or twice a day, for fun, on the way somewhere else. But only one pass at a time- what you got,is what you got. Today wasn't going to be like that. Today was going to be two of us, side by side, chasing a rollerblader for take after take after take. The approach to these steps was tricky on your own -with three of us it was mayhem.
“Can you go bigger?”- Ok- we went bigger!
“Can you launch closer to each other?” - Ok -we did one take where Simon's handlebar was inside my frame- just separating in time to land on the last couple of steps. We were pushing further and further each take, coming close to hucking to flat. But there was always someting wrong- out of frame, or some other problem. Finally Morgan seemed satisfied and the job was done. I could finally take my brain and body home. Did I mention that we weren't getting paid for this....the things you do.
When the video eventually came out we were quite happy with the result- except for one thing. The steps take he eventually used was one of the least spectacular- hardly any air at all, we felt a bit let down after all that effort and risk. It was perfectly framed though. This was the final lesson about filming that this taught me- the director may not always use the shot you wish he would. The end result didn't exactly climb the charts- but it can be viewed on You Tube even now- search for “Frontside LBP”. It's all good fun -a blurry video time capsule, a corny analogue stunt fest with a digital sound track straight from the '90's.
So this experience set me up well for our first video shoot with Urbn Tribe. I could approach it with confidence, even though I had no idea exactly what the plans for the day involved. I knew I could “be there at 10” ,grunt in monosylables, hit my cues, get the shots and nothing would phase me. This would be easy- I had a whole days notice, after all. And none of the shots involved any steps. Or anything silly like that.