Everyone loves a good interview with a top professional rider, but sometimes it's the interviews with industry heavyweights like Powerband Films' Jay Schweitzer, that give you true insight into the sport, the athletes and the world that surrounds it.
Schweitzer's first foray into shooting motocross came in 1997, when he was given the opportunity to shoot a new up-and-comer named Mike Cinqmars, for an experimental film titled "Moto XXX." Following Moto XXX's success, Schweitzer continued to hone his craft, eventually becoming known as one of the best to do it. After mastering the art 16mm and 35mm film cinematography, technology had progressed so rapidly that film was deemed archaic by industry standards. Always one step ahead of the game, Schweitzer jumped on the bandwagon and was the first to film moto solely with the groundbreaking Red system.
Curious to know more about what he's got in the works -- simply because he's always working on some kind of project -- I had a chance to sit him down and pick his brain about everything from the new Metal Mulisha DVD to the distance jumping drama that's been unfolding the past couple of years.
So Jay, tell me what you've been working on lately. Rumor has it that you're producing the new Metal Mulisha DVD.
Yeah, we're pretty excited about working on the new Metal Mulisha film. Fluffer [Ryan Hagy] asked me to help co-produce and direct it with Taylor Rambo and I know that it'll be a ton of fun because those guys are funny as hell, and just a great bunch of guys to work with.
Is the Mulisha going for anything different or special with this film or is it going to be the standard ride vid? Will it have an "On the Pipe" feel?
Well, we do of course want to make it look as quality as possible, which is what Dawger [Mike "Mack Dawg" McEntire] and I always strive to achieve. However, my thoughts were to give it a more of a team feel -- kind of a "Sons of Anarchy meets Mulisha" style if you know what I mean. They aren't just another team. In fact they're really isn't another team in the FMX industry like them. So we will try to portray the true, raw feeling of who these guys are and how they come together as a team and friends.
We want to give the new Mulisha film a kind of a "Sons of Anarchy meets Mulisha" style. They aren't just another team. In fact they're really isn't another team in the FMX industry like them. So we will try to portray the true, raw feeling of who these guys are.
-- Jay Schweitzer
Wow, it sounds like it'll turn out amazing. Are they looking to have any skits intertwined with the riding? I know that Brian Deegan's the king of funny skits.
Of course, it wouldn't be Metal Mulisha without the comedy twist. Deegan is very creative, not just with the skits, but with all his marketing and endeavors.
So what does the "co-producer" do? Is it hard being in that position since you're usually in charge of everything? Do you still get to be your creative self?
Actually, in this instance, I have so much of my own stuff going on that I actually prefer to be the co-producer and let Taylor and Fluffer take the lead producer roles. Our emphasis will be more in the directing of the film, and to give it an overall look and feel.
You're a busy man. What else do you have going on right now?
Well, Mack Dawg and I have been doing a ton of freelance commercial work. We were the two lead shooters on the Ken Block Gymkahana video last year, and we also shot a trophy truck commercial for Mad Media and General Tires last year. And then just last month we shot the new Brian Deegan toy commercial, which was really cool. We go to work with "Danger Boy" [Deegan's son], who I think is going to be the next superstar. So yeah, we are trying to diversify ourselves from just a standard dirt bike film production company.
I heard that you recently filmed with Metz and the boys out in Cameron, Arizona. Obviously that's not for the Mulisha DVD.
Yeah, there are so many guys out there that need exposure and so that made us want to continue with the "On the Pipe" series. We have actually been filming off and on for "OTP6" for about a year now, but we don't plan on releasing that film until April 2011. As for Cameron, Arizona -- it was awesome. It is seriously one of the coolest places I have ever filmed at. Metzger is still hands down one of the best freeriders in the world.
Metz was saying that he'd like to someday give Bilko [Blake Williams] a run for his money in X Games, do you think he's still got it in him?
Even though Metz is 34, he still rides like he's 18. He definitely has the bike skill and determination, we all know that -- it just comes down to one thing for him and that's to stay healthy so he can keep on the bike. Actually, make that two things -- practice and a foam pit. But yeah, Metz has the bike skill to do everything that anyone else is doing, he just needs to stay focused and healthy. But, Bilko is just straight up gnarly. I'm not taking anything away from Bilko because he is so innovative and at least a year ahead of anyone else with his progressive tricks.
Even though Metz is 34, he still rides like he's 18. Metz has the bike skill to do everything that anyone else is doing, he just needs to stay focused and healthy.
-- Jay Schweitzer
I remember talking to you after you finished "On the Pipe 5" and you said that you were going to take a break from producing moto DVD's because the economy sucks and people aren't purchasing them like they used to. Do you still feel that way?
Forecasters like to say the economy is on its way up, but it's all a bunch of hype. Growth and success are measured by a few things and as long as the unemployment rate is at an all-time high and people are living on the street, our economy is still in a recession.
I'd have to say that the decline of DVD sales is due to a few reasons:
1. Kooks are pirating our movies and putting them up for free on torrent sites.
2. People still aren't buying anything. Go into a bike shop and ask the sales manager how many bikes they sold this month -- probably not many, if any.
3. People are now getting similar forms of content in other places such as TV, Internet, etc.
4. The DVD is unfortunately a dying media platform.
5. At some point, everything will be interactive.
However, one thing still remains true and that is that content is still king, which is one of the reasons why we still continue to do what we do. We feel that we're still able to create unique and quality content that is better than 99% of the stuff that exists in the dirt bike world.
The main reason why we decided to take a break, other than the economy, was because it was hard for Dawger and I to jump back into another DVD after Jeremy Lusk passed away. And speaking of him, the one-year anniversary of his passing was a few days ago. My prayers go out to Lauren and Jeremy's Family.
How did Lusk's death affect you so much that you needed to take a break from producing the "On the Pipe" series?
Well, in order to give the viewer a true feeling of the person you're filming, you need to spend quite a bit of time with that person, whether it's filming or just hanging out. As filmmakers, we become close personal friends with most of the athletes, and that's what ended up happening with Jeremy and myself. I'm not saying we were best friends, but we definitely shared some moments drinking, filming and partying. So I guess we just didn't really feel like jumping back into an "OTP" film this year more out of respect for Jeremy. We just wanted to have some time to reflect.
That makes sense. Does it ever trip you out knowing that you focused so much of "OTP5" on Lusk and then he ended up passing before its release? Does it feel weird knowing that you documented the last months of his life so heavily?
Hell yeah, it definitely tripped out both Dawger and myself. It was kind of weird because we had this plan to shoot a darker, more moody type of interview with him at the Fight Lab during the night. It ended up coming out absolutely beautiful. Dawger did a fantastic job with the lighting and that actually gave the viewer a sense of how cool and how badass Jeremy was.
Forecasters like to say the economy is on its way up, but it's all a bunch of hype. As long as the unemployment rate is at an all-time high and people are living on the street, our economy is still in a recession.
-- Jay Schweitzer
I remember when Maddo [Robbie Maddison] called me and gave me the news about Jeremy's death. It was three days before our Oakley premier. I mean, we had just done the helicopter shoot with Lusk the weekend prior to him going down to Costa Rica. That footage was actually supposed to go in "OTP6," but after he passed, we decided that we needed to put all our best shots in "OTP5."
Another guy I'd like to give mad respect to is Mike Cinqmars (R.I.P.). He was a pioneer and he was actually the first guy I ever filmed on a dirt bike back when I started working for Moto XXX in 1997. That guy had bigger balls than anyone and accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. The house jumps, the bus jump over Tommy Lee, the etnies triple cross, the shark jump in Cancun -- I mean the guy is a legend and pushed the sport to an unprecedented level at the time. I know Cinqmars was a huge inspiration to Ryan Capes, Robbie Maddison and Bird, as well. I'd also like to give a shout out to Adam Pierce and Jeremy Carter, who were two other badass dirt bike riders and really good guys.
Speaking of the whole long distance thing, you've been in the middle of the drama since day one. Where's everything at within that community right now?
The film we are making should be called "Daredevil Drama." [laughs] Long distance jumping and daredevil motorcycle jumping has been an interest to me since I was a kid watching Evel Knievel on TV. When I started filming Cinqmars' jumps, I became even more infatuated with what these guys are doing.
You know, this is kind of a hard one to talk about because all these guys can be really sensitive. Maddo is in a class of his own. He is able to do stuff that the other guys aren't such as flips over bridges, etc. Capes, however, has worked his ass off to prove that he is the current Guinness world record holder. Capes has huge balls and is not afraid to back down on a distance jump. Bird is kind of interesting and defies normal logic. Bird's only sponsors are Wyvern [Scott Price,] Trinity Racing and Dewayne Jones [mechanic.] So you ask yourself "Why does this guy keep pushing the limits of what is possible?" Bird would say, "Because I can!" He's a dangerous man because he doesn't care about what anybody else thinks or does; he simply wants to ride his bike and jump further than anyone -- just for himself and to be respected in the community. He's kind of the soul surfer of distance jumping.
I hate being in the middle of all the drama with these distance jumpers. I'm a filmmaker, not a therapist. But after this movie gets released I might have to change my profession. [laughs] But at the same time, so much amazing stuff has gone down and so our plan is to release the ultimate daredevil distance-jumping documentary -- "The Daredevil Project" -- in January 2011.
I was going to ask you about that. Have you documented everything? What can we expect to see in that DVD?
I've personally followed Capes jumps since the beginning and we have become close friends. Maddo came on the scene a bit later, but we've been there for all his awesome jumps that he's worked on with Red Bull. We've also been there from around the beginning of Bird's big jumps as well. I have so much respect for all these guys including Trigger Gum, and Seth Enslow. Maddo and Capes have helped me realize the difference between the two different jumping styles -- what they are doing compared to how Bird jumps. Never the less, you can't take anything away from Bird because he goes frickin' huge and I have a strange feeling he's not done either.
I hate being in the middle of all the drama with these distance jumpers. I'm a filmmaker, not a therapist. But after this movie gets released I might have to change my profession. [laughs]
-- Jay Schweitzer
As for the movie, "The Daredevil Project" will not go straight to DVD. We will be shopping it around at festivals. There is so much footage that it seems like we may have to make a two-part film. One will focus on the history of the sport of long distance jumping and daredevil motorcycle jumping, which will feature all the world distance record holders from Evel up to the current guys. The other will focus more on the new crop of guys and what they have been doing.
Mack Dawg and Daredevil Doug are my partners on that project. We have been working on it for four years now. With the help of Daredevil Doug, we have been able to find these old distance record holders and compile the TRUTH about who held what record and when. This story has never been compiled before and I have a feeling this film will be big.
Wow, that sounds insane. Thanks for your time. You are truly a bad ass for doing what you've been doing all these years. You've pretty much documented FMX since day one. Do you think that when you're old and grey, you'll compile the ultimate film of all-time showcasing everything you've shot throughout your career?
[laughs] I've always said I would be lucky to make to 50 -- I may fall out of a chopper or something. I know for a fact that Mack Dawg will outlive me since he is in better shape and eats healthier, [laughs] so he would be the guy for that movie.
Obviously you've done so much within the industry; are there a gang of people that you'd like to thank for helping make everything possible?
Well, first off thanks to you and ESPN.com for doing this cool interview. I'd like to give a recent thanks to FUEL TV for airing our "On the Pipe" movies. Also thanks to www.red.com for their awesome camera support. Huge thanks goes out to my partner Mack Dawg and his wife Catherine -- without them, our films would not be half as good as they are. Thanks to my girlfriend Lia for dealing with my crap [laughs.] Thanks to all the riders who have filmed with us along the way -- without the riders we would have no film. Thanks to all the sponsors and support from Danimal's Domain, Scott Price at Wyvern, Tim O'Brien, Metal Mulisha, and Oakley. And of course, thanks to my mom for believing in me.
Ok, one last question. When can we expect to see the new Metal Mulisha film?
The Mulisha film will be out this fall. "OTP6" will be out in March 2011, and "The Daredevil Project" will be out January 2011. People can check out www.powerbandfilms.com for more on all of that.