Brandon

Downhill Action

Words: Ralf Hauser
Photo above: Scott Markewitz/ Red Bull Content Pool

One mountain bike visionary; a bunch of his similarly talented mates; all the state-­­of-the-art filmmaking tech they could haul to amazing trails and courses all over the world. How do you make a major mountain bike movie? Brandon Semenuk knows how

SUNSHINE COAST, CANADA

Brandon Semenuk comes from Whistler in British Columbia, Canada, a world capital of action sports. He first rode a cross-country mountain bike when he was six years old and soon discovered the delights of downhill and freestyle. He puts his reputation as a child prodigy down to his revolutionary riding style. In 2008, when still just a 17-year-old rookie, he took victory at Red Bull Rampage, a prestigious event on the international big mountain freeriding calendar that unfolds in the unforgiving terrain of Virgin, Utah, USA. Since then, he has regularly won more coveted dirt jump, slopestyle and freeride titles. After the success of his YouTube series, Life Behind Bars, he spent a year making an ambitious full-length mountain biking film, Brandon Semenuk’s Rad Company.

“AS WE WERE CREATING THE TRAILS AND COURSES, WE FOUND OURSELVES COMING UP WITH MORE AND MORE CRAZY IDEAS. EVERYONE CONTRIBUTED”

UTAH, USA

Rad Company showcases the talents of a group of remarkably skilled riders, including Cam Zink, Cameron McCaul and Stevie Smith. They’re notable for their array of competition wins and the incredible manoeuvres they pull off. One of Zink’s records is for the biggest backflip, which included a 26m drop. Semenuk matched each rider with the most suitable location for his talents. In Utah, he showed what he was made of.

“IDEAS ALONE AREN’T ENOUGH. SITTING ON YOUR BACKSIDE AND TALKING ABOUT DOING THINGS WON’T GET YOU ANYWHERE. YOU’VE GOT TO DO IT”

SECHELT, CANADA

Semenuk’s ability on the bike is matched by his way with a mountain bike course. A standard slopestyle track prepared for competition has dirt jumps, ramps and drops. After the Rad Company crew roll in, such a place ends up looking like a junkyard. Stunts become XXL in scale; approaches and landings are perfect; unusual components, such as old logging equipment, become integral to the course – and the resulting footage shot there. Riders were given a week to practise on Semenuk’s creations. Filming would turn out to be as tough as anything they had experienced. No one came away unscathed.

“I WAS VERY LUCKY, BECAUSE I WAS ABLE TO DO EVERYTHING I IMAGINED I WOULD”

NADI, FIJI

The production team had an arsenal of high-end cameras that would not be out of place on a Hollywood film set. Not a single moment was missed; every move was captured from multiple perspectives. Drones, Steadicams and cable cams – remote-controlled cameras strung on steel cable systems – were also employed. The crowning glory was the use of an HD camera system installed on a helicopter, to get incredible aerial shots.

 

“SHOWING THE FANS THE MOST PROGRESSIVE SIDE OF MOUNTAIN BIKING IS WHAT THIS FILM IS ALL ABOUT”

NELSON, CANADA

Episodes in the second season of Life Behind Bars, Semenuk’s successful YouTube series, are devoted to the making of Rad Company. They show the extent of planning required for even the simplest shot. Lighting and electrical rigging were transported through rough terrain on foot. Weather was observed weeks in advance to find optimum filming conditions. On the other hand, rain systems were installed in the middle of forests. Before all that, months of work with excavators and shovels was needed to create perfect trails.

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10 2014 The Red Bulletin

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