The story about a guy paying to get a bike built might not instantly resonate as a story you’d want to hear. You might be thinking, “So? He bought a bike?”. Well, yes, in its most basic concept that’s what happened. But, as there are already so many bike builder videos out there, I thought that exploring the other side of a bike build transaction might be interesting. There’s often a lot of friction between a builder and client that goes unseen. And, much like the friction between Dan and Paul in the building of this Harley, I found myself battling this episode for creative control.
The story of this episode turned out to be very different from how it was originally planned. When I first heard Dan’s story and how the bike was built, I immediately pictured themes of expectations, going against them and how life in general can just throw unexpected stuff at you. But, through the process of editing, a story, the real story, always tends to show itself. What kept popping up was something different, that I had somehow ignored. Even though I was smack-bang in the middle of it I couldn’t see that it was the real story of this episode.
When I first started out, I had originally approached Jay Mac. I love his work as a photographer and he has a wicked Harley 48. Unfortunately for me, he declined my offer but kindly put me in touch with super nice guy Dan Fitch, who has a killer ’73 Iron Head hardtail.
Due to Dan’s international travel for work and my finishing up the edit for Episode 10, it took a little while for us to get together. We completed the interview in his apartment one evening with his wife, Natalie watching on in good humour. Even when we first met and having completed the interview, it was always about the story of starting with one thing and ending up with another, “going against expectations”. It was a theme that riffed on Dan’s own life growing up, in his career and, most importantly, through the build of his Harley.
In my mind it made sense. I also had the experience that, in most of the episodes I’ve created, I had a strong idea of what the episode was to be about and, in the end it always came pretty close to that original vision.
I had booked in some unique locations to shoot the bike. The original pictures of the bike that I’d seen on Pipeburn.com had a big impact on me. The contrast of this beast of a bike sitting against an almost sterile concrete backdrop was dramatic. Andrew Jones’ pictures were just beautiful. I also wanted to showcase the gold highlights of the bike and found a sunkissed warehouse room (at a great space called The Commune in Sydney’s Erskineville). Through the shoots of the bike (which was absolutely gorgeous to shoot; so sleek and panther-like) Dan and I often spoke in a bit more detail about the build of the bike and how it, generally, wasn’t a pleasant experience. As the same time we spoke about his work in the fashion industry, his wife, Natalie’s work on her growing Jewellery label and my own work on Stories. Each project and the creative processes within, we agreed, were different.
But I didn’t think must more of it until I got to into editing the interview. Finding rhythm of any story is always the hardest thing to do when creating an episode for Stories of Bike. In my mind it’s like finding the right needle and thread to stitch something together. If the needle is wrong, it’s going to feel forced. If the thread is the wrong colour it’ll be too noticeable. Yet, find the right thread and it’ll just go together seamlessly. But with this episode, I struggled to find that thread that would link it all together.
I knew the story was good but had I asked the right questions? Had I missed something?
Needless to say, getting to this point in a shoot is pretty frustrating and bloody demoralising. There was nearly a whole week that I found myself, not wanting to edit, not wanting to go back and re-listen to the interview. I start doing what any great procrastinator does and took to doing anything else that would distract me, while at the same time ignoring my building stress levels. The process that Dan was describing to me about the build of his bike and the conflict between him and his builder was happening to me. The only difference being that the conflict was between me and the story.
I felt that it wasn’t coming together and that, from a story telling point of view, it would be a disappointing episode. I started getting pretty depressed about it, which is a feeling that I absolutely hate. I knew that the only way out was to dig my way out.
So I forced my way back into it and re-watched everything – interviews and all the b-roll, which is about 8 hours of footage in total, multiple times.
And then it appeared to me, really late in the whole process; I had missed the link, the vital thread that would make everything come together. Yes, I had asked all the right questions, but hadn’t asked the question that would frame the story. I hadn’t asked “is creating something meant to be easy?”
I had ignored ideas around the creative process and how reaching the end point of having something to show is never the same from one project to another, and never always a pleasant experience whether it be designing a new artwork or building a bike. Creating something new is always difficult. You usually don’t have anything to judge it by. You’re in your own little bubble.
Once I had reached this revelation of sorts, it’s like the way forward was paved with gold and lit with golden sunshine. I could almost hear the helpful, smiling assistant in my brain saying “this way sir!”.
With this, completing the story rolled along nicely. All the parts fell together and all that remained was to ask Dan for one more session to record a few lines that would complete the narrative thread to link everything together. Even at the recording session, Dan offered up the Picaso quote “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense”, which I absolutely loved and added into the closing lines.
With these new lines completing the edit, I knew that the process was complete, the thread sewn. It was a huge relief.
Once the episode was done and uploaded, I sat back and quietly shook my head, thinking “whoa, that was a tough one.” But then I realised, creating every episode is like that.
It’s why I keep doing it.
A special mention to a good mate, Johnny Tappier who took many of the behind the scenes and solo bike shots you see above. He’s a super fun guy with a great eye for detail and the ability to infuse his images with energy. Do yourself a favour and check out his Facebook page here.