To celebrate today’s launch of his new film, Allday director Matt Baron sat down with us to answer a few questions and share some behind-the-scenes footage. Matt shot this breathtaking video in Utah—mostly from the air—for the luxury outerwear brand Moncler, capturing extreme freeride bikers riding full-speed along mountain ridgelines.
How did this project begin?
We were approached by Moncler to do a film series on sports. They were particularly looking for sports that ventured away from their strong heritage in mountaineering, and that’s why we suggested freeride mountain biking. Although this sport isn’t totally new it is just starting to emerge to the general public, and so it was a special opportunity to shoot something that hasn’t been covered very often.
How did you cast the guys in the video?
There is an inherent difficulty finding talent when shooting any type of action sports film, in that most of the elite athletes are sponsored. They make their living by wearing the merchandise and riding the gear so often they are bound by these exclusive contracts. Luckily, my great producer Andrew Runkle was able to find a few young riders at the pro-level who didn’t have sponsorship conflicts.
Where was the video shot?
The video was shot near Virgin, Utah. We found this location naturally through our research, as the ridge lines there host the biggest event for freeriding called Red Bull Rampage. Two of our riders lived in the area, and all three were very accustomed with the lines and landscape as they had ridden there so many times before. We shot for two days, trekking through the dirt, sand and mountains, and by wrap time my black jeans were a solid copper color. The dust there is omnipotent and completely unavoidable, but it was well worth it being able to shoot in such a beautiful place with amazing athletes.
Any crazy/funny anecdotes that happened on set?
Our youngest rider was a 16-year old named Lorin, and for most of the shoot he helped carry the bike back up to the summit of each mountain. When he wasn’t drinking his Mate tea, he was in charge of cueing the rider to start his run. I’d yell on the walkie “Ok Lorin, ACTION!” and he’d always reply, “Droppin’ in 5!” He said it every take and we must have done at least 30. We kept on cracking up, and would just blurt out “droppin’ in 5” throughout the day. It was hilarious, but maybe you had to be there.
Some of the shots you got were puzzling and remarkable. How did you set out to approach this visually? What were your visual influences?
When I was thinking about how to execute the film, I focused intently on how I could shoot it in a different way. I didn’t want it to be a typical “action sports film,” with static cameras and wide-angle lenses. Since the client was Moncler, we had to find ways to elevate our subject matter and bring a luxurious quality to the piece, while simultaneously conveying the “extreme” nature of freeriding. By using slow-motion, long lenses and drone shots I think we were able to create a piece that is very action packed yet refined and elegant. We even modified our Go-Pro cameras so that we could use interchangeable lenses. This allowed us to get tight shots with shallow focus, which is quite different than they typical fish-eye super sharp images you usually see in action sports. There was also an emphasis on elements and sizing. I wanted to have dirt in a close-up and then cut to vast landscapes that would dwarf our subject.
This biker seems suicidal. Did anyone get injured on the shoot? Close calls?
I am not sure if the bikers thought they were suicidal, but it sure felt like that to me. Just standing on the top of the mountains and seeing the extremely narrow trails they planned to ride down gave me the shivers. They truly have balls to do that stuff. We wound up having to use three riders as two of them got hurt while shooting, although not seriously. There was one huge jump at the location, and I really wanted to shoot it as I had planned for it in my storyboards. Our main rider Wil hadn’t hit it for several months, so it was a big ask but he agreed. The sun was setting so it was the perfect opportunity, and we set up for the shot at the bottom of the takeoff point to have him fly up into an open sky. He dropped in and gained speed, way too much speed. As I am holding the camera I see him jump off his bike and bail on the monitor, and he must have been 30 feet in the air. We couldn’t see where he landed as we were on the wrong side of the jump, and all we heard was a loud scream. I thought he had broken his leg no question…We ran over to the other side and he was curled on the ground, he must have overshot the landing by 20 feet and there was a crater in the ground where he made impact. Luckily, he was okay and he shook it off and smiled at the camera, revealing the mouthful of dirt he had just ate. The riders spent the next hour so hyped up, laughing and describing Wil’s epic bail. Turned out to be a great shot in the end and it made it into the final edit.
I am assuming a lot of the ariel shots were taken with a drone? Is this your first time using a drone and how do you feel about the recent insurgence of drone usage in filmmaking?
I had used a basic drone for another project a few months ago, although this was the first time that I ever put a serious camera up in the air. We had the RED Dragon flying and it needed two people to operate, so there was a constant concern that if it were to crash it would be the same as driving a Mercedes off of a cliff. Cha-ching! Anyway, I think that drones and their recent accessibility has been an incredible tool for filmmakers. Since we live with our two feet planted on the ground there is something really special about seeing our world from a new perspective. Personally, I am especially interested in aerial photography, and spend most of my time on planes with my face glued to the window taking pictures on my phone.
“There was a constant concern that if the drone were to crash it would be the same as driving a Mercedes off of a cliff.”
The drone was vital in many ways for this project. First off, it really helped us capture the grandeur and vastness of the landscape. It also allowed us to show the speed and precision these riders need in such a rugged environment, and it served to add a sense of dynamism and luxury to the footage. Lastly, the challenging nature of the terrain was a logistical nightmare for the crew. Instead of lugging our cameras up narrow cliffs, we were able to follow a rider’s entire run on the drone without having to move our base camp for every shot. Overall, using the drone was a delight in many ways.