by Jason Whyte
Klunkers - At the 2007 Whistler Film Festival
“Klunkerz is a feature-length historical documentary examining the birth of the sport of mountain biking. The film features the legends of the sport (Fisher, Breeze, Ritchey, Sinyard, etc.), and the more obscure characters and events that influenced them. The film focuses on the cycling scene in the San Francisco Bay Area during the years 1968-1983, before it became a world-wide sensation. The pioneers found their old pre-WWII bikes in trashcans, second hand stores, and junk yards. They stripped them down and modified them with motorcycle parts and whatever else they could find. These hefty steeds often weighed in excess of 50lbs and were affectionately known as KLUNKERZ. Soon group rides were organized and races were promoted. Eventually this small group of hippie/athletes, and their off-road antics, turned the global cycling industry upside down. Never in their wildest dreams did the progenitors of this sport think that, one day, their hobby would become a multi-billion dollar industry, a form of recreation for the masses, and an Olympic sport.” Director William Savage on his film “Klunkerz” which screens at this year’s Whistler Film Festival (November 29th – December 2nd).
So you’re in a conversation with someone you haven’t met before at Whistler and they ask if you have a film in the festival. What do you tell them to get them to come see the movie? What’s your hook?
Do you like bicycles? Do you like 1960s and 1970s culture? Do you like Bluegrass music? Do you like to feel good? SEE MY MOVIE!!!
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to wanting to make films.
I grew up in Marin County, CA. My first job out of high school was at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch. From then on, it’s all I’ve wanted to do.
Tell me about how this production came together and how the film was made.
An acquaintance of mine was one of the producers of Dogtown and Z-Boys, so I saw that film at the Director’s Guild here in L.A. with Stacy and the cast right after they got back from Sundance. At the time I had been working on a script about growing up in Marin in the 1970s and it had bikes in it, but it wasn’t focused on them. Dogtown got me thinking about these cycling legends and their story. I started developing the idea on that day. It took me another couple of years before I actually started shooting. I did some research and saw all the ‘bike porn’ films in the bike shops. At the time, all the films were just stunts and driving rock soundtracks. It was a whole industry that I had no idea about. I figured that it was time for some counter-cultural programming. Riding bikes in the woods isn’t always about death defying stunts. Sometimes riding is just having a good time with your friends. That’s what it was about for the guys who started this whole thing, so that’s the story I went with. I wanted to make a personal film that would give the audience a glimpse into what it was like in Marin County in the 1970s. It was a magical place to grow up. It was one of those things where, if you weren’t there, you couldn’t understand. I wanted to take the audience back there, out in those woods, with some old friends they hadn’t met yet. Not exactly a pitch that money people want to hear. A personal film takes personal money, so I set out to prove to my family that I could make a quality film for a semi-reasonable amount of money. I went on some fact-finding missions to Marin and made a short teaser to show the folks. It was all downhill from there.
Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?
“Klunkerz” is my first ‘real’ film, so I made all the typical mistakes, but that’s just the way it goes. There were the usual car crashes, Black Widow bites, equipment failures and so on, but the most difficult things were what was happening personally. During the production I lost both of my parents. They lived in Marin and I’d been living in L.A. for 15 years. I hadn’t seen them much in that time. Working on KLUNKERZ up in Marin gave me the opportunity to spend some time with then. I’m very grateful for that time. My father died first, then my mother passed away shortly before the world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival. We had her funeral two days after the world premiere. It was such an emotional time. Another horrible occurrence was the murder of J.F. Scott. It’s strange spending so much time looking at someone in the editing bay that you know has just been needlessly taken away. He was a great man. That’s why I dedicated the film to him. I guess the most pleasurable moment was at the world premiere, standing on stage, and thinking about them. I pictured them sitting up there in the back row in the shadows, enjoying the show. I was also thrilled that the entire cast came to the screening and the party afterwards. I was so nervous, but when they all showed up at the party after the screening with smiles on their faces, I knew I had made the film that I set out to make.
How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? If this is your first festival, what do you think you will expect at the film’s screenings at Whistler?
The film has been very well received by both the audiences and the press. “Klunkerz” won the ‘Best Documentary’ jury prize at the Durango, CO festival and was nominated for ‘Best Documentary’ and ‘Emerging Filmmaker’ awards at the 2007 X-Dance Action Sports Awards. It set attendance records at both Mill Valley and Durango. It screened at festivals in Newport Beach, Santa Barbara, Big Bear, Lake Tahoe, Mount Shasta, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Vienna, London, Rome, Milan, and a few others. I hope the audience at Whistler enjoys the film as much as I enjoyed making it.
If you weren’t making movies, what other line or work do you feel you’d be in?
I can’t imagine not being involved, one way or another, in making films. I’m pretty good at parallel parking, so I guess I could be a valet.
If you could offer a nickel’s worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?
Just get out there and do it, but be prepared. It’s like anything else in life…there will be problems. You can minimize these by being well prepared. There is a lot of cheap equipment out there, and people who will work for free, but you get what you pay for. Take care of the cast and crew and they’ll take care of you. And don’t forget to check the weather for your exterior shots. You might want to have a ‘cover set’. And coffee…lots and lots of coffee.
What do you love the most about the filmmaking business?
Filmmaking give you the chance to interface with people that you otherwise never would have come into contact with. I made friends on this project that I’ll have forever.
A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite movie of all time?
Ahhh…that’s a tough one. “On the Waterfront”? “Sunset Blvd”? “Rope”? “The Player”?
“Can you promise me that ending?”
“Klunkerz” will be screening at this year’s Whistler Film Festival. For more information on the film’s screening times, point your browser to whistlerfilmfestival.com. For more information on the film itself, visit the official website at klunkerz.com. Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com.
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originally posted: 11/29/07 20:27:29
last updated: 11/29/07 20:27:57