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#NotBad - Interview with Semenuk and Wittenburg

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James Smurthwaite /

The mountain biking bucket list used to go something like this: Whistler, Morzine, Moab, Fort William and, most recently, Hafjell. Well, thanks to Not Bad, you can add another destination to that dream list, Queenstown.

Not Bad follows the Trek C3 team as they spent 3 months experiencing everything that Queenstown had to offer. Taking a step back from the soul-searching, introspective and progressive films that have been flooding the market recently, Not Bad was all about the biking lifestyle, and the people that participate in it, creating a care free and super fun documentary of that Summer you always wish you'd had.

Not Bad has been touring the country recently with the European Outdoor Film Tour, a showcase of the best extreme sports films of the past 12 months.

When it was in Bristol we caught up with Brandon Semenuk and Darcy Wittenbergh (director and producer of Anthill Films) for a quick chat about the creative process behind Not Bad.

From the first viewing of the trailer, we knew that Not Bad would be something a bit different from most mountain biking films, really bringing out the personalities of the riders and focusing on narratives. Was this a stylistic choice from the start, or just something that happened with the riders at the time?

We definitely wanted NotBad to be different from other mountain biking films. Portraying the riders having a good time and not taking themselves too seriously was something we wanted to achieve from the beginning, and we knew the Trek C3 Team would be the team to make this work. We didn’t want this to be a soul-searching mountain bike film, we just wanted it to be about having a good time riding your bike. If you want to go ride your bike after watching this film, I think we’ve done our job!

I think Anthill had hoped to give the film that Skate/BMX team vibe, but it definitely wasn't planned. If you put a handful of action sports athletes in their environment you’re bound to get personality and character because that where everyone feels most comfortable. It’s just like another day hanging out and riding with friends... Anthill had just captured all of that.

What do you look for in a landscape when you try to find shoot locations, what was it about Queenstown in particular that influenced you to shoot exclusively there?

Versatility is key. We shot this film in February, so we had to travel somewhere that was warm (or at least that didn’t have snow on the ground). Since we were in the middle of winter in Canada, we thought New Zealand would be the perfect choice. We had access to a huge diversity of locations, from epic alpine singletrack, to the dirt jump heaven at the Gorge Road jumps, to building mind-bending stunts on the famous Frew Farm.

It’s definitely a team effort. The location needs to be ideal for both rider and filmer. As a rider you are usually trying to figure out where you can fit and what values you can add inside of the film crew’s creative. Even down to getting each shot, there is a constant communication on direction and look. As a rider, feeling like everything is 100% ready with the filmers is when I commit 100% to getting my tricks or lines.

Your work is so original for the mountain biking world, do you get inspiration from other action sports films? If so which ones in particular?

Definitely. With NotBad we really wanted to capture the vibe of early skate and snowboard films—having a good time but still throwing down and progressing the sport. Living in BC, we are exposed to so many different kinds of action sports, so it’s natural to pull inspiration from each to keep our films fresh.

Brandon, you're focusing less and less on competition riding and more on filming. Is there a particular reason for this? Are you disenchanted with competition riding? Do you see filming as the future for Freeride mountain biking?

I've done so much competing in my career that it doesn't give me the same accomplishment as it did when I first started. Now it all seems to blend together and get repetitive. With filming, I can be as creative as I want, do the tricks I want, and repeat it as many times as I need until my style is something I'm happy with. You can literally put as much into a film project as you want, you’re not limited to 2 attempts.

You can buy Not Bad on iTunes now!
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  • Photo: Anthill Films
  • Photo: Anthill Films
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