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Q&A: It’s All Downhill for Brandon Semenuk

MTB - The Vancouver Sun Interview

Shawn Conner / The Vancouver Sun

Brandon Semenuk is a 23-year-old freestyle mountain biker who has just completed a film about the sport, Rad Company. The film features the Whistler born-and-raised Semenuk, who’s been riding mountain bikes since he was six and started racing when he was nine, and his team flying down hillsides, spinning in mid-air and pushing themselves and their machines to their limits in locations all over North America, including several in B.C. Semenuk came to co-direct the feature through Life Behind Bars, a series of short web films about freestyle mountain biking. We reached the award-winning athlete while he was shooting a new episode of Life Behind Bars in New Hampshire and talked to him about the film and his sport.

How is Rad Company different from Life Behind Bars?
Rad Company is more like core mountain bike riding footage. Life Behind Bars is more of a lifestyle series — it has riding but also behind-the-scenes footage, and a story.

Who is the intended audience for Rad Company?
It’s definitely mostly going to reach the core mountain bike scene, but hopefully people from other action sports as well — like motocross, or BMX biking. I watch skateboarding and skiing videos, and all that too.

Where there any action-sports features or genres that served as a model for Rad Company?
Not necessarily. We kind of just filmed and put it together, however it worked. It’s hard to script it out when you’re just shooting action.

What was your involvement?
Mostly as athlete, but some co-directing too, and finding and building the locations.

What was your directing experience?
Some Life Behind Bars stuff, and I’ve worked with lots of different filmmakers to make the best shots and edits we can. Obviously nothing as big as this project, but I’d had a little taste of it before.

Did it ever seem overwhelming?
Oh yeah. But before I started I knew it was going to be like that.

There are no female mountain bikers in the Rad Company team. Are there not a lot of women in the sport?
Not really. Not in free-riding. They’re not quite as progressive as the males, I guess.

How old is free-riding as a sport?
It could’ve rooted from many different people. I think it got bigger around 2001, with events like Red Bull Rampage.

How far does it have to go before it’s regarded as a mainstream sport?
I guess it’s all down to opinion now. Some people may call it a mainstream sport, some may not. You don’t see it on TV as much as BMX, skateboarding and surfing. But I think it has a big following now and lots of people who do it. It’s a vast sport, there are so many different genres. It’s a mainstream sport but definitely not the biggest.

After the world premiere in Vancouver, where will people be able to see Rad Company?
Bike shops will have copies of the DVD. And iTunes will distribute it.

Now that you’ve got some distance, what do you think of the film?
I’m happy. It was a one-year project, we got lots done. I’m pretty stoked.

Is there talk of a sequel?
I have no idea. I’m just along for the ride at this point. If there’s an opportunity for another one, I’d probably take it.
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