I’ve heard that either life happens to you or you happen to life. I often find myself bouncing between a healthy mix of the two. I thrive on new experiences yet love the surprise of things outside my control. I timidly joined the Miss-Fires crew earlier this year without knowing a single member, and I often reflect on and appreciate the special friendships I have made and the countless days of fun we have had together since. I continue to be amazed at how my life has taken a turn for the better.
Through this lovely group of ladies, I was informed of an opportunity to be part of a special project undertaken by the talented Cam Elkins, a filmmaker based in Sydney, Australia. He was coming to New York for the showing of two of his films in the Motorcycle Film Festival and wanted to shoot an episode for his web-based series, Stories of Bike, while in New York. I admittedly knew nothing about Cam’s project at the time, but the idea sounded like fun so I spontaneously put together an application and sent him some photos. To my surprise, he contacted me a few days later to say I’d been selected.
Wasn’t there someone with a more compelling story than mine? Wasn’t there a rider who’s father’s dying wish was that his son carry on the tradition to ride like they had spent their lives doing together? At first I was excited. Then nerves set in. I never thought of myself as a natural in front of cameras, and I doubted my ability to provide an interesting experience for Cam and his viewers. But there was no turning back so I disregarded my concerns, went with the flow and followed his lead. Then I called my best friend, Jill, who owns a salon and spa in Oklahoma to get her to fly to New York for moral support and beauty assistance.
Cam arrived a week later and wanted to have an informal dinner together before shooting began in order to get acquainted with each other so I took him to a local favorite in Wlliamsburg, where I live. He greeted me with a friendly hug, and I immediately found him incredibly easy to talk to. His down-to-earth vibe comforted me and peaked my interest in his life. Reversing the roles a bit, I inquired extensively about his life and experience with photography. At that point, I had finally watched one of his episodes, thinking I should probably educate myself on my upcoming adventure, and I found the show to be incredibly professional so was surprised to learn he had been working solo for a year and a half. This guy’s ambition and creativity impressed the hell out of me. The rest of the evening was absent of any awkward silences and full of laughs and story sharing. Any remaining nerves were completely shattered, and all I could anticipate was the fun that laid ahead.
Two days later, shooting began. A local cinematographer, Brian Stansfield, had contacted Cam to offer support to his project, and Cam agreed after recognizing some benefits. It would be the first time Cam collaborated with someone on Stories of Bike. Brian and Cam showed up at my apartment with loads of equipment at dusk after a rainy day, just when the clouds were beginning to clear. We b-lined it to my rooftop where the orange sun seeped through a cloud clearance over Manhattan creating a fiery halo over the city with multiple rainbows above. The timing could not have been more perfect for cityscape footage for the show.
Once the sun settled on the other side of New Jersey, we retreated back inside where setup began for the interview portion. They converted my living room into a temporary studio complete with professional lights, cameras and makeup. I sat with a camera in my face for three hours while getting drilled about my relationship with my Bonneville and how it has transformed my life in New York City.
To some questions, my answers came easily. To others, I found myself struggling to articulate sentiments that coincided with Cam’s vision of my story. Notwithstanding the speed bumps that littered the interview, my answer to Cam’s final question came out emotively and without hesitation. He showed his approval with a big smile and a thumb’s up. Once the camera stopped recording, he shouted a loud “Yeah!!”, which gave me a strong feeling of relief and accomplishment, and I stood up to give him an enthusiastic high five. Then I wiped off my makeup and we went for tacos.
The next phase of shooting was the “b-roll” (the alternate footage intercut with the interview, for those who need to google it like I did). We rented a minivan that Jill drove around with Cam and Brian shooting from the back with the trunk wide open.
I followed them around Williamsburg on a sunny and lively Saturday morning while pedestrians watched with curiosity. Then I had to head to band rehearsal, which Cam wanted to get footage of, so we swung by Susan’s place (the singer/songwriter of the band). The two of us straddled the bike with our guitars slung over our backs, followed the minivan and headed to our rehearsal space in Bushwick.
The next day, Cam suggested I get some friends to ride with me at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride so I recruited some Triumph-riding girls to join me in dressing dapper for the occasion.
After getting some cool footage again riding behind the minivan on the way over to the meeting point in the West Village, we pulled up to join about 100 bikes just before departure time. I immediately noticed that we and a couple of other Miss-Fires who met us there were the only girls riding bikes. I spotted two other dapper girls daringly adorned in short dresses riding on the backs of others, but our gang definitely skewed the gender ratio.
We had a blast riding through the city streets garbed as we were. The highlight for me, surprisingly, was the route through Times Square where almost everyone stopped to watch and take pictures of remarkably well-dressed people overtaking the tourist haven on vintage-style bikes. I couldn’t help but take advantage of the attention to show off a little and do some tricks on my bike, such as standing up on the pegs (my bravery only goes so far). Unfortunately, Cam and Brian only got footage during the meeting points, so this scene will have to live on in the memories of those present and in this blog post. They did however, get the best shot of the group photo we took at Washington Square Park.
Cam had to depart New York a couple of days later and we didn’t get the chance to finish shooting, so I’ll be meeting with Brian soon to wrap that up. I’ll definitely be missing Cam’s presence though. We spent the days shooting so focused on the experience that we often forgot to feed ourselves. My mind was completely consumed by the fun I was having and the project we were working on. Between the work we did in making the episode, the time spent at the Motorcycle Film Festival and evening dinners and rides, the experience surpassed all my wildest expectations all because of the great new friend I had made. After seeing some still shots of the footage and hearing Cam’s excitement over it, I think the final product will be incredible. Stay tuned!
By Kristen Reed