I was going to open with a play on the causality dilemma of which came first? Not chicken or egg, rather the subject or film? I had to pause and realize where my head was at before I went ahead and made any other ridiculous assumptions today because before film, there was the subject. Deep and introspective, right? Look, whatever, I’m just trying to make a point here that I believe those who love to film, secretly love their subject even more. I’d wager a fair amount of money that those who capture the array of skateboarding, BMX, or motocross at one time participated themselves, or at the very least gave it a shot. Charles Bakke no doubt shares equal passion for his participation, and documentation, in and of motocross. While some may have found themselves behind the camera by injury or otherwise, Charlie proudly wears both hats as a filmer and a rider. And what better way to study a subject than by participating?
Discussion includes: monday-school blues, meeting Jason Crane and the Vurbmoto crew, sleeping in his truck to BMX in Colorado, and how to get 100K views on YouTube (hint: we’re still figuring that one out).
World of Echo: Yo. Charlie?
Yeah man. How you doing?
I’m doing good. What’s up? How are you?
Glad you agreed to do this and have a little chat.
Yeah! Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Let me put my headphones on real quick…
Alright. What are we doing? What do you wanna know?
Name, age, where you’re from… what you had for breakfast. Whatever.
My name’s Charles, Charles Bakke. I’m from the suburbs of San Antonio. I kind of grew up here my whole life, I live in a little town, Bulverde, Texas. There’s not much here, it’s a tiny town but it’s fun. I’m twenty-one now.
Nobody in my family was into cameras, when I was fifteen years old, I’d say back in 2012 was when I first picked up a camera. I was just so unaware… I didn’t know what I was doing, no guidance or anything, it was just fun. I picked up the camera and I enjoyed it so much. I dabbled with it [as a hobby] for awhile, and I’d say around 2015 was when I decided I want to learn more and pursue [filmmaking as more than a hobby].
I’ve always filmed motocross because I grew up riding, the whole family actually. My Dad, I have three brothers [who ride], and my Mom actually used to ride too when we were younger; we always had a track. I was actually homeschooled, my brothers and I, so we would all just ride and have fun. I didn’t start racing until later on, I wasn’t big on racing, just riding for fun.
I was never just into motocross, though, I’ve always loved action sports.
The original “BluCru.” Bakke family lineup outside of their ranch in Bulverde, 2003.
I’m guessing you watched a lot of Fuel TV as a kid?
Um… they had Props for a little bit.
Oh yeah! That was sick.
Yeah that was legendary, but New Pollution I always thought was sick. They would always find the younger kids and put them on the map. I remember Cooper Webb was on that show on a little Honda 150, he was sponsored by RedBull at the time. Fuel TV was sick, there’s nothing good like that anymore.
Tell me about growing up in Texas. What were you up to as a kid? You mentioned you were homeschooled. Was that your parents decision?
I grew up in a Christian family and they homeschooled all of us. Later on when I was in high school I had the opportunity to go to public school; I chose to stay [in homeschool] because I enjoyed it, and I always had time to do whatever I was into at the moment. I got to spend a lot of time with my family and my brothers. My brothers were always like my best friends, we’d moto in the summer and in the winter go skiing in Colorado.
But anyway, I grew up here in Bulverde. When I was about thirteen I’d say, we moved out to a little ranch in Blanco, Texas, which is a little farther out from San Antonio. It was a smaller ranch but we got to build a track out there and it was just a playground for us.
Mini warriors in Bulverde, 2003. Track maintenance and pit bike mayhem.
So yeah, Texas has been sick. It’s definitely hot in the summers, it’s always just 100+ degrees everyday, it gets rough but I enjoy Texas. I like to go up to Colorado to catch some colder weather, but Texas is sick.
I had a question about what you were like in school, I guess I could still ask it. Were you a straight A stud or a class clown?
To be honest I was never that great at school, my mind was always elsewhere. When I was in high school I went to this one-day school, it was actually a Christian school, but you [would] only go on Monday’s. It was normal though, in a classroom with other kids.
It was really tough, it was all pre-AP/AP courses and I would have to study so hard. From being homeschooled it was just completely different, the whole structure of tests and everything. I always struggled in school, it just wasn’t for me.
It was weird, my brothers were my friends growing up, and I had other friends here and there but it’s different now. Motocross has been a big part of that change, because I met so many of my best friends now through motocross, it’s a cool community where everyone is just a big family. I’ve met so many people through action sports and filmmaking.
How long have you been on YouTube? Is the account you’re on now the first account you created?
I actually had an account before that, but I made a new one. Like I said, I kind of just messed around. Some of my older stuff I try to make private, it’s pretty bad. (laughs)
I think I may have started on YouTube in 2012 I believe, yeah. My channel used to be called BakkeBrosXtremsports. Not proud of that one. (laughs)
I’ve got “A Day in the Life” pulled up right now…
Yes! Oh man, that’s going back. That’s me and one of my good friends, Caleb Carnett, that’s our daily activities and I’d just start filming it.
You’re skating… Parkour…
Basketball… I love this video. It reminds me of stuff I used to upload as a kid because there’s nothing else to do. You don’t have any frame of reference, you just do stuff.
What kind of camera did you have?
My Mom actually had a Canon 60D that she got around 2012. When I was in high school, my math tutor… his name was Nate Barbettini, he actually did some filmmaking when he was younger; it was like a side deal for him. He actually talked to my parents [and told them] to get the 60D, so my Mom got the camera and that’s when I started to posting random videos. So he’d come to our house once a week for tutoring but I’d always ask, “hey, how do you do this in Final Cut?” Or I’d be showing him my edits and he would have to sit through the pain of watching my terrible edits from back in the day, but he helped me out. That’s what I started with the 60D, it’s actually sitting here right next to me, I still mess around with it today.
My cousin Will Bakke, [helped me] as well. He’s actually done multiple full-length films, he recently did a film called “Believe Me,” he was the director of that film. When I was super young I would look up to my cousin, because he did YouTube when he was in high school and that was the first time I saw filmmaking was [his videos]. I always watched him as I grew up, I have to give him some credit for getting me into filmmaking.
I wanted to bring this up, because I think this is funny. You have a series on YouTube called, “MOTOvation,” and I also have a series on YouTube called “MOTOvation.” Same title, same amount of videos and everything uploaded a month apart from each other.
That’s actually how I found out about you! I’ll be honest I didn’t try to steal that, I thought I came up with it myself.
I thought the exact same thing about your series! Looking back I suppose that name isn’t as original as we thought. (laughs)
That was the first kind of moto-edit series I’d ever done, I’d go and ride then get off my bike and get some clips. But yeah, that’s how I found your channel. I remember that because you were the only one that came up when you searched “MOTOvation” back in the day, you and I.
It seems like in 2014 you started to shift your focus from filming anything, to moto exclusively. Was that a conscious decision or was that simply a by-product of you riding more?
I guess, yeah, I put more time into motocross and I think it just kind of happened. It was something to film other than filming myself, because normally I was doing stuff by myself at that time. Growing up we barely went to the tracks because we had our own track, which was cool, but then we started going to the tracks and that’s when I started filming motocross. Actually one of my first videos was at Cycle Ranch, for the area qualifier, and Vurbmoto was there. I have a story behind that.
Let’s hear it.
I was at that race, and I think I went just to film and Vurbmoto was there. They were doing that series, the Good Times & Dirt Bikes series, it was with Jason Crane and Chelsea [Stratso]. But I had no idea, I didn’t know any of them; of course I walked up to them, this little kid with a Canon 60D just walking around. I met Jason and he was super nice, introduced himself and everything. So that really inspired me, you know? I was thinking that I better give it everything I got here and make a good video, and then later on Jason posted a blog where he said a few words about me and ended up posting my recap video on Vurbmoto. I was so hyped on that! I thought I had made it.
I feel like at that time anybody who was filming moto had one goal: get on Vurbmoto.
Yeah, for sure, that was in my eyes too. To this day I still keep in contact with Jason Crane. He’s been super cool and we’ve actually become a bit closer, I get to see him every so often. We actually got to work together, there was a motocross event called “Kings of the Dirt,” that was held at Cycle Ranch. There was a couple filmers hired for that so we actually got to work together, which was cool. And that’s when I met Chase Dunivant, who used to work for Vurb. James Gingerich [too]… super cool guy.
I went to a few races with that guy [James], cool dude. He lives in Indiana too.
That’s awesome. It’s like a reunion every time I go to the JS7 Spring Championship at Freestone. Most of those guys go, it’s just fun to see all those guys. I can’t wait to film this year’s championship because the talent there is crazy, all the fastest riders are there.
Around 2016 I noticed your content shifts back from exclusively motocross, to more of an “anything goes” approach. What sparked that change?
I think my hobbies changed. I got into BMX a lot, I’m still into it now but… when I started filming I always told myself I wasn’t gonna stick to one thing. I’ve always loved all action sports, so I wanted to have a channel that was everything, but it’s really hard to build a fanbase that enjoys everything. It seems like every time I make a motocross video it does way better than if I were to make something else.
Bakke Backflip: Charlie goes all out for the insta-edit. Not bad for a cameraman.
I enjoy filming other action sports, but… I don’t know. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’ll never be against filming something else like BMX or skating.
What brought about the vlogs? I know you post them kind of infrequently, but still.
Here’s the thing with vlogging, to be honest… and I mean I say this, but I’ve done it. I’ve always been against it. I think it’s annoying, like, how do these people do it? And why so many people are watching vlogs, I don’t know. But I started doing vlogs here and there because when I’d have no subject to film, I’d go out and ride my bike and just to get some clips. Part of it was probably just me trying to get some views and see what happened. It was probably a selfish thing. (laughs) It didn’t work out. I do it every once in awhile, because it’s easy and it gets me using my equipment.
2017 seemed like a pretty big year for you, I felt your videos started to take shape and you started finding your style a bit. Clean cut, bit of an intimate feel… one of the videos that comes to mind is that short with Danny Pierce.
I went on a trip to Colorado right before Christmas, I road tripped it by myself. I just planned to sleep in my truck, or whatever. And I actually slept there, at the bike park, and I woke up and he was just ripping the trails. And I was like, “Hey! How you doing?” He was actually a super cool dude. He started talking away, started telling me his story.
I was like, “You wanna get some clips?” And he said, “Yeah, sure!”
So he grinded out a couple clips and I threw that together. That whole ordeal was not even an hour.
That’s intriguing to hear, because I felt this video was a real turning point for you, and you’re telling me, “Oh yeah… I just friggin’ woke up out there and slapped this shit together!” (laughs)
I’m not trying to overhype it, or anything!
No, I know. (laughs)
(laughs) I’m just being honest! It was funny, I was just getting out of my truck and he was like, “Hey!”
In addition to that, you had two videos absolutely blow up this year and it’s boggling my mind, you gotta talk about this stuff. Kyle Swanson: Passionate for a Dream.
Yeah, I don’t know! To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t deserve that.
How do you not know!? You have over one hundred thousand views on this video alone.
I don’t know! The video’s not great at all, let’s be honest. It tells a story which is cool, but the dude is super talkative so I just set up my camera and he kept talking for thirty minutes, it just turned out. I guess people enjoyed hearing what he had to say and his side of being a privateer, I don’t know. I went to his house and actually filmed him on his birthday several months before that, and you can see that it’s an older video with all of the new clips, it was just like a mixtape where I just threw a song over it.
He actually was trying to get on that team, IBCorp Racing. They were holding a contest to try and get a new rider and people were sending in videos, he needed a video so he hired me to do it for him, and to make it cheaper I told him I could just use this footage that I already have. Then we can just do an interview. That’s why that video was made, I don’t know why it did well.
I’ve been on YouTube for awhile, so it fascinates me when certain stuff hits and other stuff doesn’t, to say you don’t know just adds to the mystery.
I don’t know, man. And I guess the Life Behind Bars video did decent as well.
Coming up on 74K right now.
That’s probably… no, that’s definitely the most time I’ve spent on a film was that movie.
Talk about making this thing.
I wanted to try to make a longer video for once and actually tell a story. For one thing, the success from the Kyle Swanson video showed me that people wanted to hear those stories, rather than just a mixtape. It opened my eyes.
But yeah, I just had this idea that I wanted to make a short film of someone in motocross that has done something with it. I probably spent three months from start to finish that we filmed, [and we] filmed at several different places. Looking back on it there’s a lot of things that I was like, “why did I do that?” but every time I make a video I learn from it, even if it was a mistake.
There’s a lot of things I learned from this video. I’m getting better at interviewing people, which was something that’s always been hard for me. You’ve got to ask the right questions and it’s hard to get people to talk. Compensation as well… I’ve been unaware of so many things that I’m just now starting to learn, that are basic things. But I’m getting there, I just enjoy it so much [that] I’m just going to keep at it, so we’ll see.
Did you film all of the B-roll at the beginning?
No I actually bought all of the drone shots from a friend. I want a drone, I just don’t want to pay for it. I hate how everyone asks, “do you have a drone? You have a GoPro!?” It’s like… well, no.
I like the first riding portion, I think it’s around two minutes in. I just love the way that it’s filmed. You do a lot of long and slow shots where you can really dissect how Kyle [Tigert] rides his motorcycle, you don’t see that very often. And obviously I’m a fan of the song.
Yeah, the first time I heard that song was on one of your edits, I can’t remember which one but I’ve watched it multiple times. Side note: King Krule is actually coming to Austin next month and I’m definitely going if I’m here.
Really? That’s awesome, is he playing SXSW?
No, that’s going on right now, I don’t think it’s for SXSW [in Austin, Texas]. I actually go to Austin a lot, I was there last night, I was riding my bike downtown. I saw SXSW going on I’ve just never been, it’s really expensive. I love music though.
Yeah, at the very end. There was also a Bliss n Eso song in there. Bliss n Eso – “Blue.”
You got some Explosions in the Sky in there too. Texas represent.
Yeah, always good.
I think a few videos you had some songs from Tiny Moving Parts?
Oh yeah! One of your old videos, it was Forkner on a supermini, what was the song… was it by Dads?
Yeah, I used a Dads song, that was the Lincoln Trail qualifier.
I’ve watched that video a few times, I love that song and that video introduced me to the band. Love them.
That video was actually my first Vurb feature too.
Vurbmoto, man. R.I.P.
Wrapping up a bit here, the last video you posted [at the time of this interview] was in tribute to Walter Humphries. Could you explain to me the type of person he was, or why you decided to tribute the video to him?
Yeah my most recent video was [in a way] a tribute to Walter Humphries, who just recently passed away. The Humphries grew up in the area, they’re from Temple, Texas, but we’d always see them at the races; we became pretty good friends. Walter always helped out my brother and I with racing, and I’ve always been friends with [Walter’s brothers] Thorn and Ryder. [Walter] and I both raced C, he was obviously way better than I was, he was battling to win and I was battling mid-pack just trying to survive. It sucks to see someone go through that and… I had some footage to make a little tribute video. It was the least I could do for his two brothers, in honor of them.
Where can people catch you at? Facebook, Instagram, at Cycle Ranch?
I’m on Instagram, I’m actually on Instagram quite a bit. Sometimes I post little one-minute edits that I don’t post anywhere else, my username is @BakkeCharles. I’m also on YouTube and Vimeo, but Instagram the most.