Jimmy Bowron: Driven by Design

Stories from the original "Driven to Ride" tour, the collapse of the Motosport video juggernaut, and more.

For those unfamiliar, Jimmy Bowron isn’t the combination of a Christmas “bow” and a morning “run,” but more like the “bow” of a boat and the “rin” in rinse. I felt kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know this, because I put my best effort in trying to figure out who I’m talking to before I hit record. Lucky for me, Jimmy’s a cool dude and chalked it up to another hiccup in what I assume has been an excruciating lifetime of “Uhm… it’s actually…” I can sympathize. Jared is a stone’s throw from Jerry, but tell that to half the people I’m introduced to over the phone.

Maybe all of his luck in the universe was spent on a great career, and for it he pays the price of having a deceptively tricky surname? I’d say the return is worth it, judging from his body of work at Motosport with Derek Anderson, Tucker Saye, and Josh Hansen, along with one of his current creative ventures at PLAECO with Colton Haaker. I’d probably trade worse to be in his position as a filmmaker and creative director. Jimmy appreciates his footing though, don’t get it twisted up. He’s all about his work and nothing else, which I’m a huge fan of.

Discussion includes: Stories from the original Driven to Ride tour, the collapse of the Motosport video juggernaut, finding his footing as a freelancer, PLAECO, X Games Real Moto, Colton Haaker, and how his dream job found him (not the other way around)…

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World of Echo: You’re a viral sensation. One of the first of the modern motocross era I’d say, with the infamous KABOOM! video starring Derek Anderson.

Jimmy Bowron: That damn thing just won’t go away, man!

What was the story behind that? Were you actually working on a project at the time?

Yeah! We were actually filming something. On the PLAECO YouTube channel you can see it’s actually one of the first videos I made. It’s of Derek, obviously, and it’s like a privateer-training type video where he’s training and riding. That was the intent behind the KABOOM video. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody the story behind that video, because it was actually a pretty big deal to Kawasaki and they were really pissed about it. They didn’t like it!

Speaking of Derek, how hard did you guys slum it on that Driven to Ride tour in 2012?

We slummed it pretty good, but it wasn’t the biggest pain in the ass. We had your basic motorhome setup, minus a bathroom and A/C most of the time. It was hot and sweaty… stinky. We took a lot of baths in rivers and any YMCA we could sneak into, but that was about it. It was fun.

Any particularly good stories from that tour? That was kind of the first time you really travelled for a project, right?

Yeah! That was really the first big project I did, because I got my first camera that December in 2010. Derek, Tucker, and I made that series Eastbound & Down before Driven to Ride, where we drove down to the Vurb Classic in Georgia that September. Motosport liked that video, and they wanted to do a full national series. I kind of fell into it really, that whole Driven to Ride deal. It was the first thing I did that was remotely professional.

We had the motorhome wrapped with our names on the side and the Driven to Ride logo all over it. I think we drove about thirty-thousand miles in that thing, so there were a ton of places [we went]. Just driving to all of the races was, honestly… really shitty. [laughs] It’s really hard on the privateers because you have to cross the country a few times between rounds.

One of the best stories is actually in the credits of the last episode, if you watch it all the way to the end. There was this lady we met in a Wal-Mart parking lot… we’d stay in those parking lots all the time, on the edges. You’d get into this routine where you’d wake up, open the door, and just take a leak in the bushes since we had no bathroom. At this particular Wal-Mart there was a lady living out of her car with her daughter, and I was the first one out of the camper that night, so when I started taking a whizz I hear this lady go, “There’s a bathroom inside!”

It’s four in the morning in a Wal-Mart parking lot and she scared the shit out of me. She yelled at Derek too when he got up later. She wouldn’t let us leave that morning, she stood in front of the motorhome and kept yelling at Derek telling him to put his dick away. She started talking crazy after that, telling us about the time she pissed her pants in public. That was probably the most memorable moment of the trip, we couldn’t stop laughing about it.

That’s how you got your foot in the door with the Motosport guys, through Driven to Ride?

Yeah! After I did that, the following year I was pretty much full-time with Vurbmoto. Most people don’t know, but anything Motosport related around 2013 was produced by us Vurb guys. Most of the Racer X stuff, Alli Sports content after the nationals, that was Vurb. In 2014 Motosport actually called me up and offered me a job to move to Portland, Oregon, but I didn’t want to do it. Another buddy of mine, Dayton Daft, ended up with the position and I moved to Southern California with my wife after she got relocated for work. I ended up signing a contract with Motosport anyway to handle all of their video needs from SoCal.

For awhile there Motosport really had the ball rolling with video content, around 2013, 2014, and 2015. You guys were killing it.

In all honesty, we kind of dominated the “motorcycle video” thing for a bit. We even ended up leapfrogging Vurb there, once they started to dissolve. Unfortunately things went south at Motosport when they got involved in some buyout deal, and the people who took over the company couldn’t understand why anyone was putting money into these videos. So our boss at the time left Motosport and started RIDE365. For awhile though, we were killing it.

You all seemed to have a good creative energy going. Would you guys conference call a lot and brainstorm ideas? What was the process like with Dayton and Bryson [Steele]?

There was a little bit of brainstorming, but for the most part I was left to my own devices down in Southern California. I could do whatever I wanted, really. I know there were a couple times when Dayton and Bryson would do a little storyboarding and planning, but for the most part they were doing the same thing I was; going out and making whatever they wanted. Dayton and Brett [Cue] would just film and go nuts, then put together something cool afterwards. I was doing something similar with Josh Hansen for awhile, where we would just film and film and film, then once I felt like we had enough footage I’d put a video together. There was no real direction or thought to it, it was just documenting what we were doing and putting something cool out afterwards. That was the best part about it was our boss at Motosport (marketing manager Jarrod Rogers) was super open to what we wanted to do. He’d let us do whatever we wanted, as long as it didn’t get us in trouble.

“When it came time to renew my contract [with Motosport] at the end of the year, I declined. I just didn’t want any part of it.”

I know Dayton spoke very highly of Jarrod, and he was super bummed when he left Motosport. That was a big catalyst for the stuff they do together now with RIDE365.

I mean it was just a few months after Jarrod left that Dayton and Brett split, then when it came time to renew my contract at the end of the year, I declined. I just didn’t want any part of it. It wouldn’t have even been close to the same thing.

How long has it taken you to find this footing you have now as “Jimmy Bowron, Videographer?” This footing you have with your freelance career and PLAECO?

2011 was really the first year I touched a camera, so… I mean, I think I kind of just started at the right time, really. I don’t think [finding this footing] had anything to do with me being “good” necessarily, there was just nobody else really filming dirt bikes, other than probably five or six people in the country. I made like three videos before Vurb got ahold of me, so I just started doing stuff with them right away. If you want to know how long it took for me to get to a point where I could sustain myself as a freelancer, I’d say it probably took me a solid four years. That was all I was doing.

Before that, I was actually working as a title processor, processing mortgages for my step-mom [laughs]. I was able to transfer over to doing camerawork pretty safely, and I made almost the same amount of money. It was totally worth it to get away from staring at a computer all day, but that kind of backfired because now I just stare at a damn computer all day anyways! [laughs] Major backfire. I like it, though. I get to do what I want, which doesn’t include logging information about people’s mortgages.

It’s funny though, I never actually planned any of this. This was not a goal of mine growing up. I never wanted to be a photographer, filmmaker, designer, or anything like that. Never crossed my mind. Even when I got my first camera I never wanted to be a professional photographer, I just thought it’d be cool to take photos of my buddies riding.

Now that you’re in a place where you are your own boss and self-sustain through your business and freelance, what does it take to stay there?

Man, that’s a good question… and if you ever find the answer let me know! It’s an ever-evolving thing, there’s no one key to success. You might see on Facebook some jackass post something that says, “FOLLOW THESE KEYS TO SUCCESS TO SUSTAIN AS A FREELANCER!” Well, this guy’s sustaining his freelance job by making these posts and videos. He doesn’t do anything professional, he probably never will, but that’s how he sustains himself. There’s a different “secret sauce” to everything you do. For me, I try to nurture and keep great relationships I’ve created over the years with friends that keep coming back to me (and keep paying me).

Of course, you have to reach out to new people, and the biggest thing about freelancing is networking. You want to build great relationships with people so they come back to you, and it’s just so much easier for people to hire you once they know you. I’ve seen it backfire on people a ton where they’ll hire somebody to make a film, then once it comes time to travel with them they find out that person is a raging alcoholic or drug addict and they’re miserable to be around. Once they learn their lesson, they go right back to whoever they had a good relationship with. I’d almost say it’s 99% relationships, 1% quality of work when it comes to freelance. You can see it across the board, really. You’ll wonder “Why are they still using that person? They’re content is getting stale.” It’s because they know them and like being with them.

You have to reach out to new people as well, like I said, but you can’t just say you’re a photographer and you want to shoot something. You have to sell them on something, and make it worth their time to email you back. Self-admittedly, I’m terrible at that. I’ve probably sent three emails out in my whole life asking for work, because I rely on my past relationships. That’s such a tough question though, because I don’t even think the people who are super good at filmmaking know what they’re doing. It definitely takes a little luck, too.

So you took those learnings and applied them to what you do with PLAECO?

When I started working with Colton [Haaker], he wanted to start a brand. He had some ideas, I had the PLAECO name, so we just merged all of that and started it. Being able to combine photography, film, and design all into one spot was super easy for us. Combining all of those things was great because we were able to do it for ourselves, not some other brand.

How did you and Colton meet? What’s the story there?

We met through Motosport! After I got done doing that series with Josh Hansen we linked up. Ever since doing the Driven to Ride videos I got pegged to do “series,” because Derek would talk a big game to those guys and told them, “Jimmy can pump out a fifteen episode series like it’s nothing!”

After I got done with Derek and Hansen, Colton approached Motosport to do a series and they were interested, so I drove up to Temecula and started filming. We became good buddies pretty quick and started hanging out whenever we were bored. That’s where the idea for a brand started. Professional racers have a lot on their plate with training and racing, but there is a lot of downtime, and this was something for Colton to work on in that time and something to look forward to for retirement.

Is it a 50/50 split between you two when it comes to the creative side of PLAECO? 60/40? What does your collaboration look like?

It’s pretty split up! Colton’s actually a super creative guy in his own right and he’s got a lot of good ideas; he’s really determined. He’s got his vlogs that he does, where he films and edits everything by himself. People asked me all the time if I edited his vlogs, back when he was really doing them… he’s since slowed up on them a bit. But no, he was actually shooting his own stuff and trying to better understand the creative process.

As far as everything you see visual [for PLAECO], everything on our website, Facebook, and Instagram, that’s all me. The design, the photos, etc. Every once in awhile we’ll use my buddy Tanner Yeager for photos, who’s another super good photographer. Super talented. So anything you see from us is either him or me.

I heard about him through Patrick Evans. You guys were all working on a film together earlier this year?

That’s something that’s going on right now. Colton had his own idea for a full-length iTunes released film, and in all honesty he’s doing most of the work on it. He’s doing all of the phone calls and figuring out the licensing issues, everything for that. He’s pretty determined and driven to do it. He’s bringing filmers with him overseas to races like Erzberg, or wherever he’s going. With all of the stuff I’ve got going on in Colorado I just can’t travel, so we’ll have other guys go out and film. That’s kind of how Patrick came into the picture, because we were going to use him a lot for filming and editing.

colton wheelie by tanner yeager

Colton hangs loose during the filming of his first feature-length project, “Rare Exception.” Photo: Tanner Yeager

But man… it’s kind of crazy how much Colton actually does on his end. He was using Final Cut Pro X for editing, but we all use Premiere [Pro], so we’ve been kind of forcing him to switch over to Premiere. That’s what he’s going through right now, is learning how to edit in Premiere. I don’t know what editing software you use, but going from Final Cut to Premiere is not the easiest thing! [laughs] Colton’s definitely got a good vision on the creative side of things with PLAECO and he knows what he wants to see, but for the most part I’m doing all of the design work.

We’re coming up on the two-year anniversary for the HEATER video. That was the premiere PLAECO release, would you say?

That was our plan, was to make a video like that in parallel to when we launched the site. The site was live for about four days when we uploaded the video. Colton has outrageous ideas for films, though. I don’t want to say too much about it, but his ideas are ridiculous. Combine that with the things he can do on a dirt bike, things that nobody’s yet seen him do on a dirt bike, it’s next level.

He’s been saving some stuff for videos that he doesn’t want to leak into the public eye. He learned his lesson with the first 360 he posted on Instagram. After that blew up everybody started to figure them out and do them. It’s still sweet to watch one of the only guys who can do them consistently the way Colton does, but he wants to keep his new stuff secret and save them for his video projects.

When we were talking about doing a video for the PLAECO launch, we thought, “Why don’t we just use your backyard? Do a raw lap.” We originally wanted to do a raw lap in one take on a specialized gimbal setup, but the way he did the lap in the video, there was just no way it was going to happen like that. It would’ve taken forever to figure out the logistics of capturing it all in one take.

We did that video in one weekend, we’d film for an hour in the morning and then wait for the lighting to get good again in the evening, then shoot another hour. He worked out a course that would seamlessly flow together between his motocross, enduro, and supercross sections. His mechanic Josh Sheppard, his right hand man, was helping us out whenever he could. Shoveling dirt and moving cameras when needed. Other than that it was really just Colton and I. “Alright, do this section! Alright… do it again!” [laughs]

That’s interesting to hear it was originally supposed to be a one-take video, because you can see elements of that style within the final edit. Like when you try to chase Colton back through the tunnel and it jump cuts. The video’s still great though, obviously. Seemed like it worked great as a launching point for PLAECO.

It did alright! We didn’t do anything to really push it. We put it up and waited for all of the websites to post it on their own. Looking back, there’s probably some things we would’ve changed about the video, because it was pretty barebones. I just had a tripod and a camera, you know? Looking back in relation to where we are now though, we really could’ve done it how we wanted with the help of some friends.

That shoot was actually one of the first times his 360 was filmed how he wanted it to be captured too. He filmed a 360 for one of his MOTO: The Movie parts, but he didn’t like it for some reason. We probably would’ve put that trick closer to the front of HEATER, rather than towards the end. There’s a couple things we probably would’ve done differently.

It’s refreshing to hear that Colton has some secrets up his sleeve. It harkens back to the days of DVD’s, in the era of Nitro Circus and Transworld videos – the only way to see the new trick was to buy the DVD. When Pastrana pulled the double backflip in Spokane before X Games nobody knew it was possible, and suddenly you’re watching it happen right in front of you. There was something magical about that. The rapid pace we interact with video today has taken some of the shine off of groundbreaking motorcycling, it’s just shoveled out to you every single day on Instagram.

Nothing goes unseen anymore. He’s not necessarily worried about it, but where his property is, people will ride up to the fence to watch him ride. He’s working on building a setup in the back to work on this trick he wants to do, because he doesn’t want anybody to see it. For somebody to come by and see him practicing it would be the worst thing that could happen in his mind. He’s such a freak on a motorcycle though, and when he practices he can either get something first try, or get pretty damn close. It’s just a matter of finding a time to practice in private, and during a time where he can afford to possibly be injured, so he doesn’t interfere with his racing season.

I’m happy he’s searching for his privacy, and that he seems to have a certain level of respect for his videos and how they’re presented. Pretty rare for somebody of his caliber to have that mindset.

He’s been in that mindset a lot lately, over the past year I’d say. His sole focus is to produce good films. He wants to have a media company; he loves the video process, and he loves doing it. He’s not just looking out for himself either, he wants to do films with mountain bike riders, or really anyone – creators who do stuff totally unrelated to action sports, like sculptors or painters. He’s really just a creator who wants to tell other creator’s stories.

“‘Hey just so you guys know, I’ve never really flown this thing, but it’s showing I only have thirty minutes left of fuel.'”

I thought with the great subject-filmer relationship you guys have, you might’ve taken home some hardware in the Real Moto contest this year. Tough competition with Axell and the boys, though. I was a fan of your entry, and it seemed like the type of video that might not look too technical on the surface. I wanted to explore that a little bit, because clearly there was effort put into this based solely on the fact that somebody built a track on the ridge line of a damn mountain.

That was the biggest challenge with production, was building the track. Shane Schaefer, of Schaefer tracks, built it. It was super dry, powdery dirt. California dirt! It sucks. There was no way to get any water on it either, because it was way too steep on either side to drive up in a water truck. So he went up there, built it, and he couldn’t touch it with a machine after that or it would fall apart. Colton was only able to ride the course a couple times before it deteriorated to a point where he couldn’t ride at the level he wanted to. The build itself was gnarly, but luckily Shane and his crew are unreal and they did it in three days, or something close to that.

When we got around to shooting it, our other challenge presented itself: the helicopter situation. The guy who was bringing us the Shotover [aerial camera-body contraption mounted to the outside of a helicopter or plane], forgot a part on his drive to the site. So he had to go back to LA, then head back to Hollister, California, where the helicopter was taking off, which then had to fly to our location. It just didn’t work out that first day, so we were left in a bit of a scramble to figure out how to shoot it the way we wanted.

On our next attempt, it never got relayed what side we wanted the Shotover on, so the assembly team mounted it on the wrong side. On top of all of that, our pilot told us the day of the shoot, “Hey just so you guys know, I’ve never really flown this thing, but it’s showing I only have thirty minutes left of fuel.”

It was a twenty minute flight back to the landing site, so we hardly had fifteen minutes to film the line Colton wanted to do. We did one practice run, and then three runs after that, and on the fourth run Colton crashed. The shoot was done, the people in the helicopter literally dropped us the memory cards from the camera, and they flew away. [laughs] The line was actually for Colton’s iTunes film that he’s been working on, but we saw the Real Moto opportunity as an excuse to use that line.

What are your thoughts on the Real contests that X Games puts on. In addition to moto they have contests for skateboarding, snowboarding, wakeboarding, BMX… are you a fan?

I’m a fan. I think they’re cool because it’s gives somebody a reason to go out and try to film. I didn’t talk a lot about the contest, but once I started posting about the voting for it on my Instagram, I had a bunch of my friends in Colorado who are up and coming filmmakers clamor about it! They were like, “How did you get into that!? That’s so cool!”

It gives those guys something to strive for if their passion is to film motocross. If you’re a dirt bike filmmaker, you’re not going to get any more notoriety than ESPN blasting your content on their website.

I think it’s cool that their doing it and that they include moto in with those other sports, because there have been years and years worth of skateboarding and snowboarding movies, it wasn’t really until the last ten or fifteen years that motocross has caught up to those sports visually. When you see ESPN and X Games giving a nod to motocross and the filmmakers behind those edits, that’s awesome. You know how it works, there’s equal effort that goes into a film project when it comes to filmmakers and athletes. We’re not risking our lives or injury per se, but still, it’s your name on the line if the video sucks!

“…back in 2015, I was actually done with the motorcycle industry. I said to myself that I’d never film another dirt bike again in my life…”

The exposure is great, for sure. I talked a bit with Troy Adamitis about this, but I definitely lean towards having love for full-length projects a little more. Especially now, since there’s really no reasonable way to go about them, it just makes it that much sweeter when one gets put out.

The amount of work that goes into it is so unreal. You can go out and make a three to twenty minute video that goes on YouTube, it might take a few days out of your life, but the process of making a full length is just… the amount of emails, phone calls, battling for music licensing – and it’s all on a deadline. It really does come down to the wire, with this stuff. I think we have another month or so to finish our movie with Colton, and he’s full-blown stressing about it! I try to calm him down and tell him everything is going to work out, but deep down I’m like, “Agh shit, I have no idea dude!” [laughs]

I’m excited to see what comes of that project, I’m sure if Colton’s stressing there’s some awesome stuff in there. Aside from that, where do you look towards as your next avenue? Do you want to continue branching out your skillset as a freelancer, or reel it back in and focus on one thing again?

Deep down I’d really like to hone in on one single thing. When I didn’t renew my contract with Motosport back in 2015, I was actually done with the motorcycle industry. I didn’t want any part of it, and I said to myself that I’d never film another dirt bike again in my life. I cut ties with those people and worked for a watch company out in San Diego, Original Grain, doing design work. That was the best thing I ever did for myself, because it allowed me to see what it was like [doing freelance and creative work] on the other side.

That’s not to say that it’s right for everyone but for me, the grass was greener on the other side. I found something that I actually liked in design work and branding. Even down to the product photography, I liked it all. I really like working with an in-house design team doing that kind of thing, and even when I’m busy freelancing I’m always looking for that next company that I could work for in-house. If I still lived in San Diego, I’d still be working at Original Grain, for sure. As soon as I can find a place like that again, I’m gonna jump on it. For me, design is more my passion than filmmaking, but I’m certainly more recognized as a filmmaker than a designer or photographer.

Design work would be tricky to get recognition for, there’s no way to put your name on something like that!

Yeah, and I kind of shot myself in the foot anyway as far as getting my name on stuff. I used to put “Film / Edit by Jimmy Bowron” on all of my videos, but one time I saw someone else put that on the end of their video and I thought it looked terrible, so I stopped doing it. Don’t take that advice, at all! I think there might’ve been one or two Driven to Ride episodes that I put my name on, and I still think it looks terrible!

When I post stuff on PLAECO, I don’t tag myself. I don’t know why, but I just do not like attaching my name to stuff like that, which is stupid. You’re not building your name and nobody knows who you are! [laughs] I built it up so bad that I never put my name on anything. I come from the school of thought that, if somebody likes whatever I do enough, they will put in the effort to figure out who made it.

I unfortunately couldn’t agree more. If it’s good enough, they’ll find a way. If they don’t, then maybe it wasn’t truly good?

The last six or seven years of filming dirt bikes I never put my name on anything. If somebody liked this Motosport edit, they can email in and ask who made it! Hopefully somebody will say it was me.

They’ll be like, “Yeah, it was Jimmy ‘Beau-run’” [laughs]

Yeah, exactly! “Who the hell is that!?”

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