A lot of the inspiration for the initial World of Echo interview run came from frequenting skateboard blogs and websites like Theories of Atlantis, Jenkem Magazine, Boil the Ocean, Chrome Ball Incident, etc…. The mystique of the latter especially drew me in, and kickstarted my efforts to emulate their work in my own way. Discovering the word of Chops was like getting a little reward for diving deep enough into the culture of skateboarding. You couldn’t find CBI by searching, “Skateboarding Blog” on Google. You wouldn’t find it in the pages of Thrasher or Transworld Skateboarding. You have to look hard enough, deep enough, and be curious enough to go there in the first place. Chrome Ball Incident? Boil the Ocean? What the fuck does that even mean?
World of Echo? Same process.
The intention is to simply have a corner of the internet where I can shoot the bull with people I look up to. Those who know, know, and those who don’t may never. That’s ok. You’re here, right? That’s awesome. Thanks for being a little curious.
That’s part of the reason why I was excited for this interview with Ricki Bedenbaugh. Ricki was a prominent skateboard filmmaker for over twenty years before dipping his toes in the moto world in 2013. He’s currently one of the lead cinematographers at FOX Racing. His background in skating allowed me to geek out on him for a bit before talking about his experiences in moto, so thanks for letting me indulge myself, Ricki. Hope you enjoy our conversation.
Discussion includes: Freestyling with Blink-182, landing jobs with 411 Video Magazine, Element, Stance, and FOX Racing, the difference between skaters and motocross riders, working with everyone from Matt Hensley to Ken Roczen, switching careers (in relation to age), and why risking it all is the still the best move for young filmmakers, among other things…
World of Echo: You mentioned when we met at RedBud during the Motocross of Nations that you packed everything into a Crown Vic and gunned it to California. That seems to be a central theme among subjects on the site, the “Hail Mary.” Do you think the same method still applies today? Pack your bags and pick a coast?
Ricki Bedenbaugh: Initially I moved in with Kris Markovich’s family, so I did believe then and still believe now that that [taking that leap] is the best move, but at the time I first moved I felt kind of bad about not being able to pay them rent so I moved back to Florida and got a job working a nine to five. I did that for three years and I thought to myself that this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I needed to get back to California and try it again. I came out in 1995 on a vacation to supposedly look for a job and visit my buddy Kris Markovich. But I mean… I didn’t look for a job, I just partied and had fun the whole ten days I was out there. One night Kris says to me, “Hey, I have this pro surfer friend who’s having a birthday party, let’s go!”
It was this surfer Benji Weatherley, it was his party and Blink-182 (this was ’95…) were playing at his party in his house. They were good friends with Benji. My buddy Kris knew that I freestyled… like, freestyle rapped when I would get drunk, and I was by no means good at it! I sucked! But, when you’re drunk, you think you’re killing it no matter what it is that you’re doing. So Kris goes, “Dude, you should freestyle!”
And I’m all, “You think? Dude, I don’t know anybody here, it’s weird.”
He’s like, “Don’t worry about it.”
The band had finished playing, so I walked up to Mark, and I’m all, “Can one of you guys give me a good drum beat or bass line? I want to freestyle.” They were down for it and started doing their thing, I got on the microphone and started hyping everybody up. After I was done everyone was laughing, clapping, or whatever, and Benji’s Mom comes up to me. She goes, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
I’m like, “Aw crap, are you pissed?”
And she says, “No, that was absolutely amazing! Can you do it again?”
I told her if she bought me a six-pack I’d do whatever she wanted, I was down. I ended up telling her that I was out in California on vacation and I wanted to find a job filming skateboarding. She turns to me with the strangest look on her face, so I repeated myself.
“Come with me.” She said. She brought me into her garage and they had a whole linear editing system, everything.
“We do a local television show called STV. It’s surf, skate, snow television. We need somebody to do the skate part.”
I was shocked. “Are you serious? I’ll be here in two weeks.”
So, I filmed with Kris because she knew him from his friendship with Benji, but I had to tell her that I didn’t know how to use any of the editing equipment and she said, “Don’t worry, we’ll teach you how to do everything.” I packed up my stuff, Kris flew to Florida and helped me drive to California, and that’s where it all kind of began for me… because I got drunk and freestyle rapped at Benji Weatherley’s birthday party. Taking that chance, I didn’t have anything holding me back. I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t have a dog, I didn’t have kids. Everything I owned would fit into my 1984 Crown Victoria. I packed everything into my car and drove across the country.
First day in California, shot by Paul Kalis.
One-hundred percent, I believe going for it is the right decision and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told kids that they seriously need to follow their dreams. If you have something that you absolutely want to do, don’t let anything stop you from doing it. I didn’t know how to edit. I never messed with anything like that. I didn’t know a three-quarter deck or BETA deck was, I didn’t know what any of that stuff was. If it wasn’t for Kris’ parents, Benji’s mother and step-father Barbara and Bob, if it wasn’t for them there was no way I could’ve made it. I came out to California knowing one person, but there’s kids who come here not knowing anybody and just wing it. Whenever I’m traveling and a kid comes up to me asking what he should do to become a filmmaker, I tell them to just do it. If you’ve got no responsibilities, do it. You might live on struggle street for a while, but everybody does. I told myself, I’m not going back to Florida. I’m going to stick this out and do whatever I’ve got to do to make this work. That mentality is still going on, and kids are still doing it. If you want something bad enough, you’re not going to let anything get in the way of that.
I feel like the hail mary is the catalyst for most people, and after that you just need a little luck to springboard off of. All you have to do is attempt the jump, and you’ll find success. And I think filmmakers and people cut from that cloth are looking for other people who were crazy enough to take that jump.
Totally. And the world that we live in now is totally different from what it was twenty-three years ago. The internet was just coming into its own in 1995, and now any question you have can be answered online. You can figure out how to do anything on there. Any question about Premiere, any question about cameras, you can google it or watch a video on YouTube. It just makes taking that chance that much easier. Back then, I had to read books to figure out how to do things. Now, I feel like it’s so much easier to take that chance given how accessible everything is.
I mean… I think I had five-hundred bucks in my pocket when I showed up to California. Luckily Kris and his family brought me in for about a year, until I started working for a board company in San Diego between working on STV.
Did you edit the DuFFS video on the STV setup in Benji’s garage?
Yeah. Well, around the time the Wonder Years video came out was when they first got an AVID editing system. Barbara and Bob told me, “Hey, we’re going to switch over to a non-linear system. We’re getting an AVID and it’s up to you to learn how to work it.” So, it was three of us: myself, Tim Lynch, and this other guy Drew Coalson. Tim did surfing, Drew did snowboarding, and I did skate. There was only one system, so all of us had to learn at the same time and we would share information once we figured something out. Once we had it figured out I did a DuFFS promo video after Kris asked me to come on a small tour with him and the team. That was my first real skate video, but it was still just a promo.
After that I got hired by DuFFS, but I was still doing STV on the side. I told the people at DuFFS that I wanted to do a video inspired by the TV Show Wonder Years, showing off pictures of some of the team riders when they were younger at the beginning of their parts. They were cool with it, because at the time team videos were kind of under the radar and you could use any music or concept you wanted. There were no issues with record labels or getting the rights to stuff. While I was working for STV, I would go in at night and edit the DuFFS video.
Did filming with guys like Matt Hensley, Chris Pastras, etc. elevate your filmmaking? Did you feel you had to meet their skill set visually? I know this wasn’t exactly their prime, but still. These guys had years of great skating under their belt.
I’ll never forget, we were on a Midwest trip getting footage with [Jason] Maxwell, Pastras, Hensley, Jonas Wray, and I want to say Tommy Budjanec. I remember Matt Hensley got out of the van to get a pack of cigarettes and Maxwell looks at me and goes, “Dude… can you believe we’re on tour with Matt Hensley?” I mean, Matt Hensley? He’s a legend. Growing up in Florida, that’s who I would look up to. I would watch all of the H-Street videos and always thought he had the best style. I shared the same sentiment as Maxwell, but Matt is such a rad guy. He’s so humble and… just one of the best.
There wasn’t really any sort of pressure [filming with them], though. We all just did our thing. If you traveled with somebody you’d just build this special bond where you could not see them for months after and not skip a beat when you ran into each other again. I never thought of any of those guys as anything other than normal dudes, even Hensley. I’m not even answering the question though, am I? What was the question again? [laughs]
Did filming with prominent skateboarders push you to be a better filmmaker or were you just trying your best no matter who was on the other side of the lens?
Obviously you want whatever it is your filming to be the best it can be. The worst thing that you can hear is someone saying that they don’t like how you filmed it, you know? I would always figure out what angle I wanted to film something from, and then if a guy was really trying something I’d say, “Hey, let me know if you like this angle.” For the most part, they’d trust my judgement.
There’s been time that I’ve screwed up, but everybody screws up. If you try a trick fifty or sixty times, you might screw up once. I might screw up once, too. I think I’ve always tried to film everything the best I can because I know that other people who do my job are going to see it and those are the people that I sweat. Like Ty Evans, I’ll think, “Oh shit, Ty Evans is going to see this. I need to make sure it’s good.”
Like Ty, Dan Wolfe, those are guys I look up to as cinematographers. Those dudes were doing it before me.
Was it surreal getting footage from Dan Wolfe when you did 7 Year Glitch? Was he still filming with Oyola then?
No, I think Vern was filming a lot with Oyola. I think at the time Dan Wolfe was working for Real and had moved to California. He worked for Element and then got a job at Real doing the Real video. He gave me footage of Kenny Reed, though! I want to say that Vern [Laird] and [Anthony] Claravall filmed with Ricky during 7 Year Glitch, though I’m not 100% sure. I got to travel with Ricky to Barcelona back in the day, which was another crazy moment. Ricky Oyola, you know? He’s gnarly.
“I just spent the last two years of my life dedicating everything I’ve had to this video. My girlfriend broke up with me. I didn’t get to go home and see my family for Christmas. You guys are going to pull the plug on this with four months to go?”
7 Year Glitch came out in, ’01? ’02?
’02, yeah. That video… I worked on that project for two years.
When I worked at DuFFS, after Wonder Years I wanted to do this video called Surveillance. I wanted to get these posters made that had a surveillance camera on them that said, “Surveillance. 24/7. 365.” It didn’t say anything about the DuFFS video, it didn’t say anything about skateboarding. We got them made and put those up everywhere. Whenever there was a trade show I would put them up everywhere so people would see them. I’d put them up at skate spots, electrical boxes, etc. I had this whole idea for the video fleshed out when I got a call from Chris Ortiz or Josh Friedberg at 411[VM] and they offered me a job to work at Giant Distribution. Giant at the time was Element, Black Label, New Deal, and On Video, which was a video in the works for 411. Half of my check was filming for Giant, and the other half was filming for On Video. It was my dream job because one, it’s 411, and two, all of those companies were huge at the time.
I had to leave DuFFS and the Surveillance video, but in hindsight that was a good move for me because that’s around the time a lot of doors started to open up. I wasn’t limited to just a team anymore, I could film with everybody. The first six months that I worked for Giant and 411 I went to: the southwest, Tampa, Japan, Australia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, then Europe for the summer. I was probably home for a month out of six or seven months. That opened so many doors for me, and when the time came Giant approached me to do the New Deal video.
Four months before we were going to release it though, I got a call to meet at the 411 offices. Everyone was in this room and I didn’t know what was going on. I thought they were getting ready to fire me. They said, “We’ve got some good news, and we’ve got some bad news. The bad news is that we’re not going to follow through with the New Deal video.”
I’m like, “What!? What’s the good news?”
They said they were going to start a new brand, so I said, “Let’s go back to the bad news.”
I just spent the last two years of my life dedicating everything I’ve had to this video. My girlfriend broke up with me. I didn’t get to go home and see my family for Christmas. You guys are going to pull the plug on this with four months to go? They wanted to do other things and I just couldn’t believe it. I remember driving home from that meeting crying, grown-ass man crying. I had put everything I had into that video and they were just going to pull the plug. The team riders ended up getting together and justified their work into releasing the video. I think within four months of that video coming out they closed New Deal and started Popwar.
Wow… and that didn’t really work out too well for them either… [laughs]
Yeah, that didn’t work out too well. But, at that time I had just started working for 411 full-time.
How does working with skaters differ from your current focus on moto? I feel like skaters have a little more control over their footage than moto guys do. How do you view that relationship now that you’ve done both?
Skaters are definitely a lot pickier. They’re perfectionists. They want to land the trick perfectly, they want it filmed perfectly, and when it comes to editing their part they’re very finicky about it because their name is going to be on it. Like I said earlier, I knew that other filmmakers were going to be watching my videos, so I wanted it to be the best thing I could do. Skaters are the same way, they know their peers are going to be watching their parts so they want their parts to be the best they can be.
I know it’s the same way in the moto world but honestly, since I’ve started filming and editing moto videos I’ve never really had any riders come in with their two cents. The Hunter [Lawrence] video, I explained to him what I wanted to do when I met him and he was like, “Alright, whatever you want to do man!” He was really open, and I feel like all of the moto guys I work with just leave it up to me. It’s more the guys that work for FOX, like J.T. (who’s in charge of SHIFT), and Mikey Rangle [that are picky], because they know I don’t know the moto world. I don’t know if one whip is better than the other whip. In the skating world, I know what good style is and what it’s supposed to look like. I’m still learning in the moto world, so I’ll bring those guys in after I do an edit and have them tell me if anything looks weird. So far I’ve been pretty good about picking the right clips.
I will say, one major difference between skate and moto I found out when I first started was that I didn’t know how high the rider’s were going to jump so I could keep them in frame. In skateboarding, I know how high somebody is going to go on the vert ramp, I know how high somebody is going to go when they’re going down a stair set. I was pretty good with that judgement in skateboarding, but in the moto world I’ve messed up so many times. I’ve cut so many heads off, so many wheels on the landing, and I’m freaking out because I keep dropping the ball. Racking focus is another thing. If somebody is coming at you in a set of whoops it’s so difficult to keep a rider in focus. When you get it though, tack sharp from when the rider enters the frame to when he exits, that’s such a great feeling.
With skating though, there’s so many different things that they do as far as style, tricks, and what they’re skating. Handrails, transition, etc. In the moto world… there’s a berm, a triple, a double, a whoop section. How can we make this look differently? It comes down to the way you film it, or the way you edit it. That’s where the challenge for me comes in, because I try to make anything I do different from what somebody else is doing. Sometimes it’s hard, because the riders aren’t doing anything differently. Style-wise, they are. Dungey rides different than Roczen, Dean Wilson rides different than Hunter Lawrence.
It’s all still a left hand corner.
“I was pretty good with that judgement in skateboarding, but in the moto world I’ve messed up so many times.”
I totally understand. That was something else we talked about at RedBud, that I had trouble filming skateboarding with a motocross background, because I think I like having that control over the subject. I can tell a rider, “Hey, go hit that corner.” I can’t tell a skater, “Hey, do a kickflip.” Maybe they don’t want to do a kickflip? You can’t project like that. I also wanted to touch on another aspect of your career switch, that being your age. Did age have a factor in your decision to pursue moto?
No, like I said when we met, I think the biggest factor in my decision to start filming moto was the fact that I had been filming skating for years and I wanted to do something else. I will always love skateboarding. I will always love filming skateboarding. It’s in my blood and that’s what I do, but if you eat the same meal for three months straight, you’d want to eat something else. I had just gotten a RED that I worked really hard to get, and I wanted to really put it to use, which meant I had to film stuff other than skateboarding. I had the opportunity to work for Stance Socks and affiliate myself with basketball, golf, and all types of different stuff. Mikey Rangle started working there not long after me and started the moto division, so he introduced me to the moto world. Before I met him, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what a whoop was, I didn’t know what a berm was, you know? It wasn’t there for me. I didn’t follow motocross because skateboarding was my life.
I went with him and he introduced me to Roczen and we went to [Aldon] Baker’s track. Then we went to Chad Reed’s house and I got introduced to him. That kind of led the way for me, and Mikey taught me a lot. I eventually got a call from my buddy Ryan [Marcus] over at FOX Racing, and he was just getting too much work for Ryan and Cassidy [Tillemans] so I got hired over there. I told Ryan that I didn’t know much about the moto world but he assured me that I would learn it. The transition going from skating to moto was fairly easy, but I don’t think that age had anything to do with it.
Actually, I take that back. There was a point when I was filming for Etnies, the guys that rode for Etnies were filming with a guy who was around their age. Early twenties, you know? I’d hit those guys up and ask to go film and they’d tell me, “Oh, we’re going to roll out with so-and-so.”
I’m like, alright? He doesn’t work for Etnies, I do… and we’re working on a project so I think you should be filming with me. It put me in a weird position. I was talking with my wife and I thought, “I’ve just gotten to this point where I need to do other things.” I mean, I get it, someone who’s in their early twenties probably wants to film with someone else who’s around the same age. I can’t imagine someone in their early twenties wanting to film with someone in their early forties. That’s a huge age gap and the only thing we have in common is that we skateboard. I mean, Ty Evans is still doing it, but that’s Ty Evans. He’s a fucking legend.
A lot of guys that are my age are out there still filming and like I said, I still love skating and I’ll film lines all day long, I just wanted to branch out and film other things. I still film skating, it’s just not a daily thing like it used to be. Maybe age did have a factor in that, I just got this point in my life where I was happy with what I’ve done in skateboarding.
With this newfound career in moto, you’ve been filming a lot with Ken Roczen, Hunter Lawrence, and a whole slew of other great riders under the FOX/SHIFT umbrella. What’s it been like working with those guys?
All of the guys have been amazing. I remember the first month I started working at FOX I ran into Roczen, and I’m all, “Roczen!”
He goes, “What are you doing here!?” I told him we were going to be working together and he goes, “Oh, something with Stance?”
And I said, “No, I work here now!” He was so hyped.
Every single dude I’ve ever shot with in moto has been really great to work with. They taught me not to say, “Can you do that one more time?” I learned that! They’re really easy-going and easy to work with, though. If I tell them I have an idea, they’re one-hundred percent down to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Hunter was super down. Jimmy [Hill] too. All of the guys are sick, but anytime I get to film with Roczen is rad because he’s such a cool ass dude. Filming his surgery was pretty heavy, but other than that… you know how when you film with certain people you just click? I feel like we click. I don’t know… don’t quote me on that. [laughs] He could be like, “Yeah, right!”
He’ll be like, “Ricki said what!?” [laughs]
Yeah, right? All of the guys have been really outgoing. Ricky Carmichael? Best dude. He’s the best dude. He’s such a rad guy, easiest dude to work with. Then again, he’s a professional who has done this a million times. There’s probably nothing I could ask him to do that he hasn’t already done for somebody else. It’s interesting though, and this is something I talked with my wife about actually, where she said that people would kill to hang out with the guys I work with. I’m in an interesting position though where I didn’t grow up admiring the people I film now, and I see guys like Ken Roczen and Ricky Carmichael on the same level as you or I. These are just regular people who happen to be super talented on their motorcycles.
I know you’re pretty busy over there, project after project at FOX Racing. We talked about it a little bit yesterday, but what’s coming down the pipe? Anything you’re particularly pumped for?
We went to Iceland with Jimmy [Hill] for awhile. I wish we had a few more days to film up there. That’ll be a SHIFT video, I think it’s called, Endless. We go to Mexico on the first of November with Jimmy and Twitch. They’re all gear sets based on the countries. The colorways represent the countries. Next week we’re doing a shoot with Dungey, Roczen, etc. for our 2020 launch. We’re just doing that at Fox Raceway. Between myself, Ryan, and Cassidy, we all try to figure out a gameplay for each shoot and make our shoots different. Ryan is always wanting to do these crazy ideas… there’s a lot of stuff coming up. A lot of that stuff is shot a year before release, though. The stuff we’re shooting next week won’t come out until 2019. I’m excited because whenever we get all of the guys together it’s a good time, even if it’s just at the local track.
“I guess everybody in the moto world can say, ‘Who is this guy? He doesn’t even ride.’ But I love filming, and I love filming moto and everything else.”
I just thought of an additional question after that… you got into filmmaking through being a skateboarder. I’m curious if you’ve ever ridden a dirt bike?
[laughs] I wouldn’t say that what I did was riding, but I suppose it was. I was out camping with a bunch of my friends, and we all have motorcycles, like Triumphs. We’ll go on these trips and camp, and every now and then somebody will bring a truck with a little dirt bike in the back. I ripped around on it a little bit and had fun, but with my personality… I know how I am.
I can’t remember if I told you or not, but we did a shoot at Ocotillo Wells for SHIFT a year and a half ago. We rented these RZRs for the shoot, and I had never been to Ocotillo or driven a RZR. I’m driving this thing with Cassidy and hitting all of this crap, having a blast, and Cassidy says he wants to get a photo of me hitting a huge berm in it. After I did it, I went to go pick him back up and hit a hole and flipped it. My problem is that I’ll get on something and get real comfortable, real fast, and I always push it too far. All of the guys here ask me when I’m going to come out to the track and ride and I have to stop myself. First of all, I don’t even know the rules of the track, I don’t want to screw up and hurt somebody or myself. I feel like I’m more of a freeride type person, riding trails. I can just say, “Hey I got a broken wrist right now, I can’t ride.”
But I mean, I’ve thought about it for sure. I don’t have a bike, though. I don’t know if that’s weird.
I don’t think so.
I guess everybody in the moto world can say, “Who is this guy? He doesn’t even ride.” But I love filming, and I love filming moto and everything else. Just because I don’t ride doesn’t mean I don’t know how to film. Everybody else seems to be OK with what I’ve been doing. Roczen doesn’t complain, Ricky doesn’t complain. The people I work with seem to like what I’m doing, so I guess I’ll just keep doing it.
The funny thing is, as a kid, I wanted to be a motocross racer. This is like, the late ’70s. My Mom said, “No way! You can do whatever you want when you turn eighteen.” I was probably eight, so by the time I even reached that age I had already gotten a skateboard and that’s all I cared about since. It’s full circle now though, because I never got that dirt bike and never got to become what I wanted to be as a kid, but now I get to film the best motocross riders in the world riding their dirt bikes. I think that’s kind of cool.