Road Life: A Conversation with Tom Journet


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Photo: Jordan Hoover

 

“I don’t know if Stewart is into rap music, but if I was his social media guy I’d do some hood shit!”

 

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On the back leg of a jaunt through the Lone Star State dubbed the “Texas Two-Step,” Tom Journet found himself across from me in a motorhome, an audience of two seated beside us comprised of Kawasaki’s rising star Jett Reynolds, and budding talent Dylan Cunha. The attached fridge housed a handful of water bottles and an anonymous bottle of liquor left unopened, for better or for worse. It was about 9 PM. I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, and if all went to plan, I wouldn’t be eating it for another hour as well.

At that moment, I’d rather chew on Tom’s thoughts, direct from the source of one of the industry’s leading independent outlets: Evergood. For a ragtag team of Northeasterners, they sure make a hell of a pack. Instead of asking Tom the important questions, like how many pillows he can balance on his head, I asked him about some other shit. I hope you enjoy it. This is Tom Journet, featuring bits of Jett Reynolds and Dylan Cunha.

Discussion includes: Growing up at Raceway Park in New Jersey, creation and evolution of the “Innermost” video series, French music, loathing editing, and almost freezing to death in the mountains of Colorado, among other things…

 

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World of Echo: I noticed that you mirrored your dad’s number in your racing days, him being 473, and you 374. Was your dad a big influence in your life?

Tom Journet: Wow. Yeah, that’s crazy. Growing up, my dad and his side of the family were really big into soccer, but he also raced. He got hurt a lot when he was young, so he stopped racing altogether and motocross just became a small thing he did while he was a teenager. All of this was happening in France, because my whole family grew up there. My parents decided to move to the US in 2000, and when they did my dad got another bike right after I was born. I was three or four at the time, traveling with my dad to all of the practice tracks he’d ride at. I thought it was cool and I started getting into it.

My parents got me a dirt bike when I was six and my dad and I grew up racing together. At first, I didn’t have a racing number. I was on a 50cc at these tiny local races, so I just ran the number four because I was a huge Carmichael fan. Later on we added a “one” to the front because I was a big K-Dub fan as well. Once we started getting serious about racing though, I needed an actual number to go by, and seeing as my dad always ran 473, I figured why not run 374? It’s turned into my go-to number ever since.

Isn’t your dad a bio-chemist or something crazy like that?

Yeah, that’s ultimately why my family came over to the US. My dad went to school in Paris for however many years, and my mom stuck around with him through it all and eventually followed him to New York, where he had a job opportunity at Rochester. They liked it so much that they decided not to go back home to France and start life over here. I was the first generation to be born here, because my older sister was actually born in France in 1992. They didn’t move here until 1994.

You guys would frequent E-Town a lot? Raceway Park?

Raceway Park is thirty to forty minutes away from our house. That’s my track right there. I learned how to ride there.

They moved the track over to the other side of the property, right? Or so I’ve heard.

Yeah! I haven’t been to the “new” track, I was only around during the process of them re-making it. I came home once in-between shoots and my dad and I checked it out. It’s just… it’s weird. It’s not the same, you know? I’m actually going home after this weekend, so hopefully I can try the new track out. It might change my opinion.

So you’re going to be throwing down out there?

[laughs] Oh man, I can’t even remember the last time I rode. Maybe a year ago? It was at this other local track in Pennsylvania called Pagoda. It was eighty degrees out and I got worked, I was puking during the open practice trying to put one-lap heaters down. It was brutal.

Tell me about the time you met Shirky [Eric Shirk] at MX207. That seems like a defining moment in your life.

It was actually at Raceway Park where I met Eric! That’s another reason why that place is so [important to me]. It’s crazy how all of that worked out like it did. I raced motocross until my sophomore year of high school, which was basically the “peak” of my racing days. I was trying to qualify for Loretta’s in the 250 C class, and I made it to the regional, but I was over racing after that though… I got smoked there.

It was also during that year that I started taking my “Aspects of Video Production” class, which was my first experience with video at all. I hadn’t even touched a camera at that point, as a lot of the work in the class was about the study of framing and composition. After I was done racing, I picked up a camera and started filming my friends at the track, which became something pretty big, I guess!

They even wrote an article in Vurbmoto about that day you met Shirk. It was called, “How To Get a Job in the Motocross Industry.” I remember that because I was super jealous to read about a kid my age landing a gig with Vurbmoto!

It was crazy. That day at Raceway Park was the 2014 Kawasaki Race of Champions event. It was the second KROC I filmed, and I felt like that was a big weekend for me to make a video. After finding out the Vurbmoto guys were there I thought, “This is my time to shine.” It’s just crazy how things work out and, looking back, it’s amazing to think that I even got a job working for Vurbmoto. I got so lucky because, when you think about it, situations where kids come up to ask about needing extra filmers, the answer is usually, “No.” When I approached the Vurb guys and asked the same question, they just so happened to be in need of somebody at the time.

I learned that a week before the KROC event, one of their videographers, Ashton Hammill, got hurt skateboarding and they needed a backup filmer. They reached out to Kevin Hutzler of 411 Films from New York, and from there I linked up with Kevin and we shared footage from the event. Eventually I got to Shirk, who I had DM’d earlier on Instagram asking about filming for Vurb. When I introduced myself in person, Shirk was in a pretty good mood and I said, “If you guys are looking for a video, let me know.”

 

“‘…you won’t have a job when you come back.’ I basically said, ‘Alright, cool,’ and left.”

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He gave me his email, and from there it was on. When I got home I edited all night and at 9 AM I emailed Shirk and said, “The video is ready.” I saw an opportunity with those guys and I didn’t want to waste it. Wes [Williams] eventually caught wind of my work and they called me and asked if I could come up to film at MX207 in Maine. That’s how it all started.

I was also working in a deli when Wes asked me to come up to MX207, but I was scheduled to work that entire weekend. I told my boss that I had to go to Maine for a video project, knowing well enough that this was super last-minute. She pulled me aside and said, “If you’re going to be filming all weekend, I have to let you know that you won’t have a job when you come back.” I basically said, “Alright, cool,” and left.

Did you think that relationship would ever blossom into what Evergood has become?

I don’t know! I guess? Whenever we [Tom, Eric, and Matt Rice] found out Vurb was over, at the time we didn’t have any backup plan. It was basically us three handling things at Vurbmoto. Mini O’s was our last event for Vurb, and it was just us three that weekend. We sat down and figured it’d be a waste to let go of all of these contacts Vurb had amassed over the years, so we started Evergood.

I feel like Evergood is a representation of the relationships between you, Matt, and Shirk. The content, in the videos especially, seems to read more like a scrapbook than a “moto” website. I’d compare it to what Jordan Hoover is doing with Uniform.co. Is that feeling or “vibe” something you’re aiming for?

Jordan, Matt, and Shirk all skate and are very influenced by skateboarding, moreso than motocross. They all love moto though, it’s just that they’re not influenced by it. I feel like at times those vibes can rub off on me. I’m honestly just somebody who was into action sports as a kid. Motocross, skateboarding, snowboarding… that type of stuff. I always watched Fuel TV growing up, which I’m sure had a major influence on my life, but  I don’t know… yeah. Sorry!

That’s cool, sort of an odd question admittedly. Side note: Fuel TV was the shit, though.

Dude, it was so sick. I used to watch New Pollution all of the time, with all of the young kids. Built to Shred. The Moto: Inside the Outdoors, how could you forget that? So sick.

I always thought Firsthand was pretty great as well.

Yeah, man. It sucks that they got bought out by UFC. I wish they still had an action sports channel here, because they don’t have any action sports stuff on TV in the US. They have a little bit of it over in France, though. I don’t know if you know Nicolas Paulmier or Alan Perreard, but they do a bunch of TV work over there within moto and such. That’d be sick if they had that over here… maybe one day.

Getting back to Evergood, on all of your bigger projects (mainly Innermost), Shirk is listed in the credits as creative director, and you’re listed as a cameraman and editor. I find the editing process to be a very personal thing, something that is usually done in solitude. I’m curious what that relationship with you and Shirk looks like, is he hanging around while you’re working on those projects?

Not really, no. I feel correct in saying that most of the video work is all me. When it comes to filming, I don’t have any shot sheets or proposals, I’m a very “freestyle” kind of guy when it comes to that sort of thing. I run and gun a lot and get what I can get. That’s how it is on the film side, but with editing it’s a little different. The first Innermost video I did, that was a bit of a freestyle move on my end just to see how it would turn out, that format of having a little music montage at the beginning and an interview with lifestyle stuff in the middle, followed by another montage.

From that point on, I felt like I had to be the one to edit the Innermost videos because I didn’t want the series to stray from that format. I thought that if somebody else edited it, people would notice. It’s a long process sometimes, honestly. Right now I’m sitting on a ton of his [Jett Reynold’s, who is sitting on a couch beside us with Dylan Cunha] footage. I shot most of his stuff two months ago! It can take a little bit to get into the flow of things.

I mean, you can certainly cut yourself some slack. Most of the bigger projects you guys put out are in the fifteen-to-twenty minute range. Even if most of that twenty minutes is interview footage, you still have to plan all of that out.

The way I usually go about editing is that I do both music montages separately and get those sorted out, then move on to the interview stuff, which is handled by Shirk. Giving credit where credit is due, Shirk sits through the interviews and picks out the best parts, because I don’t have much patience when it comes to sitting through forty-five minutes to an hour of audio. He definitely helps me out on that part, so once he gives me the time stamps I lay those in the timeline and boom, you have an Innermost episode.

 

 

Wasn’t there a Jason Anderson Innermost?

There was, yeah. That was the first one that we did. Is it not up anymore?

Last I checked it wasn’t available. What was the one after that? Cooper Webb?

We did Jason, Cooper, Josh Grant, Dean Wilson, Josh Hansen, and then Colby Raha. Colby Raha’s was taken down, I know that. I don’t really know how it got taken down either. I don’t want to get into too many details, because I don’t really know what happened, all I know is that one day I logged onto YouTube and it said that the video was taken down for copyright infringement by Colby Raha. That doesn’t make any sense though, because we had such a good time filming with him, you know? It must be something on YouTube’s end.

YouTube has certainly been a shitshow lately.

Yeah! We even got a copyright strike for that! I don’t even think it was for the music, I think it was for the footage itself, which only Tyson [Traner] and I filmed. It really sucks, because I was really pumped on that one. It was weird too, because normally I shoot all of the footage (minus some of the footage in Josh Hansen’s video from Dillon Gwaltney, Aran Eversman, and Shirk), but this one I had to play with a lot of Tyson’s footage. It was probably 80% Tyson’s footage, and the rest was mine, just B-Roll. That was a weird process.

In the future, do you plan on tinkering with the Innermost formula?

I like the format right now, but what I think would be sick is if we started doing them with amateurs. We’re going to do one with Jett [Reynold’s], and we have a couple more in mind as well. I think it’d be sick, because I feel like people want to get to know these riders, not just the pros. But yeah, I don’t know…

[For the record, Jett was throwing the horns whenever mentioned, no exception here.]

He’s trying to throw me off my game! I don’t know if we’re going to change the format, though. I just need to start doing more. We’re going to get this Jett video out soon, and then we’ll get the ball rolling and do a couple more.

 

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Jett Reynolds. Photo: Journet

 

I was going to ask you about the “World’s Fair” video you did with Jason Anderson as well. That looked like a hybrid Innermost video, long-form without any interviews. I really enjoyed this video, especially the music. I loved that (forgive my pronunciation) Jacques Dutronc track.

*In Tom’s French accent* Jacques Dutronc! You gotta get the French in there, you know!? [laughs]

Have you always been a fan of his, given your French background?

I post a lot of rap music on my Instagram page, and I listen to a lot of that as well as Indie music in my day-to-day life. I even listened to some EDM for a bit when I was in high school. That French stuff though, I honestly wasn’t listening to any of that at all. Going into this trip [with Jason] I already knew what the vibes were going to be like in Paris, so I was just thinking about how cool it would be to have an old-school French song with some riding thrown in.

I did some research through a couple of playlists to set that video up. Honestly, once I had the music in place and I used that accordion solo in the middle, the first time I watched that part it gave me chills. I knew right then that it was going to be a good video. I’ve been trying to get a little weird with my music selections lately, which I think I’m going to continue to do.

I had a Jacques Dutronc song queued up for a video idea, it was called “Hippie Hippie Hourah.” Do you know that one?

I was actually going to use that song in “World’s Fair!”

Were you really? No way!

Yeah! I was thinking of using it! Jason actually has that song on his Spotify, we’ll listen to it in the truck sometimes because he thinks all of that stuff is sick! So, yeah, I was thinking of using “Hippie Hippie Hourrah,” but I just really loved the slow tempo on the second French song, “Sous Le Ciel De Paris” by Yves Montand, which translates to “Under the Skies of Paris.”

How do you handle your relationships with high profile athletes like Cooper Webb and Jason Anderson? Is it difficult to keep your vision as a videographer in check when you’re around the stars of a sport you love?

When I first met most of those dudes, like Cooper and Jason, I was still eighteen or nineteen years old working at Vurbmoto. They’re used to being around the media as it is, and a lot of those guys were older than I was at the time, so I guess they didn’t really see me as another “media guy” and instead saw me as a kid, which I think helped. When I first started filming these guys though, I told myself that I wouldn’t fan out on them. I needed to be chill, because these guys are just regular dudes, you know what I mean? I just try to be me.

Some of my friends might consider me the “funny” guy, so I try my best to make everyone feel comfortable when I’m working with them. Most of the Innermost videos we do, we actually don’t know the subject going into it. We learn about them as we go along. Zach Osborne, for instance, he got a bad impression of me from stories he heard through Jason [Anderson], and he thought I was nothing but trouble. When we did that Innermost video with Zach, I stayed with him for two weeks and we learned a lot about each other and got closer. It was just him and I filming with his daughter, Emory, and his wife Brittney.

 

 

It can be difficult to get people to be genuine when there’s a camera in their face. Is there anything you do to break down that wall a bit?

I think the biggest thing is trust. These guys have to believe that I’m not going to run off with their footage and do something bad with it. I have some gnarly clips of people saying stuff that they shouldn’t necessarily be saying, and they have to trust that I will be careful with that footage, which I am. I’m just close with the people we film with, and they trust me. That, and having fun as well! I don’t want to be the guy who has a camera all up in everybody’s face…

*To Jett* Did Tom have his camera all up in your face?

Jett Reynolds: [sarcastic] Oh… no! Tom’s the coolest guy I know!

Tom: [laughs]

Jett: Nah, Tom’s a good dude. He’s nice to everybody, he’s cool with everybody…

You can talk shit about him if you want…

Tom: I really do just try to be cool with everyone, but I’m sure once everyone sees me out there with the camera they’re probably thinking I’m weird, or whatever. I don’t know! I feel like I have a bit of a serious face when I’m filming, so maybe people take that the wrong way and see me as unapproachable. What are you shaking your head at me for?

Jett: Nah, dude! You’re like the rainbow guy out there! Because you’re always smiling!

Tom: I do try to be happy! And coming back to being friends with people… when I’m at these amateur races, I’m hyping my friends and riders up, and I get my game face on! It’s like, “Let’s do this! Let’s get this moto win!” It’s been crazy to see my relationships with these riders grow over the years. Four years ago I didn’t even know Jett, and he probably didn’t know a thing about me. Now, we’re always hanging out.

*To Jett and Dylan* I’m bringing you guys in here because I feel like I’m boring you to death.

Tom: Hey, you know who this guy is over here?

No!

Tom: Have you seen the C classes today? This dude has won them all. Dylan Cunha, three for three! He’ll probably be featured in Jett’s Innermost as well, so check that out when it drops!

Was that some of the stuff you guys were doing out in Bakersfield recently?

Tom: Yeah! Jett has a new track out there that we filmed at. It’s super awesome, it’s so green in the winter and the place is like a golf course. I felt like I was filming Herlings out there, sand rollers everywhere. Bakersfield is motocross heaven.

Jett: So, I have a question. Let’s go back to that Herlings part. That’s a pretty good compliment for me… I’m the Jeffery Herlings of the USA!

Tom: Slow it down, I didn’t mean that! You’re going to have to go back and do some more Junior World Championships to see if you can ride some sand like Lommel.

Jett: I found a new sand track out [in Bakersfield] though, so we have to go back and re-film everything. We’re doing another Innermost.

Tom: I got some good stuff! I’m so bummed though, I didn’t have my external recorder for my FS700 when we filmed in Bakersfield. I had to do a lot of buffering [waiting for the camera to capture and render in slow motion] to get some of the slow motion stuff we wanted.

 

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“Rainbow Guy,” always smiling! Photo: Jey Crunch

 

Some kids running around our camp site were critiquing your film techniques, saying that you used too much slow motion and that you auto-focus your clips. I tried to tell them they don’t know which way was up, but it did get me wondering if you feel that you’re spread thin at times. Do you think you could be putting out better stuff?

Sometimes I do feel that way, but first off – and this is no “shots fired” or anything – but almost everything I shoot is manual. I pull focus the whole time, and I only use auto-focus when I’m on my Ronin [handheld gimbal stabilizer]. One, because it’s a Ronin and I can’t touch the camera, and two, because the auto-focus on the A7iii is badass. Everything else is all pulled manually. I usually shoot around f/8 towards f/11 aperture, because once I go lower than that it can get difficult to pull focus. I’m not that great at it, so I play it safe. I will say that I have gotten a little lazier with my Instagram videos, as far as those go.

You have to play that game to be out there everyday, though.

Honestly, I hate editing too. I hate it. If I could just film and mess around with some of the clips afterwards, I’d be cool with that.

What don’t you like about it?

I just don’t have the patience for it, I really don’t. I think I’m getting better with it as I get older, but I don’t know. It’s just such a drag.

Do you edit on the road a lot?

Most of the time, yeah. I do everything right off the laptop.

That’s probably why you hate it. I couldn’t imagine being in a van, at an airport, or in a hotel room editing straight off the laptop. Not to mention working on a deadline.

It’s rough sometimes, but there’s other times I enjoy it. I’ll be editing in the van and we’re just cruising along through the desert somewhere. We’re always on the move.

What’s the craziest road story you can tell me?

Wow. Dude, I have no idea!

*To Jett* Have you heard any of them?

Jett: I’ve heard some… [laughs]

Tom: We have a sprinter van, and we’ve gotten this changed since then, but before we’d be traveling across the country without RV plates and fly by the weigh stations we were “supposed” to be stopping at. Matt and Shirk got pulled over a couple of times because of that, because the cops thought it was a commercial vehicle. I don’t know, though! Let me think…

OK, this is a brutal one. This was 2017, Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas to Oak Ridge in Iowa for the Evergood Open. It’s me, Shirky, Matt, and Jordan Hoover mobbing from Vegas to Iowa. The short version is that I got sick, like… sick to the point that I thought I was dying. I met up with this chick in Vegas, nothing crazy, but I really think she was the one who got me sick. Straight up. There were other things that happened on the trip too that didn’t help me any, but still.

Our first stop on the trip was set for Andrew Campo’s house in Denver, Colorado. We’re all driving throughout the day, going all the way through Utah (which sucked), and Jordan and I are the only ones left standing by the time we get into Colorado. It’s about 9 PM when we get to the Rocky Mountains, and I ask Jordan, “Hey, are you getting tired?”

He goes, “Kind of.”

So I said, “Fuck it, let’s just mob through the mountains. Let’s do it.”

We get about an hour in and we’re toast, so we eventually gave up and pulled over for the night, where I curled myself up in basketball shorts and a t-shirt and froze my ass off. No hoodie, no blankets, nothing. It was probably fifteen degrees outside. I ended up going to the urgent care unit in Iowa when it was all said and done, because I wound up with a gnarly case of strep throat. It ruined my weekend. Strep throat and vomiting… not fun.

You still filmed that weekend?

Yeah, I tried to. Luckily Nate Jones was there and he got a ton of footage from that trip. He crushed it. Shout out Nate Jones!

 

“I’d for sure do [an Innermost video] on Herlings.”

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Circling back to Evergood, who would be your dream Innermost subject? Among active and retired riders.

If I could do one right now, I’d for sure do one on Herlings.

Even if he had that Vurb Platinum a few years back?

Ah, you know… it’s tough to say. There are a lot of dudes I’d want to do an Innermost on right now! Stewart, maybe. Stewart or Carmichael. I was thinking about that the other day, because I posted this little edit that I filmed of Stewart back when I was working with Wes [Williams] and RedBull. If I could film Stewart in his prime the way I film with Jason now, man, it’d be so sick.

I don’t know if Stewart is into rap music, but if I was his social media guy I’d do some hood shit! I grew up in a pretty diverse community in central New Jersey, so I feel like I have a little east coast taste in me, plus a lot of people in my school listened to rap. I feel like we’d make something sick if that were possible. There’s so many sick riders, though.

Dylan Cunha: McGrath?

Tom: McGrath would be a sick one to do an Innermost on. He would be a punk-rock one. But Stewart, though! You’re getting me all excited for nothing, man.

Ok, what about one that could theoretically happen?

I was talking to AC for a little while, because I think AC would be a cool subject. He’s got a good fan base as well. Him, Roczen, Tomac, if we did any of those dudes they’d get a ton of views. Roczen, I don’t really know him but I feel like he’d be a great person to do an Innermost on as well. Tomac, too. That’d be a really cool way to show what he’s all about, because he’s really reserved. If we did an Innermost with him, we’d have to stay at his place for like a month or so. Sometimes on these trips, I don’t pick up the camera for a couple of days because I need to get comfortable with the person.

So what’s next for Evergood? What plans are actually coming to fruition?

We’re just trying to push videos out, really. The media world we’re transitioning into is getting crazy, and it’s not how it used to be. Before it was all about YouTube videos, but now I’m out here trying to sell social media packages to riders and brands. I’m selling Instagram edits and Instagram story clips. I did some personal work this week, and I can make a little more money that way as well.

I also want to reach out to professional riders as well and build social media packages for them. So Cooper, if you’re reading this, you’ve been winning a lot man! I think it could be a good look for you! I honestly feel like that type of stuff could be really big in a few years. It’d be great if Evergood could grow as well, it’d be nice to have some other filmers out there! I’m just one guy… that guy, Tom. What do you think most these kids think of me out there, Jett?

Jett: Ok, like… for reference, some of these other guys… you see their edits…

Tom: Ok!! Cut it out!

[laughs] Speak your mind!

Jett: You see these other dudes, they’re a little bit “off edge.” But when you go to Tom Journet, you actually get a dope edit. These other guys have been doing the same stuff for years and it gets old.

Dylan: They still probably hand out CD’s!

Tom: I try to be friendly with everyone and say what’s up to all of the filmers out there. We’re all in this thing together. I’ve been cool with everyone and I try to see what everyone has made from the week when it’s over. I don’t think there should be much competition.

Jett: If you’re taking all of their business though, they’re going to have to go back to shooting porn!

Tom: God damn it, Jett! We can’t use any of this stuff, man!

 

Thanks to Tom, Jett, and Dylan for the time.

 

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