Inside Terrafirma with John Fox (Part 2)


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“We preserved a moment in time that not a lot of people preserved, and in a way that makes that era more valuable because nobody was capturing it.”

 

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There’s a certain magic to videotape. Undoubtedly nostalgic, tangible, clunky in structure… yet soft in tone. The lines jumping sporadically on a dimly lit cathode-ray display.

If you raced motocross in the mid-nineties, chances are you owned a piece (or many) in the Terrafirma film series. For three brothers from the Bay Area, what started out as a way to add to their brand’s reputation, turned into an industry monument; a place where style and attitude met skill and effort. Big whips, road trips, bar-to-bar racing, and a radio blasting Pennywise. John Fox (Terrafirma 12, and 3) lets loose and welcomes you back to 1994.

Discussion includes: Jeremy McGrath at Castillo and beyond, new filmmaking talent, inventing freestyle tricks with Mike Metzger and Danny Hamm, scorpion bites, soundtracks, battling No Fear, transition to 16mm, and why video will never be the same, among other things…

 

*Part two in a series. You can read part one here.

 

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World of Echo: McGrath’s part in Terrafirma 2 is held so dearly in a lot of people’s minds. What is your take on that shoot and how did you guys go about capturing his essence and style out at Castillo Ranch?

I would say it was one of the more significant pieces in Terrafirma history that we did, for sure. It’s up there in the top 5. We were lucky to have McGrath freshly aboard the Fox team at this time, and getting him aligned with the Terrafirma 2 video project was priority number one.

It was decided from the beginning that he would get the opening section of the video, that was a no-brainer, but we spent a lot of our time on the front-end of that production figuring out ways to improve our product. That’s where renting the helicopter came into the picture, that’s where we started to buy better equipment, and that’s where we started to meet up before shoots and storyboard ideas with our crew. Then to have the song “Disconnected,” by Face to Face rip through the action made the opening of that video that much better.

Can you walk me through what that day was like?

It was a long weekend, actually. It was a two-day shoot that included Steve Lamson and the whole Honda team. Everybody showed up in their box vans ready to work sun-up to sundown. We included a lot of Fox employees on that shoot as well, guys like Todd Hicks, Matt Story, Rob Salcedo and my brothers Pete and Greg were both highly involved… we even had employees on hand to tend to the track and BBQ up some food. It was a pretty big project.

[But McGrath], he was such a class act, always smiling and always positive. He was one of the best at working with photographers and actively asking if we got the shot, because he was down to do something as many times as it took to get right. He’d always say stuff like, “I could bang this out ten times in a row, if you want.”

That was another thing about Jeremy, his play riding was supernatural because he was so good that it was almost effortless for him. When you’d get him in gnarly terrain like Castillo or Beaumont… Glamis, he’d be completely comfortable in really gnarly situations. When other guys would be doing run-ups for ten minutes and checking their speed, Jeremy was already going upside down on whips off the same jump. His comfort level was so high that it made you feel comfortable in knowing you’d get a great shot. We could really fine tune stuff with him. I even encouraged Jeremy to learn nose-wheelie landings at Beaumont in Terrafirma 4, that’s a great example of being able to throw ideas at a guy like Jeremy and him executing.

We were out there on a super windy day with the Mike Hatchett [filmmaker, Terrafirma 4 through 6] and Andy Bowyer, and everyone riding was sketched out by the wind, except for Jeremy. Jeremy was throwing whips and calculating the effort put into them by judging the wind speed. It was mind-boggling. I remember he started doing some tabletops on a little hip-jump and diving his nose down, to which I observed and said, “You’ve got plenty of room right here. What if you jumped straight and pitched your nose down into a nose-wheelie landing?” I think he got it on the second try, and he was taking his feet off the pegs during it by the end of the session.

If McGrath would’ve decided to pursue freestyle instead of motocross, he would’ve been one of the greatest freestyle riders of all time. Similar to what Travis Pastrana did, except we might be talking about McGrath instead of TP. Thank god he didn’t though, because he ended up becoming the King of Supercross, known for his effortless speed and style.

 

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Or conversely, what if Mike Metzger decided to stick to racing?

There was a little while when Metzger rode for the DGY Yamaha team that he was so stoked on racing. We’d head out to film with him and he’d tell us to go to the Yamaha test track because he had to get his laps in! He was qualifying for Supercross races regularly and even got some top tens in the 125 class. He was talented at racing but ultimately his calling was freetstyle, and he became one of the greatest of all time and fully deserving of the nickname “The Godfather,” because he was there from ground zero. I remember watching Crusty and seeing Metz for the first time with his baggy jeans and puffy vest on. He was just fully invested in the freestyle mentality and saw how big that culture could be.

A culture that was well documented in what I will attest as one of the greatest videos of all time, Terrafirma 7, and hearing her [Jessica Young, director of Terrafirma 7] story was amazing. Who were some of the other players that you guys brought in for additional Terrafirma projects?

Jessica is an amazing talent and, now that I think about it, Terrafirma opened up the door for so much talent along the way. I could touch briefly on this, because you mentioned Matt Story earlier. Around the time of production for Terrafirma 3 (’96, ’97), the power of video was so outrageous within the company and industry that we were going in guns blazing on our video projects. That meant that we were branching out, and at that time we decided to release our first mountain bike video, Chainsmoke. Then we released a BMX video called Expendable Youth. Of course, Terrafirma continued to be our bread and butter, so we needed to access more filmmaking talent and bring people in.

Quickly, we brought in Chris Hultner, our in-house photographer at the time, and Greg reached out to local colleges in the Bay Area that focused on art and film, which is how we ended up finding Troy Adamitis, Jessica Young, and Adam Barker [Frezno Smooth, M80]. We even added the legendary filmmaker, Mike Hatchett, during Terrafirma 4 through 6. Him and his brother Dave Hatchett were legendary 16mm filmmakers and owned Standard Films, known for their incredible snowboard videos. All of this talent got together along the way and worked on the Terrafirma film series at one point or another, and its gotten to the point where almost anyone who has been a big name in motocross filmmaking has come through the Fox headquarters, most of them coming right out of school as well.

 

“…Hultner and I would hide out in the video department practicing [loading film] with the dark bags for days until we got it dialed.”

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I remember Troy telling me about the time you guys took him to the San Jose Supercross… he didn’t even know what Supercross was!

Isn’t that classic? He had a short film he shot and edited on 16mm for his film class at San Jose State that Greg saw. Greg liked it and hired him to make a mountain bike video for us, even though Troy knew nothing about mountain biking… or motocross for that matter! Greg gave Troy copies of the latest MTB videos like Tread and Vicious Cycle and said, “watch these and then let’s discuss how you could make something better.” Immediately Troy suggested we shoot on 16mm film because MTB riding was pretty slow and boring looking, and that by changing the frame rate slightly we could get a bit more excitement out of it. Additionally, film just looked so much more professional than video back then. Up to that point the plan was to shoot our MTB film [Chainsmoke] on video, but it’s a good thing he convinced us to step up to film, even though we had to double the budget from $50,00 to $100,000.

After Troy shot Chainsmoke, we thought if we took him under our wing and introduced him to motocross, basically show him what’s cool and what’s not, then he could quickly find his way. I learned so much from Troy, and I’m sure he learned a lot from me as well because we worked side-by-side a lot. A great example of us working together was when we shot FLY, which came out between Terrafirma 2 and 3. The final sequence in FLY is at Glamis with John Dowd, [Kevin] Windham, Damon Bradshaw, Metzger, and McGrath. Since it was such and important shoot, we brought Troy along to shoot it on 16mm. It was his first time ever shooting moto. When we got the footage back our jaws dropped. It was so beautiful, especially the film shot at the end of the day when the sun was going down.

Troy was a huge factor in pushing the Fox video department to the next level, as well as myself as a filmmaker. He was teaching us how to use the 16mm cameras, how to use a light meter, all of that stuff. We would change out film in dark bags [used to conceal the camera and undeveloped film from light], which I remember now that Hultner and I would hide out in the video department practicing with the dark bags for a few days until we got it dialed. You’re basically doing it blindfolded, you know? Interesting times.

 

 

I wanted to highlight what I thought was a great shift in direction, both in subject and cinematography perspective: Terrafirma 3’s opening section with Johnny Campbell blazing through the desert, helicopter in pursuit. Up to that point that was something that Terrafirma hadn’t seen yet, and I think you guys really set the tone with that by saying, “We’re more than motocross.”

That’s another one that started as an idea between my brothers and me just brainstorming in the conference room at Fox. We’d go over what we shot in the past, what the Crusty guys were shooting, you know? We were taking all of those factors in and considering our options for what we could do next that would be different.

The helicopter came from the success of Terrafirma 2, because we saw how powerful that was with McGrath’s section. We knew that anytime we rented a helicopter for a shoot, it elevated that shoot almost instantly.

Campbell was kind of new to Fox at the time, I know this because we had been the apparel sponsor at Honda for many years, and during that time Honda approached us about sponsoring their desert racing team as well. The offer was fairly inexpensive, so we agreed and started to talk to riders, which was when Johnny’s name came up. I didn’t know much about him, and neither did my brothers, but we quickly figured out he was a world-class athlete. He was still a desert racer though, and we were unfamiliar with the discipline, so we revisited our storyboard techniques (also borrowed from McGrath’s segment) to figure out a game plan. That was where we came up with the idea for the opening shot of the video, a time-lapse of the sunrise followed by Johnny ripping past the camera at one hundred miles-an-hour.

There were only a few elements we set up for Johnny’s shoot, like the pit-stop sequence, but the rest of it was all genuine. We knew if we were able to get Johnny blitzing across the desert at one hundred miles-an-hour from our helicopter, it’d be pretty damn exciting. The footage came back and it looked really cool, but once we put that Biohazard song in there, it just took it to a whole other level. I talk about that section with people today, and while some pure moto-heads don’t get anything from it, most people think it’s an exciting piece.

 

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There’s a Supercross section that follows Campbell’s desert opener, did you want to touch on that part?

I do, and I don’t know how well it shows it in the video, but that was the year Jeremy won thirteen Supercross races in a row, losing only one race the entire season. It was mind-boggling at the time because, if I remember right, the most wins in a row was six. As that series started developing, we began to think that Jeremy might win them all, and to play along with his win streak I’d hand-cut personalized butt-patches commemorating each win with an exacto-blade.

After his fifth win, I told Pete and Greg that we should start playing off the numbers, so I made the patch “Hannah – check,” meaning he just passed Bob Hannah’s five wins in a row record. For the sixth win I put, “RJ – check,” for Ricky Johnson. Every win after that, in a row, we’d do a different patch. The seventh win allowed us to play off of the movie Se7en that had just come out. Then we did “STR8” for eight, “9 Lives,”  “Hang 10” and on and on.

He had just won thirteen in a row, and for round fourteen in St. Louis we had Troy come out to shoot some 16mm for the video, so Troy came with us and got some amazing stuff. I remember Jeremy’s pants that weekend though… we ran a “Friday the 13th” patch, where he eventually went on to lose that night to Jeff Emig. [laughs] His win-streak ended at thirteen with a “Friday the 13th” butt-patch!

I saw that section in the video recently and I used a shot of that butt-patch that Troy shot on 16mm, and I was thinking to myself, “I wonder where all of those pants went?” Because all of those pants that year were custom made for each round. Pete reached out to Jeremy for me and luckily Jeremy had the foresight to save a bunch of those. He still has the “Friday the 13th” pants, which I was super relieved about, because if somebody out there had them they might not know what they were holding onto! Those should be in a moto-museum.

 

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Absolutely. Following the pros, there’s another Loretta Lynn’s section in Terrafirma 3.

That’s my favorite Loretta’s section from any of the films.

It features a lot of the guys you mentioned earlier in the “rebuilding” of the Fox brand: RC, Bubba, Pastrana, and other hitters like Nick Wey and Kristy Shealy. Was it grueling filming at Loretta’s, shooting 16mm, and covering all of those riders?

It was, a little bit. Loretta’s wasn’t a very comfortable place in August, I’ll tell you that much, especially being from California we quickly realized that the humidity in Tennessee is out of control. We’d be drenched in sweat by 9 AM; long days under the hot sun. Hultner and I were there shooting that, and it was like Vietnam conditions for us. [laughs]

We had inklings of Loretta’s footage in the previous two films, but this time we were shooting on 16mm, so we really wanted to expand our coverage of the event and showcase the personalities of our riders. So, Chris and I did a lot of planning in advance for this shoot, which was where we came up with the idea of doing unique b-roll for the opening shots of all of our riders. We put James in the cornfield, “found him,” and shot it on black-and-white film. Nick Wey did the dive into the river. We put Robert Horton on a merry-go-round and had Hultner film from the other side of it. Stuff like that.

 

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We also wanted to interview the riders, because with 16mm we lost the ability to have sound, only music dubbed over the top. Throughout Terrafirma 3, one of the biggest things we changed was our deviation from the simple “music cut to video” formula. To grow as an artist, you want to expand on what you deliver to the viewer, and for us to do that we had to show more than just racing and riding. We needed the audience to learn about our riders by hearing from them. You’d get to hear each athlete talking over the tope of the footage and music.

I feel really good about that section, even today, because it was planned out well and we hit all of our marks from conception to editing. It wasn’t like we just went out there with nothing, we had a plan and we executed.

I really love the song you used for Lamy’s (Steve Lamson) Mammoth part, “Charlie Still Smirks” by SNFU. In looking for that song on YouTube I found it fascinating that, with almost every song from Terrafirma, someone in the comments points back to the movie or section that song was featured in. It really solidifies the Terrafirma soundtracks as eclectic and timeless. Do you think Terrafirma 3 had the best soundtrack?

That’s a tough question, and one that is certainly up for debate! I really like the Terrafirma 3 soundtrack. I would say that it was almost a bit more mature in a way, because there was a little more variety and greater depth to some of the bands that people might not have known about. Your brain is wired differently towards sound and music in regard to memory, and sometimes what you hear lasts even longer than what you see. I think in these cases, those songs scream “mid-90’s.” I think it left a mark on everyone in the motorcycle industry at the time, and I think it opened a lot of people’s minds to new music.

Andy Bowyer told me not too long ago that those songs knocked his socks off, him being a kid from small-town Kansas. He’d be driving to Tower Records trying to find these bands, and his story is just one of many that I’ve heard from people in the industry. People saying, “Now I’m a Pennywise fan, thanks to Fox!” That’s a stoker to hear, and I’m so glad that it had the impact that it did and that people enjoyed it, because when I first started picking out music for the series I wasn’t sure anyone would like it. I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my music selection. By the time Terrafirma 3 came around, I had a lot more confidence and I could push the limits with my selections.

 

“…his eyes were huge and he’s just screaming, ‘Fuck! Fuck! Oh, Fuck!’”

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I feel like this film covered so much more ground than the first two, even on a literal, geographical level. You guys visited Loretta’s, Utah, Oregon, Spain, the Nationals, Supercross… it seemed like the movie was more expansive on all fronts.

Everything was really well-planned for Terrafirma 3, because we were going so many places, we had to be prepared and execute when we went on trips. We wanted the whole moto-community on a global level to feel like a part of this video, and one of the first steps we took to assure that happened was contacting our Australian distributor and asking about any riders that wanted to come ride freestyle in the US with Mike Metzger. They got back to us and told us about a young eighteen year-old kid named Danny Hamm. He was a good racer on the Miller Yamaha team in Australia, and they told us he was really good at jumping and freestyle, which was confirmed by the footage we got back from an Australian filmer we hired down there. We teamed up with Hamm and Metzger, rented an RV from the local spot in Morgan Hill, then charged through Vegas towards Utah.

Geographically speaking, sand dunes were a big part of that era of freeriding. Crusty and Terrafirma had sand dunes sections, Terrafirma at Pismo [Beach] and Crusty at Glamis with Seth Enslow, so we knew we needed some sick new dune footage for this video. In order to find new spots, Greg would bust out an atlas and look for recreational areas! “Look here, it says ‘Pink Coral Sand Dunes!’” [laughs] He’d circle the locations and we’d be sure to check them out on our trip.

The other location we found on his atlas was called “Little Sahara,” on the border of Colorado and Utah, which was billed as the largest dune area in North America. When we got these guys together for the trip, we’d head out to the spots not really knowing what was out there, which is pretty amazing to think about now. Nonetheless, a road-trip in your early-twenties with Metzger and Hamm was going to be a good time no matter what.

 

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The first location we got to was Pink Coral, which was amazing because the sand color was completely orange, like Tang. We started scouting around, but nothing was really blowing us away besides the color of the sand. The location was too great to pass up, though. Troy was with us on that trip as well… he actually got stung by a scorpion! I just remembered that.

We had a plan to get some more b-roll shots of the guys, like them eating breakfast at the diner, etcetera. Having the RV drive by the camera was one of the ideas. Troy told us to drop him off on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, mind you, and have us drive past him to get this shot. He laid on the ground, we drove past, and when we stopped to pick him up and ask how the shot was, his eyes were huge and he’s just screaming, “Fuck! Fuck! Oh, Fuck!”

We’re shocked asking him what happened, “Did you not get the shot? What’s wrong?”

He goes, “I just got stung by a fucking scorpion!”

Immediately we go from curious to, “Oh, shit!” What had happened was, when he laid down on the ground to get the shot, a scorpion wandered over and stung him on his arm. Luckily we happened to be by a ranger station near Pink Coral that had a ranger’s truck out front, so we knocked on his door and explained our situation. We had no idea if this thing was poisonous or not, or if Troy needed to go to the hospital. The ranger takes us in and shows us this wall full of scorpion species pinned to the board, like in science class, and he tells us, “These are all of the species of scorpions we have in Utah, can you be more specific and point to the one you believe you were stung by?”

Troy was having a difficult time, because it happened to him so fast, and the ranger continues, “Just try your best. Anything helps.”

Troy complies and points towards one and the ranger falls silent, “…Oh, no.”

[laughs] He said it was one of the most poisonous species they have! We rushed Troy to the hospital and luckily he was wrong about what had bit him, because he ended up being cleared to leave within an hour.

After that episode we ended up going to Little Sahara, and that place had so much potential because it was like Glamis to the third power. It was a huge area with so much to ride and discover, so much in fact that it was almost scary. Like, you could get lost pretty easily it seemed, so we made sure to stick to spots that were close to the RV. I remember that shoot being a little difficult because we dealt with bad weather, mainly high winds, throughout most of it. There were some pretty rad shots, though, one of which being Metzger and Hamm bombing down this huge sand dune in fifth gear. It almost looked like two snowboarders flying down a hill. I also remember we got a great shot of Metzger doing a saran wrap on that trip.

We spoke off the record… you told me about helping Metzger invent that trick!

I mean, tricks were exploding left and right at the time and it’s still the same way nowadays, but back then it was a little bit different. It was a little more like the Wild Wild West back then, where guys were just doing heel-clickers and whipping the bike. This was before backflips and the new-school movement that eventually took over, where everything is a combination off a backflip or a three-sixty. [laughs] Back then a clean whip or a can-can was radical.

In this case, I used a little bit of my skate knowledge to aid Metzger when we were on our trip to Utah. We were driving between locations with plenty of time to talk and conceptualize, and I told Metz about an old vert trick called the “saran wrap,” where you kick your foot out and around the front of the board and switch the hand you grab with in the process. It had that classic name too, “saran wrap.”

I think it was right around sunset one night in the Pink Coral Sand Dunes, and Metzger’s bike was on his stand next to the RV. I just jumped on it and said to Metz, “Remember that trick I was talking about? What if you did it on a dirt bike like this?” And I kicked my leg through the center of the handlebars, kind of like a “candy bar,” and then took my right hand off and wrapped my leg around. He thought it was pretty rad, and the next day he busted out one of the first ones ever done for the video. He did it off a really big jump too, it was at least a seventy or eighty-foot dune jump. Metz was known for stuff like that, because he rarely tested out tricks or did multiple run-ups, he would just let that thing fly and see how it went!

Danny Hamm tried it during that same trip and ended up crashing pretty good, but after that the trick became a staple in freestyle and guys started doing double saran wraps and stuff. I was a small factor in creating that trick. [laughs]

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Around this time, were you guys working through the video industry’s shift from VHS to DVD?

I think we were just at the beginning of that process with Terrafirma 3, because if I remember right, Terrafirma 4 was our first release on DVD, but there were certainly changes happening in the industry at this time. We’re talking about being three years into the video movement at this time, and Crusty had three videos out as well. Some of our competitors started hopping on board and decided to start producing videos too. I think Thor did one, Answer, a couple videos here and there just thrown together. McGrath actually did his own video at the time, too.

So, there was a little more competition happening, but we were an established brand making an in-house video series and distributing other great series that weren’t produced by us, so we really just had the market cornered. It also helped that we continued to have visions for what our video department would be in the future, because right around that year was when we started to transition the reigns of the series over to other filmmakers. We got Mike Hatchett in Terrafirma 4, Troy was working on Chainsmoke 2, I was doing the Expendable Youth BMX video as well as FLY. We just kept creating.

Not only did you guys bring on Hatchett for Terrafirma 4, we also saw the introduction of other filmmakers in the series like Tom Day and Rich Van Every. I feel like Terrafirma 4 also focuses heavier on the freestyle and freeriding aspects of moto, rather than racing.

Tom Day and Rich Van Every came from Mike Hatchett’s stable, basically, because those guys had been working together for almost a decade on some of the best snowboard series ever done in the late-eighties and mid-nineties. Standard Films was the benchmark for snowboarding videos at the time, shot entirely on 16mm, and I looked up to those guys so much because they did what I did on a level that was so professional and amazing. The way I saw it, I was just lucky enough to get to meet those guys. Since I started working in the design department more around that time, they were a perfect fit for our team. They were really excited to work on Terrafirma from the very first interview.

I feel like Terrafirma 4, 5, and 6 really follow a different standard. Watching Pastrana in Terrafirma 6 especially stands out for me, and it makes me wonder how you guys lost him (and Troy Adamitis) to Jeff Surwall at No Fear. You had those guys hand picked from very early on, it doesn’t seem in your character to let them slip away?

No, we never liked letting those guys slip away like that, and No Fear was a big competitor of ours at the time. That can often be summed up as being a part of running a business, and that’s just how business works sometimes. In certain cases with riders or employees, if they’ve got a number in their mind, and your number is off that mark, they might take offense to that and start looking elsewhere to see what they can make… taking stock in themselves and calculating their value. In some of these cases, I think that’s what happened. Surwall was a really aggressive businessman at the time, and he really wanted to battle with Fox on the clothing level, and in certain cases he might’ve offered big money to riders or employees that we couldn’t match. We would have to let certain athletes or employees go because of that, and honestly that’s just the nature of business. It can be a pretty cut-throat world like that.

 

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Travis Pastrana Fox ad.

 

In Travis’ case, we will always be good friends with him and his family, because we’ve had such an amazing relationship with him over the years. A lot of times you’re bummed to see them go, but what can you do? It’s the same way with employees, and I know Troy’s exit was a little bit different from Travis’, but a couple years pass and you’re shaking hands and saying good luck. When those things happen, immediately, they can sting a little bit, and you just have to take some time to yourself and at the end of the day we want what’s best for our riders and employees. You have to remember to not take everything super personal.

Around the same time, I began to step away from the video production side of things and really dug into the design department. Once the Mike Hatchett finally took over, I was more or less out of the way on producing those movies. I remember you mentioned Jessica Young earlier, and truthfully she and I didn’t really work together on those videos at all…

 

“There was just so little out there back then, that it made the impact of Terrafirma ten times more powerful.”

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How do you feel about Jessica Young’s Terrafirma 7 and the subsequent release of Greatest Hits with Jessica and Taylor Congdon at the helm? That one-two punch seemed to be a pretty good sendoff for the series.

From a professional level, they’re some of our best videos we ever made. When I left the series in Terrafirma 4, I knew we left the series in great hands with people capable of making far better stuff than I could at the time. They were all people I knew really well, for the most part, and I had the utmost confidence that they could put out a good product. That was important to the brand as well, because we really wanted to put out the highest quality videos we could make, and I think that might be the greatest part of this story, is how much talent came together to make these videos. The people who came through the Fox camp went on to become some of the most well-known names in motorcycle filmmaking.

 

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Congdon (left), and Jessica Young.

 

In my eyes, Troy Adamitis is one of the best cinematographers the industry has ever seen, and he got his start at Fox like Jessica and many others. It’s cool to think that we built such a strong company that allowed these people to get their start and chase their dreams. And if you think about it, if you go to college to study filmmaking, you really only have a couple ways to go, and on top of having enormous amounts of talent, you have to be lucky enough to run into the right person at the right time. I think Greg did a great job of pursuing talent at that level, and being bold enough to roll with some of these kids fresh out of college.

 

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Fox brothers Pete (left), John (center), and Greg.

 

I see Terrafirma and other movies made during this time as photographs: snapshots of a moment. However, being the medium is video, these moments are much broader. Video today seems to be less concerned with preserving moments, and more about presenting moments as they happen, which creates an entirely different experience for the viewer and showcases a different skillset in filmmaking. What’s your take on that, and how do you see the industry continuing to adapt in the future?

At the time, in the ’90’s when we made those films, we already were “presenting” the moment, even back then. We really didn’t know until much later that what we did was preserve that moment in time, and the further you get away from that moment the clearer it becomes. We preserved a moment in time that not a lot of people preserved, and in a way that makes that era more valuable because nobody was capturing it. Compared to nowadays with how you said “presenting” the moment – which is exactly what they’re doing – there’s so many people doing it at the same time in one-minute intervals. It’s completely changed the way we market, and how businesses get to the customer. Our videos from back in the day seem to stick with the people who saw them when they came out, this coming from people I talk to over the years saying, “I wore that tape out! I watched Terrafirma 2 one-thousand times!” It became a part of their lives, because there was so little to watch at the time.

If you were to think about the modern scenario, a kid scrolling on his phone through Instagram or jumping on YouTube, you pass by those sections so fast. Even though the section might be super powerful, you’re already onto the next thing because there’s so much information coming at you, causing each section’s impact to be lessened. There was just so little out there back then, that it made the impact of Terrafirma ten times more powerful. I remember I even had parents tell me that they’d put Terrafirma on for their kids so they didn’t have to watch them! Terrafirma was the best baby-sitter they ever had!

 

Thanks to John, Greg, and the entire Fox family.

 

 

One thought on “Inside Terrafirma with John Fox (Part 2)

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