High Hopes Down Under: Getting to Know Jacob Hantis


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“I sold all of my motorbike gear just to get [my camera]. I knew from a young age that this was something I wanted to do.”

 

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This is the second international edition of World of Echo, coming far behind the site’s inaugural conversation with Austria’s Uwe Fröhlich. I’ve gained a new perspective on motocross as a global community in the years since I’ve spoken with Uwe, and it’s a shame it has taken me so long to get around the world again.

Jacob has been popping up in my Instagram feed for the better half of 2019, and for good reason. For as young as he is (as you’ll soon learn), he’s got the talent to catch the eyes and bend the ears of any audiovisual enthusiast. Lapping the Australian circuit with his Panasonic, Jacob has quickly become one of our brightest glimpses into the hotbed of Australian MX.

He offers up some insight on the state of Australian motocross, and how mutually beneficial motocross can be when we participate globally, both in terms of rider’s skill and social reach. I caught up with Jacob on the phone after he took a sporadic jaunt up the coast.

Discussion includes: The impact of the revamped AUS-X Open, skateboarding, fashion, having his idols be his peers, the unknown origins of his creative impulse, and how he plans to tackle the future of MX filmmaking…

 

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World of Echo: How was Sydney?

Jacob Hantis: It was good. I just chilled, rolled around. I was supposed to film a race yesterday but it got cancelled, so went to the city and just had a look at some stuff. Chilled, you know?

I seen you were at Saint Laurent.

Yeah, I was there and I checked out some of that Off-White shit too, hoping there’d be something cheap there, but… seven-hundred bucks for a t-shirt and shit.

I was about to say… big spender!

Haha. Oh no, no way. Not yet at least! Maybe in the future.

How old are you now?

Fifteen.

Fifteen!?

I’ll be sixteen this coming January, though.

I got it in my head somewhere that you were seventeen, which is still pretty young. Wow. A real young gun.

It’s tough, though. It’s so hard being that young and trying to do what I’m doing with track access and such. You usually have to be at least sixteen to get on the infield of a motocross track. I’ve built a bit of a name for myself though, so it’s become less of an issue.

What were you supposed to film last weekend?

It wasn’t even a motocross race, it was actually a flat track race that I was shooting for “Motorcycling New South Wales.” They run everything around here [in NSW]. Some stuff happened with that though and they weren’t able to run the race. I shot that series at a different venue the week before when I traveled with my Dad out there. It was cool to do something different.

 

 

Is that how you got sucked into this niche sport, through your family? It’s not a super accessible hobby.

My family doesn’t really have any racing background, other than my Dad riding around the farm when he was a kid, but I’ve raced since I was young. I got a PW50 when I turned five, and I raced from then until I was twelve or thirteen. I competed for state titles here and there and loved racing. Unfortunately, I suffered from a string of injuries all the sudden. I fractured a bone in my face, then broke my leg and both of my arms later on. It was pretty gnarly. That was when I picked up an iPad and started filming stuff just to have fun with my mates while I was injured.

[After the iPad] I found out my parents had an old Nikon camera. Shot something like 20 fps, 720p, shitty quality video, but I picked that up and started filming my little brother. He still races and competes in the Aussie Championships right now. We used to go to the races with our whole family and I’d bring that Nikon along and film whatever I wanted. I started making videos that year, in 2017, putting it all on YouTube and Instagram.

You would’ve been thirteen at the time?

I think. Twelve or thirteen, yeah.

Those videos never really went anywhere, but eventually I saved up enough money to get the Panasonic GH5 that I have now. I sold all of my motorbike gear just to get it. I knew from a young age that this was something I wanted to do.

 

Hantis’ look at the 2018 FIM Junior World’s, featured on Evergood.

 

You took that commitment you had for motocross and completely switched it to videography.

Yeah, yeah. I skate a fair bit as well, and I could’ve easily quit riding and just went skating with my friends, but the environment at the track along with the friends I have made over the years is what kept me in motocross. That’s my happy place.

You skate? Where are the spots at?

I’m out about two hours outside of Sydney, so I’m always on the train up there to go skate all the spots. There’s another city called Wollongong, not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it’s an hour south of Sydney. It’s a smaller city, but I skated there quite a bit as well. Most of my skating friends are an hour north of me. No one in my area was into skating, so I’d take the train an hour or two to go find people to skate with. It was dope though, I liked it.

How do you compare the community that motocross fosters, to that of the skate community? I tip-toe in both as well, I’m just curious as to how you might view that relationship.

There’s definitely a sense of community in both sports, but I don’t know! I feel like when you’re skating, you have a better connection with the people around you. I used to film everything back when I skated a lot, so I was constantly around all of my friends documenting it all… it’s hard to explain…

You know the style of filmmaking skaters tend to use? Fisheye lenses, vintage cameras, Super-8 shit? I feel like that stuff is dope, and incorporating that into motocross is even more dope. I reckon there’s mad community in both of them, but I think skateboarders portray it a little better than motocross kids do.

I always viewed skating as more of a social stimulant, being around people and interacting with your environment. Motocross is more of a social relief, being isolated with your motorcycle. Who’s all in your skate crew?

My main mates I used to skate with were Saxon, Jett, Brady, Hamish, Luke, and Bo. Just a massive group. The area where we were from is called Shoalhaven. It’s kind of a new region, but a massive group of kids come out of that area, and some of them are still into it. It’s just hard for me these days to get out there with them. Hard to get away from the track.

You miss all of those weekend sessions!

Ay, I was going to skate last weekend but I got caught up at that flat track race. My whole weekend was shot.

So you guys just mob the streets, seven-deep?

Yeah, that’s it.

 

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Do any of those dudes overlap with moto?

My mate Saxon used to race, yeah. He’s seventeen now, I think, but he used to race at this local club in Wollongong when he was fourteen or fifteen. It’s weird because I used to see him at the track all the time, never knew him personally, and then we met through skating and it all came full circle.

How big is moto in Australia? How healthy are the turnouts at the amateur and pro level? What’s the culture like?

It’s big, but I wouldn’t say it’s massive. We don’t really have “amateurs,” I suppose. Down here it’s really separated into Juniors and Seniors. Sixteen years and under are Juniors. Sixteen and older race Senior. The Junior turnouts don’t look as big as some of your nationals like Loretta Lynn’s, Mini O’s, or Freestone, but it isn’t small either.

I feel like the Aus-X Open that Tom [Journet] and Jason Anderson are at right now [at the time of this interview], that event has impacted so much around here. That event has brought Australian supercross and motocross back in a big way. Even just having Tom and the Team Fried boys document that race, it just gives us so much more exposure in America.

 

“…seeing Jett [Lawrence] at Mini O’s and Loretta’s, it’s got everyone talking. It’s encouraging more kids over here to chase their dreams all the way to America.”

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It’s changing more than that though. For example, Luke Clout is racing against Jason… I know Luke on a personal level, and being able to race Jason has really stepped Luke’s game up. It’s stepped up everyone else’s game in Australia, too. Having guys like Justin Brayton and Jason Anderson over, it has raised our game quite a bit. We had that energy back in 2012 I would say, when the Moss’ were still racing and such, but then it dropped off a bit. It’s starting to come back up again, though. There’s been a lot more exposure too, which I think helps our guys.

Even having Jett and Hunter [Lawrence] over in America has raised awareness for Australian moto as well. Everyone from over here knows the Lawrence’s, and seeing Jett at Mini O’s and Loretta’s, it’s got everyone talking. It’s encouraging more kids over here to chase their dreams all the way to America.

Is there a rivalry amongst the Americans and the Australian locals?

I definitely reckon it’s a goal for every Australian rider to beat the Americans, because America is seen as a superior country, especially when it comes to motocross racing. Over here, everyone always knows what’s going on in American motocross. We all follow it. Kids want to travel to America when they reach Senior and defeat those guys. If a kid my age saw Ryder DiFrancesco, thinking he could be the same speed as Ryder, but hardly having a chance to get the factory backing he has, I would think those feelings carry on as you get older. I certainly think that’s one of the reasons why Australians want to beat the American riders.

 

Hantis’ work from last year’s edition of the AUS-X Open.

 

Does the racing get super heated at all on a local level? Non-international.

No, not really. Ay, you’d think though? It’s competitive, but nothing gets heated. It’s all chill. When we go to Junior Aussie’s, which is an event that changes venues every year, no matter where it is there is always a massive group of kids that know each other. Everyone is racing for a title, but they’re all pretty close.

So those are the events that all the kids are clamoring for Infield Vision at?

Oh, yeah bro! [laughs] I get a lot of requests, but I have to cut it off at a certain point in order to do work for MX Store, the company I work for a lot in Australia.

Infield Vision is more or less just you putting a name on your own work?

Yeah, pretty much. It hasn’t really gone anywhere yet, though. I’m finding it hard to build a following on that page. I’m just trying to do something different, and if I were to start making documentaries and such, that’s where I’d post it. It’s going good, though. If I could build Infield Vision and get it out there by showcasing different perspectives in Australian motocross, that’d be my goal. It’s just me working on it right now, solo.

And you cover MX Store on the side?

I don’t work for them at every race, but they hit me up often. They look after me good. They know that if I’m doing work for them, I’m gonna make it top quality and not slap something together. They’re good guys and pay me well, so it’s a great relationship. They sponsor a lot of the races over here, so there’s plenty to film and I enjoy steady work. I feel very lucky to be in a position to work with them, as they’re one of the premier media companies in Australia when it comes to moto. There isn’t really much else.

 

 

I want to talk about Instagram for a minute. There seems to be an entire subset IG-only filmmakers growing from within the motocross community. It’s become its own genre.

I feel like in America there’s heaps of different little filmers that are running around making Instagram clips. If you’re heading to the big races I feel like it’d be wiser to invest your time into a bigger project, but I know what you mean though. There’s a lot of kids over here that are getting into filming by doing that, though.

Oh absolutely. I don’t want to dismiss this change, but I want to address it as a new form of media within the sport. People are experimenting with it. It’s interesting to watch its growth and I wonder what will eventually evolve from that. Will the videos get even shorter, back to fifteen seconds like when IG introduced video?

I think the fifteen-second videos are dope. It takes all the action and packs it in so tight! Tom is really good at that. Jayden Fabry, too, he’s another filmer from Australia. I think him and Tom are the ones who made me want to start shooting. Jayden worked for Vurbmoto when they were around, and his stuff is sick. He was the only big filmer in Australia who was putting a lot of stuff out when I started, so he influenced me a lot. Tom’s stuff when he was working at Vurb influenced me heaps too, and I still enjoy his work. He’s dope.

What about their work made you want to start doing this kind of thing?

Tom used a lot of rap music in his videos back in the day. You know how you mentioned there’s a heap of Insta filmers out there? All of their stuff has rap music and trap music in it, and I feel like he kickstarted that, in a way. Him using music that I liked was a big part of why I liked his stuff. He’d get really close to the riders too and pull focus to get clean shots. I thought that was sick. His attention to detail inspired me. It made me think, “I want to do that one day.”

 

“Tom [Journet] inspired me. He made me think, ‘I want to do that one day.'”

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With Jayden, his music was mad and his videos were crisp and clean, on top of the fact that no one in Australia was putting out stuff like his in 2016 and 2017, when I got into filmmaking. Just everything about him, really. And I’ve seen Crusty Demons and all of that on DVD’s back when I was little too, but watching Tom and Jayden’s work is when I really started paying attention to videography and having an interest in it.

For sure.

There’s other dudes I’m a huge fan of too: Chris Post, Benji Spurgeon, Sam Thurman… all of them guys are sick and I think their stuff is sick. Gas Productions. I look up to those guys.

Chris and Benji even roll together at some of the bigger races, from what I’ve seen. Those guys are tight. I think it’s cool that your influences are people you can reach out to and interact with. They’re your idols and your peers at the same time.

In specific, guys like Tom, Chris, Sam, and Benji, I’ve learned so much from those guys through Instagram DM’s, asking for tips and camera setups. It’s helped heaps. Hearing that those guys roll together at Freestone and such is so cool to me. I’m the only one filming at a lot of the races in New South Wales.

What would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from those guys?

Sam and I were talking one time while I was going through a tough situation at home, and he just told me to stay strong and what not. He said, “I didn’t start filming until I was seventeen, you’re a long way ahead of me. Your shit is really impressive for a fifteen year-old. You’ll be the GOAT one day.” He got my confidence up. I’ve asked Tom heaps of stuff about cameras and aperture and what not. He’s helped me a bunch. We’re all like one big family, I feel like.

 

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Community. Sam Thurman [left], and Jacob.

 

You’ve said a time or two that you want to come to America. Things here are a bit sideways right now, depending on who you talk to. Why America? Why not Europe, or Canada?

I’m hoping to come to Freestone or Loretta’s next year to shoot. I can’t guarantee any of that, but still. Moto is bigger in America, obviously. I shot Ryder DiFrancesco and Caden Braswell last year in Australia, and I couldn’t imagine being at an amateur national with those guys and the rest. I also have some connections with Tom, Sam, and such. It’d be cool to hang out and see what it’s like!

I definitely would like to go to Europe, too. That’d be sick. I thought about going to Europe when I get out of school just to travel. The Netherlands, France. Shoot an MXGP? That’d be cool. The racing looks sick over there too… the scenery is insane. Those MXGP guys are lucky they get to race and travel the world!

What influences you outside of MX? Could be musically, artistically, visually…

I’ve always been into creative stuff. I love drawing and painting, always have. I’m in school (year 10) studying media and visual arts. I’ve always been into making stuff. I like watching videos involving older film techniques, sort of like what you guys did with the Euro Trip video. Drawing and visual arts has influenced me. I’m not really sure where it came from, though. I guess I was just born that way and grew into it.

It’s not a conscious thing?

No, no. I guess it’s just the way I am and I just go with it. I say I feel like there’s two sides to school. There’s the sterile side, with science and maths, and there’s the creative side with drama, visual arts, and photography. I feel like I’ve always been on the creative side. It’s more social and enjoyable for me. It’s fun. I like writing, too. I love writing. I’ll have pages of bullshit come off the top of my head.

I’ll listen to music a lot. Lots of rap, trap, and indie rock. Have you heard of Jungle Giants or Sticky Fingers? There’s a bunch of Australian indie bands that I’m into. MGMT. Their song “Kids” is dope. Mac Miller. Lil’ Peep. I like his stuff. It’s sick. I’ll even go old school like Biggie, Tupac, and Big L. Really, I’ll listen to anything!

I’m into clothing as well. I like the vintage 90’s look. Big pants, older clothes. I try to wear different types of clothes than everyone else around here. Influenced from skating, for sure. Big pants. I’ll wear my dickies fuckin’ everywhere!

Respect. Anyone you’d like to shoutout?

Shout out to all my mates in the trap out there, dope homies. In specific, Jeff from MX Store. He got me in with those guys and it’s helped heaps, so thanks Jeff!