There were children going nuts in the middle of my conversation with Ryan. I didn’t ask, but he has four kids. I can only imagine the chaos. It made sense now that he rescheduled our interview three different times. It wasn’t a big deal, honestly… I was just stoked we were getting it done! No matter the circumstance, once we connected Ryan was grateful for the time, even going out of his way to stop my questioning and thank me. “Thanks for doing this, man.” I believe was the line. I don’t know, that made me feel pretty good.
Ryan’s a good dude, too. He heads up the video department at Fox Racing after over a decade in skateboarding, where he worked for industry giants such as 411 Video Magazine and DVS/Matix. Though his lifelong passion is skating, Ryan was scooped up at Fox to breathe new life into a new industry. With his team in Ricki Bedenbaugh and Avery Rost, they’re doing just that. One look at their filmography proves nothing else: Ride Above with Ken Roczen, Endless with Jimmy Hill, ALWAY5 with Ryan Dungey. He’s never ridden, nor had any interest in riding, but his respect and knowledge of the culture seep right through.
We talk a lot about skating and his filmwork at Fox… but first, a bit about his latest piece with freerider Justin Mulford…
World of Echo: Yo! New Mulfs project coming out?
Ryan Marcus: Yes, on the 15th [of December]. I have to get the video done this weekend.
I actually don’t know a whole lot about Justin Mulford. What’s his story?
His backstory is pretty rad actually, kind of heavy as well. He started racing up until he was 13 years old, and he quit after an abrupt falling out with his father and loss of sponsors. Once motocross was out, he started going in on board sports like surfing, snowboarding, and skating. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of his parts, but he’s a gnarly snowboarder in his own right. He’s so good. He did that for a long time, living up in Big Bear California with his mom and a good crew of people.
It wasn’t until seven years ago or so that he got back on a bike for real. He was hanging out with Nyjah Huston a lot at the time, and Nyjah was really interested in riding and reached out to Justin to help him get started. It was Nyjah that got him back into riding, really. He hadn’t ridden for years, and once he got going again it was like he never stopped. I don’t want to misquote him, but he told us that he got really emotional when he started riding again. Close to tears, almost. It means a lot to him, riding. He’s deeply passionate about it.
He got on Fox after his Street Moto part?
Right after he put out his last part, honestly. That really made an impact in the industry and got a lot of dudes looking at him, including our marketing director at the time, Jeff Taylor. We’d been passing that part around the office and talking up Justin quite a bit, then Jeff asked us if we wanted to do a project with him. I was so hyped. It was the best news for me and my background in skateboarding. This would be the closest I’d ever get to producing a skate video at work, so I jumped at the chance to do anything with Mulfs.
Better yet, once we did meet it was an instant connection. We spoke the same language, even though I don’t ride dirt bikes. I’ve been around at Fox long enough that I understand it, and I have a lot of respect for all of the athletes on our roster, of which Justin was a great addition. I’m stoked for him that this project is finally coming out. We’ve been working on this for a few years now, all the way back to when it got green-lit after his Street Moto part. He put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this one. He deserves everything positive that comes his way.
Sounds like a stand up dude! I want to know how you feel about it, though. This being a video part, your end is just as important as his, at least in my eyes.
I really like it. I have the part put together right now, actually. I watched it at 8 PM last night, and then I watched it again at midnight, and then this morning I watched it again after a couple of minor tweaks. You understand, right? I feel like you have to watch your work in different scenarios to understand it fully, because you’re in so many different head spaces throughout the day. You need to step back every now and again to get the bigger picture.
Photo: Avery Rost.
What I’ve concluded is that this part is a more controlled, more mature Justin, which is the antithesis of his first part. That was just a ton of gnarly clips from front to back, so gnarly in fact that I remember hearing about it before the video even dropped. That’s the type of impact his riding has, even back then. By contrast, I think this video is going to show a more well-rounded Justin. There’s footage of him in the hills, in his hometown of Huntington Beach, and in the streets. It’s pretty rad. I’m really proud of him.
I think there’s three or four people in the entire industry that look at the world the same way Justin does, and my hope is that people see how he looks at the world through this video.
You mentioned Huntington Beach just now, didn’t you grow up there as well?
Not necessarily, no. From when I was born until I was about 10 I actually lived in LA, over by the Beverly Center. My Mom and I moved down to Laguna Niguel not too long after. I was definitely in Huntington a lot though, that’s for sure.
To get your Huntington Skatepark fix!
Oh, man. That was, and will forever be, the greatest skatepark ever made. It was such a shitty park, but the pyramid was perfect. As mellow as your grandma’s driveway. You could do whatever you wanted on that thing. On top of that, you had so many heavy pros come through there. To see that caliber and quantity of legends come through in the mid 90’s was an experience. Tom Penny, Andrew Reynolds, all the Piss Drunx dudes, and Ed Templeton! He’s like a staple in the Huntington Beach scene, you know? It was rad. I was very fortunate to live as close to Huntington as I did.
Did you hit up Chaffey High as well?
Mmhmm! Yeah, I did. Chaffey was another hotspot that my homies and I would hit often. I was kind of late to the game on Chaffey if I’m being honest, but we did spend many weekends out there. That was a really good time, too.
Who was in the crew back then?
I skated a lot with my brother Blaine, Jake Stabile, Kevin Strick, Robbie Montinola, Neil Goodman, Jon Devera, Nick Scurich, Geoff Houston, Phil Laclaire, Ian McKesson and Ryan Kenreich . I also met Tyrone Romero and Toan Nguyen, too towards the end of HS! He was on Shorty’s at the time, right when Fulfill the Dream came out. We had a pretty rad little crew called SAC (Saint Ann’s Crew, named after a skate spot we always met up at after school) that came up in a great time for skating. It wasn’t looked down upon like it was in the 80’s. I had my skate friends, but I had friends who played soccer and football too. It felt like skating was starting to transcend. Even the jocks were wearing skate shoes!
Marcus (far right), and crew.
What did your parents think of skateboarding?
I think they took it the same way they’d take anything else at the time.
“Oh, he’s into bike riding! Let’s buy him a helmet.”
“Oh, he’s into soccer! Let’s get some shin guards!”
They were on the same level with skating, except I didn’t respond to other sports like I did to skateboarding. I became obsessive. I’d finish all my homework at school so I had more time to skate when I got home, which started when I was 13.
What happened at 13?
I unlocked the kicklfip. [laughs] I’m serious! It was like that was the key. Once I learned to kickflip, so many other parts of skating made sense and it was on after that. I mean, you get it. You skate. There’s a time where you see it and when things click. I was grateful for my dad (who had split up with my mom when I was much younger), because he was the one who started taking me to Huntington Skatepark when I visited on the weekends. He’d watch me skate for hours and hours.
My mom, on the other hand, started to intervene with that obsession as I got older. Now that I’m a parent, I understand that she was only trying to broaden my horizons, but I was still only 15 by the time she enrolled me in a baseball summer camp. I was so pissed! I just wanted to skate and this camp was getting in the way of that. I understood that my mom wanted the best for me, but she didn’t understand what skateboarding meant to me yet.
The first day of the camp, I was stuck in the outfield and caught a fly ball right to the mouth. I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me!?” It was over after that. I quit the camp and skating completely took over again. This time though, my mom didn’t fight me on it. I think that’s what it took for her to understand what I wanted to do, and after that she backed everything I did on a board, 100%. She’d drive me to skate spots before I could get even my license!
Back Tail by Ryan for Becker Surf. Photo: John Bradford.
I wondered what your parents thought, because it can be difficult to see early on that skateboarding is a vehicle that takes you places, that connects you to other people through ideas and functions in a universal language. I’m always curious to know if parents stifle or encourage that path, which in your case was a career at 411 Video Magazine. How did that come about?
After getting out of the summer camp at 15, I was skating a lot at the time and I got sponsored by Becker Surfboards out of Mission Viejo. Though they were primarily a surf shop, they had a really great skate team and I was stoked Rick Marmolijo put me on. That opened up a whole new world for me as far as meeting other skaters, traveling, and becoming more involved in the skateboard industry. It was really the start of everything.
The catalyst though, specifically, was the Becker Industry section that we shot for 411 Issue 25. That’s when I got my first real glimpse into the video side of the skate industry because, before that, all I knew about filming was whatever my homies and I did messing around with VHS-C and Hi8 cameras.
I remember filming with Kirk [Dianda, 411 filmer and fellow Becker rider] one day trying to get footage for that industry part, and out of the blue he says to me, “Do you want to go by 411 and see the place? We’re right by the building.” As soon as I got up into his office and saw the equipment, the cameras, and the hard drives, I was hooked. They were digitizing some Digital 8 tapes and I was tripping out. And it’s really Kirk who I owe everything to, as far as me getting my start in the skate industry.
When my part in the Becker Industry section came out, I was still a junior in High School. Kirk and I would film every now and then, and he was the first person to really press me about going further with skateboarding. My parents, they supported me, but it wasn’t like they knew what moves I should be making to become a professional skateboarder. Kirk, he was the first person I knew who could see the potential, and was the first to tell me I should stop following trends and get smaller pants. [laughs] It was the late 90’s man, that was my steeze! Big pants, small wheels, and 8.25″ boards. That wasn’t going to set me apart from the rest of the pack though, and Kirk knew that. He inspired me to try harder, in a way. He was the guy who encouraged me and showed me that I could make something out of skating if I just put all of my effort into it, even if it meant changing up my style a little bit.
So, I was doing contests here and there, but I hated them because I choked under pressure. I figured that contest skating wasn’t for me, so I’d focus on filming and making parts. Even still, I didn’t like filming that much either, because I just wanted to skate. I wound up working at Becker right out of high school until Kirk called me at the shop one day in 1999. He told me that he had quit 411, he was starting his own thing, and that his old job was mine for the taking. I was like, “Fuck yes. I’m quitting right now.”
I quit Becker that day and went straight to 411.
I wouldn’t consider myself a 411 buff, if I’m being honest I don’t believe I’ve even seen a full-issue, but I know the vibe of the videos for the most part. My curiosity is for what went on behind the scenes. Was it similar to Big Brother over at 411, with hijinx and mayhem in the office?
We took it seriously, for sure. We worked really long hours, but we were all in it for skateboarding. I fucking loved it, honestly. I loved every minute of it. We’d put out six issues a year, an additional best-of issue, and three contest issues. We started building even more content on top of that as the years went on but, yeah, we’d fuck around too. I was a jokester, and I fucked around with a lot of people, but that also meant that I liked you, you know? If I like you enough to waste my time on some silly joke, it comes from a place of endearment.
There was definitely one time when I took it too far, though. I think I might’ve just ratted myself out, actually. [laughs]
You didn’t say what you did, though!
I know! [laughs] I’ve already said too much. It’s heavy. If any of the 411 homies are reading this, good looks on keeping your mouths shut! A lot of them knew it was me and didn’t say anything, haha!
You loved 411 so much that you were willing to bust yourself in the Santa Suit? Holiday 2003 cover, dislocated shoulder.
Yeah, the Santa Suit. That wasn’t even a real cover, they just wanted to replicate a 411 cover for a holiday greeting card. I already had a bum shoulder from bailing a 360 flip a few years prior, which I never got fixed properly, so it was just a matter of time before that bit me in the ass.
Anyway, there was a famous spot down the street called the Bristol Gap that I knew I could skate while wearing that Santa outfit. I was going for a 360 flip, posed one for the cover, and bailed. Then I went back for a kickflip (which I did land prior to the 360 flip pose) and busted my shit. It sucked, but getting that fake 411 cover was still sick. I post it on my Instagram every Christmas.
Photo: Miki Vuckovich
How was your time at 411 valuable to your filmmaking career?
This goes back to the time Kirk told me to slim my pants down all those years ago, because it was at that point that I, for the first time, genuinely questioned whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in skateboarding. Kirk ultimately gave me the push I needed to make my decision, and I found a career and passion for video at 411.
Moreover, when you worked at 411, it was like going to film school except you’re getting paid for it. I was fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of Colin [Kennedy] early on, who was crazy creative and always proper with his filming and editing. I would log tapes for him when I first started there and I remember his editing timelines always looked so nice. I learned so much from Colin, who in turn learned from Kirk, who learned from Josh [Friedberg, 411 founder], and on down the line. There was a real sense of community through that apprenticeship-style teaching at 411. (I even met my good friend Ricki Bedenbaugh there before we worked at Fox together.)
Bedenbaugh (left), and Colin Kennedy.
Ryan on keys.
Garnering my skills there was invaluable, and I was grateful for that because there was no other path for me. What was I going to do, go to college? That wasn’t happening! Nothing was interesting to me, and it didn’t help that I had no money either. All I knew were two things: I wanted to skateboard, and I loved filmmaking. I was lucky enough to find something that combined both worlds.
Impossible question: What is your favorite issue of 411?
That is a tough one. I can tell you which ones I don’t like! [laughs] We call them the lost 40’s, as there are a lot of issues in there that are super experimental. We were all trying different things as individuals, and the video didn’t feel as cohesive as it should. Those issues are rad in their own right, but it wasn’t as great as it was when we were all firing together. There is something about having that cohesive package that just makes a video feel special.
I will say that I really loved working on issue 60, which was the 10-year anniversary video. As much of a pain in the ass that was gathering all of the footage, we got to dip into the archives of every single issue and use all of the best stuff. We could showcase any skater from any era with old music, photos, and videos. That was a blast to watch.
After 411 you bounced to DVS, right?
Yeah, that happened through Colin Kennedy, who I became good friends with before he left 411 in 2002 to work for DVS. When my offer came up through he and Tim Gavin in 2006, I initially turned it down. I felt like I had unfinished business at 411, and I still genuinely loved working there. While that energy never wavered, once 2007 came around, it was clear that video sales were way down and our subscriber base was dwindling. Josh Friedberg had left the company by then as well, so 411 slowly began to lose track of itself after it was acquired by WMG.
Fortunately, Tim and Colin reached out to me again and I accepted the job at DVS as senior editor and motion designer.
I wanted to bring up the Shine commercials, because I remember seeing those on Fuel TV when I was a kid.
Those Shine commercials spawned from a larger project for Transworld called Skate & Create. I wasn’t too heavily involved with that year’s event, and looking back I’m bummed I wasn’t there the whole time, but I was fortunate enough to be on set for a couple of days and watch it go down. The director of photography for those shoots was Marc Ritzema, and he was a skater that came from a more traditional film background. He actually went to film school and shot commercials and music videos. Him coming on to DP those DVS projects was so rad, and it was eye opening for Colin, who was directing. Those commercials were shot on either 16 or 35mm, which was super unique for the time. Colin had the idea of doing one-shots with single tricks to play during trade shows, teasers, and pre-rolls, which eventually snowballed into TV Spots on Fuel, like you mentioned.
Those commercials specifically were brought through After Effects using a plugin called “Shine,” hence the name. It was through Red Giant Software, which makes the titles look like rays of light are coming through them. God rays, you know?
The Huf one is so sick, where he pops that huge ollie over the hip. RIP.
[sigh] I know, man. I was lucky enough to work with him on a few small things in my time at DVS. Those were some of my favorite years, working so close with Colin and producing all that content. The way he thinks is pretty incredible, and his storytelling abilities are insane. He’s a true filmmaker, somebody who I really look up to and admire. I brought him on recently to edit Ken [Roczen] and Jordan [Jarvis’] Unplugged episodes for us. I’m glad we could bring him on. I try really hard to involve my friends in my work.
I wanted to ask, did you ever have a passing interest in motocross before skating?
Honestly, no. From the little bits of motocross that I did see, I wasn’t into it. It definitely wasn’t on my radar until I got to DVS, because they had a moto division and even sponsored the Geico Honda team for a minute. I was the last dude at DVS after Colin, Cole Mathews, and Ryan Dearth had left, so I sort of fell into the moto division as an everyman.
The way it went was, DVS wanted a commercial to play at the last round of supercross that year, the finale in Las Vegas, and they turned to me to get it done a month-and-a-half before the race. That was my first taste of working in the motocross world and it was creating that spot for the finals! I wanted to play off of the spots we did for the 2009 Transworld Skate & Create contest, where we match-cut skaters in multiple outfits skating one obstacle, but I wanted to get even more technical with it. That’s where the idea to mount a camera on the motorcycle came to fruition in my head. Our team manager, Dano Legere, helped build the contraption and I worked closely with Mike Hiskey, our art director at the time, to help story board everything.
That spot ended up playing on the Jumbotron during the finale, and I was proud of that, but I still wasn’t super confident in my abilities behind the camera, so my friends Daniel Rojas and Chris Williams helped shoot that with me. Looking back, seeing Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia, and Kevin Windham in that spot is crazy. I didn’t even know who those dudes were at the time, but that was a hell of a first gig.
That’s what led me to Fox, actually.
Were you stoked?
It was pretty rad when I got the call to come work for Fox, but I can’t say that I didn’t have my doubts. I grew up in Southern California, ok? I knew what Fox was and I knew the type of people who wore it, and I didn’t want to be associated with those people (BroCal goons). I certainly don’t feel that way anymore, but I initially saw it as the antithesis of everything I understood growing up in skateboarding. In fact, when I first started in the offices, I didn’t wear any of the clothes. I’d go out of my way not to wear it. I didn’t shoot any motocross either, it was mostly BMX, Wake, and lifestyle.
What was it that made you come around on Fox and the motocross world at large?
My fiancé, Holly. She sat me down and said, “Listen, all you’re doing right now is freelancing, which is great, but this is going to be a steady paycheck and you have the opportunity to build your own team. What’s the worst that could happen? If you don’t like it, walk away! You don’t owe them anything.” She was the one who pushed me, and I’m so grateful that she did, because it forced me to get behind the camera more which, in turn, allowed me to tell better stories.
In regards to motocross as a whole, if you look back at the time I entered Fox around 2011, it was so painful. Everything about it, all the way down to the music, was just so cliché. Even the stuff Fox was putting out at the time had that aura to it. This is no offense to anyone who works in the industry, because I’ve found there are a lot of talented filmmakers in moto, but everything back then felt like it was 5-8 years behind the curve. Coming from skateboarding, which is constantly pushing boundaries in the way it presents itself, I looked at Fox as an opportunity to open up the motocross world to influences and ideas I found within skateboarding.
Special thanks to Jim Anfuso, Fox’s marketing director at the time, for seeking me out all those years ago.
I’d argue that stale taste in moto is still there today. There are trends and productions happening right now that are so wack, but it takes people from the outside to come in and change that. I think you, Ricki [Bedenbaugh], and Avery [Rost] are really putting your stamp on the image of motocross.
Thanks, man. We’re definitely trying. I’m stoked on the team that we have right now. It’ll be nine years in January that I’ve been at Fox and honestly, I didn’t think I’d be working at one brand for this long. Fox has really great people that work for them though, so they make it easy to stick around. They’re creative, talented, good humans. I’ve gotten along with a lot of people, and certainly butted heads with a few (creatively speaking)… but, yeah. It’s been great.
What are some of your favorite projects from the last few years at Fox (and Shift)? You guys have been on a tear lately.
There are quite a few that I’m really proud of, honestly. The Ryan Dungey story, ALWAY5, that was great. I’ll let you in on a little secret though, that was something I 100% did not want to edit.
Oh my god, I was so pissed. [laughs] We had so much footage! I think there were 28 hours of interview footage alone. It was such a daunting task, and I went “Oh! I know who could edit this!” And it was my good friend Kevin [Strick]. He had the perfect mind for it, because the way he organizes things in his head is incredible. He put that whole story together for us and he told it in such a rad way. It was originally an hour-and-a-half long, and Kevin cut it down to 32 minutes. I loved working with Dungey too, he’s such a good dude. He’s similar to Ricky Carmichael in that he sees the value in working with brands to lengthen your career. Ryan put a ton of effort into that for us, which was great.
RIDE YOUR F#%KING BIKE! was another project that I was super proud of, which was a mountain-bike film for Fox. We hadn’t filmed much MTB prior to that, and we ended up doing a road trip video for Stevie Smith who had tragically passed away the year prior. We were honored to do that in his name. That project even won an award, actually. I’m always entering our films into film festivals to get more eyes on them outside our respective industries, and that one in particular did really well and took home some accolades.
You mentioned Shift as well, which is awesome because I love working on Shift projects. One that sticks out for me is that Ken Roczen shoot we did right after we signed him called Ride Above. We did a night shoot with Jon Alvino and it was amazing, probably one of my top 10 projects that I’ve ever been a part of. We got to do some really cool stuff with the cable cam, doing vertical shots with Roczen directly above and below us. Ken brought his all to that project as well, as we barely had enough light for the damn thing and he stepped up to the plate anyway. He killed it.
All of the Endless projects we’ve done for Shift have a special place in my heart as well. Mexico… Iceland, with Jimmy Hill! So rad. We did one in Chile in 2015, where we rode in the streets of Valparaíso and shot the same routes that they do those Urban MTB races in. I hired a fellow skate filmer, Cristian Saavedra, out there and we spent a day in the streets shooting Jeff Emig and Twitch. I remember Ricki was so stoked on that video, and he wouldn’t agree to join us at Fox unless we did more projects like that. That’s when Iceland came up and we hooked him!
Photos: Gordon F. Dooley
That project we did last year with Dungey called Split Decisions, is one more that I can look at proudly. For years and years I’ve been talking about how rad it would be if we could just make the bike disappear in a shot. It was a concept I’d always pitch knowing that the amount of post production work would almost certainly kill it. That didn’t stop me from bringing it up, though. Lo and behold, it finally stuck for that project and we made it happen. Dungey was retired, so he had the free time necessary to complete what we needed. He was invaluable to us for that.
I brought on Ryan Young as well, who is my secret weapon when I need to make something crazy happen visually. If I wanted to make a bike completely disappear, he’d be the guy to help figure out how to do it. We could either: A) build a giant slider that tracked along with the rider or, B) black arm a Phantom camera onto a Can-Am Side-by-Side, which brought up more uncontrollable nuances we had to tackle while also rotoscoping the bike out by hand in post-production. Everything needed to line up perfectly, and after learning the slider could only go 15 MPH, we went with option B.
We rented a 320,000 watt light for the shots, ensuring we had enough light at night for Dungey to perform. We hired an additional post member who did the rotoscoping to remove the bike. On top of all that, we fought with the band for months to get rights to the song. That entire project was a process, but because of that I’m really proud of what we accomplished.
You guys certainly have a lot to show for.
I’m really stoked on what we’ve put out over the last few years. I’ve loved every second of it.
Last question. Where did the kicking photos come from?
You take a photo at the end of every trip. Like a freeze frame, no? The whole crew does it?
Oh! Yeah! No, that’s just my stupid thing [laughs]. I do a karate kick, yeah. I’ve been doing that on all of my trips since 2009. I pick a cool spot and do a karate kick, which I’ve been lucky to do a lot since I’ve been with Fox. I should say that Ricki is going to be very upset with me if I don’t mention that he was technically the first one to do it, but I will say that my form is a lot better.
I was going to put together an edit of all the kicks I’ve done, but that takes time, and time I do not have.
Haha! You’re editing and the kids are pounding down the door. “Go away! This is important!”
Super “important,” yeah! For the ‘GRAM! I’m going to get so many likes. [laughs]
Thanks to Avery for introducing Ryan and I, and Ryan for making the time to talk. Intro and outro photos by Derrick Busch.