Interviews Videos

Alan Perreard on “Lean.9.18” and the European Scene

Absorbing the energy from his American counterparts, French filmmaker Alan Perreard is showing the world how they do it across the pond with his new film, "Lean.9.18."

I’m a sucker for the “raw drop,” as my friend Charlie describes it. A “raw drop,” for the uninitiated, is when you put out a video with little-to-no fanfare. No ad campaign, no “sponsored” posts, and no clickbait. This model yields minimal return on the social media circuit, and since there are over 720,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every single day, the chances anyone even stumbles upon what you’ve made is virtually non-existent.

There’s a beauty in this, though. For the lucky few that find it, there’s an instant connection, like finding buried treasure or rediscovering an old song whose title you’ve long forgotten. Furthermore, in these trying times where we have absolutely demolished the sanctity and spectacle of video, bringing out something raw in the way Alan and Camille Chapeliere have done with “Lean” is worthy of praise. I will always root for those who operate like this, because it is truthful in ways that much of what we consume today are not.

Off my usual soapbox now, I turn to Alan via email to talk about him and his new project.

World of Echo: Alan, admittedly I don’t know much about you personally. I first heard of you when I spoke with Tom Journet at Freestone in 2019. He was rattling off a list of French filmmakers whom he admired and looked up to.

Alan Perreard: Thank you Tom for the kind words, haha! I also like what you do with Team Fried!

Is France your native country?

Absolutely France is my native country! I was born in Fontainebleau. It is a cool city close to Paris (less than an hour). Today I still live here and I’m still in love with this place. I have everything I need here. This is where I met many of my best friends, where I can ride my motorcycles and also my bikes (mountain bikes). I’m lucky to live only 2 minutes away from the forest. I spend a lot of time there, filming and riding with my friends of the Forest Crew. This little piece of heaven is also the place where my love for filming was born.

As a filmmaker it is important to live close to a city like Paris because there is plenty of work. My mom lives in “Les Landes” (south west of France) where the surf and skate culture is really strong, so I spend a lot of time there and that is where my inspiration came from. I have always been passionate about extreme sports in general since I started riding dirt bikes at the age of four.

Young Alan.

France has had a strong presence in the motocross scene over the last few years, both in the MXGP’s as well as AMA Supercross and Motocross, including a run of five straight MXoN titles. How would you describe the scene from a personal perspective? What is fueling this new generation of riders?

I’ve been to 10 GP races in my life, maybe less… but yes, that’s true, we have a lot of talented riders in this discipline. In the end, I realize that the frenchies are good at mechanical sports in general. To be honest, I liked to be at the races but I didn’t really pay attention to the results. Sometimes I watch the races on TV but most of time I just watch the highlights on Instagram, that’s it.

I will tell you though, I spent the last two years filming the young French generation for the FFM (French Motorsport Federation), and in the French championships there are always 2 or 3 guys who are really fast with a lot of potential. The Bud Racing team for example, which is a French team very involved in the French and European championships, have had many young talents that they were able to sign and train: Marvin Musquin, Gautier Paulin, Dylan Ferrandis, Brian Moreau and many more! It’s a champion factory.

Young French riders are hungry, and I think this is just the start.

Though Camille is a beach/rally racer, would you consider him to be a part of this new wave of French talent?

I don’t really know how to explain it… I see him more like a Tyler Bereman or Anthony Rodriguez than a Jett Lawrence, for example. Europe is totally different from the US. In Europe, you have the racers, and you have the FMX riders. They’re separate. In the US you have this “new wave” of freeriders in Axell Hodges, Colby Raha, the DBK crew, and more. They are all about having fun on a motorcycle, pushing the limits of the sport, and making videos. They are like performers that ride a line between racing and freestyle.

“…Camille is not a new talent, he is a new kind of talent. That’s just my point of view but, to me, Europe needs more riders like him and if they exist, let them show themselves!”

I don’t see Camille as a performer necessarily, but more like one of those guys who is having fun on the bike. Still, he wants to perform in the rally races, which is something he is able to do. In that way Camille could be part of this “new wave,” as you describe it, but I think Camille is not a new talent, he is a new kind of talent. That’s just my point of view but, to me, Europe needs more riders like him and if they exist, let them show themselves!

How did you and Camille meet? What was your first impression of him?

I met Camille 5 years ago when he needed videos during the CFS (French Sand Championship). We made a series called ONE, and since then we did a lot of videos together. Camille was only a kid when we met, but he was always a competitor. When I met him he was like one of those guys who goes for the win, the championship, etc… Today, since he moved into the rally races he is more relaxed. He still looks for the best out of his performances, but it’s just different now. More mature.

Why did you choose to work with him on this project?

Camille and I have had more free time lately because of the Covid. Less work for me and no races for him, so we decided to take advantage of the situation. I called him up about this idea and his answer was, “Let’s go!” Camille is always up for making videos, it is something I appreciate about him.

I had this project in mind for a year and I wanted to do it with Cam because he is a good friend and it’s always easier to film with people you know, especially when it comes to lifestyle scenes, etc. In addition to that, Camille is a very good rider. We also don’t see a lot of cool videos in the sand, so to me it was interesting to do this with him. I like to make that kind of video and I’m thinking of doing again with someone else, maybe in another discipline.

When and where did you film this video? And how long did it take to finish? There are a few different locations like the beach, the forest, and of course that amazing sand spot.

We filmed this video last month in Les Landes, where my mom lives and close to Camille’s house. There’s a couple freeride tracks over there.

We shot in two different spots, like you said one is in the forest and the other close to the beach (even if we don’t see it). We wanted a contrast between these two spots and we were mostly looking for jumps, which wasn’t an easy mission! It took three long days to film everything, which is cool because most of the time you don’t have more than one or two days at the races. It may seem short, but everything went well.

We planned for two days of riding, one for each spot, and the last day we just chilled. I wanted to film everything we were doing like heading to the beach, riding minis, or just cruising around. At the end of the three days I had everything I needed so I just decided to start editing. A week after, the video was ready.

Now, the video itself. I’m curious to know where your inspiration comes from when working on a new film.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m truly inspired by the surf and skate culture and also the motorcycle videos you guys produce in the US: Vurbmoto, DEUS [Ex Machina] which is now State of Ethos. Everyday I like to watch videos from these different sports. The vibe is so cool! The music they pick, the cameras they use. I also watch a lot of music clips from bands that I like.

You shot this on multiple formats and presented each element in its native aspect ratio. 4:3 for the VX, 16:9 HD footage, 4:3 again on the 8mm, with even some cinemascope thrown in there. Was this a decision that came about through editing, or was this planned from the beginning?

It was planned from the beginning, I exactly knew what I wanted when I started filming. I didn’t want to use VX or Super 8 filters cause I hate that, haha!

“[Super 8 film], nothing can imitate it. Not all the filters in the universe!”

Where do you get your 8mm film developed? Can you describe what it feels like to see your developed footage for the first time?

I found a laboratory close to Paris where I can develop my 8mm films, but I have to wait one or two weeks to get it. I like every kind of camera, honestly. I mean, I like my A7S III the same way I like my iPhone! I just enjoy taking pictures and filming stuff no matter what camera I use. I simply like to try everything. I have this true love for the vintage stuff, though. Everything looks more classy to me.

During the shooting of Lean, it was the third time I was shooting with a Super 8 and two of my old cameras broke, but that’s part of the game when you use that kind of stuff.

I remember the first time I got my developed film back, it was crazy! It’s all about the stress and excitement, and when you finally get it, that’s a great feeling and you want to do it again and again! Nothing can imitate it, not all the filters in the universe!

One of my favorite shots in the video is the first Black & White clip during the shift to the second song. I think that is a perfect pairing of audio and video, Droid’s “This World” and Camille soaring in slow motion. How much weight do you put on music in a project and how did you go about soundtracking this video?

To me, music represents 70% of the video. Of course everything depends on the tastes of each person, but it is sad to see companies putting a lot of money in a video and not being able to save more for the music.

I simply chose two songs that I like. The choice was difficult but I finally opted for those two! DROID’s latest album is pretty sick so I went with that, as well as Dinosaur Jr.

Why did you make this video? It must’ve taken many hours to create. It must’ve cost you money to travel and develop your film. On top of that, you often work in commercial videography… why shoot in your free time?

I’m pretty sure you will understand me if I say that today, the main “problem” is that there are too many consumable videos and not enough real edits. I watch more than 50 videos, commercials of 30 seconds maximum, on Instagram everyday. People eat that up. It’s all about Reels, stories etc… People don’t care about long edits, for many it is a torture to watch a 3 minute video. For myself, I like to be properly seated when I watch a video, not having any noise around. Going to premieres is something that I adore too!

Making this video with Camille was a way for me to do the video I wanted to do with zero restrictions. Showing to people the kinds of videos I like to watch and the music I like to listen to. This project didn’t cost me a lot, between $100 and $200 for travel and film reels. When you love what you do, you don’t count the time and money you spend on it!

Today I am lucky to work for brands that are well established in the industry, but for a majority of brands & companies, their goal is to have the largest audience possible, where it’s all about more likes, more views… You have a guideline and you need to respect it. Maybe that’s why I would call it the “bad” part of the job, because those are the rules I have to conform to, but I love filming and I don’t think that will stop!

Could you possibly expand on what Camille says in this quote: “Thanks to the videos you can express yourself differently, in a more creative way, with more details. I truly think that in the US they understood everything.” I’m assuming you guys grew up watching the videos from the US?

Yes. Bruce Brown’s films were sick. Crusty Demons and many more, too! Today, if we take a look at the videos we have in Europe, I see nothing really cool like that. I’m talking strictly about motorcycle films, not in the other sports. Nowadays, many years later, it’s always the same story. There is a reason why many European riders want to come to the US. You are in the country where Motocross and Supercross are the most prominent.

“With this video, I would like to be able to show that even in Europe, we are able to create something different and that we want to produce more creative content.”

There’s been a big push in skateboarding over the last decade, where the European scene has risen to prominence by establishing world-renown companies and democratizing the culture, shifting the focus from the US to Europe. Do you feel a similar shift in the motorcycle scene? And do you want to lead that charge, from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Concerning motorcycles in Europe, I have the feeling that everything is slowing down. Nothing really changes, even if I sometimes talk to people from the industry who would like to change things. I have this feeling that all the guidelines come from the US, and it’s not surprising since all the biggest brands in this sport are based in your area. With this video, Lean.9.18, I would like to be able to show that even in Europe we are able to create something different and that we want to produce more creative content.

Thanks for the time, Alan. Anything else you’d like to add or say, feel free!

It’s always a pleasure to talk with people who share the same passions! I appreciate it. I hope you have new projects coming up in the future. Banch was pretty sick and a great inspiration to me. Keep up the good work. Hope to meet you in the future!

Special thanks to Alan for taking the time to answer these questions over email. Follow his escapades at @alanperreard and @theforestcrew.

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