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Between the Motos: John Sanders

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In 2014, Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg and his Dirt Bike Kidz crew released Chasing the Storm. The freeride movie was a homage to the classic dirt bike films of the 1990s like the Crusty Demons of Dirt and the Terrafirma series and was very well received.

John Sanders, Stenberg’s brother-in-law, is the main behind the camera and computer who filmed and edited the movie, and it was so successful that he and Stenberg decided to go for round two. After nearly two years of filming with some of the sport’s best including Ken Roczen, Cooper Webb, Ryan Villopoto, Broc Tickle, Aaron Plessinger, Tyler Bereman, Darryn Durham, and many more, Sanders was finally able to release Chasing the Storm 2 on iTunes yesterday.

We caught up with the man behind the lens to talk about how he got into filmmaking, what went into this two-year project, and the stress involved with finishing and releasing a large project.

Racer X: I know you were pretty stressed before the premiere. How does it feel to have it all behind you? 
John Sanders: So much stress is off. I’m still scrambling to make promos and stuff to get out, but now that some of the reviews are coming in and everyone seems genuinely pleased with it I’m feeling a lot better about it.

What were you most stressed about?
No main concern, just being a picky filmer in general. I feel like when you work on these things for five, six months straight you start getting tunnel vision and you kind of forget … I don’t know if you forget, but you don’t know if it’s good or not anymore because you’re just so used to all of it that you just kind of lose sight of the goal. But there were no real concerns other than just make something that the riders were happy with, that I’m happy with, and ultimately everyone else is happy with it.

What have people been saying?
I haven’t talked to too many … all the riders were pumped. It’s funny how many of the riders are surprised at how many shots they get in it, or they’re just surprised that they’re in it at all. Usually when the guys come out riding with us at least more than one time, I’m going to try to put shots of them in it. But everyone seems pumped on it. The same kind of comments as on the previous one—just that it makes them want to go ride. That’s kind of our goal in general. It’s not a big production. It’s exactly what you would see if you went riding with us. It’s got that behind-the-scenes vibes. We’re not telling guys, “Okay, come from this direction and hit this jump again. Let me set up my camera.” It’s pretty run and gun. It’s pretty raw.

This is the second iteration of Chasing the Storm. Was there any point that “Twitch” [Jeremy Stenberg] sat down with you like, “Hey, let’s go do this again?” How did this whole process start?
To kind of start from the beginning, Jeremy is married to my sister and I’ve known Jeremy long before then because we actually used to compete in freestyle together. Once I quit racing I started doing freestyle. This was back in the late ‘90s, in the very beginning. So, we’ve known each other even before my sister and he had met. But after they got married and he was always out riding, I would just be out there hanging out with him with nothing to do. I just decided to get a camera and started shooting and filming and just having fun with it. I wasn’t really interested in filming at the time. It was more something to do while I was out there.

Initially we were going to make a little 10-minute edit for X Games. This was back during the first film in 2012. I ended up telling him, I was like, ‘Dude, I think we’ve got enough footage to actually make a movie.’ We just threw it together. I don’t know how I managed to make the first film because I really didn’t know as much as I know now. The first one was really successful. People were just excited to have kind of that old vibe again. I grew up watching the [Moto] XXX and Crusty and Demons of Dirt videos, so when I make a video I think that’s just kind of what I’ve been brought up. That’s just my style. They have that same kind of vibe. It’s kind of ingrained in me. I like punk music. I’m not into too much slow-mo. I just like it raw. So, after we made the first one and it did great, we just haven’t stopped filming since then. We just kept filming non-stop. When we have guys like Ken Roczen come out and Cooper Webb and all these big racers, it’s so exciting to get that footage. We didn’t want to just put it on YouTube and have it out there—we wanted to hold onto it for the next movie. So, there was no clear goal of “let’s do one a year from now, or two years from now.” It was kind of just the culmination of once we had enough footage and time.

What were some of your favorite parts of the movie?
It's always awesome when the supercross guys and racers come out. We normally have our pretty tight crew. It’s Twitch and [Tyler] Bereman and [Arik] Swan and Bakes [Andy Bakken] and [Darryn] Durham and those guys. But it’s nice when new guys come out, especially guys like Roczen, Webb, [Aaron] Plessinger,[Ryan] Villopoto … all those guys came out. I guess those are the highlights. And we got to travel a bit more for this one. Just the whole process is fun and different.

How much footage did you sit down with when you got to the editing process?
Oh my gosh, you go out and film for a full day and you get hours of footage, and you’re lucky if you end up getting a couple minutes worth of footage by the end and edit it. So, I basically had a little over two years of footage. We don’t go out and film every day. We usually wait until it rains and the weather’s good. We had probably a couple dozen trips worth of footage to sit through. So, it’s taken pretty much since Christmas to edit all of this. It’s hard. You have to sacrifice so much of good footage that just didn’t make it. We’ll try to get that on YouTube and some bonus features and stuff. There were hours and hours of footage to go through.

The soundtrack was really good. How did you guys go about picking the songs for the video?
I’m a little bit different when it comes to music from a lot of editors I know. A lot of editors I know, they choose a song and they kind of edit to it. I’m kind of the opposite. I’ll start laying out my footage and then find music that just feels right with the edit I’m going towards. Truthfully, those are the bands that just kind of would be in my CD album from the ‘90s and early 2000s. Pennywise, Strung Out, Millencolin, NOFX, all of those old-school punk bands. It’s just what I grew up listening to. I know Jeremy’s a big proponent of using that music because whenever you hear an old song like that, you immediately remember what you were doing back then. It just immediately brings back those kind of old vibes. So, the soundtrack is just as important as the riding to us. If it’s cool music, it just brings the whole movie to life. So, that was our main goal with that, was just getting that nostalgic vibe.

Do you guys have any plans to keep going? Are you going to keep filming? What’s next?
We’re never going to stop filming. With social media and YouTube and all these [platforms], it’s just always about making content. Jeremy’s whole career at the moment is kind of based on creating content. We’re always going to keep filming. Hopefully this movie continues to be successful. If this one is, we’ll absolutely make a third one. Hopefully sooner than it took to make this one, hopefully in the next year or so. It all just depends on how good the weather is and when we get out there. Our goal is definitely to keep making them. We’re just going to keep filming. As soon as it rains again, we’ll just keep at it.

You work with Twitch a lot. Are you kind of like his exclusive filmer?
I do other stuff too, but yeah. We’re family, so it makes it easy. If anyone knows him, they know that he’s pretty last minute when it comes to riding. If it rains out, he’ll call me 15 minutes before he’s going to leave. “Hey, we’re going to go riding.” So, I just grab my stuff and go. He works with other filmers, sure, but it’s easiest with me because I’m always around and it just makes things a lot easier to just grab my stuff and go. It definitely has turned into somewhat of an exclusive deal. It’s nice. We both know exactly what we like and we work really well together. It’s made things really easy.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s funny because I go on your guys’ site every day and I always read comments about how a lot of the commenters or the fans, they always see the freeriding and they look down on it. They’re like, “The racers would never do that.” So, it’s nice to have some real supercross-type guys go out there. Jeremy’s friends with everybody in the industry, so it’s nice to have supercross guys come out. It just shows that they like riding in the hills, too. Everyone kind of grew up riding in the hills, so they have just as much fun out in the hills as the freestyle guys or the freeriders.

How did linking up with the racers come about?
We had a really good rain out in Reche Canyon. Cary Hart called us up and was like, “Hey, let’s go out in the hills.” He ended up bringing Roczen and [Broc] Tickle. It was funny because it was right before Anaheim 1, probably a year or two ago. His boss basically brought him out to ride the hills for his first time. He had a blast. He was killing it out there. As soon as it rains Jeremy’s phone will not stop ringing off the hook. Everybody’s hitting him up to try to come out with us. So, it was really just Cary Hart. They were all in town and just wanted to go out riding.