Logline: 3 bikes and a journey across the USA.
Current Status: Finished
Length: 57 mins
Director: Em Baker
Producer: Nick Navarro
About Us: Em Baker was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1989. She obtained a Bachelor of Journalism from RMIT University in 2011, before relocating to the United States to intern on the acclaimed feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Whilst living in San Francisco, she met Nick Navarro and Mariposa St Films was born. She went on to work on documentaries Inequality for All and The Last Season, and to found the Melbourne chapter of the all-female directors' collective 'Film Fatales'. SPOKE is her directorial debut.
Looking for: Audience
Where can I watch it? Opening night - Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Saturday July 9 at 7:30 at Howler.
Congratulations! Why did you decide to direct this film?
It kind of came about as a melange of things I was interested in. On the one hand, I had been fortunate enough to find myself in the midst of some very talented filmmakers whilst living in San Francisco, and they gave me the confidence to attempt a project of my own. Around the same time, I began to have a longing to see how far I could ride a bicycle.
Originally I was just going to ride to Texas, but then I figured we might as well just go as far as we could, coast to coast. When I told people my idea they often expressed concern that something would happen to me, and that got me looking into statistics around cycling fatalities in the U.S. The film grew from there.
Why is the film called SPOKE?
It feels like it was always just called that, but I think the original thinking was that it was a little play on words that connected cycling and advocacy. Also it's short and easy to remember.
What were some of the logistical and personal challenges of filming a 5,600 kilometer journey by bicycle across America?
The first issue we came up against was with equipment and data wrangling. We were carrying two Sony handy-cams, two go-pros, 2 microphones, a tripod, several hard-drives and a Macbook Air. That's a pretty bare-minimum kit for a feature-length film but we couldn't practically carry much more.
We arranged to mail the hard-drives back and forth as we went, to cut down the risk of losing footage if we were robbed or had a crash or something. From a personal perspective, boredom became an issue for us, especially in the deserts around New Mexico and Texas.
At one point we'd invented a game which basically just involved running our bikes into each other, which sounds a bit crazy but after six weeks on the road with the same two people you're running out of things to talk about.
You’re self-distributing the film. Can you discuss your strategy?
Our strategy has been pretty ad-hoc, but so far it seems to be working. The film was selected to screen in festivals in the United States, Canada, India and Australia, which has been great. Now we are doing a run of private screenings with cinemas around the world. We are also currently looking at distributing via some VOD platforms with the assistance of a third party.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Feedback so far has been positive! The film is humble and low-budget, but the story speaks to people. I've been contacted via Twitter by people asking if I'm still seeing Alex, which is kind of surreal. I hadn't expected that to be a focus of the film!
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It's surprised me that people have been so interested. It's really humbling and I just feel very grateful that people want to watch the film.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
It's always nice to get a bit of press, so write-ups from journalists would be good. Other than that I'm not sure. We're just playing it by ear.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
I've had people comment that what they enjoyed about the film is that it doesn't pit cyclists against motorists. That was very deliberate on our part, because I don't think that narrative gets us anywhere. I hope the film continues to encourage dialogue about policy and attitudes to cycling, and how improvements in that area benefit both cyclists and motorists.
At the same time, I think we sometimes focus too heavily on the negatives when talking about cycling, which is why we tried to explore both the dangers and the freedom of riding a bicycle. I hope this film encourages people who previously might not have thought they could to pick up a bicycle and go for a ride.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this issue and film?
How can we get more people riding bikes, and why should we?
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela