In December of 2009, Brendt Barbur and I decided it was time to put together the best video shot from my helmet cam into a feature-length film. We knew it was going to be a long, hard process getting ten years of wild races boiled down into a movie that really captured the essence of alleycat culture, so we turned to Benny Zenga for direction. Benny’s the best I know at editing film to music, but he also has a real gift for storytelling. When we began, I didn’t understand just how important that gift was going to be.
Everyone who’s seen my footage has been thrilled with the action – bike messengers racing through traffic – but most don’t know how to put that footage into context. The riders, the race organizers, and even the man behind the camera are all part of a greater community of messengers (and each have their own story to tell).
As Benny sifted through ten years of my footage, he began to uncover the threads of these stories: the personalities of the riders, the trips we’ve taken around the world, the friendships and the rivalries. Where I had just seen adrenalin-fueled fun, Benny clearly saw the story of the alleycat racers in all its complexity. To tell that story to the public, though, he had some ideas that I wasn’t initially happy with.
I had always envisioned this film exclusively featuring my high speed racing footage, so when Benny wanted to film some additional shots I was very hesitant. After seeing the 16mm footage of the Brooklyn Bridge and Guatemala, I was glad I let him convince me! Taking a break from the action for a few minutes gives an amazing sense of the locations we raced in, and adds a new dimension to the film.
Finally in the summer of 2011, Benny came to Martha’s Vineyard where we locked ourselves in my parents’ oil painting studio on the water and didn’t leave until it was done. We had more than our fair share of yelling matches over editing choices, but in the end we had an amazing film we both loved. Watching through the final cut, I was struck by the fact that my film now truly told the story of my journey in the world of alleycat races – a story I didn’t even realize was there the entire decade I was living it.
We hit some speed bumps releasing the film, as well. We’d hoped for a Spring 2011 release at one point, then after our editing spree at Martha’s Vineyard we aimed for Christmas of 2011, but a few last minute touches still needed attention before it was ready to go.
Line of Sight took ten years to film, and three years to produce, but the end result is a transformative experience audiences won’t soon forget.