Frame of Mind: WHO IS

It’s been countless moons since the three people that like and subscribe to this article have been graced with my clever way for constructing words about shit nobody actually cares about. Frankly, I’ve had nothing to say and, the thought of writing something just to write something felt insincere. However, after a vacation from this article, I think I have finally found something worth writing about for the three of you reading this.

The subject? A video I just finished that will also only be watched by the same three people reading this article. The video? WHO IS? The subject? Gunner Wright. You? “Who the hell is Gunner Wright?” Well now, that is why we have a video to answer said question. 

Hollywood, CA. December 10th, 2020. Day one of production on WHO IS: Gunner Wright.

In late 2020, I had pitched the vurbmoto management team on a sort of web series idea I had, called WHO IS, which would be about obscure figures within the ever so glorious world of the dirt bike industry who have obscure stories that mainstream dirt bike sites won’t cover because, “It DoEsN’t GeT vIeWs ’N nObOdY cArEs.” Per the usual, it was more so me telling the trio at V Is for vurbmoto that, “I’m not really asking for approval or permission as much as I am just letting you know the mission I am about to embark on for us.” And, come December of 2020, cameras were built and recording commenced production on this new project. Gunner and I (along with Brandon Carter handling stills and assisting with camera) shot through December and into January of 2021. From there, I spent time editing what we had in place and sorting out our remaining days of shooting. 

One of our setups at Gunner’s apartment in Hollywood, CA. I wanted to further sell the idea of the morning sun blasting into Gunner’s apartment and hitting the wall like it was already doing naturally. So, I placed a 1k Redhead outside, shooting through CTO to accentuate the morning sunrise.

Well, um… We had an issue. We didn’t actually get back to shooting until May of 2022. Yeeeeeaaaahhhhh. We started this thing in December of 2020 and didn’t get back to it for a year and a half. We spent a total of four more days shooting what we had left, along with one of those days being a pick up interview day. Since then, I’ve been deep in the edit refining and reshaping what was last touched in January/February of 2021 and adding in our final shooting days. On Wednesday, June 15th, 2022, I officially exported the final master file of a project that started in December of 2020. Sheesh! There are many reasons it took so long to complete and, ideally, it would’ve been a much more efficient timeline. However, that’s how it goes sometimes and, honestly? I’m kind of glad it took this long. It feels like it was worth the wait.

This day was a mission. We went deep into the Mojave Desert in January of 2021 (it was COLD) to shoot Gunner’s action segment. Not only was it cold and in the middle of nowhere, we only had one day out there, so we had to move VERY quick and efficiently to get what we needed because we were not coming back. Also, a big thank you to Jonnum Media and American Honda Motor Co. for giving us a bike to use for this portion of the project!

So, what exactly is this project all about? Would you believe me if I said it was about factory Honda in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Hollywood and acting, Tom DeLonge and Angels & Airwaves, a video game franchise called Dead Space, ambitions, struggles, and a passion for two wheels? Probably not, eh? That’s a lot of things that surely cannot be connected. But, guess what? They are, and it’s all thanks to Gunner Wright, who I’ve dubbed the most important figure head in the Supercross/motocross industry that nobody has heard of or remembers. Seriously. The reason quite a few people have a certain job in our industry today is all because of Gunner, and WHO IS will explain his role and what he did for the industry. Maybe I am just biased, but I think it’s pretty fuckin’ cool. 

Art Dog (Kyle Cowling) deep in the Mojave Desert with the RED GEMINI on the Kessler Crane Pocket Jib while shooting a driving sequence with Gunner. Photo: Brandon Carter.

In terms of the making of this project, it was quite an undertaking. My biggest objective was to creatively push myself at least 1% in order to improve and/or try things I’ve never tried behind the lens. Otherwise, I am just doing the same shit over and over and what growth is in that? None. While this project is very much within my standard visual ethos, there are small things I did (most probably won’t notice) with camera movement and lighting that pushed myself out of my comfort zone and allowed growth. Also, I really decided to say, “fuck it” and go down the wormhole of doing exactly what I thought felt cool and sincere to both Gunner, the project, and myself. What does that mean, exactly? It means ignoring the trends in most videos today: short, in your face, mandatory action to start the video, and more. WHO IS: Gunner Wright has a long in runtime (30-minutes and seven seconds to be exact). It has a three minute long intro that reminds me of the intro sequence to No Country for Old Men, which is slow and focused on setting a very specific tone of curiosity and intrigue. WHO IS has multiple looks from Gunner’s apartment in Hollywood, CA, to Venice Beach, CA in the afternoon, to downtown Los Angeles, CA in the evening, and the Mojave Desert at golden hour, to name a few. 

When you don’t own a Ronin 2 or MoVi Pro, have no budget to rent, and need tracking shots, you use Subaru Outback’s hipster wagon, the back seat, and 130lb of sandbags with a heavy duty set of sticks. It’s a classic case of DIY/Shitty Rigs. And, yes. It worked. Better than we could’ve imagined.

The biggest offense that I have committed with this piece, however, is that of the runtime. 30-minutes and seven seconds. Yikes! But, I do have a counter argument to that. A close friend of mine (fellow cinematographer, Dylan Wineland) and I were speaking about this project and the runtime and the argument that shorter is better. We found ourselves concluding that such a theory is a bit of horse shit. Why? Because all of us binge watch shows on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Peacock and more. These shows can be upwards of an hour per episode and we will watch an entire six to eight episode season in one to two sittings. So, the idea that longer runtimes in our world are an automatic death sentence, to Dylan and I, feels like a cop out and an insult to the audience. Granted, I am well aware I am not Netflix, HBO, Hulu, or Peacock nor is this project at that type of level. Anyways, I would also argue that last year’s two part series that I shot, ALL IN, also helps support our theory as each of those episodes was almost 20-minutes in length and each of those episodes is on the cusp of hitting 140,000 views! Now, will this WHO IS project get those views? I doubt it. But, I wanted to make something of substance and something that, while in the vein of motocross, shows the passions and desires of the human spirit. And, I think I achieved that goal. This project is the first project I have felt genuinely proud of since, most likely, I did No Runners in 2020. Will you watch it? I don’t know. Probably not. But, that’s okay. Because I know I did something I, myself, am genuinely happy with and that is all I needed… A way to prove to myself that I can make something that I feel is cool and of substance and stands out from the rest of the typical moto stuff that everybody recycles.

And, that’s a wrap! May 12th, 2022, Art Dog & Gunner in Downtown Los Angeles, CA wrapping up the principle photography for WHO IS. Photo: Brandon Carter.

At the top of this article I mentioned WHO IS was going to be a series here on vurbmoto. However, this was a massive undertaking. Scheduling, shooting, directing, editing, coloring, sound, etc was all done by me and me only. This shit sucks a lot out of you. And, I put so much into this piece to make it something special that I can honestly say I don’t know that I can do another episode of this and maintain this style and feel. There was a lot of luck involved. Mainly because of the on-screen talent and his story. It feels like I captured lightening in a bottle and there is no way in hell I can re-create that. So, for now, when this releases next Tuesday, June 21st, expect this to be the first and last WHO IS. At least for the foreseeable future. And, for those video nerds out there that will watch the full piece and want to hear some backstory on how we did certain things, I might do a video where I playback the project and breakdown how we did this and that and reveal some fun little secrets. Kinda like a podcast type thing? We shall see. So, until we meet again, whatever it is you’re doing, do it well and don’t be an asshole. Stay classy, San Diego, or wherever you’re from.

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