TWMX All Access: The Motocross Files

For a couple years now, we’d heard that there was a show in development called The Motocross Files that featured the heroes of MX’s early days. We’d seen demos, were impressed with the list of riders slated to be featured, and dug the concept, but then (like a lot of good, yet underfunded ideas), things got really quiet. That’s why we were excited to hear that the show had found some sponsorship (with Lucas Oils and Troy Lee’s Supermoto movie, 2 Laps 2 Go), and a home (SPEED Channel), and we were impressed with the first episode, that featured Brad Lackey. The show was a fascinating trip back in time for old schoolers, and an eye-opening education for younger riders on the evolution of MX riders, tracks, bikes, gear, and riding styles.

We talked with MXF’s Producer and Creator, Todd Huffman, to find out a little bit of what it took to make this project happen.

What’s your background? What other projects have you worked on?

I was a young MX’er back in the 70’s and got into racing BMX bikes. I became Marketing Director of GT Bicycles where did some BMX TV shows for Fox Sports Net.

How did you get involved with this, and who else is working on the production team?

Myself and Don Hoffman (of the famous Pipeline Skatepark) work on some extreme sports shows and after the interest in Stacy’s “Dogtown and Z-Boys” movie we were thinking of similar projects.

How did you come up with the concept for the show?

Well as a MX child of the ’70s, these guys were my heroes and the reason why I got into the BMX biz. There was nothing like this on yet and with the popularity of MX and SX these days, it made sense.

I know it’s been in production for quite a while. Was it a particularly long process for this show? Or is that how most TV shows go?

It was a long process (2+ years!) because you have to deal with the networks and the show was first going to be on Fox Sports Net and then they moved it to SPEED because that’s where all the shows involving “pistons” were at.

Some shows take less to get on if they are with established production companies with the networks or it’s an in-house project. Some take longer or don’t ever make it. We are happy that SPEED saw the need for a unique historical series about MX.

What’s the toughest part of a project like this? Pitching it? Creating it? Finding sponsors to come on board?

All of the above. Every step is a process and with a new idea like this everybody doesn’t want to be the first to step in. I think the easiest part was getting the riders and content suppliers to believe and help out with their time and materials. Finding sponsors is the hardest part. If you’re not a priority marketing project, it’s tough to get calls back. Most in the MX industry don’t understand the TV medium or have materials to run. We have to give major props to Lucas Oils and Troy Lee Designs in believing and seeing how important this could be.

The layered stills make a great effect. Is it a long process to create those?

Totally, we have some very talented people who make those great stills come alive. I don’t want to say it’s a secret of how it’s done but we shouldn’t make it too easy either… I think it’s personally, better than real film or video footage. Very powerful.

How do you gather old footage and photos? Does it come from the riders themselves? Other sources?

A lot of it comes from the riders themselves but there are fans of these guys all over who have collections of content they own. Also, all the magazines and free-lance photographers have been really encouraging and involved. Everybody has been really good about supplying stuff for the show.

They know there isn’t any reaal budget for buying things, they’re just happy to see the material on the TV after 30 years.

How many other episodes are you looking to do?

We have four more to go then all five will repeat again every Tuesday on SPEED in January until the 31st.

Brad Lackey was the star of the first episode, and I know you’ve been working on Roger D. and Marty Smith shows. Who else is on the roster of featured riders in the future?

After Marty Smith on 12/6 and Roger D. on 12/13, you will see Rick Johnson on 12/20 and then Bob Hannah on 12/27.

What was response like after the first show?

Very encouraging. Many people said it was the best thing on SPEED and TV and there should be more like it. We received a lot of nice e-mails from fans and industry people a like. Brad and Lori thought we did their story right, and Marty Smith said “Man, I hope my show is that good.”

What’s the future of the show?

Well, we hope we get another bite at the apple for a second and longer season with SPEED. If it doesn’t stay there, we’ll try to find another home for it or it may die after these five. It’s very expensive to do these types of shows and we need sponsor support to produce them or a network to pay for the production and let them deal with the advertisers. We just enjoy the work of telling these riders stories and digging up interesting archival materials to go with them. Finding money isn’t fun.

Obviously, there are tons of more stories to tell and we have already been in contact with several other U.S. MX stars and some Europeans as well. I spoke with Joel Robert a couple of weeks ago. We would plan to go to Europe in the spring to cover Joel, Heikki Mikkola, Gerrit Wolsink, Torsten Hallman, maybe Graham Noyce, etc.

Like everything, it just takes money…