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Interviews

The Collective: Interview with Jamie Houssain

Launched in 2004, The Collective set a new precedent in the MTB movie market. A bunch of photographers and riders got together and, spearheaded by two filmmakers, Jamie Houssain and Darcy Wittenburg, carved a new benchmark in the MTB film market.

Filmed almost entirely in 16mm the film featured the finest freeriders from Andrew Shandro to Thomas Vanderham, Darren Berrecloth, Tyler Klassen and Wade Simmons to name just a few. The Collective was 70 minutes of pure heart and soul of where MTBing is right now, with a stunning backdrop, awesome trails and a beautiful soundtrack.

Not wanting to rest on their laurels, the guys behind The Collective have been busy unearthing the best riding spots and getting the best moves for their new film, ROAM. Carrying on from The Collective, ROAM continues to push at the boundaries of what is possible, with most of the riders back for more action along with a bunch of new guys, a new even better soundtrack and even niftier camera work.

We managed to get a few words from Jamie Houssain, one of the directors behind the two films and got the lowdown on ROAM.

What inspired The Collective?

Darcy Wittenburg and I, along with Sterling Lorence, all worked on other mountain bike films, namely the Kranked films. We learned a lot working for other filmmakers, and we always tossed around ideas about what we would do if we ever made our own film. When the Kranked guys decided to move onto other things after Kranked 5, we saw an opportunity to put something new together.

What was it like making The Collective?

It was fun, but it was a lot of hard work. Pretty much 12 months of non-stop work. Doing this type of film is challenging because it’s a mix of creative things, business responsibilities, and just plain organising. Fortunately we were able to have the support of the riders and some great sponsors that helped push things forward.

You employed some creative camera techniques and nifty equipment (helmet cams, wires etc). How did these help in the filming of the Collective?

There are so many films out there, we knew if we were going to put so much time and energy into the project that we wanted it to stand out from the crowd. We wanted to push ourselves as cinematographers in order to show the audience and the mountain bike world something they hadn’t seen before. But we don’t just use fancy gear and techniques for their own sake – we use them if and when the shot requires it.

Did you ever imagine the film would be so successful?

Well, we had a feeling that if we did it right, the response would be solid, because we knew that many people agreed with us that there was an opportunity to make a bike film that was very different from previous ones. But the extent to which the film has taken off around the world is at times a bit hard to understand. It is amazing to know how many different places around the world have responded well to the film.

The launch of Roam is highly anticipated, there are certainly high expectations? Was it easy keeping it original and fresh?

No, it was very difficult. We didn’t want to fall into a trap of just repeating a given formula. It would have been easy to repeat the first film, but we wanted to challenge ourselves as filmmakers to make a film that would stand out as a unique project, which we feel ROAM is. Of course, we needed to balance this desire to be original with a need to keep certain elements that made The Collective successful. So the entire production of the film, from pre-production right up until the last night of editing, was a balancing act.

Is Roam a continuation of what The Collective set out to do, or does it strive to set a new benchmark?

It definitely strives to push the genre of mountain bike films to the next level. We obviously learned a lot making The Collective, and ROAM is an attempt to build on the things we learned in order to improve. Most importantly, we have learned how to work better as a crew, in order to maximize our efficiency and creativity. This relates to working together as filmmakers, as well as working together with the riders.

You certainly have a passion for MTBing, which comes across clearly in The Collective. You must get out on your bike plenty then?

Yeah, we make movies about mountain biking because we love mountain biking. The whole crew lives in and around Whistler and Vancouver, so it’s a pretty good place to be. It’s hard to find time to ride when we’re in the crunch time of shooting or editing, but when we’re home and have free time – we’re usually in the Bike Park or on the Shore.

You’ve had the chance to film and ride some amazing trails. If you could only ride one trail, which would you ride?

Probably something with minimal airs and not too many high bridges so that I could ride it until I’m old and grey. It’s a tough question, because one day you may feel like riding flowy singletrack, another day steep technical, another day something like A-Line. Diversity is the spice of life and I think true mountain bikers understand that.

What’s next then – Collective 3?

We’re still working hard on pushing ROAM and getting it out there. This summer is going to be dedicated to riding bikes, instead of taking pictures of other people riding their bikes. But we enjoy what we do, so you probably haven’t heard the last from us.

Any other comments?

Just a huge thanks to everyone reading for the support we receive from the UK. It’s been huge and it motivates us to keep doing what we’re doing. Also just a heads up that we’re taking orders for ROAM now on our website and it’s no problem shipping to the UK.

Visit www.thecollectivefilm.com for more info on the films.

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