The Making of Go Fast Pull Up
The story behind filming for The Jimmy Levan Documentary
— Living in Wisconsin most of my life, I’ve spent a good amount of time in Iowa going to Rampage Jams in the 90s and getting to know Rick Moliterno and the Standard dudes from working on their early team videos like “Fat Ones” and “Style Cats”. Having been so busy with Props at the time, I had somewhat lost touch with that whole scene in the mid 2000s-2010s. In 2013 I found myself in Davenport again after many years, interviewing Moliterno for the Baco documentary. After the Baco interview we asked Rick if he would do a second interview about what he and Standard had been up to all these years. Rick agreed and the interview went great, which led to ESPN commissioning a short four part series that ended up being a past and present look into Standard. During the course of shooting for the series I met a local Iowa dude named Jerrod Glasgow, who was into filming and helped with some of the riding clips of Rick. I got to know Jerrod more in later months and we struck up a good friendship due to common interests and just the fact he’s a super cool, down-to-earth dude. Even our wives have since become good friends.
— In 2015 Will from DIG hit me up about the possibility of doing a documentary about BMX legend Jimmy Levan. After thinking about it for a while I called Jimmy and told him I was considering it and would he be ok with it; since this would be a story about his life with all the crazy ups and downs he’s been through. He said 'yes' and little did I know at the time, but this would end up being a longer-term project that is now (at the time of writing) over two years in the making. (Note: Go Fast Pull UP was eventually released after almost 4 years in March 2019)
— Shooting interviews for something like this is really time-consuming and tedious and I knew right away I needed a travel partner. Someone to help with the whole process of getting these shot. As fate has it, having met Jerrod just a couple years prior would lead us together on long journeys of shooting interviews all around the United States. Jerrod was a great travel partner and I couldn’t have done it without him! This is his recount of some of our adventures together filming for 'Go Fast Pull Up'. Enjoy. -Chris Rye
— In the fall of 2015 Chris Rye told me he was starting to work on a documentary about Jimmy Levan. He was going to be traveling all over shooting interviews and asked if I would like to tag along. I simply responded, “Yes” without any hesitation. Due to an injury, I was unable to join Chris for his first trip to Louisville, Kentucky. He knocked out a few interviews while he was there and got to see Jimmy be the front man for his band, Zig Zag Way. I’m bummed I missed that. Chris and I had never really been on this long of a trip together before this. Let’s just get this out of the way: I am a smoker and I smoke a lot. Chris does not smoke and he wanted to make sure I knew it was bad for me through massive amounts of shit talk. Let’s just say I should have bought shares in Nicorette before we departed.
— We did 35 interviews that took us all across the country, zigzagging from Austin, Texas to Southern California and then back across to the East Coast and back to the Midwest. I had no idea of the adventure that would ensue retracing Jimmy’s life in order to tell his story.
— We had stock questions prepared for everyone we interviewed, in addition to specific questions for certain people. I really enjoyed the responses to questions such as, “Can you imitate Jimmy’s voice” and “Describe his outfits and style.” Fueled by plenty of coffee and Taco Bell, we got to it.
— For our first trip, I met up with Chris in November of 2015 where we traveled to Austin, Texas. Stew Johnson opened his home to us while we were shooting in and around Austin. We did several interviews in the days that followed; the first one was Brian Tunney. He set the bar high with his stories of the past with his dry sense of humor; both may have been bettered by the multiple glasses of wine he consumed while shooting. Tunney and Stew hung close with us for the remainder of our Austin stay, serving as our tour guides and assisted with the rest of our interviews. Chris and Tunney took care of Chase Hawk’s interview while my mind was drifting towards an entire room in his house dedicated to his many, many shoes. It was a thing of beauty. Bob Scerbo’s interview was appropriately filmed at a kitchen table in his backyard and the cigarette butts were like confetti littering the burnt up grass. Punk AF!
"Stew Johnson opened his home to us while we were shooting in and around Austin. We did several interviews in the days that followed; the first one was Brian Tunney. He set the bar high with his stories of the past with his dry sense of humor; both may have been bettered by the multiple glasses of wine he consumed while shooting."
"We looked in Sean’s bedroom for a good place to do the interview and everything in his room was black. Everything, including his cat."
— We showed up to the Bone Deth house to interview Sean Burns and it seemed like there were people in every room. We looked in Sean’s bedroom for a good place to do the interview and everything in his room was black. Everything, including his cat. We ended up filming at the bottom of a cramped stairwell and it worked out great. In videos and photos Burns comes off as a wild maniac, but in reality he is a very kind, educated and well-spoken individual.
— We went around and took b-roll of the notorious Church Gap, which was made famous by Jimmy in the first Road Fools video. For those who have never stood atop those stairs and looked out, believe me when I say it’s unreal! To be standing in such a legendary location with one of the people who filmed the feat there was certainly a monumental moment in my life.
— After nine interviews in Austin, Chris and I became a well-oiled machine as far as setting up and tearing down equipment and knocking the interviews out. From Austin we drove due north to my highly anticipated stop, Mat Hoffman’s house in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. For me time slowed as we rolled up to the black iron gates. We had to punch in a code and we were granted access to the Condor residence. Chris and I arrived at Mat’s place only moments after he had returned home from the doctor following up on a recent injury to his collarbone.
"Mat Hoffman's interview went great and gave me a lot of insight about concussions and the long-term effects on the human brain. As we know, Jimmy has been plagued with head injuries over the years and Hoffman is no different with over 100 concussions throughout his career. He told us about a special helmet he had made that automatically sends a text to his wife if he slams and gets knocked out."
— Even with the doctor’s papers in hand and a shitty November wind, Mat was still ready to pad up and ride for us. We were like, “Nah, we’re just here for your interview, you don’t need to ride for us.” That didn’t stop us from going out to his vert ramp just for a look. The only way up to the deck of this towering ramp (that I had no business being on) was a bike or a rickety extension ladder. I thought I would just quickly climb up to get some shots from the top and at about half way up, the ladder was shaking as much as my knees were, strictly from fear. I tried not to show my terror, after all I was right in front of Hoffman himself. I’m certain my fears were evident when I could not climb down fast enough to take a seat. The three of us sat by the ramp for a while talking and the longer we sat the more Mat’s attention was drawn to the standing rainwater on the flat bottom of his ramp. After a few minutes he could no longer tolerate it and got up to sweep it off. This was a simple act but to me it was very symbolic, he is a true BMXer at heart and had probably done the exact same thing hundreds of times. He just could not let that water be on his ramp.
— Mat’s interview went great and gave me a lot of insight about concussions and the long-term effects on the human brain. As we know, Jimmy has been plagued with head injuries over the years and Hoffman is no different with over 100 concussions throughout his career. He told us about a special helmet he had made that automatically sends a text to his wife if he slams and gets knocked out.
— Afterwards Mat showed Chris and I around his house and took us up onto his roof for a spectacular view overlooking his #backyardglory. While we were talking about the hashtag, I mentioned I was the one who bought his Project Loop painted skateboard deck entitled “Backyard Glory”. He was really surprised and seemed pretty stoked to know where the deck ended up. He shook my hand and said, “Thanks.” We were invited to have dinner and to stay at the Hoffman residence but we had to decline because of fucking Todd Lyons. Todd was next on the list all the way in So Cal and only had a small window of time for us before he left for a 10-day vacation in Hawaii. Thanks, Todd!
"We did 35 interviews that took us all across the country, zigzagging from Austin, Texas to Southern California and then back across to the East Coast and back to the Midwest. I had no idea of the adventure that would ensue retracing Jimmy’s life in order to tell his story."
— From Hoffman’s in OKC we booked it directly west, hammering down for the warmth of sunny southern California. For two dudes escaping a Midwest winter this was bliss. After blowing through countless toll plazas (I’m sure Chris received multiple letters) we arrived just in time for the dreaded SoCal rush hour as the sun started dipping. Soon we found ourselves in Huntington Beach, California at Todd Lyons’ house. He had an early AM flight to catch so we were hard-pressed for time. We knocked out his interview in a timely fashion in his garage, which had been converted into a shrine of all things Lyons. Trophies, medals, old frames, newspaper clippings and all kinds of random shit from the last 30 years cluttered the walls. Anything and everything Lyons was in there.
— Our next stop was the home of S&M founder and owner, Chris Moeller. When we arrived at his place in the early AM, it was clear he had forgotten we were coming and our repeated pounding on the door had awoken him. When he finally answered the door, a half-asleep Moeller thought we were UPS and started grabbing our boxes of equipment out of our arms. It was only after he took a good look at Chris that he finally realized what was up.
— While Chris and I set up for the interview, Moeller got dressed and we all had some much-needed coffee. After setting up a shot in his back yard, we started rolling and this quickly became one of my most memorable interviews. I remember being like a kid in a classroom. I learned so much from his perspective of BMX with all of his years and experience in the industry. After the camera was off and our questions answered, we all just sat for a while discussing BMX past and present. Moeller helped me see trends and fads from a new light and that has stayed with me. From there we found ourselves at the home of Garrett Reynolds in San Diego, who kindly invited us into his house for a quick interview in his kitchen. It was interesting to hear Garrett’s take on street riding and how Jimmy fitted into it all. Afterwards we headed to the airport and were soon back home in the Midwest’s late-Fall cold.
— A few months later in February 2016, Chris flew Jimmy to Wisconsin to shoot his long-awaited interview. I drove the seven hours up to hang out and meet Jimmy for the first time. Davenport, IA is on my way, so I stopped in to see Rick Moliterno at Standard. I mentioned I was on my way up to meet Jimmy and Rick told me several times to “Tell Jimmy I said hi.”
— The next day I met up with Chris and Jimmy and some of the Baco guys at a bar in Appleton, WI. We proceeded to drink like it was New Year’s Eve and I was like a fly on the wall listening to all of their wild stories from times past. At one point I found myself outside in front of the bar alone with Jimmy, smoking cigarettes together in the cold. In that gravely voice he asked me where I was from. I told him Iowa, and proceeded to pass on Rick’s message. Jimmy was pumped and then told me about when Rick hooked him up with a frame before going on Road Fools One where he ended up doing 'a big gap at a church' on it. I said, “Yeah, I kinda remember hearing about a church gap you did.” Jimmy has zero social media and it is the best thing ever because he doesn’t have a clue he and the Church Gap are still reLevant today. He literally had a flip phone and it was an awesome moment for me. For the rest of the night we all drank and played foosball. My memory may be hazy but I believe Jimmy and I went undefeated against the Appleton Baco locals Mark Hilson and Kuhrt Emmerich.
"Jimmy was pumped and then told me about when Rick hooked him up with a frame before going on Road Fools One where he ended up doing 'a big gap at a church' on it. I said, “Yeah, I kinda remember hearing about a church gap you did.”
— In July of 2016 Chris and I headed to the East Coast where we shot countless interviews and made so many stops it seemed like a blur. Once in New Jersey, we went to shoot b-roll of the road where Jimmy wrecked on a skateboard back in late 2007. When we arrived to the location I remember thinking the hill was much steeper and winding than it seemed in footage I had seen of it. Knowing this spot possibly changed Jimmy’s life forever gave a very eerie and unsettling feeling to both Chris and I. We got the shots we needed and left somewhat changed by our visit to that creepy road. BMX is always about having fun with friends and doing what we love, rarely do we catch a glimpse of our own mortality and I believe we experienced that there.
— We headed for the nearby hospital Jimmy had been rushed to in hopes of getting additional b-roll. While filming there, a fully uniformed police officer became real curious about what we were doing. Right before we got the inevitable boot, Chris told him we were art students from NYC and were filming for a college film project. The cop bought the tale and we were golden. I have used that “life hack” trick a few times since that day and it always works like a charm.
— After leaving the hospital with all the footage we needed, we drove to Jimmy’s sister, Susie’s house. She had IPAs waiting, made us dinner and entertained us with brother-sister stories. We crashed out early at her place for a good night’s rest before heading into the city the next day.
— We made it to Darryl Nau’s bar, The Tender Trap, with only an hour or two of time to shoot before he had to be at the airport for a flight to Europe. Chris and I wasted no time setting up all of our gear, something that by this time was as natural to us as breathing. Chris, Susie and Darryl have been friends for years and know each other quite well. The three of them were catching up with some small talk when Darryl approached me to introduce himself and I the same. We shook hands and said, “What’s up.” For whatever reason over the few hours we spent with him, Nau called me every “J” name besides my own. “Hey Jeremy,” Darryl would say. I’d reply with, “It’s Jerrod.” Again only minutes later, “Hey Jason.” I’d answer him with, “Yeah, it’s Jerrod.” After three or four times of this, I began to correct him with any different “J” name I could come up with to add to the confusion that is Darryl Nau. Once he got settled down and Chris started his interview, Darryl was very accommodating, professional and did a great job filling in the blank spots in Jimmy’s story.
— After packing up our equipment, Susie magically got us back out of the city and after nearly running out of gas on the freeway, we found ourselves safely back at her place. All of us were exhausted. We said our goodbyes and Chris and I headed off to one of the stops I was really looking forward to: the FBM Headquarters in Ithaca, New York. It goes without saying that Steve Crandall is one of the best humans in BMX and may be one of the best people, period. He showed us around the FBM shop before sitting down to do his interview. Crandall had some great one-liners about Jimmy ranging from hilarious stories to serious topics. Steve has one of those contagious laughs and a person cannot help but smile being in his presence.
— From there we headed up towards Buffalo, NY and interviewed street pioneer Jim Cielencki, which was a real treat, and afterwards found ourselves driving west to go home.
— Aside from shooting all the interviews for this project, there are all kinds of imagery Chris has to dig up like photos and video of Jimmy throughout the years. But what do you do when there is nothing to find? You make it. Chris has footage of Jimmy doing the Austin Church Gap but he lacked b-roll of Jimmy preparing to do it, when he was hidden around the corner of the church getting ready to go. So in order to tell the story better, Chris had the idea of rebuilding an exact replica of the 1998 Trail Boss Jimmy was riding at the time. Chris scoured the Internet, called in favors from friends, possibly sold his soul and made it happen. The rebuild took research, time and determination and that shows in the outcome because the bike turned out amazing. Chris even got ahold of the obscure stickers Jimmy was rocking in 98. We used the rebuilt bike with some clever camera angles and a tutorial from Jimmy himself, to turn me into Jimmy for a day. I probably did more push off “gate starts” that day then I have done in my entire life.
— I have heard hundreds of stories about Jimmy Levan after my rabbit-hole experience traveling with Chris and getting to finally meet Jimmy at that Appleton bar. I have realized that Jimmy is just a BMXer like the rest of us. He travels, he rides his bike, he has ups and downs and he has character flaws and defects like the rest of us. I respect him more for all of it.
— Creating this documentary is such a huge undertaking that just the hours of going through the interviews picking content to keep and what to cut would stop most people in their tracks. Photo and video evidence has to then be found to back up the stories everyone told during the interviews. I cannot stress enough the amount of work that goes into a documentary like this is.
— This documentary could not be in better hands than with Chris Rye at the wheel. He is a ridiculously determined and meticulous individual who will make sure this is done and done right. I am so excited to see the finished project because at heart, I am still just a BMX fan boy. - JG
"I have heard hundreds of stories about Jimmy Levan after my rabbit-hole experience traveling with Chris and getting to finally meet Jimmy at that Appleton bar. I have realized that Jimmy is just a BMXer like the rest of us. He travels, he rides his bike, he has ups and downs and he has character flaws and defects like the rest of us. I respect him more for all of it."
GO FAST PULL UP ‘The Jimmy Levan Story’ - A Feature length BMX documentary is available NOW.
UK/EUROPE - http://www.digbmxstore.com
USA - https://www.propsbmx.com
US/ROW BIke shops: propsbmx
UK/Euro Bike shops: 4down
Directed & edited by Chris Rye. | Produced by Chris Rye and Will Smyth
Ain't nothing but the truth!
New chapters, new spots...