31 Aug 2015

The Ryan Chadwick Interview

An in depth conversation with The Shadow Conspiracy's team manager and creator of 'What Could Go Wrong?'


Interview and photos by Wes McGrath

As I grew up, Ryan Chadwick wasn't a filmer I knew through trade as one of those dudes who made the videos I watched as a kid. Rather, I began to learn about him as a colleague and grew to have appreciation for his hard working, no-bullshit attitude that came with a chuckle and a smile. It takes a lot to become a film maker and maybe even more to stay humble with your own work as an 'artist' of any sort.

Throughout the duration of filming for The Shadow Conspiracy's 'What Could Go Wrong?', I viewed Chadwick's ways as a team manager first and a filmer second... yet, his filming never skipped a beat. Responsibilities such as these could weigh on a person, but Ryan does his job flawlessly. At the age of 29 he has been filming for at least 15 years and produced videos all the while, including Arizona scene videos, I Got Work and I Got Work - Strikes Back. Chadwick has been working for The Shadow Conspiracy for the past five years and I have had the pleasure of working with him for half of that time. You can't produce a product like 'WCGW' without an artistic eye and the hard fact of knowing what you are actually doing. Opinions are all over the board about the state of DVD's today but it is important that products like this still come out. And guaranteed, kids will want to know who filmed this one!

At what age did BMX become a part of your everyday life?

I’d say from the moment I saw Nowhere Fast at a school friends house and convinced my parents to get me a Hoffman George Jr. complete bike for my birthday. I think I was around 13 at the time, 8th grade for sure.

Shadow is now 13 years old, how old were you thirteen years ago? At some point did you ever think you would be a part of the BMX industry as you are today?

I was 16, 13 years ago. I don’t think I could have ever said yes or no to being a part of the BMX industry but I definitely wanted to do something with it. I always had a fascination with FBM and their DIY attitude. I looked up to Crandall for a number of reasons when I was younger, but mainly because I knew he had started FBM from his parents basement and it grew in to this unbelievably awesome brand. It kind of gave me hope that just doing something cool with your friends could turn into the ultimate dream job. Fast forward and here I am today, doing that very thing with none other than Ronnie Bonner, another dude who started making stuff in his parent’s house and eventually grew it in to an amazing thing.

When you first started at Shadow what was your main job title?

When I first came on board I didn’t really have a title. I was definitely brought in on the idea that I would be doing video work but also transitioning into the Team Manager spot, that at the time, was being held by John Paul Rogers. Over time, I learned the ropes, John Paul moved to product development and I became full time TM and Videographer for Shadow while also picking up a few loose ends for Subrosa. Now, I have the same title but I put my input into all areas of Shadow and Sparky’s. I try to help marketing, product design, pretty much anywhere I feel my input is appreciated. I have an undying commitment to Ron and everyone back home in Florida and will do anything I can to make what we do successful.

Throughout your filming career, what equipment have you evolved from up to this point?

I started with a Sony Handicam that my parents had when I first got into riding and then upgraded to a Panasonic DVX100A when I got in to college. I used the DVX up until Shadow decided to make the full HD jump a few months after I started and we dropped in on the HMC. That very same camera has been holding strong for the past 5 years or so and doesn’t seem to be giving up any time soon.

What was mainly used to film ‘What Could Go Wrong?’.

Panasonic HMC150 and a Canon 60D from beginning to end. There was a time when the 60D was only for tripod second angles but I made the switch to full time fisheye on that camera 1/3rd of the way through the video.

How many years has this video been in the works?

“What Could Go Wrong?” as a whole has probably been in the works for around three years give or take. The oldest clip we have though is of Albert Mercado from September 2011 that I saved just because I knew it was better than being thrown into a random web video.

Chadwick filmer unm 2
"It was always my dream product. I grew up in the age of full-lengths and I had made some myself back home in Arizona. I knew I was capable and I knew the crew we had could make something epic...".
-Ryan Chadwick

When you first became an intricate part of Shadow, did you ever think that you would be working on a DVD project of this magnitude for the company? For this long, three years?

It was always my dream product. I grew up in the age of full-lengths and I had made some myself back home in Arizona. I knew I was capable and I knew the crew we had could make something epic, but it really was a matter of timing and convincing. When I first came on board, DVD’s were a dying thing. It was the advent of the web video and all the focus was online. We decided building our web presence was the best thing we could do to showcase the new squad we were building (Simone, Lahsaan, Trey, etc.). A few years into the job, Subrosa was struggling to finish up it’s first full-length video G.U.T.I. I offered my help in making it happen and we decided to approach it as a marketing tool rather than a money maker. We ended up with a NORA Cup nod and Subrosa began a crazy rise in popularity. I think that showed Ron that not only was I capable of producing something quality but that the DVD wasn’t dead and could be used to really show people what a brand and a crew is capable of doing. I don’t think I ever expected it to take three years, but I had no drive to rush and make something incomplete. We never slowed down on our web presence throughout the entire project which probably led to it taking a bit longer but it was important to us that we stay strong on all sides and keep doing what we were doing.

Have you ever filmed a full-length video like this before?

I have. I made two local AZ scene videos with my friends, I Got Work and I Got Work: Strikes Back. Those kind of prepped me for the future and also had a hand in landing me the job as Shadow TM and Videographer.

I have seen over the past couple of years while working along side yourself and the team personally, you guys have become somewhat of a tight knit family, do you believe that this intangible bond is valuable in the overall outcome of a DVD project like this?

You can't get something of this scale done without every single dude being on board. Not only with the riders, but with the people back in the Sparky’s office. This project was an INSANE undertaking from riding and filming, to production and marketing. It took every thing we had to make it as successful as it could be and without the family backing it, we would have failed. I would do anything for this crew and they would do the same for me.

With such a title as, “What Could Go Wrong?” You could be inline for some witty 'banter' that could be a bit cynical to the actual video, so what made you land on this specific title for the DVD?

The original working title for the video was “Thirteen”. Not only because it tied into Shadow’s 13th year of business, but also because of the superstitious aspect of the number. After discussing it on a couple of team trips, Joris Coulomb suggested “What Could Go Wrong?” He reasoned that it shouldn’t just be about the bad but also the good. He is a very spiritual person and is quite the believer of duality. “What Could Go Wrong?” is a statement that can go either way and really shaped how the video turned out showing both the struggle and the reward of riding BMX. I loved it.

"You cant get something of this scale done without every single dude being on board. Not only with the riders, but with the people back in the Sparky’s office...".

- Ryan Chadwick

As a full time team manager for The Shadow Conspiracy, I assume your good at juggling… What would you say is the most difficult part about managing this specific project?

Traveling. A lot of companies are lucky to have most of their riders living in the same state or close to it. For us, the large majority of the team live overseas or across the country from me. It’s extremely difficult to get everyone’s schedules to line up so that everyone can be on a trip together at the same time. Luckily for us, each of our dudes has a very strong co-sponsor that were more than down with what we were trying to do with “What Could Go Wrong?” We would piggyback on contests, other trips, split tickets, anything to make these trips happen and to make sure everyone got the most bang for their buck. Simone would literally spend months at a time in the US working on separate projects and going to multiple contests while filming for the video, it was crazy. I would like to personally thank everyone at Subrosa, Nike, Red Bull, Vans, Cult, Kink, Mongoose, and more for being team players and helping not only their riders but Shadow as a whole.

During all the traveling you have done for the filming of this video, which trip would you say treated you all the best, overall?

That’s a hard one. I had so much fun traveling with the crew that it’s difficult to pick just one trip. I’d say we were probably most successful clip wise in Lyon/Montpellier, Calgary, or our final trip in Boston. Those places are so insane to ride, it’s not even funny. You walk out the door and you’ll find anything you could ever wish for.

Can you list off all the places the team actually travelled to for this?

There are clips from all over the world including 12 of the United States, France, Germany, England, Spain, Italy, Ecuador, Canada, and Mexico. We have riders in seven of the United States and seven different countries.

It seems as though the Shadow team has changed a lot in the duration of this video, rider wise, do you feel your video fully portrays the state of The Shadow Conspiracy team as it stands today?

We’ve definitely done our fair share of changing, but it was only for the best. We are the strongest we’ve ever been and the crew is the closest it has ever been. Every single rider gave everything they could to make sure that they had the best possible section and it shows. Each and every bump in the road only made what we did better and stronger.

Chadwick PHX team WM 1
"I wouldn’t have been able to finish the video having suggestions from 13 different dudes who are all their own worst enemies. I always told the dudes that I wasn’t in the business of making them look bad and to trust me".
- Ryan Chadwick

In the process of releasing a full length DVD that is legit for the open market and iTunes, how was your experience in getting cleared music and actually getting the video to disc and ready for sale?

The process of clearing music is both incredibly frustrating and unbelievably rewarding. To start, slogging through hours and hours of the worst and most uninteresting music available online could be enough to drive any one man insane. I had to sit and listen to 30 seconds of god awful music at a time for hours on end, weeks at a time. It’s a process that I wish on no man and don’t particularly want to relive. That being said, I have been clearing music for Shadow and Subrosa videos for a few years now and it’s a process that I have down pretty pat. The feeling you get when you hear a song that can actually work for something, let alone for someone’s section, is incredible. It’s a needle in the haystack type of situation, but it’s not impossible. A lot of people harp on cleared music because it’s not “cool” but a lot of the time people forget that the majority of the music they listen to is because they heard it in a video first. I didn’t know half the names of the bands I was listening to back in the day, I just knew that it was a certain rider’s song from a certain awesome video and I loved it because of that. Cleared music is also an amazing way to introduce kids to new, undiscovered artists. Most bands see this and are more than down on the free promotion that comes from being featured in a video online or on iTunes. Rarely did we have a situation where a band or artist told us no, but when we did, it wasn’t any sweat off our back, I just went back to the endless amount of artists on BandCamp or Soundcloud and kept searching. In the end I was able to use a few local AZ bands, some bands I had used in the past, and even a few well known artists that were more than down to support what we were doing. People think it will cost an arm and a leg and hurt your video, but I don’t think we ended up spending more than $1500 total and we have no worries that someone is going to come back and lay the hammer down on us for stealing their work. I’d also like to add that music is probably the most subjective opinion you could have. You will never please everyone and as long as it’s a 50/50 split, I’d say I did my job.

Chadwick shadow week simone joris WM 1

Since you have decided to print DVD’s as well as release the video via iTunes do you feel it is important to offer both?

I do. It’s crazy to think, but a lot of kids today only have a cell phone and for good reason. Cell phones these days are capable of everything from video editing, to playing games, to music creation, there is almost zero need for a computer and with the advent of Apple TV or Chromecast, some people might not even have a DVD player. We wanted the video to get in to as many hands as possible and iTunes is only going to help further that goal. Unfortunately, there is a very strict localization policy and we were only able to release it limitedly world wide but we are currently looking into releasing it in more regions and on other platforms such as Google Play and Amazon!

As a cinematographer, what is your opinion on the Internet release of a DVD? Does it make all that work feel less meaningful, or is it just the ways of our times?

The full-length video is a tool for a company to show what their team and brand is all about. It doesn’t matter if you release a physical copy, iTunes only, or go straight to YouTube right away, if you market it correctly and create something of quality, people will react to it. I am all for the tangible finished product that you can hold in your hands, but it’s also incredible to be able to turn on your phone or Apple TV and see your video that you worked so hard on be featured on the front page. There will come a day when physical media is non existent but it will never be a thing where people don’t see and react to three years of blood, sweat, and tears. The full-length will live on.


Shadow - 'What Could Go Wrong?' DVD Trailer

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The world premiere of ‘What Could Go Wrong?’ took place in New York City and I feel it couldn’t have gone better! How did the premiere reflect on you and the team, was it what you anticipated?

It was way more than I anticipated. I never could have thought that the premiere for “What Could Go Wrong?” would happen in New York City. There is something incredible about NYC that you just have to be there to understand and to be able to get the whole crew under one roof and show hundreds of eager riders was something I will never forget. I hope what people get from seeing that type of stuff go down is that there is a full support system backing Shadow and it’s crew. We are down until the bitter end and we want nothing more than to support local BMX and the riders who love it.

So with the surprise announcement of Mark Burnett turning pro just before the premiere of the DVD in NYC, did his video part become somewhat of a right of passage onto the pro team at such a young age?

Most definitely. You can’t deny the fact that Mark Burnett rides on a pro level and has been for some time but with Shadow, we make it a point to pump the brakes and see where the rider takes themselves. The instant Pro bump almost never works out with any brand and we want to make sure that every dude we are stoked on fits in with the overall team atmosphere. It’s crazy, but we are a very tight knit family and it takes some time to fit in and bond with the crew. Mark proved himself by being so motivated and so down with what we were doing for so long that we thought it was time. He’s an extremely gifted young kid with the attitude of someone much older than him and we are proud to call him one of our own. He solidified that with such an incredible section that came almost too easily.

I was lucky enough to bear witness to the sneak peek premiere, before the world release at the House of Vans in Brooklyn. Is it true that you didn’t show a single person the video before the day of the release? Not even the riders had a chance to review their part before the DVD went to print?

Almost true, I obviously had to show Shadow boss man Ron Bonner before we sent it off to print, but even then I only showed him the finished product. There is something about showing someone an unfinished product that I just don’t believe in. A rough draft doesn’t allow for the viewer to get the whole picture of what I am trying to convey and only impedes the creative process. As much as it was a struggle to not allow people any insight, I think that it made for a better end product. I wouldn’t have been able to finish the video having suggestions from 13 different dudes who are all their own worst enemies. I always told the dudes that I wasn’t in the business of making them look bad and to trust me. For some dudes it was easier than others but I know it all worked out. I must thank every single one of them though for letting that happen and for not absolutely hating me in the end, haha.

Chadwick interview house of vans shadow portrait WM 1
"I never could have thought that the premiere for “What Could Go Wrong?” would happen in New York City. There is something incredible about NYC that you just have to be there to understand and to be able to get the whole crew under one roof and show hundreds of eager riders was something I will never forget".
- Ryan Chadwick

This says a lot about the trust your team has for you, as a filmer and a team manager, how confident were you in your final product that is now in homes worldwide?

I am 100% satisfied with the final product which is something I have honestly never been able to say before. With any one of my finished web projects or even with G.U.T.I., I watch them and think, “oh man this could have been better or I could have done this,” but with “What Could Go Wrong?” I watch it and only think of all the good times that happened in the span of working on it. I’ll watch the credits and get goosebumps every time. From the music, to the riding, to the editing, I’m so completely stoked on what we were able to create and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Now that this three year filming project is finally finished, can you share with us any future plans you guys over at Shadow may have lined up?

To be perfectly honest, Ron and I agreed to rest on the “what’s next” question until I spend a few weeks in Florida during the month of November. We both have upcoming projects to look forward to like Interbike and another Sparkys Jam to close out the year so we are trying to focus on those and then drop in!

It started with the world premiere in Brooklyn and then went on to nearly 100 plus premieres across the globe! Did you ever expect such worldwide acceptance of the DVD?

Never. We learned so much with marketing and premiering the Subrosa video that when we were ready to start pushing it out to shops, we had a general plan of attack. But for nearly 100 shops to simultaneously premiere the video world wide over a three day weekend, wow. It’s incredible. I think people are just stoked on what we are doing, what we represent and how we want to be a part of it. Thank you so much to each and every person who put on or attended a premiere. It means the world to me that we had so much support and I will forever be grateful for that.

How has the feedback to the project been so far?

The feedback has been incredible. I honestly haven’t heard a bad thing yet. From pros, to fans and fellow filmers, everyone has had such good things to say about the video. Not only about the riding and editing, but to the art direction and release. I think when people saw how committed we were, it was hard to deny what we did. Never in a million years would I think that I would receive simultaneous texts from Stew Johnson and Navaz telling me I did a good job.

You guys at Shadow definitely have a great support system in place from everyone who is involved with the company. How do you feel about all the people behind the scenes who have helped this video come to fruition?

It wouldn’t have been possible without every single person on the team and in the Sparky’s office. I couldn’t ask for a better crew to have my back and they really knocked it out of the park. Thank you to Ronnie B for giving me this opportunity and letting me create something I am truly stoked on to Mike Johnson for having my back and helping me with the insane task of music licensing and getting this bad boy on iTunes. Arnaud Mauler for the incredible art direction which truly kickstarted the look and feel of the video. Ryan Sher for handing me the reigns of G.U.T.I. and allowing me to prove myself worthy of such a large project. John Felcman and the rest of the Art Department for picking up when I slowed down on my daily Shadow duties to give 100% of myself to finishing the “What Could Go Wrong?” Jill Rhodus for helping navigate an endless stream of due dates and assetts in the creation of the incredible DVD and Booklet. Greg, Steven, and Joey in R&D for creating the best products in BMX that allowed for the squad to try such incredible tricks. Courtney and Jen for making every trip as smooth as can be from beginning to end. Ashley for fulfilling every team order and keeping the crew rolling as they destroyed not only themselves, but their bikes on the road. Willy, Nick, and the whole warehouse team for getting those products to the riders. Dave, Josh, Cole, Erik, Johnny, and our incredible sales team for making the insane 100+ simultaneous world wide premiere happen. Finally, the entire Shadow team, past and present, you guys are the only reason this is as good as it is and I thank you for giving me your all through this long and amazing process.

Remind us where people can pick up a copy of 'What Could Go Wrong'.

The video is available in select countries via iTunes and on DVD worldwide through any Shadow supported shop, mail order, and our own online store.

Chadwick skate PHX WM 1

"Four years ago I met Ryan Chadwick, as he was just about to release, "Got Work". I could see something in him and his work so I offered to pay for production and do world wide distribution for his new video. I didn't do this to make money, if anything I lost money, haha! I did it as an investment in Chadwick, as I saw potential in him! Fast forward 4 years and Shadow has just dropped, "What Could Go Wrong?". I can say 110% that investment was fully worth it!".

- Ronnie Bonner