Travis Pastrana Talks Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D
Travis Pastrana and his tight-knit, highly-skilled, adrenaline-addicted friends bring their impossible, ridiculous, insane and hysterical adventures to the big screen for the first time in Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D! Dreaming up the most dangerous stunts in the world of action sports, whether they are trying to back flip a bike over a building 60-stories high or landing a death defying jump while playing Angry Birds, Travis and his gang are always at it. High Risk. High Octane. And No Safety Nets Allowed.
Here is our conversation.
You came of age in the 80s. At the time, there was no such thing as extreme sports. All you had was Evel Kienevel. Take me through a quick evolution of the extreme sports movement, and how you became involved in it...
Travis Pastrana: Honestly, motocross was always big, from, I imagine, the 1950s. I was always into motocross. But I was also extremely passionate about jumping things, and doing it with no hands. It always had to be bigger. As a kid, I was always attracted to that, doing something silly. I was just fortunate to come up in an era with Youtube, and these people that are considered crazy, or independent, or rebels, or whatever...We discovered that there were a lot of people like that out there in the world. Through that, the X Games started. When the X Games started, I was such a huge fan. I am ADHD, but for that week X Games was going on TV, I would sit down and actually watch it. It was pretty exciting. I was in the championships when I was fourteen for motocross. At fifteen, I was picked up by the X Games. It was just right at the very beginning of it all. Not this bandwagon, but this awesomely fun, exciting new sport that was just getting mainstream attention. There weren't a lot of people in it. It was like a sideshow. Then all of a sudden, in 2000, 2001, 2002, this became a real sport. I saw the progression, and I love all the sports. I love skateboarding, and BMXing. It's an honor to know the people that I know. And for a lot of these guys, it was a whole life of being told, "Oh, you'll never make a living doing that. That is never going to progress to anything." But they all loved it so much, and they stuck with it. Now, some of these guys are millionaires, and they are still doing what they love. It's a cool transition.
Every time I open up Netflix, I see On Any Given Sunday 1 and 2 ready for my queue. They are both such classics, and I see hints of them in your own work. Were you at all inspired by those two documentaries in making Nitro Circus: The Movie?
Travis Pastrana: Oh, yeah. Bruce Brown was the guy that made those movies. The first time I ever met him was up at a Rally Race, in central California. This guy is 80 years old. He does a huge jump, and he steps out of his car, and he is covered in dirt, and this is exactly the guy who would be making these movies. Anything that is made with so much passion is going to succeed, in my opinion. If you have so many people who are passionate about what they do, other people are going to eventually want to be a part of it. For me, On Any Given Sunday was that film. It's why I got a motorcycle. Its what got me into motorcycling. I am thankful that someone had that foresight to capture that part of America. It used to be a very European thing. If you are the best in the entire world, no one really cares. But if you are the USA champion? You are in for the win!
Myself...Like you said...I used to ride around with no helmet, no hands on the handle bars. But I took one too many spills, landing on my face, and eventually, at a young age, I said enough! Having taken those same kind of falls as we all do when riding a dirt bike or a BMX bike, or a skateboard, what drove you to continue doing it? Do you enjoy the pain?
Travis Pastrana: (Laughs) I came from a family of jocks, who were all into football, and lacrosse. They were all-state American wrestlers. This and that. I was the runt of the family. If I could get a motor under me, that was the only time I could show off. It was the only time I could impress anyone. I had to jump from a higher bridge. Or a higher tree. Or push myself off that rope swing. For me, the motorcycle was an avenue that the rest of my family wasn't very strong in. They couldn't show off, and be superior from an athletic standpoint. That's one of the reasons I took it up so much.
Did you ever had that one defining accident as a kid? Or have you always remained fairly safe in what you are doing in terms of riding your motorcycle?
Travis Pastrana: I have had way more accidents than most people. If you're going to be stupid, you better be tough. When you ride a motorcycle without a helmet, you will bust your eye open. You better not cry, it's that type of mentality. That is what I have always done. I wear as much protection as possible. And you learn from your mistakes. You don't make the same ones twice, that's for sure. But in this profession, you can forget things, so you always have more mistakes to make.
I'm not sure how to word this next question right. I know safety is always important. But I have this DVD here, in front of me. And it is plastered with bright yellow warning signs all over it. I have to imagine, when you were growing up, and you were getting into the extreme sports movement, if you saw a warning like that, you wouldn't have paid much attention to it. How do you think being overly cautious with all of these big bright warnings affects the next generation of kids who might be less willing to take this career on?
Travis Pastrana: The thing about what we are doing in the movie? You can't, at ten years old, unless your parents are millionaires, go on top of a fifty-three story skyscraper and base jump off of it. There are a lot of things you can't do. Most of the stuff in our film is out there. But you know what, I do encourage kids to get out, and instead of playing video games, go ride their bike, or get on a motorcycle. For every five parents, there is one who says, "Do you know how you've inspired my kids to get out and be more physical? It also inspires them to do better in school, and get better grades, and this and that." There is always at least one parent who says, "I came home, and there was a motocross track that my kid dug with a shovel out in my front yard." It depends on which way you look at it. I hope the movie inspires kids to get off the couch. I hope it inspires kids to go out and make something of their life. I hope it inspires people to chase their passion. Obviously, you can't say, "Go jump a Big Wheel from building to building." Or, "Why don't you go do something stupid?" You can't do that without a lot of preparation. You can't do that without a lot of time and determination. If you are passionate enough about it, I hope you get good enough to go and do this yourself. I'm sure that's not what the studio wants to hear. But I'm proud of what I do. I am proud of my friends. And I am proud of the people we have inspired to go be more active.
You guys really push it to the limit in this movie. Its already proven to be quite popular, and is going to grow even more so now that its on Blu-ray and DVD...Do you hold anything back, knowing there is going to be a sequel? Or is it no holds barred out of the gate, with the worry of topping yourself to come later? Cause looking at this, it's going to be pretty hard to top yourself...
Travis Pastrana: For us, the biggest motivation in doing this movie...MTV always said, "You can't do this. And you can't do that. None of this is going to work." For the movie, we self funded it, and we weren't sure any of this stuff was going to work, or if we'd even be able to do this. To be able to do it with your friends, to handle this big risk, and then to do it in 3D...That was a huge cost...We had to get the cameras, and a camera crew that could operate this thing. The difficult thing for us wasn't thinking, "How can we top this next time?" It was always, "How can we have the most possible fun this time?" Honestly, the day you stop pushing your limits...There is no amount of money that would make us give up in trying. So, we have a million other things we want to do. It's a different skill set. It's a job. It's a profession. You have to complete the risks, and then you have to get up and make it keep working. Hopefully this DVD does really well. Hopefully they ask for another one. And when they do, we are going to have a lot of fun. If we have a bigger budget next time? Then we will make it even bigger!
This is a "movie". How do you work through finding the right moments to place between those times when there isn't a big stunt happening? How do you connect the dots and continue to make the narrative engaging for people?
Travis Pastrana: This is where guys like Tommy Passemante come in. And Jolene Van Vugt is very adamant that she is not the token girl. If she does not have a big enough part of the action, she's like, "Take it out! I don't want to be the girl on the sidelines making jokes. I'm the girl that is in there." So, it does become difficult. But then, like I said, we do have Tommy. Most of these guys are athletes. Then you have Tommy. He hopes that one day, maybe these movies will be big enough that he can break into acting. But he is so genius. With how he portrays himself. The stuff he makes fun of. Stuff that doesn't require much psychical activity, yet it keeps things going from shot to shot. (Laughs) All of the guys are pretty funny.
So you have no aspirations to go out and act, and be in other movies?
Travis Pastrana: I'd love to produce. I have written a few scripts. I would love to write and direct a movie. But I want to be behind the camera. Being in front of the camera is only good when you are getting to do what you want to do. I don't want to be any more famous. I just want to do really cool things for a living. Honestly, with our first DVDs, I filmed most of it, edited it, directed, if you will, a lot of the stuff. With this film, that was a lot more difficult. Because there was more of a financial involvement. The editors were a lot better. I sat with them while they were doing a lot of this stuff. I just followed our director Gregg Godfrey's lead. I realized that there couldn't be more than one leader. Gregg Godfrey did a great job. He was the guy we went to. His direction was so straight forward. When he spoke, everyone listened. It was cool to see that, if you have a vision, whether other people believe or they don't believe, if you are passionate about it...I was just driven. We'd say, "If we believe this is going to work, then lets do it." That is a scary thing when you are talking about stunts. But we all believed in it. I was so proud of Gregg Godfrey for this.