Leaving behind a passionately pursued 17 year career in racing bikes is not without a certain sadness for Jamie Paolinetti, but he'll be anything but idle.
Over the past two years, Jamie has made a documentary about American cycling as seen through the eyes of a first year squad. Following the progress of the NetZero cycling team through one season's ups and downs, the film gives us an inside view of the daily life and struggles of a first year team on the American circuit. From the relationships between the riders, to the success or failure of race plans, from the elation of hard-won victories to the uncertainty of a season that ends without the promise of continuation, the film lets us into the world of these athletes who give so much to the sport, and whose rewards are little more than the satisfactions the job affords.
In the final installment of this three part interview, Jamie tells us about his hopes for the what the film can do for US cycling, how he believes the sport offers a metaphor for an honorable life, and why he thinks professional cycling provides such a rich canvas for human drama.
Jamie wrote, directed and edited the film, and is currently in the process of casting for a final voice over. He hopes to make the film available this spring, and the Daily Peloton will bring you details and updates as to the progress.
How did you decide to make the your movie?
Well, I wrote the treatment for this film in 1994 when I retired the first time. I wrote it because when I retired at that time, I'd basically been in it for, really, my whole adult life. When I got out of it, I went to work as the editor of Bicycle Guide magazine, so I was in the world of it, but outside of the world of it, and I'd always felt that there was such misunderstanding of what that world was actually like.
You can't get a feel for a lot of sub-cultures without really seeing it, and I really wanted to tell that story. I started by writing articles for the magazine, and I wanted to make a film, but didn't have the ability or experience to do it, and I ended up going to film school at UCLA. That's when the movie started.
Where are you with it? Is the film finished?
I'm at the point where it's mostly done, and I'd like to make it available at the beginning of the year. I'm looking for a distribution partner, and I need to make some changes to the music and voiceover, but then I want to get it out there.
What I hope is that it becomes part of the culture of the sport and offers one aspect of a way to see it. I think it will give people who have no way of knowing this stuff to have a chance to see and experience what the sport is about. On another level, I hope it will speak about sport in general, and about all the things that our sport in specific offers, all the sacrifice and struggle, all the camaraderie, integrity and honesty of it. I hope people will get that out of it.
What are those things, and how does the sport offer them?
It's those values. I think our sport is different because there's nowhere to hide in it. At some point in the race, you just have what you have, and that's it. Yes, it's a team sport, and yes, you're more likely to better on a better team, but this sport weeds people out very effectively. You have no chance of faking it.
The best theatre teacher I ever had said something about drama, and it was that "the truths are in the pauses." I think that's true, that the truths of things are in the undercurrents and are revealed in the pauses, I hope I've done that with this film.
What do you mean by that?
Well, it's in those moments that take place between individuals sometimes, or with individuals on their own where the truth is so apparent just by looking at the picture, and it isn't really in what the subject matter is actually saying. The phrase "the truth is in the pauses" comes from theater, because when characters are having exchanges or moments together, the dialogue is really only a precursor or an afterthought to an emotional experience that the characters have already had together.
You can carry that sense over right into the sport itself. If you have a group of guys heading into the last lap together, 7 guys, and everybody wants to win. In my film, at the USPRO road race, six guys are heading to the line together, and before the fireworks start to happen, everyone's looking at each other, everyone knows what has happened, and they know what the other guys have left. They all know, and they have to plan their tactics accordingly. The truth is in that pause before the last moves. What I hope I've done is show rather than telling that; and that in my film, people will be able to see it, make their own decisions, and have their own emotional experiences.
It's not just in informational documentary form. I've tried to put it in story structure, and make it cinematic in it's delivery. I think it has protagonists and antagonists, and I hope it doesn't hit the delivery of what I'm trying to say on the nose too often, and that people will see it and take some of the subtext with the surface. I think there's a lot in it about character and the individuals involved.
You've tried to approach it as a narrative...
Listen, if I were just a filmmaker, and had never been a professional cyclist at all, professional bike racing, and the sub-culture that surrounds it would still present such a great canvas for story-telling, that I'd be a fool not to try to tell that story in a cinematic way. All of human emotion is there: all the suffering, all the sacrifice, all the elation, all the pain and misery, all the honor and integrity. All the important things about life are in the sport and it's surroundings, and that's what I hope people will see in the film. It's not really just a story about a bunch of bike racers. Bike racing is the world in which we get to see a bunch of things and metaphors about people.
Do you see a relationship between sport and art?
Yeah. for me, theater, or poetry is a good example of something that takes the most basic situations or the most basic words and arranges them so that we are able to feel things, that those words or things won't let us feel until you arrange them in a certain fashion, and present them in series with a relationship between them, and that allows us to feel complex and deeply emotional things that we feel in our lives.
Sport is the same way, and it's very intensified. I think sport offers us a playing field on which the emotions of life can be put out there in the most basic way.
You've said to me that for you, cycling presents a metaphor for an honorable life, and that you hope it's one of the things people see in your film. Can you tell me what you mean by that?
Well, mostly because there's just so much truth in it, in the sense that you're judged, and your success is based on real things: your ability, your willingness to work hard, your willingness to sacrifice for others, your willingness to do what's right for the team, all those things. You get rewarded for those things if you do well, and if you don't do it, you aren't rewarded. A hard, honest day's work, and the benefit of it is an honorable life, whether you're a doctor or a plumber, or whatever. I mean, how many people are out to actually put in a hard, honest day's work, for the good of the team, or for your fellow man. That's what cycling has.
I think in American culture, especially in the big cities, we really have a lot of respect for great wealth, and for getting over on the other guy, no matter how you have to do it. Like, "Great, you just made a big business deal, and you fucked a million people out of a million dollars and you're rich? Congratulations!" Cycling is the ultimate opposite end of that. Bike racing kind of takes all of these things, and proves them to be true. It gives you a winner, a loser, a guy who sacrificed for the winner, it shows you all of these people and what they got.
Cycling, more than a lot of other sports, really has a utopian ethic, as well; with so many of the rules being unwritten codes and respect for other riders such a big part of what makes a race...
Yes. In cycling, you can't get respect out there by faking it. Respect is hard earned and well earned. People who have that respect earned it with their life. That's a very important part of the sport.
It always seems remarkable to me that a lot of the guys are doing it for nothing on a financial level. It's all passion. In your film, the guys are making nothing, and they're working so hard for it!
Yeah, and it's not just that, it's also that their goals for themselves... all of them are realistic enough to know that they aren't going to be a Lance or a Hincapie. They're never going to be any of those guys, and they aren't doing it for that. They're doing it for the satisfaction that the life gives you.
When you do something like that, something that's extremely difficult, and you put everything you have into it, when you're finished you have a feeling, that, to me anyway, is better than having all the wealth in the world that your didn't earn. A lot of those people who are so wealthy are not true to themselves or living a life that I would want. You can be rich and have things... but the people that are in this sport, they're not in the sport for that. It's about the feeling that you get from doing well.
Another thing that I especially enjoy about your movie is that while there are recognizable names - you, Graeme Miller, Frankie Andreu - it's really about these struggling young guys. Was that something you went for especially?
Yeah. The movie can offer so many things, depending on what your knowledge of the sport is. I hope the film can go all across the board from those who have the slightest interest in the sport, to a pro on a big team, and that everyone will be entertained.
These guys in the film, first of all, it gives those people who will never get the chance to get on a pro team and even live the life of a struggling first-year pro, will get to feel a little bit of what it's like for them to line up at the line with Hincapie and Lance. Secondly, seeing the world of pro-bikers though the eyes of these guys, I mean, the film is a series of scenes that happen in that life, and those guys are representative of every cyclist out there, from the person racing for the first time to the pros in Europe, all of them will go through this roller-coaster of experiences that have to do with this world.
Although the movie is about those characters, it's really about every rider, and I definitely think people in our sport will enjoy it, but I think other people will to, because those emotions are things that everyone feels. Like you, you've never raced a day in your life, and don't intend to, but you can feel those emotion because you have had that emotional experience, too. You're able to feel for them.
It's the same thing as in a film: if the actor, director and writer have done a good job, then you really believe in the character, and you feel those feelings. My movie is really about shared human emotion. I hope people can see past the surface to get to that.
So the film is directed not just to the established cycling fan, but to sports fans in general?
Yeah. I think the movie can really draw people to our sport who might be on the bubble. If there's one thing I most hope for it, it's that. I hope people see it and get excited about our sport. I hope what I've tried to do here will draw people in.
Everyone from a cat 5 to a 2 to a 1 to a pro goes through these things at some level. It's all dependent on what your situation is. It's relative. The suffering is relative. Each guy's sacrifices are relative to their lives. What I hope is that anyone who has the values that if they work hard and sacrifice that they will get something out of it, even if they don't get rich and famous, and that is self-satisfaction, honor, respect and integrity. What I hope is that people see past this being just a bike-racing movie, and that all the people who do their 5K and 10K runs, and the group rides and the triathlons, and even people outside of sports - the writers and artists, the elementary school teachers in cities who do it because they love it, that people like that will get something out of the movie.
I hear that from everyone that sees it: that there's a piece in there for everyone that they can relate to very directly and hearing that makes me feel really good. I hope the film will cross boundaries and interest more than road cyclists; because for anyone, in order to do anything that's really difficult, there are these shared human experiences and these struggles and emotions.
I think that's why we love drama, and why we love sport.
Inquiries about Jamie or his film can be made in care of firstname.lastname@example.org