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PRO: Interview with the Filmmaker: Part Two
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 11/15/2004
PRO: Interview with the Filmmaker: Part Two

Please read Part One of the interview: PRO - Cycling Documentary: Interview with the Filmmaker

Part Two

I hadn’t looked at the film in that way (I have to see it again), but basically you’ve got all these characters who have a particular strength, or they’re at a particular point in their career, or in a particular position and you’ve put this all together...

It is representative of the sport as a whole, because as a pro rider you do a hundred races a year, no matter what team you're on, really no matter who you are. Your form comes and goes. And as your form comes and goes, and as other guys' forms on your team comes and goes, and as you go to different events that play to your strengths or play against you and expose your weaknesses, your role, especially in the US, will shift somewhat, and that gives you, as a rider, multiple perspectives in which to approach different events, each time you go.

For this race, in this film, we took the biggest, best event, and let the biggest, best riders tell their perspective of what this race is. But, if you tried to take the movie and take these riders, and then look at the rest of the season and the other events, you may see: Well, here's a different race, the same team, but this rider, Bobby Julich, is going to have a different role. Gord Fraser is going to have a different role at Lancaster than he will at Trenton. It shifts around. That's why we did it the way we did it, and why I sort of directed the guys the way I did during the interviews.

That reminds me of how you showed Pate when he got done - okay, this is what he was here to do, and it's not to win, not to be in the top five, it's to execute this work...

To do that job on that day, that race, this particular thing based on his fitness and his team's fitness. That's what you do as a pro - you know, I think Pate was third there a couple years ago - he's been in the front selection, he has the goods to do that. On that day, on that Sunday, in 2004, he, for whatever reason, he didn't feel he had the goods to do that and other guys in his team did, so his role shifts this year.

Pate and Sayers. Courtesy PRO.

That's right, and to watch him, that was completely fine with him. Which is another really interesting dynamic of racing - that you know this will change from venue to venue, and that's what's neat about using US PRO [as a backdrop]. Another thing about using US PRO is that the person who's never been to watch the race, or not seen it on coverage on tv, who does not live locally...

Abysmal coverage, by the way. (Laughing)

(Laughing) Well, we won't say anything about that.

Well, I will. (Laughing)

...the fact is, you actually walk your viewer through lap by lap - what a clever way to do it. Because I have never seen the race in person, and I had no idea - I knew it was brutal, but I had no particulars on why it was so hard. And you can see it - here's a great race, and here's why it's a great race.

I hope so - if I had to pick one goal for myself as a filmmaker, in any film - in The Hard Road, in this film - if I can do that, then I feel like I've accomplished something. If I can take the viewer, and make them sit down and have even an inkling of what it's like to be in that world, to experience it as it happens, then I feel like I've accomplished something. To me that's drama, and that's film. That's what great film does, it takes the viewer, puts them in any world they're unfamiliar with, and when they're done, they feel like, "Man, I know what it feels like to live in that world." That was the goal from the onset, and I hope that people get that about these races and US PRO especially, and know what it's like to actually be there.

The style of the film, the way I had it shot and how I edited it especially, was for that reason in particular, was to make people feel, I hope, just by watching, what it's like to be there, not to do so much exposition and tell them, because that's a different thing. That's what you do when you write editorial, you have to try to describe to them, but in film you can have them be immersed and see it, and hopefully, just by watching, they know. That was a major goal of the film.

And again, that's what makes The Hard Road and PRO so special. You're on the other side of it now as a retired rider, but you know where to be, what to look for and what is going on so intimately that you can zero in on "this is what I want to show." Some of the things I saw - literally, it's nothing you would see on television, or even if you were riding in a team car for the entire race, there are things you wouldn't see at all, because you can only see it through a rider's eyes.

That's right, by being right there with them. And even at the side of the road, you just don't get it. You can't. That's why we were so lucky to get the footage that we got.

The one thing that is interesting to me is that, not through any fault of their own, but with most fans and most riders, and even most Category 1's and 2's, there's a kind of skewed perspective of what they - and this is just from my own experience of talking to many people over the years about the sport - of what they know about the sport and what they've been exposed to. It's no fault of their own - as we've talked about, there's just no place to go - but one of the particular things that's interesting is the hierarchy, not only within the teams, but within the peloton, and the expectations of the peloton, of different teams, and by different teams, based on what they hope to accomplish in races.

And this race, in this movie, gives such a great opportunity for the fans to go in there and actually see the reality of how these guys approach a race and an event. What I mean is, you look at a team like CSC or Health Net, and you look at the hierarchy within the team and what each guy's role is on that day, and that's one way to understand the sport, but an even broader, deeper way, is to look at teams like that and then look at teams like Colavita or Ofoto and you get the perspective of each of those teams' plans, and then how they, as the film unfolds, how they try to react to their plans, as needed, in order to do what they hope they can do as a team.

In other words: Let's face it, CSC's expectations for the race are drastically different than Ofoto's or even Colavita's or even Webcor's. And so by being able to present all of these different perspectives, I hope the fan can get a feel for the hierarchy of the peloton, and why the teams are doing what they're doing when they're doing it. Why is CSC not chasing now, why is Postal chasing now when they didn't chase last lap; why, now that there's a different breakaway up the road, do the Navigators not have to chase? Why don't they have to chase?

If people can watch the film, and it would take more than one viewing, obviously, and each of the fans that's interested start looking at each of the teams and figure out what's going on in the race at that time - you know, pro racing is very specific, and a lot of riders, even neo-pros, don't understand that.

Especially in a 160 mile race, you have to be very, very specific with the energy that you and your team have, and figuring out when and how to use that energy to best give your team a chance at whatever it is you're after, whether it be a win, a podium, a top ten, whatever - that's pro racing.

Not every team goes in thinking, "You know what? We're gonna dominate, and we're gonna win." They just don't do that. They know. Pro racing, there's so much truth in it. We talked about this a lot in The Hard Road, the word truth - so there's so much truth in it - if you're Ofoto or if you're even a Colavita, you can't go in and say, "You know what, we are gonna stomp these guys into the ground and we're going one, two, three."  It's an exaggeration, but to prove the point, you can't do that.

No, not when you've got a CSC there...

...and a Postal. You can't do it! You need to say, "Okay, here's what we have to work with, how can we figure out" - now we're talking tactics - "how can we figure out how to best use what we have to get us the best result today." And I hope that the film really exposes that.

There's a certain point in the film where you cut from team to team and the directeurs sportif are saying, "This is going to be the key lap," and bam-bam-bam, every one of them says the same thing! But that doesn't mean that every team will have the same tactic on that lap.

Yeah, every team won't go into that situation the same, but every team at the top - again, we're at the US Pro Championships and these are the best teams - every team that has a chance there has one or two guys on the team who really know what the hell they're talking about. And you can see, through the film, who it is that takes the leadership role and how the other guys respond to him, and the respect that's given. That's the other great thing I think that the really film shows, that is the mutual respect all these guys have for one another.

Feuds or disputes aside, that's something that really comes through: That there is a very deep sense of comraderie - and you see it. There's a couple points in the film where that really struck me. It's different than working in a office where you think, "God, you know, I have to go back to work again, and this person is such a pain..." I'm sure there will always be that, but these guys - this is such a demanding thing that they do, and it's so intensive, and they're all doing the same thing. It's not like someone can really, truly sit on his butt, because he's still pedalling.

Yeah, nobody's fakin' it. There is no faking it in pro cycling.

And so I think what that does is put a "minimum bar" of mutual respect there, whether the personalities work together or not.

Absolutely! Horner has the whole thing in the film where he's talking about the "good ole boy network" which is an even more advanced version, because he's talking about within the peloton, but those are the guys who, first of all, have broken through and been able to even be in that peloton. For everybody who's going to watch this film that only dreams about it, you're just not even getting in! You're not gonna be privileged to be sitting around with these guys, swapping stories, and having the mutual respect that will give you the information that you would like to have, but I hope that the film will give them that.

Chris Horner. Courtesy PRO.

That actually raises the point of armchair fans, not to disparage them in any way, but who think they understand what it's like, because I just don't think it's possible.

No, it's not. It's not. We hope, through this film and through The Hard Road and whatever else I do, if I do more on the sport, that we can give some understanding to those fans, and these guys [the riders] want to give it to them, there's just no way to do it - in the past there hasn't been.

That's one thing that you see when you go to Europe and you look at the European fan base, because of the press over there, and because the coverage is so much greater, they do have a much higher degree of understanding of what's going on; they have the history, they have the cultures, and I think that gives them a greater appreciation. That's what I hope the fans here in the United States can get from this film.

And I assume that the riders that you worked with had that as a goal too, so that fans could get a better sense of them and what they do.

Absolutely. These guys are smart, and they know that there's a fan base out there that is really interested in what they do, and they, I think, understood that here's a chance for these fans to come along for the ride. I think that's why we got the degree of cooperation that we got from these guys.

Cool - well, it's a helluva ride, I'll tell you that! I can't wait to watch the movie again.

That's good! I'm anxious to hear what people think, and I'm anxious to hear the questions that are spawned from watching the film - and I'll tell you one last thing.

When I made The Hard Road, I walked the fence a little bit, between making the film for what I felt was the cycling fan in the United States, and making the film for someone who didn't know anything about cycling. I never fully committed one way or the other, and I think there are points in the film that show that. There are places in The Hard Road where it's a little bit elemental, I guess, for a reason. I had hoped that people who didn't know anything about the sport would be able to watch the movie and be entertained by it as a story, and interested in it just as an intriguing picture of a world they knew nothing about, and we did get that.

But on PRO, I realized that there is so much information out there and there's so much entertainment out there, that I said, "You know what? I'm just going to make this film strictly for people who are interested in the sport. For someone who knows nothing about the sport, if they want to watch it, if the film's good enough, it's good enough, and it will interest them. But you know what? I'm not directing or writing the film with that in mind. This is strictly for someone who wants to know about cycling, or loves it, or is interested in the sport."

And so that, I think, is something that will make the film have longevity, and even a Category 1 rider, no matter what your level, can watch this film and get something from it, new each time, because it is so dense. But it does assume a certain amount of interest in the sport. It doesn't start off like the other film [The Hard Road] by saying, "Cycling is a team sport."

(Laughter) But by the same token, I think that a cycling fan's education evolves.


So maybe where you might miss the mark with somebody who knows nothing, I think there's layers of understanding that can be gotten; just as a guy comes up the categories and he learns more, and he gains more skills, I think cycling fans are the same way. Just in the last two and a half years, going from knowing nothing about cycling, to having to learn about the sport and becoming a fan of it myself, I know that there's very definite echelons, if you will, of understanding. All of a sudden you think, "Oh my God, I don't know anything about this. What is this all about?"

Oh, I know. It's true!

So I think that this is a movie that can be watched more than once. There are movies, for example, that you watch every couple of years, and I really think that this will be that kind of a film.

I hope so. That's the most important thing - everything else aside, is the film entertaining? Do you enjoy it? I think just strictly as a piece of entertainment, I think we did hit the mark.

Oh yes. That's a helluva race. You really get the idea of how hard these guys work. And for how long. I just don't know of a sport that compares in terms of the effort and the time expended, just on a particular race, on a given day.

No, there's nothing even close.

Thanks very much to Jamie for such a great interview, and we wish you great success!

 If you are interested in purchasing the movie PRO on DVD, click here for ordering information.

Courtesy PRO.

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PRO - Cycling Documentary: Interview with the Filmmaker

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