Interview: WON'T BACK DOWN - The Filmmakers

Nov 25, 2013
by Scott Secco  


Views: 107,228    Faves: 327    Comments: 9


What is Won’t Back Down about?

PORTER: Won’t Back Down is a film about Steve Peat. It’s a film about his career racing and it touches on the history of the sport through Steve’s eyes. Basically it’s a documentary about Steve Peat’s life.

LAWLOR: Won't Back Down put simply, is the life story of one of the most successful and mentally strong athletes ever.

Does Won’t Back Down follow the typical action sport segment-based movie format or is it a more of a traditional documentary?

PORTER: It’s definitely more of a traditional documentary. Steve’s life is based around the fact that he’s a World Cup racer so it’s pretty focused on his racing obviously, but other parts of the film step away from racing and into his personal life a bit. The movie follows the traditional biographical documentary format.

LAWLOR: This documentary will be as much a story of Steve's life and career as it will be a history lesson of the sport itself, so I would say it follows the traditional documentary style which is both daunting and exciting for the both of us as it will be our first project of this style.

What do you think of the movie?

PORTER: You finish these projects and you just invest so much time in them. You have five days in a row after you finish it where you lose sight of how good it is. I’m proud of the film and I’m excited to see people’s reaction. I hope we’ve done justice to Steve’s story.

An American an Irishman and a crane in the depths of Wharncliffe polishing off the introduction to the movie. Moving this amount of equipment through the woods is no easy task but Clay won t settle for anything other than the best.
  An American, an Irishman, and a crane in the depths of Wharncliffe polishing off the introduction to the movie. Moving this amount of equipment through the woods is no easy task but Clay won't settle for anything other than the best.

With a career as long as Peaty’s was it hard deciding which stories to tell?

PORTER: That was one of the biggest challenges with the movie. Steve is 39, so you basically have 39 years to cover. His racing career is over 20 years. We asked ourselves constantly ‘’what stories do you tell?’’ It’s part of being a filmmaker; you need to be able to assess what stories are most important. And what stories not to tell. It’s certainly not even a case of telling all the stories where he won World Cups, it’s honestly a film about losing in a way too. Because Steve has probably lost more races than he won.

LAWLOR: There are so many stories to tell and obviously not all of them will make them into the film. A lot of these decisions on what to include and what not to include were based on what archaic footage exists. In a lot of cases stories that we wanted to tell could not be included, but that's not to say that some amazing moments weren't captured. Viewers will be blown away by what footage was captured, but never seen by the public. You have to remember that Steve spent most of his career racing in a time when there was no Twitter, Facebook, instagram or Youtube, so all of this footage was preserved and has remained pretty much unseen since it was recorded. There are too many people to mention here who have given to the project, but the main contributor, particularly of this old footage, is Steve himself.

Was Steve’s World Championship win the reason you decided to make the movie?

PORTER: When Steve won the World Champs that was kind of the race and the catalyst where John and I decided we really wanted to do the movie. It was kind of the race and event where the movie really made sense. Even before Canberra Worlds the idea was kind of in the pipeline. Lawlor went to Canberra and stayed with Steve, he was doing the Santa Cruz Syndicate web videos that he’s done forever, but he normally wouldn’t stay with them during the race. Going into Canberra I was like ‘’dude we might do this movie on Steve, you should see if you can stay with these guys because Steve could win.’’ If Steve hadn’t won it, there’s a good chance we’d have done the movie but the fact that he did win the race, when he won, that was when we knew we’d make the movie and do it well. Not that we’d do any projects to not do them well, but that was really ‘’holy shit this movie has potential to be way more than we thought it could be.’’

Do you have any unseen footage from the World Championships or Steve's other major races?

PORTER: Maybe there were a few clips that made it into Lawlor’s Syndicate edit that came out a couple days after the race in 2009 but even the best stuff that was captured that weekend was saved. There are a lot of races in the film that maybe people think they know about but we’ve got a lot of footage that’s never been seen. It’ll be cool for people to see some of the stuff that we’ve been holding on to forever.

Rob Warner rehydrates after nearly two hours in the hot seat divulging story after story and keeping the whole crew laughing
  Rob Warner rehydrates after nearly two hours in the hot seat, divulging story after story and keeping the whole crew laughing.

How long have you been working on this project?

PORTER: It’s been in the pipeline since the beginning of 2009 but working on it, this is really the year we’ve focused on it. 2009-2012 we met with Steve, did an interview here or there, when we’re at the races we’re asking him questions that we know will be useful in the edit. Really knuckling down and working on it has really only been this year. That being said, it’s been a five-year search, finding the footage and the photos that we needed to tell the story. It’s the most archive-footage heavy project we’ve ever done by a mile. We kind of had to become Steve Peat detectives. It wasn’t like we filmed with Steve, picked a song, and we’re done. We were watching old TV footage and there’d be a dude that had a camera we could see ‘’oh who was that?’’ We’d have to find out who that person was and how we can get a hold of them. And then ‘’do they even have the footage?’’ This was the year we actually did all the interviews for the film and shot the intro and a bunch of other stuff. We’ve been actively finding archived photos and footage for the past five years however.

LAWLOR: We had decided to make this documentary in June 2009, so the wheels were already long in motion before he won at Canberra. The process of writing this film has been an on-going process since then.

What’s the oldest footage you found?

PORTER: We have some footage form the early days of British mountain biking that one of the characters Dad’s shot.

LAWLOR: We have footage of Steve from some British National races from 1994, which was filmed by Andrew Titley's Dad. Of course we have been given every single Peat family photo from Elenor Peat (Steve's Mum), which is pretty cool to see.

Marc Beaumont is one of the many to benefit from Steve s support in the early years of his racing. Here he takes a seat in the makeshift studio at Peaty s to talk about his years of knowing Steve.
  Marc Beaumont is one of many to benefit from Steve's support in the early years of his racing. Here he takes a seat in the makeshift studio at Peaty's to talk about his years of knowing Steve.

Who else has contributed?

PORTER: Steve himself is the biggest contributor. In the early days of his career, late 90’s early 2000’s, Steve had a little Handycam that he was pretty good about filming with. Steve’s really been the biggest contributor. Taylor Congdon was incredibly helpful, he shot the whole ’99 season for Transcontinental and we went through all that raw footage. It was about 50 Mini-DV tapes that Lawlor went through a couple years ago. The list of photographers was huge too: we had stills from Malcolm Fearon, Geoff Waugh, Sven Martin, pretty much everybody who’s a major filmmaker or photographer that shot World Cup racing has been cool about giving us access into their archives. It’s been funny; the best footage that we’ve found has been the stuff Steve filmed. We’ve got amazing shots from weird sources, one of Lawlor’s friends was at the 2000 World Champs and shot a bunch of great stuff there. The best stuff we’ve found is full on Handycam footage and whoever shot it would have never thought it’d be used for anything, especially for a film. That’s where the realest footage exists. The stuff Steve shot is awesome because you can hear Steve in the background filming; it’s this amazing intimate access you get to Steve’s world. Steve leads the list of contributors but another big one is Freeride Entertainment, they shot a bunch of World Cups back in the day for the early New World Disorder videos so that was huge. Anthill Films gave us a couple recent shots too. The list of contributors is substantial and certainly the longest I’ve ever had on a project.

LAWLOR: There are too many people to mention here who have given to the project, but the main contributor, particularly of this old footage, is Steve himself.

Who’s helped on production?

PORTER: It’s been myself and John Lawlor. We directed and edited the film together, John wrote the film. I was involved a little but it was more or less John laying out Steve’s career and saying ‘’we should focus on this.’’ Then I would come in and oversee that a little bit. I was Director of Photography on the newer stuff that we shot. We scored a lot of the movie so there’s a composer, sound designer, music supervisor, and an art director. As far as the actual shooting and editing goes it was mainly myself and Lawlor.

Did you learn anything new about Peaty while making the film?

PORTER: I wouldn’t say I learned anything new about him. Even in 2009 I’d stayed at his place a ton and hung out with him quite a bit. I think doing this project reaffirmed everything I always knew about him: he’s just a f*cking awesome human. It’s been such a cool project getting to know Steve better. He’s this person that Lawlor and myself have always respected and admired so much. Any time you’re able to spend time with someone you respect and admire it’s a rad opportunity. I didn’t learn anything crazy new, I always knew Steve is a rad person but he’s even radder than I thought before I started the project.

LAWLOR: I have learned that throughout his career he has not lost any of his drive or ability to win races. If Steve turns up at a race, people shit themselves, which is pretty amazing for a 39 year old.

Unless you re one of the few in the world that can stay ahead of Steve on a DH bike you re going to need a motor to get shots like this
  Unless you're one of the few in the world that can stay ahead of Steve on a DH bike you're going to need a motor to get shots like this!

Why do you think Steve is so popular with race fans?

PORTER: I think people can relate to him. A lot of times in sports, not necessarily just in mountain biking or cycling for that matter, there’s a lot of top athletes that get so caught up in being an athlete. There’s definitely a formula for being an athlete: eat all the right foods, don’t drink alcohol, and go to bed at 10pm sharp. Steve follows that to a degree but at the same time he’s just a normal dude who happens to be really good at racing his bike. If you take away the bike he’s still a cool dude and I think people can see that pretty easily. You can tell he’s an honest person. You meet certain people and those are people you respect and admire more than others and Steve falls into that category, he’s a very real person. He’s passionate about the sport and people respect that. That’s why he has such a big fan base, it’s not necessarily because he’s won more World Cups than anybody else or any of the stats that he has, although that’s really important, but it’s more the fact that he’s a cool dude. I think at the end of the day people respect him because he’s a real dude and he loves to ride his bike.

LAWLOR: It's clear to see both personally, and looking through all of his old footage that his attitude towards racing hasn't changed since day one. He knows when to turn it on and when to relax and have a beer and chill out. It's this balance between knowing how to be fast and knowing how to be himself around his fans that has made him so approachable, and therefore popular among everyone who has heard of him. He is honestly one of the nicest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting.

When approaching a project like this, where you’re documenting a beloved icon of the sport, do you feel pressure as biographer?

PORTER: John and I put an insane amount of pressure on ourselves for this project. We want to do Steve’s story justice. In terms of pressure related to a specific project this has been a f*cking 10/10 in this category, there’s been so many times in the past year that I’ve been ‘’holy shit, what the f*ck did I sign up for?’’ I guess if it were easy, somebody would have already done it. I’m in a position now where I’m really confident that we’ve done a good job in telling Steve’s story and we’ve created a project that I think really represents Steve well. I’ve gone through more stress with this project than with any others. John and I signed up for it and it’s good because we want it to be the best it can be.

It’s different than any of my others projects too. For 3 Minute Gaps or The Atherton Project or Four By Three you do it, and then if you don’t do it the way you wanted to, you just do 3 Minute Gaps 2 or the next season of the show. With this project there is no second chance, we won’t do Won’t Back Down 2. That’s where the pressure comes from, we really have one chance to tell Steve’s story and we want to do the best job we can. The film’s in a place right now where I’m confident we’ve done an awesome job. I’m happy with where it’s at. Put it this way, I’m on my f*cking World Champs race run and I can see the finish line and I’ve had a good run. It’s like f*ck yeah, you’re starting to celebrate but you don’t want to celebrate too much.

LAWLOR: Obviously there is quite a bit pressure with a project this huge, but the opportunity that myself and Clay have been given on this project comes once in a lifetime. Getting our heads around it has not been an easy task and I would be lying if I said I haven't woken up in a cold sweat thinking about the enormity of the project. Hopefully we can do the story justice and make a really cool film.

Bringing on board some of the steadiest hands in the industry. Robbie Meade has worked the steadicam on countless shorts that no doubt you may have seen without realising
  Bringing on board some of the steadiest hands in the industry. Robbie Meade has worked the steadicam on countless shorts, many of which you've probably seen without realizing it. From Imaginate with Danny MacAskill to Won't Back Down with Peaty, he's captured the goods.

What do you think is the key to Peaty’s success and longevity?

PORTER: I think he just loves what he does. I think Steve’s probably the best example of that of anyone I’ve ever met in my life. When you love something it’s not work. Steve loves to ride his bike and he loves racing his bike. He doesn’t just love riding or racing, he loves everything about it. He loves traveling; he loves getting to the course, walking the track. He loves the process. When you love the process, whether it’s mountain bike racing or filmmaking, if you enjoy what you’re doing then success is a natural byproduct of that. It’s not work. I mean obviously it’s hard work but in the grand scheme of it if you love what you’re doing then naturally you’re going to put everything into it. I think that’s been the key to Peaty’s success. He loves what he does and he loves life. His love for what he does is so pure. I think he’ll be the first to recognize that and he’s really humbled and stoked to be in the position he’s in.

LAWLOR: As he says it himself, he loves racing. I honestly think it comes second nature to him at this stage in his life.

What’s your favourite Peaty moment?

PORTER: The obvious answer would be Canberra Worlds in 2009. At that point I’d shot the World Cups for a number of years and myself and every other mountain biker around the world felt the same - they were stoked he’d finally done it. If I’m dead honest I never thought he’d win World Champs. It was 2009 and dare I say it but he was getting older. I was just so stoked because I knew how much it meant to him and to all his fans. It was a weekend I’ll never forget. It was the raddest mountain bike race I’ve ever been to because Peaty won and it was at a time when a lot of people didn’t think he was going to win, including myself.

How has Peaty’s career changed over the past decade? How does he balance his schedule?

PORTER: It’s tough to say how it’s changed because the entire time I’ve known Steve he’s been a father. I never knew him when he wasn’t a dad. I did meet Steve when Jake was probably six months old. I met him in September 2005 and Jake was born January 2005. As far as Steve’s ability to balance family life and all that, he’s just one of those people where it’s impossible for him not to be doing something. It’s gnarly how much shit he has on his plate and how freely and easily he’s able to balance it all. He’s one of those people who’s always active. He’s always doing something. You don’t really see Steve chilling too often. Even when he’s home, he’ll go to his neighbors house and build something with him. It’s a great trait to have when you want to do the kind of stuff that Steve wants to do.

LAWLOR: Seeing Steve at home with Adele, Jake, and George is pretty amazing. He seems to be able to slip back into family life. I think for Steve knowing that they're waiting for him after every race must be a huge boost to want to keep winning. If you think about it, it was racing that gave him everything in his life, including his family. I think the balance simply comes naturally.

Working in the unnaturally high heat in the UK means a tactical retreat to the not so hot tub to clear the mind
  Working in the unnaturally high heat of last summer in the UK meant a tactical retreat to the not-so-hot tub to clear the mind!

What do you think Steve will do when he finally retires from racing World Cups? Will he race enduro, become a photo/video athlete, or move on to something else?

PORTER: That’s the thing, he still loves riding and racing his bike so why stop? He continues to impress me with his motivation to keep racing and his results. He was 6th and 9th at the last two World Cups so I don’t see him winning World Cups like he once did but he’s still a podium contender. I’d be surprised if he won the World Cup title next year, but at the same time I would have said the same thing going into Canberra Worlds and f*ck, Worlds are in Norway next year so who knows? It’s one of those cases where he’s just got to do what makes him happy. If he loses the buzz for racing World Cups, which I don’t really see happening any time soon, I certainly see him riding bikes for the rest of his life. It’s his call whether filming and shooting photos makes him happy or racing enduro makes him happy. Steve is a competitor, I can’t see him being too psyched to go out and shoot photos as a career. I can’t really see him leaving racing. When he does stop racing World Cups, I still see him on the side of the track, maybe coaching the British National Team. I could see him doing a number of things. Racing is so deep in Steve’s blood that it’s going to be a long time until he’s completely removed from mountain bike racing and I don’t think he’ll ever be removed from riding mountain bikes.

LAWLOR: I don't know what Steve's plans for his future are, but I'd be willing to bet that it involves some kind of racing. The crazy thing about Steve is that he is still capable of winning a World Cup race, so in my eyes he should keep racing them for as long as that ability and drive is in him.

What do you think is Peaty’s legacy? How does he want to be remembered?

PORTER: He’ll be remembered for being a top pro in the sport and for having the longest career. I don’t think that’s what people care about though; mostly he’ll be remembered for being a cool dude. He’ll be remembered as this dude from Sheffield who always had a smile and liked drinking beer and liked having fun and was a great bike racer. I think he’ll be remembered for those traits more than the stats of his career.

LAWLOR: It's hard to say what Steve will be remembered for as he has done, and is continuing to do so much for the sport. I guess he will be remembered for redefining what is possible in the sport as far as career longevity is concerned. Above all, he will be remembered simply as a really nice guy.

Film directors: Clay Porter and John Lawlor
Still Photography: Duncan Philpott

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scottsecco avatar

Member since Sep 18, 2009
1,013 articles

  • 16 0
 It might be a longshot that the producers of this film see this, but is there any chance of getting the dialogue subtitled for the deaf and hard if hearing folks that want to buy this film? There's been lots of dialogue in the newer mtb films and I find I have to crank up the volume and try to really hear the dialogue over the music to get what is being said. Not a huge deal, but subtitles would be nice for a documentary style movie.
  • 15 1
 I love these kind of articles! So much insight and passion involved. Peaty is da man!
  • 3 0
 "He’ll be remembered as this dude from Sheffield who always had a smile and liked drinking beer and liked having fun and was a great bike racer." - I think that may be the best description of Steve Peat. Waiting anxiously for the film release...
  • 5 0
 He used to be my hero when I was first getting into mountain biking at the age of 10, I'm now 25 and nothing's changed. Pretty incredible!
  • 1 0
 awesome guy, and awesome news about this project

recently saw "The miserable champion" about Palmer, which was very interesting

very keen to see this movie about Steve Peat

can someone do one about Warner, because that guy has certainly done some interesting stuff in his life!

warner in action at my old pump track:
  • 1 0
 Peat is a nice guy. He's the reason I ride and race today. Finally after many years I got my chance to meet him and shake his hand, and have a lil chat about racing world cups and travels. Definitely an inspiration to all. And to top it off, I work with someone who's wife is Steve's cousin. Go Peaty Go!
  • 1 0
 got tickets to watch this in sheffield can't wait wot a guy…. after every thing he's done he's still 1 of the boys thats got time for every 1….SHEFFIELD STEEL NUFF SAID….
  • 3 0
 Could be nice to have some worlds on Peat from Sam Hill and Nico Vouilloz
  • 3 0
 This film is gonna be epic extreme!
  • 2 0
 Never back down, Steve! A true legend.
  • 2 1
 "that some amazing moments weren't carpeted" damn you autocorrect.

cant wait to see the film!!!
  • 2 0
 Top quality article Scott !
  • 1 0
 The guy is what mountainbiking is all about. Absolute legend. G'wan Cappucino Steve!
  • 2 0
 So excited to see this.
  • 1 0
 can't wait for the movie Smile
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 f*cking legend....!!! (sorry my french, but it's called for...)
  • 1 0
 The GODFATHER of DH!!! Looking forward to seeing this one! Smile
  • 1 0
 Top fuckin man Peaty!
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