Words and photos by Ryan Kuhn
Sitting in the lounge of the Quaaout Lodge
on the shores of the Little Shuswap lake with Matt Hunter and the crew of the Collective, one of the cameramen returns to the table with a piece of paper that was slipped under the door of their room. He hands it to Darcy Wittenberg, one of the film’s key cinematographers/directors. A big smile grows across his face as he reads the note.
“My name is Tessa,” it starts, “I’m seven years old and am also an extreme mountain biker. Tomorrow is my birthday and it would make me really happy if you would put me in your film…”Darcy’s flattered, but as the crew is on a hectic schedule of filming, eating, filming, sleeping and filming, he knows they won’t have time. He recalls he has a few extra copies of last year’s film in his truck and pledges to give her a copy the next day. Another crew member’s enthusiasm is dampened when he learns he misheard and the birthday girl is seven, not seventeen…but I digress.
Such fanfare is not rare for Darcy and the Collective crew after their first film hit the silver screen with rave reviews, garnering 7 Bike Magazine reader poll awards and best cinematography at the X-Dance Film Festival. Their ability to stitch together high-quality 16mm footage with digital images, atmosphere sounds, soulful music and the best freeriders mountain cycling has to offer was a formula for world-wide success – a flick many say is the best ever for the sport, bringing wide appeal in and out of the mountain biking community.
Today, the Collective is at the Kamloops Bike Camp (KBC
) filming a line created especially for Matt Hunter by KBC owner/operator Chuck Brennan, called “The Caldron.” Chuck’s vision to create a bike camp destination that appeals to a wide range of riding styles and abilities – from huge road gaps and doubles gaping orchard trees to buff singletrack and aesthetic lines overlooking the Shuswap of British Columbia. It is a tale of hard work, focus and determination.
“My vision is to allow families to understand freeriding as part of mountain biking – to construct trails to appeal to mom and dad as well,” says Chuck. “The trails intersect with what the kids ride so parents can watch them ride and allows parents into the sport.”
While the fine family trails are coming together, Chuck and his crew have also kept a focus on the leading edge of the sport – a combination that caught the fancy of the Collective.
“The stuff we’ve been filming here has been really flowing stuff,” adds Darcy. “Mitch Cheek (Chuck’s big-line digger from Williams Lake) is a really good trail builder.”
The fit seems to be a natural for both the Collective and the KBC.
“What the Collective says is really what I feel in my heart,” adds Chuck. “My goal for an adventure provider is to offer what Darcy shows on the screen.”
After eating some bannock and refreshments, we load back into the trucks and head back up to the Caldron to film in the evening light. Tonight, Matty is dropping into “his” line – it’s one that few would consider, and even fewer survive.
The Caldron is an offshoot of Cebo’s Revenge, one of the nice steep singletrack lines at the KBC. The section, dubbed “the sticks,” starts with a road gap option – go right and hit a 12-foot ladder/road gap with a butter landing, go left and a skybridge ends in a 20-foot drop with a 25-plus-foot gap to the same landing. From there it banks right to go into a series of big doubles, a wicked hip and into a massive step-down. While Matty sessioned the doubles in the afternoon, this is the first time he’d hit the big drop.
As the crew sets up its skyline for one of their signature shots of upper Caldron, Chuck and I stop by a massive dirt jump line in an orchard further down the trail, also built by Mitch, called “The Fire.” The doubles gap fruit trees in a successive line built for big bikes, begging to be hit with speed and flow.
I’m itchin’ to grab my iron steed and test the gapers, but resist and we move on to shoot the road gap. (Keep your eyes peeled in the Collective for this line as they have some unique footage ideas in the works)
On our way up, Chuck explains to me that his unique agreement with the Little Shuswap Indian Band to build a trail network and operate his camp has been mutually beneficial. The Little Shuswap have shown tremendous support for the KBC, putting in both time and money. The agreement means that Chuck hires local guides from the band and utilizes the beautiful Quaaot Lodge to house and feed his guests. Located on the pristine shores of the Little Shuswap Lake, it is a prime fit for the KBC and the Band’s desire to attract visitors to their own paradise.
“I wanted to deal with someone who has a large portion of land and the Little Shuswap is a very progressive band when it comes to tourism,” says Chuck. “Our partnership also allows our guests a chance to have a cultural experience with First Nations, to experience sweat lodges and native ceremonies.”
The experience at KBC is truly unique. No matter your skill level, there is no question campers will be thrilled – and if you’re a solid rider and prove you’ve got the flow and mojo, says Chuck, you too will be allowed to step it up to Matty’s Caldron.
With Darcy firmly in his harness on the skyline, 16mm camera film loaded and clicking, Matty confidently counts down: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, dropping…”
Butter. Flat-out. Sick.
Eight times Matty styles the big drop, making the hard right hand berm and linking up the doubles with flair. His nonchalant yet calculated execution almost underscores the gnar-factor of this line – as the best do, he makes it look deceptively easy.
The Collective shoots into the twilight and the light fades to the point where I can no longer shoot stills. It’s a wrap, and with a glance at some of the digital footage they shot, there is a noticeable excitement among the crew, especially Darcy.
One angle caught Matty’s shadow through the slats of the big ladder drop/gap, casting beams of light in an artistic dance. “It’s amazing when it just happens,” Darcy says with a huge grin.
The working title for the Collective’s next film is “Roam,” and that’s exactly what the crew’s been doing. So far this year they’ve been shooting single-track in Moab and all corners of British Columbia. Later this year they’re traveling to the far side of the globe for shoots with such talent as Ryan Leech in Europe and others in Morocco.
Keep your eyes out for a teaser for Roam some time this fall, and a projected release date of the full length film in the spring of 2006. I know Tessa will…
For more information on the Collective, visit www.thecollectivefilm.com
. For more information on the Kamloops Bike Camp, go to www.kamloopsbikecamp.com