Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into bikes?
Hi there, my name is Scott Secco and I’m a freelance filmmaker. I grew up in Victoria BC, Canada and now live in Squamish. I’m 27 years old.
I was introduced to bikes by my parents, Dave and Debbie. They got me rolling around the neighbourhood, but neither of them are what I would call mountain bikers (although my Dad does road rides on a mountain bike for added difficulty/fitness). I really fell in love with bikes at around 12 or 13, when a friend’s older brother introduced me to The Collective and New World Disorder 3. Those two films were super formative to me and really showed me how much cooler biking is than any of the sports I’d see on TV.
How and when did you get into videography?
In high school I dirt jumped a bit and shot photos of my friends. I enjoyed photography but felt like video was so much more interesting. I cobbled together my first video ''Spokelore'' when I was 15. At 16 I spent a summer working in the bakery at Thrifty Foods grocery store. I’d struck a bargain with my parents where I had to put half my earnings toward a university savings account, but the other half was mine to do what I wanted with. I knew Nic Genovese shot on a Canon HV-30, so I picked up one of those and started filming with my friends after school.
Are you self-taught or did you study film?
I'd say my film education has been more a series of apprenticeships than anything formal. I took a black and white film photography class in high school which introduced me to the basic settings and how they affect an image (shutter speed, aperture, ISO speed etc). After high school I went to the University of Victoria where I took a few screenwriting and film studies courses as electives. I wasn’t sure if filmmaking could be a career though, so I graduated with a writing degree since that’s **much** more employable…
When I was 17, Aaron LaRocque moved to Victoria. ''Larock,'' as he became known on Pinkbike, was the first person I knew of to make a living strictly from making online videos for sponsors. At the time, this was a radical shift from the old business model of producing a DVD every year or two, which groups like The Collective and Freeride Entertainment did so well. Pinkbike really democratized filmmaking for us because you didn’t need an expensive 16mm film camera to be pro.
Aaron taught me how to edit on Final Cut Pro 7 and allowed me to follow him around on shoots. I studied his videos relentlessly, watching and learning what made for a good shot and cut. He was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. I think I probably spent 10,000 hours chatting with him on Facebook about bike videos.
My other major apprenticeship came in the summer of 2013 when I interned for Sherpas Cinema. The Sherpas are a production company led by Dave Mossop and Eric Crosland. When the trailer for their movie Into the Mind dropped, I knew two things: a.) they were doing the most progressive and technically challenging filmmaking in action sports and b.) I needed to work for them. I emailed them with a cover letter and link to my demo reel and begged them to have me on as an intern. They were generous enough to bring me aboard for four months over my summer holidays from university and so I moved to Whistler.
If I’m completely honest, I was too green and inexperienced to be very useful to the Sherpas. I wasn’t skilled enough to shoot or edit for their movie, so I ended up taking out the garbage, updating their website, backing up hard drives, and doing beer runs to keep the crew hydrated. It was invaluable to me as a filmmaker because I was still able to watch them work and be relentlessly curious asking how and why they did things a certain way. It was frustrating to be so useless and it motivated me to be better.
At what point did you realize that this could be a job and how did your career path develop?
In December 2011, Karl Burkat (co-owner of Pinkbike) reached out to me on Facebook and asked if I’d be interested in taking over Movies For Your Monday from Aaron LaRocque. I used my Pinkbike connection to land a spot filming Crankworx in Whistler during the summer of 2012 and I spent the week following around Brett Tippie as he interviewed all the athletes competing. I then reached out to Mike Hopkins, James Doerfling, Garett Buehler, and Evan Schwartz, over Facebook and organized a shoot with them at Retallack Lodge.
Summer 2013 found me interning at Sherpas Cinema, learning from the masters. The Sherpas taught me so much and gave me the confidence that I could make a movie too.
I’d mentioned to Pinkbike that I wanted to make my own movie and 2014 marked the start of production on my full-length Builder. Julian Coffey and Ryan Berrecloth lined up the sponsors and riders for it and gave me a fair bit of freedom to make what I wanted. Builder was really my own personal year long film school. After the movie premiered I felt like I could make a career as a filmmaker. I still had a year left of school though, so I went back and finished off my writing degree. I graduated in December of 2016 and I’ve been a full-time freelance filmmaker ever since.
What is your favourite thing to shoot?
Mountain biking! Nothing beats the last five minutes before the sun sets, when the light is firing, we have a great location and crew, and I have my angles figured out.
You’ve shot some of the sports greats, but who sticks in your mind?
Mike Hopkins, because he’s the first pro that agreed to work with me and he’s the rider I’ve filmed with the most over the years. I’m lucky to be able to call him one of my best friends and I’m so grateful he took a chance when I messaged him on Facebook asking if he’d shoot with me.
Also, Wade Simmons because he’s The Godfather and he’s just as awesome as you’d hope.
Away from mountain biking, what else do you shoot and what would you like to?
I’ve worked on a few non-bike things over the years: DIT on an Audi commercial, camera assistant on a Teck mining commercial alongside Ryan Gibb and Liam Mullany, a couple real estate videos, but I mostly focus on bike videos.
In the short term I’d like to do another full-length bike film and long term I’d like to write and direct a movie.
What’s been your most memorable trip (and why)?
There have definitely been some classic moments that aren’t printable on Pinkbike. Every trip is going to have something haywire happen so I always find the best stories are when things go wrong (or at least they’re funny in retrospect).
My first big international trip was a highlight. It was in 2014, before Builder, and I honestly have no idea why Smith Optics hired me to film their team in Chile (maybe because I was young and cheap?). Joey Schusler, Lars Sternberg, and Nate Hills were the athletes with Dave Trumpore shooting photos and me handling video. We covered the team racing the Andes Pacifico and then we went to Nevados de Chillán to hit the bike park. I was enthusiastic and an absolute greenhorn. On our first day riding I forgot to empty my camera pack from the flight; I was redlining and getting dropped before I realized I had my laptop and all my hard drives still in my pack. The trip was bookended nicely with me getting distracted and missing my flight home to Canada. I spent 24 hours in the Santiago airport, sleeping on a bench in the terminal. Haven’t missed a flight since!
Other highlights include:
-Getting strep throat on a bike-packing trip and suffering for two days trying to follow Hopkins up and down mountains while schlepping my camera pack.
-Flying a drone through a molten hot sulphur steam vent and crashing it into a boiling lake on White Island in New Zealand.
-Accidentally killing my beloved minivan ‘The Vanborghini’ due to lack of oil changes while driving to Revelstoke to film for DreamRide 2.
Is there a video you’ve done that you’re particularly fond of?
I think most filmmakers kind of go through a love/hate relationship with their films where they love the footage initially, then they start editing and realize they’re complete hacks. The process of editing just means you see your clips so many times that you kind of lose a sense of whether the video is good or not. The nice thing is if you wait a few months and come back to a video then you can generally appreciate it for what it is.
I’m fond of the DreamRide films because of how many great memories I have from those trips and how many insane places we visited. I’m also proud of my film Perspectives: India. I feel like Perspectives was something I truly directed from start to finish, whereas DreamRide is more Hopkins’ thing that I happened to shoot.
What or who has inspired you over the years?
Ryan Gibb and Derek Frankowski are probably my two biggest filmmaking influences. In my opinion, their movie Life Cycles is the best action sports film ever made.
During the making of their movie I emailed them a few times to ask them questions about the process. They were generous enough to actually reply and offer insight into the craft of filmmaking. Months later, they emailed and invited me to the Whistler premiere of Life Cycles. I was blown away that they remembered me and I was awed by their work when I finally saw it. I’ve probably watched that movie 100 times and it never fails to inspire. I’m lucky that these days I get to work with Gibb and he’s been an amazing mentor to me.
Jordan Manley is another huge inspiration. Manley’s series A Skier’s Journey is my favourite web series ever and I’ve learned so much from him over the years. I often tell him his style is ‘’slow and boring’’ and I mean that as both a joke and compliment. His videos often stretch longer than most web content and the extra time allows him to hold shots and establish a sense of place in his films. His cinematography and sound design are also world class. I’m lucky to call him a friend and teacher.
What do you think makes a good video?
It depends, but for bike videos I like any edit that features good riding, trails, music, and a general ‘’makes me want to ride’’ vibe. I think Matty Miles’ work is a perfect example of this. His Trail Hunter series with Matt Hunter shows what mountain biking is to me.
Let's talk about gear. What do you usually take with you? What do you use to edit?
I try and keep my kit as compact and light as possible, but it still ends up weighing in around 25-30kg. I shoot on a Red Epic-W with a Canon 16-35 2.8 III, a Canon 50 1.2, and a Canon 70-200 2.8 II. I use a DJI Ronin gimbal and a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone. I also use a Miller tripod on Gitzo legs to save weight. I edit on a 2014 Macbook Pro using Adobe Premiere.
Who are some of the clients you’ve worked with?
I’ve shot for Diamondback, Rocky Mountain, Shimano, Red Bull, Swatch, Pinkbike, Maxxis, Whistler, Scott, Devinci, Yeti, Kona, Commencal, Raceface, Camelbak, Spawn, and OneUp, among others.
What advice would you give an aspiring videographer looking to break into mountain bike media?
That’s a tough question because the digital landscape changes so fast! When I was starting out, Pinkbike was the place to be because it was really the only outlet to guarantee mountain bikers saw your work. There was no Instagram and vlogging didn’t really exist in its current form. If I were 16 and starting out again then I think I would probably be heavily into YouTube and try and build myself a following there like Matt Dennison and Jason Lucas have (IFHT on YouTube).
Photos by Mattias Fredriksson and Toby Cowley
Where do you see mountain biking and videography going in the future?
I think we’re already at such a high level with mountain bike filmmaking visually. Bike videos are shot on the same cameras that make Marvel superhero movies. What will improve our films are more unique concepts and better storytelling. I think the future is bright with both! It’s so easy to become a filmmaker now that you can shoot and edit from a phone. There’s no barrier to entry anymore thanks to the internet.
Obviously, new technology will also affect how we shoot and view content. I can’t really see VR taking off in its current form since headsets are so bulky to wear, but I do think it could be cool to experience a bike video in a more three dimensional way. Current 3D experiences are pretty hard to watch though, even in movie theatres.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is spending my work days in the woods, collaborating with friends. I’ve never found anything I like more than filmmaking and riding bikes. I’ve loved both since I was 12 and I hope I never grow out of it. I’m so grateful to have this career.
What’s the worst part of your job?
Finding music (and licensing it). The right track can make or break a video and it's super frustrating when you find the right one and then can't afford it. It's a bummer.
Which videographers do you most admire?
I’ve been lucky to have so many amazing mentors to learn from over the years. I don’t want to leave anyone out and hurt their feelings but the big ones would be: Ryan Gibb, Derek Frankowski, Jordan Manley, Dave Mossop, Eric Crosland, and Aaron LaRocque. Those guys were all hugely influential to me in different ways. Also, Spike Jonze, because his transition from skate filmer to Oscar winner is pure inspiration.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
In high school I was a pretty competitive middle distance runner and won a bronze medal in steeplechase at the BC Provincial Championships.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
My parents! It took me almost 10 years to turn my passion into a career and I think some parents might have told me to try and be more realistic and get a real job. I’m so lucky they've never discouraged my dreams. They even helped me with financing my Red cam and it took me 18 months to pay them back. I'll never be able to thank them enough.
I’d also like to thank all the riders who I’ve worked with and all the sponsors who have supported my films over the years. Thanks to Karl and Radek / Pinkbike for giving me so much over the years. Finally, thanks to everyone who’s watched one of my videos! See you on the trails.