Q&A: Stew Johnson & BF-it

Chrissy Piper photo

Stew Johnson has taken on the task of heading up a documentary on Brian Foster, one of the most respected and all around legends of BMX. That’s not blog intro fluff, BF is a cot damn respected BMX legend and awesome individual. The documentary is aptly named, BF-it.

Stew has been secretly (as best as he could) working on this doc for the better part of this year, and the final outcome is fantastic. I tip my hat to Stew for putting BF-it together and to BF for being BF. I have since seen BF-it after sending these questions to Stew and I can’t wait for fans of BMX to see it.

Keep reading for a Q&A with Stew about it all.

First things first. How did the idea to do a documentary on Brian Foster come about?

In June of 2012, I visited New Jersey for a few days to shoot a promo with BF for his signature Fit stem. At some point during the shoot, he mentioned that his 39th birthday was a few days away, and I just started thinking about how BF was going to be 40 next year and he’s still a serious badass. I grew up racing, so I’ve been a BF fan since I was 14 years old. His list of achievements in BMX is almost unparalleled. In my opinion, he’s arguably the best all around BMXer of all time, so I thought it was only natural that Fit celebrate that fact with a project paying homage to the Blue Falcon. I mentioned the idea to Moeller and he was really into it.

What was your initial reaction to the idea and taking on such a project? I know you’re a BF fan, so you must of had a lot going through your mind.

When I get an idea that I’m really stoked on, I just start telling people about it and ask them what they think. I rarely think about how much actual work it will end up being, and if I can swing it with my hectic schedule. Basically, I get all these ideas in my head and get enough people hyped on the project, that there’s no way I can back out and I have to go through with it. I guess that’s one way of motivating yourself, ha.

With something like this, you just try to gather all the stories and events in this person’s life, and you pick out the most important/interesting ones that you think will make for a good watch. Brian has lots of material to work with, so the hard part was narrowing that down. This is, by far, the biggest project I have ever worked on (and in my opinion, the most important). It’s not everyday that you get the chance to work on a project of this magnitude, I just wanted to make sure that I did BF justice.

What was the first step?

The first obvious step was to contact the one person who’s been there from the beginning, Brian’s brother, Alan. Alan was a huge help in orchestrating this whole thing, from contributing family photos and super 8 home movies, giving me a fairly detailed timeline of events, to giving me leads on other people who would be good to interview. Alan was instrumental in making this thing happen and I could not imagine it without his involvement. Thanks Alan!

Who are some people you pulled to feature in this?

I wanted to include some of the people who were there right next to Brian for most of these stories, guys like Todd “The Wildman” Lyons, Keith Mulligan, John Paul Rogers, Chris Moeller, Alan Foster, and Van Homan, as well as a few young guys who Brian has influenced along the way, such as Drew Bezanson, Dennis Enarson, Geoff Slattery and Aaron Ross.

You had mentioned to me that you had get stealthy with this. Explain?

Originally, we wanted to release this on Brian’s 40th birthday… but we ended up missing that deadline due to delays with getting footage/photos, and the generally slow nature of working on a project like this. Things definitely trickle in at a slower pace than you’d like, but there’s not a whole lot you can do, other than be patient. Anyway, It’s one of those things where a lot of people were involved, so it was a real challenge keeping it quiet. Brian’s wife Jen was in on the whole project, so she helped plan a visit to their house while Brian was at the Empire of Dirt in London, with Brain out of the way, we went through all of his old photos and race memorbillia. That was pretty fun.

Is there one memorable moment that sticks out from your time putting this together?

The most memorable moment was just being at the Texas Toast premiere and watching the video with Brian sitting right next to me, that alone made it worth all the hard work. The weekend, the venue, and the crowd were simply amazing. You never know how an audience of rowdy BMXer’s are going to react to a video that’s basically 40+ minutes of talking, but everyone was very quiet and attentive and just stoked to pay tribute to a living legend. We couldn’t have asked for a better premiere. A huge thanks to Taj Mihelich for making that happen.

Through all the research and interviews, is there anything you learned about BF that surprised you?

I don’t know if there’s anything in particular that surprised me, but I was really stoked to hear the story about Brian winning Dirt at the 1998 X-Games. I don’t want to give the story away, but the omen he got before the comp was pretty amazing.

How did you guys keep this a secret for so long?

I have no idea. John Paul kept saying that it was the worst kept secret in BMX, since everybody seemed to know about it. I’m sure having John Paul know about it didn’t help much. I’m pretty sure that Brian heard something about it when he got to Texas Toast, when you have that many people around, some dumbass is bound to flap his yap without thinking.

The documentary premiere during Texas Toast Jam was dubbed a “Top Secret Surprise Super Epic Video”. How stressed were you and was it fun luring BF to the location?

I was more stressed in the month leading up to the premiere. Footage and photos were still coming in, and I still had a lot of work to do. I don’t think we had a single song picked out up until maybe 10 or 12 days before the premiere, but once the songs started coming in, the stories really started taking shape and breathing life into this thing. About 2 days before the premiere, I was confident that it would be done for the premiere. I just spent the last 2 days doing lots of little tweaks and fine tuning it. I was completely finished with the premiere version at about 2:00 pm on the day of the premiere. I’m so glad it didn’t come down to the final minutes (like I did with the Anthem II premiere).

As for luring BF to the location, that was Homan’s job. He was the chauffeur/TM for the weekend and he got Brian there on time. Probably the most stressful part of the whole thing was when Homan actually brought BF over to my house the day before the premiere, while I was still in my room working on the edit. I thought I was gonna have a heart attack, but Van kept the visit short and BF didn’t get anywhere near my room. I don’t even know if he knew that I was home, but yeah, that got me a little nervous. It turned out that Brian actually knew that something was up. I guess his wife was acting somewhat suspicious and he called her out on it. She had to give a small confession in order to keep Brian from jumping to some wild conclusions about what she might be up to. But, I don’t think that he knew the magnitude of the project, he just knew that something was being worked on. Pretty funny, really. I would have felt pretty bad if this video would have put a strain on their marriage because she wouldn’t tell him what was going on, ha.

I didn’t get a chance to see it that night, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. What was BF’s take after seeing it? You get any heart felt feedback from the man?

I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be going to a surprise video premiere, sitting down with 500+ people, and watching your whole life unfold on the screen. After the video ended, Brian got up on stage and gave a short speech, which was really cool. Brian is a very humble guy, of few words, but he did thank me for working on the project.

How long was this project in the works, from beginning to end?

The idea of the project came about in June 2011, but we officially started working on it in March of 2012. So it was a total of about 7 months. The original idea was to have this done in time to be released online for Brian’s 40th birthday, which never happened due to waiting on footage and photos to come in, so after that, we were just looking for the perfect opportunity to premiere it. At one point there was some talk about a NORA cup premiere in Vegas, but the whole Texas Toast atmosphere just seemed more fitting. I mentioned it to Taj and he was really excited for the chance to make this a part of Texas Toast.

How will the documentary be released?

We’re getting DVD copies printed up as we speak. Once we have those in our hands, there will be some shop premieres. You should be able to get the DVD for free from your local bike shop, but I’m sure that the quantities will be limited. They should be available sometime around Christmas.

Thanks Stew! Congrats on another sweet achievement. Anything you’d like to add before we wrap this up?

I just hope that the younger generation of riders out there will watch this piece. I feel like it’s easy for kids to get so wrapped up in the fast paced progression of today’s riding, that it’s easy for them to overlook the guys who paved the way.

Bonus Question. On a scale of 1 to 100. How awesome is BF?

There isn’t a scale that can calculate the magnitude of BF’s awesomeness, he’s completely off the charts.

Correct!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rusty-Blake/1117001553 Rusty Blake

    Is there anyway a pre-order for a DVD can be setup?

  • stew

    Rusty, just tell your local shop or mailorder that you wanna get one when they come out. Enjoy, man!

  • Al_TFT

    Any chance we can get copies in Australia? You have an email we can get in touch with Stew?

  • stew

    Just have your local Fit dealer tell their distro. I imagine that any shop that carries Fit could get some copies. It will end up online, too.

  • PJ Sinohin

    thanks for creating one.
    who’s next?