dandyARCHIVE: Riding To The Letter: Behind The Scenes at the BFF

~ This article first appeared in dandyhorse’s Issue No 3, Summer 2009 ~

Riding to the letter: Behind the scenes at the Bicycle Film Festival
Text by Tammy Thorne and photo by Alex Tran

The 9th annual Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) had a decidedly Torontonian flavour.

The festival’s tasty trailer has played in 39 cities around the world and features some of our local bike buddies on a midnight cruise down streets including College and Spadina, each wearing an awkwardly giant brightly coloured cardboard letter. Line the letters up and they spell — get ready for it — Bicycle Film Festival.

Along with the fab 59-second film, our pedal pals make appearances on the official BFF website and 2009 ad posters.

Alex Tran, a Toronto photographer and track bike rider (and the letter Y), was privy this spring to the entire weekend shoot and took plenty of behind-the-scenes photos of Italian director Marco Mucig and Canuck Benny Zenga in action. “It was a great learning experience to be able to observe those guys at work,” he says. And for him and the rest of the alphabet bikers, it was also a lesson in riding.

“Initially we all thought it would be easy,” Tran says, “but as it turns out, riding with cardboard restricting your vision and movement is not that fun.”

The aggressive geometry of the track bikes wasn’t conducive to certain letters, and in the end some heavy modifications were made to allow the bikers to see and ride. “After many changes it was still hard to get in a comfortable riding position. Others riding cruisers or flatland bmxs had less trouble and had us feeling very envious. But the director wanted a variety of different bikes, so we sucked it up.”

If you watch the trailer carefully you’ll notice the awkwardness of the guys riding track bikes, except for Tom Mosher. “He lucked out with a smaller letter — not to mention his exceptional riding ability,” Tran says, “The bmxers were required to do tricks in some shots and I thought they pulled them off beautifully…but I didn’t envy them.” Alex Poirier (the letter C) of the Ottawa-based flatland bmx crew Pralex agrees. “Riding in the letters was bearable. Tricks in the letters? Near impossible. We tried to do the simplest, most basic tricks for Marco, and that was a stretch.” Despite the tedium, the riders had a great time, Tran says, “It was an amazing experience and the end product looks great. We’re all pretty proud to have been a part of it.”

The BFF just screened here in Toronto and featured Where are you go by Benny Zenga, the producer of the Toronto BFF, his brother Christian and Brian Vernor.



~ This article first appeared in dandyhorse’s Issue No 3, Summer 2009 ~

Related on the dandyBLOG:

dandyREVIEW: Premium Rush vs Line of Sight by Benny Zenga and Lucas Brunelle

Profile of a BFF Filmmaker: Amelia Shaw

Bicycle Film Festival Gets Toronto Talking

More stories on the Bicycle Film Festival can be found on the dandyBlog here

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