Five years after director Bruce Brown made the seminal surfing movie “The Endless Summer,” he made what many considered the definitive motorcycle movie “On Any Sunday” (1971), which included some of the world’s leading bike-race enthusiasts, including movie star Steve McQueen (whose jump over Nazi barbed wire in “The Great Escape” had been feeding adolescent fantasies since the Kennedy administration). Thirty-three years later, Dana Brown — who helped his father turn out “Endless Summer II” in 1994 — has directed “On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter” which includes some of the more hair-raising riders in the motocross world and some of their more spine-tingling stunts. (The film is currently in limited release.)
“‘On Any Sunday’ was the film I saw when I was 11 or 12, and made me want to become a filmmaker,” Dana Brown said in New York this week. “I thought it was amazing. And then I had this apprenticeship with my dad and then did my own things” – which included the extreme-surfing movies “Step into Liquid” (2003) and “Highwater” (2009) – “and when Red Bull Media approached me and wanted to do a film this idea came up and I said, ‘Well, maybe it’s time.’ My dad’s 77 now, and maybe it’s time to embrace this legacy and make a new chapter. I’m glad we did it.”
“The Next Chapter” features such two-wheeled daredevils as Robbie Madison, stunt rider Travis Pastrana and the deaf cyclist Ashley Fiolek, all of whom are Brown’s friends, and put their lives on the line on a regular basis. Which must cause him some agita.
“After all these years, I don’t still know if I have any more insight into why these guys get such bliss out of doing what they do,” he said, “because I’m not naturally that way. I like to get a thrill now and then, but not like these guys. But they’re so accepting of the possible consequences you just kind of go ‘All right, what happens happens.’ There is apprehension, but you you just have to accept it.”
It’s usually the people close to the people taking the risks who suffer more anyway, no? “I think that’s probably true,” Brown said. “And probably true about a lot of things.”
What gave him a little “trepidation,” he said, was getting in bed with Red Bull Media House, which produced the film.
“The Red Bull Media House is separate from the can business and they wanted to go more mainstream and saw me as a filmmaker who might help them do that,” Brown said. “I was a little bit nervous at first but I’ve enjoyed working with them and they kind of let me do my thing and they certainly know how to promote a film. Which is nice when you do one of these things –someone bothers to make people aware it’s out there.”
He said it was the first time he’d done a commissioned work, so to speak. “Usually I’ve gone the opposite — make it, then sell it, which is what led to some of my trepidation. I said, ‘well, I wonder how many cooks are going to be in the kitchen with this thing’ and there really weren’t.” He seemed concerned about the perception of product placement, but said that was simply a fact of moto-life.
“When you do something in motor sports and Red Bull’s involved there’s a lot of Red Bull caps, etc., involved and you can’t really ask the athletes to take off their caps — I don’t know what their contracts are and they have to pay their rent. So I just figured if someone’s into motorsports they understand that that’s the deal. If other people want to think it’s kind of purposeful advertising, they’re wrong.” He said it’s like car racing, sort of. “In NASCAR, there’s a lot more sponsors,” Brown said. “But in motorsports, it’s Monster and Red Bull and that’s about it.”