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Episode 08: Fernando Villena – Dear Rider: The Jake Burton Story

What’s the best way for a filmmaker to manage the weight of making a film about a true iconoclast? Having no idea who the subject is going into pitching yourself is a great start!

That’s just one of the many honest and insightful stories the wickedly talented Fernando Villena shares with host Dan Napoli on this episode of Reel Life!

Fernando’s passion for the life of Jake Burton beams through the discussion as he gives an incredible peak into the making of this documentary currently at the top of the HBO Max charts.

Fernando goes deep with Dan, sharing his inspirations for certain looks used in the film, meeting Jake Burton, why an iconic song almost didn’t making the cut, how he may have pissed off narrator Woody Harrelson, and the last thing Fernando said to Jake Burton as walked out of the room that may have gotten him the gig.

A must- listen if you’ve ever picked up a camera or snowboard. You can catch the film, Dear Rider: The Jake Burton Story streaming free for subscribers on HBO Max now.

Read the Full Transcript

Announcer (00:00:05):

What makes a real life movement or story interesting enough to become a documentary film? More importantly, how does someone even do that? Let’s find out. Dan Napoli is an award-winning documentary director, and also the head of creative and post production for Hurrdat Films. He sits down with other film directors and discusses the ins and outs of how their latest project went from real world events to the film reel in this limited series, monthly podcast. It’s the Reel Life with Dan Napoli.

Dan (00:00:34):

Welcome to another edition of Reel Life. I am your host, Dan Napoli from Hurrdat Films. Super, super excited about our guest and the film that we are talking about today. Director Fernando Villena, who is the man helming the lens behind Dear Rider, this awesome, awesome flick that just hit HBO Max, the story of Jake Burton. If for some reason you listen to this show and you’re not an action sports person, Jake Burton is … we’ll at least say the godfather of snowboarding, because I know he would never claim to be the originator or founder. This flick hit HBO last week. Fernando, dude, welcome. Thank you so much for taking a couple minutes and visiting.

Fernando Villena (00:01:22):

Of course. Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

Dan (00:01:25):

Yeah, man. So I guess the best place to always start is the beginning, eh?

Fernando Villena (00:01:31):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan (00:01:36):

I saw you got a couple of two, three really solid directorial credits in your IMDB, a slew of editor work. I know one of them was a Brain Farm project, but first and foremost, man, how does this pic get on your radar? Do you audition? Do they call you? How does that come to be?

Fernando Villena (00:01:59):

Yeah. Great, great question. Well, first of all, I’m not a snowboarder or even any … I don’t really dabble in any kind of action sports. I have a Peloton. That’s, I think, as far as I go. So it’s not really my world, but I’ve edited a lot of different things. And like you said, music videos, commercials, movies, documentaries. I had a 20 year career editing and what happened was I got recommended to polish a film for Red Bull Media House called The Fourth Phase, which was a Brain Farm project. And I got very close with Ben Bryan, who is the man at Red Bull Media House. I actually forgot his main title, but he develops all the projects. He oversees the projects, he produces the projects.

Fernando Villena (00:02:56):

And I got brought on for a polish and while we were working on it, he told me about this film that they had, which was about a mountain biker who suffered a spinal cord injury, and if I’d be interested in directing it. And at that point it was just going to be an archive film. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the film, but Paul Basagoitia, he suffered a spinal cord injury. And then he instantly started filming his recovery from day one. So it was going to be a lot of self taping and archive at first, but that film evolved into a much bigger thing.

Fernando Villena (00:03:36):

And while we were finishing that, Ben calls me one day and he says, “So you know who Jake Burton is?” And I’m like, “No.” He’s like, “Well, you ever heard of Burton Snowboards?” I’m like, “Kind of.” And so he started telling me about Jake and about the Miller Fisher episode that he had. And they were making a movie about him, but he said, look, there’s going to be a ton of directors that are going to be interviewing with Jake. I just wanted to know if you’re interested in throwing your hat in the ring. And I was like, “Of course.” But I didn’t know anything about Jake at the time. But I was really … I wanted to keep my directing [crosstalk 00:04:13] thing going, right?

Fernando Villena (00:04:14):

So I did a bunch of research and what I ended up doing was cutting together a seven minute proof of concept, which I put together from Jake’s interviews and some reenactments that I shot, because I knew if I was going to go in there and just try to talk my way into a job, I wasn’t going to get it. Because my first movie hadn’t even come out yet. So I cut this proof of concept, and during the interview process, I was able to present it to him. And it was maybe a half an hour long interview with Jake and it was great. And I can tell he was moved by what he saw.

Fernando Villena (00:04:55):

And at that moment I felt like, “You know what? I’m probably not going to get the job,” but it was great to have that moment with him. It was great to connect and it was great to see him respond to it. I remember as I left … and he was so charming and so genuine. And he could tell that I was a bit nervous, so he was really trying to make me feel comfortable during that meeting. And he’s just such a dude, I mean, such a dude. And so as I’m leaving, I’m like, “I don’t know. I think I need to say one more thing.” And as I’m leaving his hotel room, I turned to him and I told him, “You know Jake, we’d have a lot of fun together if we did this.”

Fernando Villena (00:05:44):

And he looked at me weirdly. And I remember that just came out. I didn’t plan it, it just came out. “We would have a lot of fun together.” And in my head, I remember thinking, “Oh, my God, you just blew it. That was your big pitch?” And then what I didn’t know at the time was his whole mantra of have as much fun as possible.

Dan (00:06:05):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:06:05):

Right. I remember he looked at me a bit sideways when I said that. I was wondering if he thought I was being cheeky or something, but I was being genuine. I was being honest. I was like, “You know we’d have a lot of fun if we did this together.” Ultimately, I didn’t get picked for the film, to direct the film at that moment. They went with another director. But the stars aligned.

Dan (00:06:30):

But, dude, bro, I love that story so much. And I think it’s so important because I do … when I talk to super, super young filmmakers, people that are maybe wanting to make their first documentary, I always tell them, it’s like, start with something you know, start with something in your backyard. But I love when you start to go to the next level of stuff, it’s about the craft of story. And I think sometimes for some of those, coming from action sports or some of those subcultures for stuff to really transcend, because you’re just approaching it as a filmmaker. Right? You’re not approaching it as a storyteller. Obviously, you have respect for it, but you’re not in this … sometimes you’re too close to it. If it’s like, “Oh, I grew up a snowboarder” and you’re almost in that well, where does the fandom end, right, and as a storyteller begin? So I think that’s really cool where you’re coming from.

Fernando Villena (00:07:32):

Yeah. I think I could see why somebody would be concerned that … especially for a movie about a pioneer, the pioneer of the sport. It would be concerned as to like, “Whoa, does this guy even know the community? Does he understand? Does he understand what it’s about?” But here’s my argument to that. I don’t know. The only thing I’m an expert in, I think, is in life. It’s like living and communicating with people and having relationships good and bad. That’s what I’m an expert in. I’m an expert in living my own life. And so that’s how I approach it. I have a tremendous curiosity about people, and then that translates into what these people do.

Dan (00:08:28):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:08:28):

And how they overcome their obstacles and how they don’t overcome their obstacles.

Dan (00:08:36):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:08:39):

When I worked on Giving Voice, when I directed that film, I co-directed that film, we did this wonderful interview with Viola Davis. And she’s next level human. Right? There’s us and then there’s Viola Davis. She’s just really special. And it’s in the movie actually, but she talks about theater. You celebrate the mess. That’s what theater’s about. You celebrate the mess. And that cut right to my soul. I understood that. And so Jake lived a … his life was messy, but passionate, passion. It was passion filled, but messy, just like all of our lives are. So in approaching a project like this, I always go to that. What’s the mess? What’s the mess here?

Fernando Villena (00:09:43):

Right now, I’m making a documentary about Oscar De La Hoya for HBO. I know about as much about boxing as I do about snowboarding. But again, you’re like where is the mess? Because that mess is where we as humans are trying to find ourselves. Right?

Dan (00:10:00):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:10:01):

And we hide behind things. And if we’re lucky, we’re able to break through in certain moments. But Jake, what attracted me about his story was his need to connect. And especially when I did the Miller Fisher, when I did the research on it. But really, as a filmmaker, you’re looking, “Well, how can I tell the story? What’s my in? What’s my in? How can it really connect to the story where then it can connect to others?” And for me, at least initially, it was how he was writing the note cards while he was paralyzed. And his need to be still connected to his family and his loved ones. And then “I need more oxygen” or “I love you so much,” but he had to write something, right? And this man needed to connect so badly to the people he loved and that’s what saved him. And that’s what got him out of that horrible disease.

Fernando Villena (00:11:10):

When I think about it, it just horrifies me what that must have been like. But the whole time, his need to connect and his need to communicate and to tell people his deepest, darkest thoughts. To me that was in a non-emotional way, but let’s say in a cinematic way, I thought that, “Wow, I can really work with that. There’s something there.” And also, what drives this man to be that way? What drives him to be so passionate and so committed to his loved ones? And that’s how I approached it. And then all the other stuff, like the history of snowboarding. You know what’s cool? And sorry, I’m probably going off topic…

Dan (00:11:58):

No, bro.

Fernando Villena (00:11:59):

… is that we’ve been touring the film now for three weeks and it’s been wonderful. It’s been so great. I’m hanging out with famous snowboarders, chatting them up, having a cocktail. It’s so weird. But one of the cool things is having all these legendary snowboarders, not just young snowboarders, but guys and gals that came up with Jake and knew Jake and worked at Burton or competed against him. And to a person, they come up to me and they come up to us and they say, “I learned so much. I didn’t even know. I didn’t even know this. I didn’t even know that. This was crazy. I always thought it was like this, but then now I realize that it was…” I mean, I think that’s a testament to how deep we went in the archive. And we really … Ben Bryan, head of our team at Red Bull Media House, and we just like, “Let’s just get down to the core of the history of the story.”

Fernando Villena (00:13:13):

But there’s one thing just to top it off on this question, Jake and Ben worked on the timeline and the outline of what the film should be about, at least in as far as in a general way with Jake. But they did the research and they did the timeline. But one of the things that Jake said was “Don’t upset the core.” Right? “Don’t upset the core snowboarding community.” The way I interpreted that statement, not being a snowboarder and especially not being a core snowboarder, is “Tell the truth.”

Fernando Villena (00:13:53):

Because if you don’t tell the truth about when Jake was on the wrong side of history, on the wrong side of an argument, or when he went too far, or when Burton went too big. If you don’t tell that truth, then the core would call bullshit.

Dan (00:14:11):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:14:13):

And that’s how I interpreted don’t upset the core, is by telling the truth. And Jake was very, very specific that he wanted everything told. He didn’t want to sugar coat his life. He didn’t want to sugarcoat anything he did in his life. Just tell it. Just tell it. And that was how I approached that.

Dan (00:14:30):

I thought that was really cool and really bravely … In the film, the two points of conflict, the rival with Sims and the patent movement. And that was really cool that that was … because that’s always that fine line, because what you’re saying is, in essence, once you leave that out, now it’s like a fluff piece. And you could definitely see, that that would be somebody … I almost feel like that’s the difference between documentary and when you get a feature spot on something, like news piece or whatever. Besides, it’s not just the length, but more times than not, when those things explore subcultures, they do it in such a surfacey, over the top level that if you’re from that, you just like, “Ugh.” You just roll your eyes.

Fernando Villena (00:15:30):

Totally.

Dan (00:15:31):

But everybody I know, and I’m not a hardcore snowboarder. I mean, I’ve snowboarded. I grew up in Colorado, but I have tons of friends who are. And everybody was like, “Oh my God. This is so good.” They would never know. I’m sure when they watch this or listen to it, they’ll ping me afterwards and be like, “Holy shit. That dude’s not a rider? I can’t believe that.”

Fernando Villena (00:15:49):

Right. Right. Yeah.

Dan (00:15:50):

Which I think is a testament to the story that you tell. I want to go back though, Fernando, I’m sorry. I took us off this way. So ultimately you leave not having the gig. And so I want to explore the two things. One that you confirmed, because I had heard that this was in production earlier than before Jake passed. And so I want to see when did you intersect back into this project?

Fernando Villena (00:16:18):

Yeah. It was a tough time. It was a tough time. So what happened was the original director, I think it was… I don’t want to speak to that because I don’t really know the details of it.

Dan (00:16:31):

Sure, sure.

Fernando Villena (00:16:32):

That relationship was kind of coming to an end. That agreement. And then pretty much around the time Jake’s cancer came back.

Dan (00:16:43):

Okay.

Fernando Villena (00:16:43):

Not same day, but like weeks apart. And again, I don’t have the details of it, but it was pretty close. So the question was “Do they move on with the project?” The family … Donna, George, Timmy and Taylor. But Jake was very clear that he still wanted the project to continue. He told Donna. So at that point, there was this question of whether to open up the interview process again.

Fernando Villena (00:17:26):

And mind you, this is around the time that Jake is in the hospital and he succumbed to cancer in a matter of weeks after first chemo treatment. And so it was a very difficult time. The thing was that I did make a good impression on Jake. And Jake was trying to find ways for me to stay on the project, even though there was another director hired, but he was like, “I really want Fern to be involved somehow. Can he edit? Can he work on it?” But when you choose to transition from one job to the next, in my case from being an editor to being a director, you have to commit. You can’t dabble. You can’t be like, “Well, I’ll edit a little bit, but I’ll just keep looking for directing work.”

Fernando Villena (00:18:24):

I know it doesn’t work like that? So I was like, “I really just need to focus on directing and I would love to work on Jake’s film, but not in any capacity but a director.” Then once Jake passed away, there was talk about opening up the interview process again. But the family felt at that point that Jake really responded to me and he responded to the seven minute proof of concept that I put together. And also my close creative relationship with Ben Bryan, who was a producer, I think had a lot to do with it. And so they shut down any talk of interviewing more directors and they hired me. And that was in December 2019. And then three and a half weeks later, I was in Breckenridge with the family.

Dan (00:19:22):

Wow.

Fernando Villena (00:19:24):

Talking about the new creative approach, because the original creative approach was going to involve Jake. So we gathered to talk about, “Well, what is this new version of the film?” And the one thing that came out of that was this commitment by me and everybody else to make sure that Jake told his story as much as possible. That we would dig through everything that was at ever recorded by him or any interview, any kind of public interview or private interview, any kind of … whatever’s out there. Let’s just gather it and let’s craft a narration that feels like it’s coming from Jake. That was what we decided on and that’s what was agreed to.

Fernando Villena (00:20:20):

But that’s how it happened. And it happened very, very quickly. So yeah, it was a difficult time. It was a tough time. And the family was very brave on a lot of fronts. To continue with the movie, to hire me. But they felt they wanted to honor Jake’s wishes and have the movie be made.

Dan (00:20:49):

Yeah. So dude for you, is that this kind of moment of like, “Fuck yeah. Oh my God, I got this.” And then like, “Oh my God. Also, Jake Burton’s dying.” Like this kind of emotional roller coaster of…

Fernando Villena (00:21:10):

Well, you know what it was? I haven’t told anybody this, but I thought I could tell a good story about Jake. When I first met him and I thought I could do it. I wouldn’t have tried to get to land a job if I didn’t think I could do it, for one. Just on my skill sets and all that, what I could bring to the table. But after Jake passed, at that point I knew I was definitely the right person to tell the story. And I can’t tell you exactly why, it was just a feeling. I try and be an empathetic person. I try to listen. And I try and tell the truth. So I felt then at that moment that if the movie’s going to go on, I should be the person to do it because I could do it in a way that will celebrate Jake’s life, but also be able to handle the emotion around it.

Dan (00:22:35):

Yeah, And I think that comes through in the film too. It sounds cheesy. I don’t want to necessarily say the love that’s in it, but you can feel as much as there’s plenty of truthfulness, again, not shying away and telling … and it’s always interesting, because you’re telling Jake’s story, but you also have this B story that is in essence, kind of the history of snowboarding. Competitive snowboarding or the scene or whatever terms that you want to call it. But I think you can definitely feel the affection is maybe a better word, that is kind of surrounding the way that the film was made. Obviously the interviews that came out.

Dan (00:23:27):

And so I’m kind of curious if you want to talk a little shop on that into… I definitely want to talk about some stuff about the way some of the things looked, because I found it really interesting. But I’m curious too, how big a list of a swath do you start with in tackling interviews and then ultimately how do you guys land on who’s your… not really your cast, but who’s in. Obviously you’re going to have Jake’s family, but I’m just kind of curious about… Because I’m sure initially, the list when people start thinking about who should comment, just hundreds of people.

Fernando Villena (00:24:13):

Right, right. Absolutely. Good thing is, Jake made a list. He worked on a list extensively.

Dan (00:24:20):

Awesome.

Fernando Villena (00:24:20):

But we then put more names on the list. What I did was, I wanted to include a chorus of snowboarders. Like you just mentioned to kind of broaden the story a little bit and have it be a bit more about the history year of snowboarding too. And I thought it would be a good idea to interview riders of all eras, of different eras. Of all the major eras up until today. Though the riders weren’t on Jake’s original list, because his list was about the people that were important to his story, his personal story. That’s how the list came together.

Fernando Villena (00:25:16):

Our first and only shoot was at the U.S. Open in February 2020. And the good thing about that was all these riders are there. Young, older and a lot of Jake’s friends, because it was a couple of months after Jake passed. So it was also a time for them to come together and celebrate Jake’s life. So they were all there. So at the U.S. Open, I was basically camped out in a condo the whole time, while all this madness and fun is happening outside my window. I’m in a condo interviewing riders all day long and Jake’s friends and stuff.

Fernando Villena (00:26:10):

And we got the bulk of it. We did our bulk of our interviews that week. And it was super emotional as you can imagine.

Dan (00:26:18):

Sure.

Fernando Villena (00:26:19):

I think the hardest thing about doing those initial interviews was getting people to relax, because they were all came in and they were all very emotional and kind of on guard a little bit. A bit guarded emotionally because they’re going through a lot, they’re all going through a lot and there’s a lot of emotion going on that week. So I think a lot of it was just kind of break the ice, have a little bit of fun, tell some funny stories. So I think that was one of the things we had to do, just chill everybody out.

Dan (00:27:03):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:27:03):

And let’s just have a chat about Jake and about the good times. And whatever happens, happens. And we got some great stuff. The thing is people loved him. Loved him. Still do. He’s so present in all of their lives still. He was their cruise director. He was the guy that gave… All these people are so passionate. Jake was very passionate. He was Mr. Passion and everybody he surrounded himself with had to have that kind of passion too in their own ways. But the thing that they have in common is they love snowboarding. They just love it to death.

Fernando Villena (00:27:48):

And Jake is responsible for snowboarding being a sport. He put so much of his life into it. And so they all revere him for that. But I think more importantly, they just loved him for the human that he was. And they all miss him. They all miss him terribly. His friends and his family. But he’s so alive still in their lives. Of course, they all still snowboard and they all still think about him daily.

Dan (00:28:25):

Yeah. That ties neatly to the second thing I wanted to ask about in regards to that. So you’re talking about when you’re interviewing the riders, you guys had these two totally different treatments visually. All the riders… And I don’t want to say over-lit, because that’s incorrect, but like they were like hyper-lit in really, really bright settings and families were done in a different place. If you wouldn’t mind, peel back the layers of the onion and your mindset on how you guys got to that. I really, really liked that dichotomy. And I just think I was super interested.

Fernando Villena (00:29:11):

I knew I wanted the snowboarders to look different, because they are different. They’re not like us. Those riders, we’re talking about the best of the best, right?

Dan (00:29:22):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:29:23):

They’re heroic. They’re super human. So I wanted them to have to feel that way, to look hyper-real. That was one of the terms I used. I want this to be hyper-real.

Dan (00:29:35):

Nice.

Fernando Villena (00:29:35):

And I did a bunch of research. And I didn’t study film. I studied art. So when I go to references and I try to jog my creative stagnation, where I go is to art. And I go to photography. I don’t go to movies. I love movies. I watch movies all the time. But for inspiration, I go to art.

Fernando Villena (00:30:01):

And I came across, I can’t remember the name right now or I’d tell you the name. I could look it up, but I don’t want to look at my phone. [crosstalk 00:30:09] There’s a photographer who shot these photos of babies crying. And I was like, “Oh my God, they’re amazing.” These babies just bawling, but they look so beautiful. And I couldn’t figure out how they were lit. But the cool thing is that photographer actually put her lighting diagram online.

Dan (00:30:32):

Oh, that’s amazing.

Fernando Villena (00:30:33):

Yeah. I’ll give you the information, maybe you could post it later. Me and my DP, Jonathan Narducci, we were like, “All right, this is the look for the riders. And let’s get different color backgrounds. Whatever they’re wearing, we’ll just pick a color in the moment to make them pop.” But we kind of approximated that look. Here’s the difference though. In the photograph, you can edit it precisely because it’s one frame.

Dan (00:31:05):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:31:06):

When it’s a moving image, you don’t have that kind of control, so we can approximate it. But I do love how it looks and I’m glad you liked because…

Dan (00:31:16):

Oh man, it was killer dude.

Fernando Villena (00:31:18):

Because those are the things when you make a movie, at least in my opinion, when you make a movie, you have to put something in there that may or may not work. You know what I mean? You got to try something. You can’t just stay in your lane and tell this boring story. Find ways to freshen it up, find ways to do something that’s going to be pleasing to the eye or motivate people. The other thing that we tried that was something that may or may not, that could have failed terribly, were the “Dear Rider” segments were that Woody Harrelson narrated.

Dan (00:32:00):

Dude, I was going to ask about. But that’s a huge… and so it just goes to show where… my buddy John Christ will probably beat me when he hears me say this, but it shows my casual level of snowboarding. I forgot that that’s how he opens the catalog thing every year. Until I heard a bunch of it, I was like, “Oh yeah, he used to sign some of those things.”

Fernando Villena (00:32:20):

Right.

Dan (00:32:21):

What an awesome apropos tie in.

Fernando Villena (00:32:24):

Yeah.

Dan (00:32:25):

Dude, the thing with the interviews, man, it’s so fun for me to talk about this, because if I hear people say like, “Ah, talking head or documentary… Ah, it’s like a talking head and some stuff in it” or like, “Ah, it’s just an interview.” I’m like, dude, that’s such a missed opportunity in your mindset. Every time you do that, there’s an opportunity to be creative. You just have to go beyond a three point light kit set up. You just got to be willing to really get into it.

Dan (00:33:02):

I love that more than anything when I’m watching. I’m disappointed if I watch a doc and I don’t see something interesting tried like that.

Fernando Villena (00:33:13):

Right.

Dan (00:33:13):

And I think it really elevates the production values too, man. I think it puts the film in a class when you have those really stylized where I’m like, “Ooh that’s…” And I’m watching like, “Well, where did that come from? Oh, well where does that kind of like…” Man, so kudos to you and your DP, man. You guys did a wonderful, wonderful job there.

Fernando Villena (00:33:34):

Thank you. Thank you. I love how they came out. And what I love about it is the fact that they’re special people, the riders are special people in my opinion. And we just gave them a little bit of a… we shined the light on them actually. [crosstalk 00:33:59]

Dan (00:33:58):

I like what was it again? You wanted them… I said hyper-lit, but you said you wanted hyper-reality?

Fernando Villena (00:34:05):

Yeah, yeah. Hyper-real. Like these guys are real, but more real?

Dan (00:34:09):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:34:09):

And they all have great hair. They all have the best hair. And you know, these guys, here’s the funny thing, man. I didn’t want a lot of branding. I didn’t want like a lot of branding with the hats. And all these guys wear hats and they’re all covered in whoever sponsors them. Which a lot of these guys, it’s Burton. So when they would come in, I’d be like, “All right. Do you mind taking off your jacket? You mind taking off your hat?” And they’re like, “What do you mean?” Like, “Take off your hat.” And they’re like, “Bro, but my hair is all messed up.” I’m like, “Just take it off, man. Just take it off.”

Fernando Villena (00:34:47):

And then they would take it off and yeah, it would be messy, but they all have this like… [crosstalk 00:34:54]

Dan (00:34:53):

Yeah. Killer hair.

Fernando Villena (00:34:54):

Yeah. And so I was like, “Cool.” And the only person who wouldn’t do that was Terje. I was told…

Dan (00:35:02):

Really?

Fernando Villena (00:35:03):

I was told before the interview don’t even ask Terje to take off this hat.

Dan (00:35:11):

Okay.

Fernando Villena (00:35:12):

Don’t even do it. Don’t even do it. I’m like, “Okay, should I be scared?” And so if you see in the film, he’s the only one with a hat on.

Dan (00:35:17):

That’s great.

Fernando Villena (00:35:22):

But Terje is Terje. So, cool.

Dan (00:35:25):

Yeah. So you’d be like, “All right, bro. That’s what we’re doing. Okay. We’re keeping it on.”

Fernando Villena (00:35:28):

Yeah. Yeah. No is no, right?

Dan (00:35:31):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:35:35):

There’s still a bit of branding sometimes, a couple of people have something on their shirts, but compared to a regular action sports film, there’s very little branding.

Dan (00:35:49):

Dude, action sports 101. A lot of our stuff is from that, not the world of snowboarding, but the world of action sports, a little tiny corner of it. And I mean, that’s athlete training 101. You come in as branded, gimmicked as you can from your sponsors. And you try to be like, “Oh, can we stay wide? Is that kind of like…” So it’s very antithesis for you to come in and be like, “No, man. We’re going to try to strip that down.”

Fernando Villena (00:36:15):

Take it out. Yeah. It was cool.

Dan (00:36:17):

Also, very metaphoric in that you’re kind of stripping away what’s expected. And you’re really getting at the core of some of these emotional stories that are… Because dude, the section – both what happened in reality when you were talking earlier about the Jake’s first bout with illness and him writing, but then also the way that you guys treated that was like… I had that moment when you’re watching that, it’s so heavy in a really good, powerful way. Talk a little bit about how you chose to visually bring those things in.

Fernando Villena (00:37:07):

Yeah. That’s a good question. It’s tricky, because you can get really caught up in gimmicks. That’s my dog. I’ll be right back. [crosstalk 00:37:19]

Dan (00:37:19):

Bring him in, dude. It’s all good. My beagle is here for the television folks. I’ll take my camera off…

Fernando Villena (00:37:26):

Right. Right. So…

Dan (00:37:29):

There’s my beagle bro. But he’s old. And so he sleeps.

Fernando Villena (00:37:33):

She’s good. She just needs to see me. She’s deaf actually. So she doesn’t, she doesn’t know where I’m at.

Dan (00:37:39):

It’s all good.

Fernando Villena (00:37:39):

There was a lot of talk, a lot of talk. How are we going to do this? Do we do reenactments? Do we do some kind of visual device? Ultimately, we use the cards, because I think the desperation in his handwriting, the desperation in how he communicates is there. And I found those cards to be really, really moving. So we were focused on the cards. Focus on the cards. And again, we created this narrative, this kind of narrative based on the cards. The very first card that pops up says “help me.”

Fernando Villena (00:38:35):

And to me that says it all. I mean, this is so scary. Just so scary. Those two words: help me. But it progresses. It progresses. And then his humor starts to come back.

Dan (00:38:48):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:38:48):

Bit by bit. And then by the end, he’s cracking jokes. And like Mark McMorris says, those cards are really hard to make out. But if you could make it out, the old Jake was still in there.

Dan (00:38:57):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:39:00):

But we kind of toned everything down. We had a few dip to blacks. We had the card that comes up and gives us a bit of context on what the Miller Fisher disease is. But then after that, it was pretty, let’s keep it simple. Let’s keep it simple and keep it emotional. Because those cards are going to do the work.

Dan (00:39:21):

Right. Yeah. That totally makes sense. You mentioned earlier something just a few minutes ago I want to go back to and then we’ll get on our way to getting you on about your day. Talk about Woody Harrelson and the narration and him reading those pieces. How’d that come together? Both how’d the production come to choose Woody. And then also just that technique, was that something that you always knew you were going to do? Is that something that got figured out later?

Fernando Villena (00:39:53):

Right. Well, so what happened was, I think very early on in the process, after we were locked in, on thing that has to be said is after Jake passed, our creative approach was going to be we were still going to do a bunch of traveling. We were still going to go to Austria and go to Chile and go to and go to Vermont. That was the plan. That was the plan. And three weeks after the U.S. Open, we’re all locked in. We’re on lockdown. So we can’t leave our homes all of a sudden. So at that point, I remember telling our team like, “I don’t know what’s happening, but let’s approach this like we’re not getting out anytime soon.” And they were saying, “Well, that sounds a bit dramatic.”

Fernando Villena (00:40:50):

I’m like, “Well, I don’t know. And I don’t want to plan for a shoot in June and then put all our eggs in one basket and then we can’t travel. I just don’t know. So I want to shift to a more archive based film.” And so we had to, again, rethink the creative. And so at that point that we’re not going to travel, we’re not going to do all of these things, so how do we still break up the film? And I just remember thinking about the catalogs. And I was just thinking about the catalogs for a few days. And then it just hit me. It hit me right away.

Fernando Villena (00:41:36):

I was like, “Oh, shit. I have an idea.” And I called my editor, my best friend, Rose Corr, who is the best editor I’ve ever met. And I’ve met a lot of editors. And I was like, “I have an idea.” And she’s like, “What?” I was like. “So you know those catalog entries?” And she’s like, “Uh-huh.” And she’s like “Here’s what I’m thinking” And then she was like “I think I know what you’re thinking”. I’m like, “What?” “You want to put them in the film in some way?” I’m like, “Yeah, I think we can frame the history based on those catalog entries.”

Dan (00:42:15):

That’s great.

Fernando Villena (00:42:17):

I also knew at that point that the last entry, the one where he is talking about the rider, the process. The very last one, he wrote that days before he passed away. That was the last thing he wrote.

Dan (00:42:35):

Wow.

Fernando Villena (00:42:36):

So I’m thinking, “Well, what if we put these little bits in the film?” And she’s like “How do you think it’ll work?” I’m like, “Well, I’m not exactly sure, but what I like about it also is that he always addresses the rider. He says “Dear Rider” in the beginning.” And then she and I, I swear in the same moment where like, “Is that the title of the film?” I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I think that’s the title of the film. It’s Dear Rider.”

Dan (00:43:07):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:43:08):

And she’s like, “I think that’s the title of the film.”

Dan (00:43:10):

So dope.

Fernando Villena (00:43:12):

Now, all of a sudden, now I’m in a panic, because now I have… The worst thing about making something is really liking it, because somebody’s going to say “I don’t like that.”

Dan (00:43:21):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:43:22):

So, now I’m like “I really like this idea of Dear Rider. Now I got to sell it.” But it wasn’t a tough sell. It wasn’t a tough sell. But I also did know Woody Allen, I’m sorry. Not Woody Allen. Woody Harrelson. [crosstalk 00:43:42]

Fernando Villena (00:43:41):

Woody Harrelson was on the interview list.

Dan (00:43:42):

Okay.

Fernando Villena (00:43:44):

He was on the initial interview list because he was a friend of Jake’s. And they partied and they hung out and Jake put him on the interview list. But I’m always a little wary about celebrity interviews in documentaries. Even though I knew Woody Harrelson was his friend, I always feel a little strange about throwing in a famous person just to throw him in there. So I was like, “What if Woody Harrelson does the narration?” And a lot of people got excited about it. Ben got excited about it. Coxy. Donna. Yeah, because they were like, “It’s a really cool way to bring Jake’s words into the film.”

Dan (00:44:30):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:44:31):

But there was debate. Is it Woody Harrelson? Is it one of the family members? Is it a sound alike? So we tossed around some ideas. In the meantime, we’re putting them together. We’re editing down these… because a lot of these intros are very, very long. So we needed them to be punchier and tighter and kind of tell the story a lot quicker. So our writer, Thomas Bean, he went through all the catalogs and just edited these really wonderful little pieces. And so we started editing these segments. And it was working fine. It was working fine. Actually there was a “Dear Rider” in the very beginning of the film, it used to open with one. But then I knew something wasn’t working yet.

Fernando Villena (00:45:24):

Something wasn’t working for me yet. And visually they were fine. We were using images and stuff like that, but they didn’t have that punch. So I have an editor, another… I know so many editors. So I have another editor, close friend of mine, his name’s Doobie White. And he is like, I don’t even… he’s next level. I mean his ability to work with graphics and to work with this really kinetic style, but also have it kind of connect emotionally.

Dan (00:46:05):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:46:05):

I haven’t seen anybody do anything like it. So we hired him to cut together the first three “Dear Rider” segments. So that’s why they have that kind of different energy. That different feel. So then Woody Harrelson agreed to do the narrations. And the first time we did it, we did it twice, the first time was a total shit show. He had just come back from surfing in Hawaii and so he had a little set up in his closet, which he uses for the same purposes on other [crosstalk 00:46:41] films. But I was also super nervous. I’d never worked with an actor like Woody before. And I just totally shat the bed. It was the worst, it was just…

Dan (00:46:52):

Tell me more about that, man. Were you giving too much direction? Were you not giving enough direction? Looking back on that.

Fernando Villena (00:46:58):

Well, first of all, I had nerves going on because as I said that was the first time I’d worked with an actor of that caliber. Secondly, I felt unsure of what I needed, because all the “Dear Riders” up to that point, we had a scratch narration and a friend of mine who’s a VO artist was doing the narration for us. And he did a great job, but he would do them on his own. And he would give us different takes and then we would cut them in. And I kind of wanted a flatter read, because I didn’t know what it needed to be yet. So when Woody did his, I hadn’t moved beyond that flat read mentality.

Fernando Villena (00:47:43):

So, I was like “All right, yeah. That sounds good.” But not really knowing what we needed. And he did it based on my really bad direction. And the results were not surprisingly, they weren’t good.

Dan (00:48:01):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:48:02):

So I knew I had to do it again. So what I did, we had to book him again and that’s not a comfortable thing to do. But we were able to get Woody back in the studio. But before then, I did a session with my friend who was doing our scratch narration. And we dug deep this time. It wasn’t just him by himself. We worked together. For me to really understand what the intentions of each one were and where I needed the emphasis to be on. Not just the word, but the feelings.

Fernando Villena (00:48:41):

And more importantly, where is Jake in his life at this point? I was able to do that work, that prep with Jason Whitten, who was doing our scratch narration. So then by the time I went back to my second session with Woody, I was more prepared. Almost over-prepared at that point. And I remember the tech guy at a Red Bull, he was like, “Dude, these famous dudes, you just got to tell them what’s up. Can’t be intimidated by these dues, you just got to tell them what’s up.” And I’m like, “Thanks, man. I got it.” But we had a great session. The second session was awesome, but it was really line by line.

Fernando Villena (00:49:30):

This line is about this, this line’s about that. And we did line by line. And by the end of it, Woody was so frustrated. He just threw his headphones down. He’s like, “I’m done guys. I’m done. I got no more. I got no more for you.” And then I was like, “Oh my God, we upset him.” But then he came around and was very nice and said goodbye to us.

Fernando Villena (00:49:52):

But the cool thing about it is, I think by the end, by the last two or three “Dear Riders” when the subject is about… My favorite is the one where he says “Dear Rider, I write this letter every year, and every year I say how snowboarding has grown, but after personally tough year…” And then he goes about what he’s learned. And that’s to have as much fun as possible “Dear Rider” beat.

Fernando Villena (00:50:18):

And by that time, for me, he’s Jake. He’s already embodied Jake.

Dan (00:50:22):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:50:23):

And then by the last one, I mean, it’s just so moving. And Donna says, “Yeah, Woody, just like… It’s Jake speaking through Woody. It’s uncanny. That’s exactly how Jake would’ve delivered those lines.” And every screening that we have, I promise you every screening that we have, people clap after each one. People clap after each “Dear Rider” segment and then you see Jake’s signature…

Dan (00:50:49):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:50:49):

People clap. And it’s like, “Wow, I’ve never seen that before in a movie.”

Dan (00:50:54):

So, dude. You and, was it Rose? Who was your editor’s name, I’m sorry, that you mentioned earlier.

Fernando Villena (00:50:59):

Rose Corr.

Dan (00:51:00):

Rose. Dude, I mean, kudos to you guys again just showing that being great storytellers. You guys hit on stuff that you hit on correctly, but didn’t even understand that like… though I’m not a snowboarder, but came up more a skateboarder and punk culture. The thing in those worlds, especially at a certain time is it’s not like the Nike catalog that doesn’t mean anything to anybody. When those record labels are putting out the catalog or you get that Burton snowboard catalog in the mail, or you get whatever, it’s almost, back in the day, it was almost on a level of another magazine. Another publication. Anything you could get your hand on.

Fernando Villena (00:51:42):

Pre-internet. It was pre-internet.

Dan (00:51:43):

Right. Right.

Fernando Villena (00:51:45):

That’s how he spread the gospel. That’s how he spread his gospel.

Dan (00:51:46):

A million percent, dude. Talk about your point from earlier about taking care of the core and, and yes that statement of truth, but I can absolutely see how that resonates. Because when you’re sitting there and you’re a 14 year old kid into whatever it is it, he is speaking to you. When you see stuff like that, he’s talking right at you. So, kudos to your team.

Fernando Villena (00:52:13):

Oh, yeah. No, thank you. It’s funny, because Jake, when he started his company, especially when it was still in that get rich quick era of it, he thought his audience, the buyers, were going to be 25 year olds, 30 year olds, people his age. Very quickly he realized that the people who are going to be buying these snowboards were 14 year olds.

Dan (00:52:41):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:52:42):

13 year olds. Those impressionable kids. And that’s who he was speaking to. To those kids. And I love how you said 14 year olds, because he was speaking to 14 year olds. And I think until the end of his life, he was speaking to those 14 year olds. Because that’s when he fell in love with it, when he was 11, 12.

Fernando Villena (00:53:04):

And he never lost that connection to them. I mean the dude loved riders. He just loved them so much. That was his whole life. Everything he did was for the riders. Every decision. Every kind of decision on the boards and the bindings and all that. The gear, the soft goods. And God, he loved making things. Jake loved making things. He was like that old school entrepreneur who actually made stuff.

Dan (00:53:36):

Right. Yeah.

Fernando Villena (00:53:37):

And he just loved… Like “The zipper’s wrong. No, this is Velcro. We don’t need Velcro. What about this thing?” He was so involved in every aspect of that because he loved it. Not because he wanted to have the last word, it was because he really, really did love it. And it was all to make the experience for the rider better.

Dan (00:54:00):

Yeah. You hit on something. I think that’s interesting too. And there is, like you said it, that entrepreneur level. And so much not from a modern, very tech, [inaudible 00:54:14], whatever, whatever, but that almost old school tinkerer, like you said, entrepreneur, but who made stuff. And was like, “Oh, I’m going to make something by tearing apart this other thing and putting this because I wanted this thing to be here.” And I think that that is also a really compelling thing about Jake’s story and the story of Burton. And I think you guys do a really nice job of also letting that… It doesn’t overwhelm anything else in the film, but it definitely rises up.

Fernando Villena (00:54:45):

That’s one of my favorite parts of the film is when he lands in New York and he’s got that shitty job, selling little companies to big companies. Can you imagine Jake Burton doing that? And he’s like “I need to do my thing.” And so he was like, “You know that toy, that snurfer that I loved when I was a kid, I always thought that could be a sport. Nobody’s done it yet. Nobody’s actually been able to turn it into a sport. I think I can do it.” And again, this is 1977. He didn’t know that there were other dudes in Colorado and Utah trying to do the same thing. But what Jake had was a great business sense. And so he had that over his competitors, over his peers.

Fernando Villena (00:55:31):

And another thing is it did start off as an entrepreneur, like just “I’m going to make this company. I’m going to make a bunch of cash. This is going to be awesome.” $100,000 a year, that’s what he was thinking. And he was making them out of his apartment on the upper east side, in New York City. Imagine that. The first Burton prototypes, he’s got like a table saw in his apartment in New York City. So he’s probably doing all of these things with the mask. And so he was like, “I got to get out of here. I got to go [crosstalk 00:56:02]. And I love him saying “We made all those snowboards, but we couldn’t sell them. And I would go out with 38 and I came back with 40.”

Dan (00:56:12):

That was great. So great.

Fernando Villena (00:56:16):

How many people at that point would’ve just thrown their hands up and it’s like, “This is too much. Maybe…

Dan (00:56:20):

Right. I was wrong. I was wrong. At that moment when you come back with more than you took out. [crosstalk 00:56:25]

Fernando Villena (00:56:25):

But he was like, “You know what…”

Dan (00:56:25):

But he said “Fuck that.”

Fernando Villena (00:56:28):

“Screw these guys. I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m going to prove them that I’m right.” Because he had a strong ego, too. And his friends in New York are making fun of him. Like, “You’re still trying to… You’re living in Vermont. You’re in a barn trying to sell these objects that nobody wants. Good luck.” But he was like, “I’m going to do it.” But the key to the success at that moment, what changed everything was it’s not about the money. It’s not about the money. It’s about the sport. It’s about making it a sport. It’s about putting everything, my love, my energy, everything I got into making snowboarding a sport.

Fernando Villena (00:57:11):

And that’s what he did. And that’s when things started to change. That’s when people started to buy his product, when he focused on making snowboarding a sport.

Fernando Villena (00:57:26):

I think I love that section of the film, because it says so much about him and gives us an insight into what’s to come and how he’s going to handle his adversity. And how he’s going to be defiant in the face of competitors and the Olympics, IOC and his own body failing on him. That defiance, that kind of resiliency is… Maybe snowboarding would still be a sport in some way had Jake not gotten it on all the resorts and done all of those things, but I’m sure it’d be very different. And I don’t know if it would be an Olympic sport. Jake didn’t invent snowboarding. It’s like you said, it’s something people have been doing forever. Coming down to mountain on on a plank of wood. But man was he responsible in a big way for turning it into what it is today.

Dan (00:58:23):

Yeah. Last question. How’d you guys, because this is definitely a personal area for me, because I started out… I still music supervise all my own stuff because we’re pretty small. And I started out as a music supervisor. So, how’d you guys do your music?

Fernando Villena (00:58:41):

Okay. That’s a great question. And do you like the soundtrack?

Dan (00:58:45):

I love it. Dude, I’m the right age. That Pennywise song in the middle when Bro Hymn comes in, it’s like… “Okay. I’m yep. This is…”

Fernando Villena (00:58:54):

Oh my God. Funny story. This will give you insight into how not of this world I am. So when we were looking for a track for that particular piece, at some point we had a Beastie Boy way track in there. I think it was Sabotage. But we weren’t going to clear sabotage. But that’s what we worked with initially. So we had to find another song. And Jonathan Hecht, our extraordinary music supervisor, he sent us a bunch of tracks. So I hear this and I’m like, “No, no. Too obvious, too obvious too, too obvious.” And then I hear Bro Hymn. And I’m like, “Holy shit. This song is so dope.” So I get super excited about it. And I called Ben Bryan. And I’m like, “Dude, have you ever heard to this song called Bro Hymn?”

Fernando Villena (00:59:42):

And he just laughs man. He is like, “Oh my God. I mean, are you serious?” Like, “No, it’s really good.” I’m like, “Of course it’s good. It’s like the Anthem.”

Dan (00:59:50):

Right.

Fernando Villena (00:59:50):

“It’s like the Anthem.” And “I’m like really? So people know this song?” He’s like, “Everybody knows this song. This is like the song.” I’m like, “Well, I want use it.” And it was some debate as to whether it was a little too on the nose. Too iconic. But Doobie did such a great job of cutting it up so where it’s still Bro Hymn, but it doesn’t feel like a needle drop necessarily.

Fernando Villena (01:00:16):

Here’s the thing. That’s the Bro Hymn story. But once we couldn’t travel to different places, we had a travel budget. We were going to go to Chile and Austria, like I was saying, couple of other places.

Fernando Villena (01:00:36):

That opened our budget up to a different musical approach. We couldn’t travel, so it was like, “Well, maybe let’s put our money into music.” And then so our music supervisor, we worked on it from the very beginning. I like working with the stuff that’s actually going to be in the film at the end from the very beginning. One of the things I hated editing, what I hated about editing, was temp music. That’s why everything sounds like Hans Zimmer, because everything is ripped off from Zimmer. You use his music in a temp track and then all of a sudden you have temp love and you want your composer to make it sound like it, but not like, right.

Fernando Villena (01:01:24):

I hate that. I hate that shit so much. So I always work with our composer from day one, in this case Turtle, who’s from Scotland, who’s from Glasgow of all places, from day one. So he starts giving us sketches and giving us cues and stuff. So we start working with that. But then Jonathan Hecht, we told him you need to just give us a bunch of music, give us a bunch of music that you think you can clear. You know what I’m saying?

Dan (01:01:56):

Right, that’s the…

Fernando Villena (01:01:58):

So he went deep, man. He went so deep and I think his guiding light was that iconic class that musician who was different, that did things differently. And focused on those artists. So we started digging into his music and it was the best tracks. But what’s really cool is, in his first batch, there was a Hugh Masekela track in it. And that Hugh Masekela track is amazing. And we put it in the film and it’s the first track that comes in when Jake is already when they’re going up the mountain and they’re coming down in the van.

Dan (01:02:48):

Right. Right. Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:02:50):

And it’s nationals. It’s the first nationals where everybody’s eating shit, falling down. And that’s the Hugh Masekela track. It’s so dope. It’s the dopest track. But what our music supervisor didn’t know was that Selema Masekela, his son, is in the movie. He’s the announcer at the U.S. Open.

Dan (01:03:12):

Because he worked in snowboarding. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:03:15):

Yeah. And he all over action sports. That guy is an icon in action sports.

Dan (01:03:18):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:03:19):

So he’s in our film and he does such a wonderful job, especially at the end. And so when Selema saw the film for the first time, he was like, “Wait, is that my dad?” It was cool. And I love the Blondie demo track that we used. Instead of Heart of Glass, we used the actual demo, which is called Blondie Disco Song. I love that version of it. It’s just so cool. The music’s great.

Dan (01:03:56):

I think that’s why Bro Hymn works in this film, because if you had to pick, and I feel comfortable saying this because I am of that generation, if you had to pick one band and one song, skate, snow, surf from late 80s to 90s, what band? What Song? It’s Pennywise, Bro Hymn. But you did it once. If the whole film was filled with music that you would expect in the snowboard film genre, that’s one experience. But like you said, you guys didn’t do that. So, that was the thing. And it’s maybe half way through the film. So I wasn’t expecting to hear anything in that, so when you hear that first and if you know that song… and the bass drops, you’re like “Oh, wow.”

Dan (01:04:49):

You guys also used the original version of it.

Fernando Villena (01:04:52):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan (01:04:53):

So I thought you played that card really nicely.

Fernando Villena (01:04:57):

It’s cool you said that. Yeah. And then I hadn’t thought of it like that, but I think the concern was that it would be too kind of on the nose. Too iconic. But for me, I tell people this all the time, I tell people this all the time, it’s like “Who’s your audience?” People always say who’s your audience? The only audience I’m absolutely sure of is myself. Okay. I’m not a 60 year old grandma. I’m not a 14 year old dude. I’m me. So I make movies that I think I would want to watch over and over again. Because, well, first of it’s got out my name on it. And then secondly, it’s something that I can be sure about. I like this track.

Fernando Villena (01:05:43):

I like this track. And so I get it. But I was also, in my point of view, was it has an energy and it has an authenticity that just feels right. I don’t know why, and now I know why, it’s because it was the anthem, but for me it was like, “This song just feels right. It feels right for the scene. It feels right for this moment in the film. It just feels right to me.” And trust me, we still did our due diligence and put other tracks in there, but all these other ones felt like those felt too obvious to me. Those felt like trying too hard by not trying too hard, if you will.

Fernando Villena (01:06:24):

And this one, I was like, “Dude, let’s just lean into it. Let’s just lean into it. It’s Bro Hymn, whatever. I get that everybody knows this track, but that might be a good thing. That might make people…” What I thought would happen was that people would get super pumped for it. Like they would hear it and they would get excited.

Dan (01:06:37):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:06:37):

And it would make them feel good, especially at that point in the movie, which we’re about to do a turn into some kind of darker stuff.

Dan (01:06:43):

Right.

Fernando Villena (01:06:44):

Let’s have that moment of just release.

Dan (01:06:46):

Yeah. And it works, man. I can tell you as watching it and again, where you guys placed it is so… Even if you get that one song, that one card for that, if you open with that, potentially the audience immediately… I don’t recoil, but I go, “Oh, okay. Snowboard movie music. I get it.” You sat on it, and it was kind of at the zenith of this, end of this part in act one. And it was like, “Okay, dude. I’m glad you got that release, because now strap in. We’re about to go into some gnarly shit.”

Fernando Villena (01:07:27):

And it was also kind of before it all got super corporate. And before the Olympics. The way I always talked about it, like in Good Fellas, they always talk about it, “It was before crazy Joe started that war.”

Dan (01:07:42):

Right.

Fernando Villena (01:07:43):

I always felt like it was a special time. Everybody was sponsored, I mean, they were making money. Not like Sean White money, but they were making money. And they could live off it. But they were going bananas. And they were just terrorizing people. It was a special time and I wanted to market as such or to present it as such.

Fernando Villena (01:08:12):

I thought that song was perfect. But, making a movie, you can have all these ideas that they may or may not work. And there’re some ideas and things that we tried even in this movie, that work okay but didn’t work as well as I thought they were going to work. And then there’re other things that I wasn’t really thinking they were going to work that great and work really well. So, you just don’t know. You just don’t know until you get out there. You have to trust your gut. You have to trust your gut.

Dan (01:08:42):

Well, dude, you, you said something a few minutes ago. I’m sorry because I took it back into talking about that song. But what I think is important too when you’re talking about audience. And I think that that’s so important for filmmakers. Because I’m kind of with you and then a lot of times it’s, I don’t know, taboo to verbalize it, but my thing is what you said about making films for yourself. If I’m not moved by it, if it doesn’t move me, how can I expect it to move anybody else? Right?

Fernando Villena (01:09:11):

Yeah. Right. I mean, that’s what I think. At least that’s the only thing I could be sure about is if I like something.

Dan (01:09:14):

Yeah. That’s a great way that you put it.

Fernando Villena (01:09:21):

Yeah. And sometimes I’m not sure if I like something actually, and I need help. Do I like this? Does this work? Because I kind of it, but not sure.

Dan (01:09:28):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:09:29):

There’s one thing that I really… I’ve been talking about this recently going around talking to people is the most important thing about making a movie is sharing it with people. Yes, I’m making a movie for myself, but then I have to go out into the world. I like to share the work in progress, the rough cut super early. Not just with my creative partners with Ben and the composer and everybody, but with people who are invested in the film in some way.

Fernando Villena (01:10:03):

Because you don’t want to go too far one way and then have to reel it back if it’s just way off. So for me, and this is my little quote if you will, is “Information not affirmation.” I like to get information. I don’t need people blowing smoke up my ass and be “Oh, that’s really cool, man. Yeah. Great. Keep going.” And then they’re like, “Wow, I don’t know.”

Dan (01:10:32):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:10:32):

If you think it sucks, let me know it sucks. Please let me know it sucks. Especially if you think it sucks let me know it sucks. Or what sucks about it or where it’s confusing. Confusion is the death of art. Death of a movie. So where are you confused? I’m not so bothered about where is it boring, because I don’t think a movie really comes together until the very, very end. So much magic happens at the end of an edit that really kind of brings out the soul of a film. But as far as confusion and understanding what the themes are and understanding what we’re trying to say, those things have to be clear.

Dan (01:11:12):

Absolutely man.

Fernando Villena (01:11:12):

Yeah. And if they’re not clear, you’re not making a movie. You’re making a video. And you’re not telling a story, you’re just giving information.

Dan (01:11:23):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:11:23):

You have to tell the story, you have to engage people. You have to move them. You have to touch them in ways that are unexpected, that they didn’t think they were going to be moved and touched. So I think, yeah. Information not affirmation. And I think that works not just for making movies, but for life. Even if you’re going to go out on the town, you want to know if you look good.

Dan (01:11:46):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:11:47):

You don’t want somebody to tell you you look good and you really don’t. So it’s like, yeah. Information.

Dan (01:11:51):

Oh man. That’s definitely sticking with me, man. Because, yeah. It’s important. I tell people in… And I kind of look at it a bit, I’m a big sports guy, so from a sports approach of it’s like you can’t have 12 short stops on your team. When you’re making or a filmmaker, I feel it is really important to have your tribe of folks. But in that tribe, you can have one person that their role is like mom goggles, but they can’t all be mom goggles. You have to have somebody in your tribe or that you’re showing that even if it changes for each film. That like you said, that they’re like, “Dude, I do not understand.” And confusion, that’s the big… because like you said, “Ah, this is boring. It’s not boring.” On some levels that’s potentially subjective and really tied together. But I don’t understand what’s going on here is like, “Whoa, okay. Pump the brakes. We got to really think about what we’re doing.”

Fernando Villena (01:12:49):

When somebody “Well, these people aren’t going to like it because of this” or “The core’s not going to like it because of that” or I just tune them out. It just becomes like peanuts. Like womp womp. You’re just not on my wavelength at this point. But if they tell me “What are you trying to say here, because this confuses me.” Or like, “I’m confused by this.” Or like, “This theme, how does it fit into what’s going on here?” I’ll have that conversation all day.

Dan (01:13:23):

Absolutely.

Fernando Villena (01:13:26):

Let’s get to what’s pinching you. Let’s get to what isn’t connecting with you. That’s a creative conversation.

Dan (01:13:32):

Yeah.

Fernando Villena (01:13:33):

Such and so isn’t going to like it because of this and this person isn’t going to like it because of that, that’s not creative conversation. That’s something else. That’s fear.

Dan (01:13:41):

Absolutely. Dude, that’s a fantastic way to wrap this up. I apologize. I think I told you an hour and I kept you longer.

Fernando Villena (01:13:48):

Oh no. It’s all good man.

Dan (01:13:48):

Thank you so much, dude. This is so great. Guys, the director is Fernando Villena. The film is Dear Rider. It’s out on HBO Max right now. The story of Jake Burton and for all intent purposes, the history of snowboarding as well. A beautiful film you guys. Kudos to you and all of your team.

Fernando Villena (01:14:10):

Thank you so much. That was really cool. Appreciate it.

Dan (01:14:13):

Absolutely. All right, everybody. We’ll catch you next time. This has been real life with Dan Napoli. Have a good one, everybody.

Speaker 4 (01:14:17):

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