Behind the Scenes of Filming the South

Before there was ‘hashtag Enduro’ and even before people started racing ‘Super D’ again (but in lycra skinsuits), there was Trail Riding or as some people would like to call it, Mountain Biking.  If I remember rightly, there was about two or three magical years where we could ride our Mountain Bikes and not even worry about a clock or who was faster on a particular section (f@#k Strava) it was just about riding, and even with friends. Craigieburn and Greenwood Park are two of my favourite places to ride in the Christchurch area and I really wanted to showcase them in the South. Not too bullshit, just people out riding their bikes, having a good time on badass trails, but also the hope that people would want to find and ride them after watching it.

The Craigieburn section was what really fired us up into filming more trail riding and we tried to pull out all the stops. We had just built a dolly to get some nice moving shots and Willie and I had gone up the day before to set up some zip lines. I expected it to take two days to shoot, but the light was good and Cam and James were in top form, knocking out run after run, and we had it all wrapped up in one massive day.

James Rennie on Craigieburn

“I remember Horse (Cam Cole) asking if I wanted to do a shoot on the ‘Luge’ up at Craigieburn one Friday afternoon, and then it turning out the shoot was the next day. Sounded like it was going to be pretty cool; I’d never done any ‘proper’ filming before so I was dead keen! Horse and I got up at the crack of dawn, picked up Toby and Nick Middleton (photographer) and drove out to Craigieburn, where we were greeted by Pieter and his mate Willie (who knew how to use ropes, harnesses and stuff) clambering out of a tent. I think they may have been hungover? I’m not sure…

We all headed up the hill, shooting (filming) stuff along the way. The dolly and zip line setups that Willie and Pieter had were pretty revolutionary for the time and produced some sick shots! The general viewer may think we had a GoPro for the POV shots but that was basically a camera strapped to a full-face helmet.  We shot for what must have been close to 12 hours, Horse and I just lapped out the Luge all day. It was pretty awesome! The Luge is a favourite of mine and now I know every single line as we rode it so much that day. 

I remember smashing one turn over and over because it was so good. I also remember seeing Horse jump out of this turn over a root which to this day I don’t know how he pulled off. I think about it every time I go past the section. All in all it was a great day, I even think Pieter shouted beers and chips after? Other thoughts; why did I have a 2005 entry level Marzocchi fork on my Ibis? Why did we both have DJ helmets on? I guess Enduro wasn’t cool yet…”


A few things people say to me after filming the South was “how good was Justin’s Scandi flick?!” or that back flip from Conor was huge!” or in particular “Why is that guy wearing a shirt when he is trail riding?” And my answer is always the same: “that’s Nick Sutcliffe, he’s badass!” Nick rides smooth and fast always but I feel the filming wasn’t quite on point. Both Toby and I filmed this section at the same time to try and speed up the process. While Toby was filming a couple of corners, I was setting up on the next section with the dolly, but I think it gets a little muddled and we don’t tell the ‘story’ as well as we could.

In the South we never used Go Pros. The reason for that was the quality wasn’t there yet. I thought they would have been perfect for internet stuff, but for a Blueray movie it would have looked weird switching between a high quality camera like my Canon 7d and then to a low resolution Go Pro. Possibly, in retrospect, some more POV (point of view) shots could have made this section better by giving us a riders perspective.

The other day when Anthill released Brandon Semenuk’s one shot section from the movie UnReal, I thought about Nick Sutcliffe’s section and how a drone would have really helped, but also how it has changed up how mountain biking is filmed. It isn’t always just about the bangers, it’s also about the surroundings. A drone in this section could have zoomed out further and showing off Sumner and Taylor’s Mistake while Nick was riding a less technical piece of track, to then fly in closer as he rode something more technical.  It could have also given us the ability to film longer shots that were more interesting to watch.