Editor’s Note: “Behind The Barriers,” the popular web show that follows U.S. cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers through his racing season and other exploits, is back for its third season. In a new feature for 2012-13, we’ll be running an exclusive “Director’s Cut” journal along with every episode in which Powers and videographer Sam Smith will recount the funny, interesting and sometimes bizarre stories behind the show. Today’s first episode follows Powers and company to Las Vegas for the season-opening Clif Bar CrossVegas and to the Planet Bike Cup in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Sam Smith, Director:
For the inaugural Behind The Barriers “Director’s Cut” entry, I figured I would give a little background to how I actually became the “Director”. We’re going to be doing one of these posts for every episode, and don’t worry, Powers will be doing some of them. But for now you have to listen to the Sam Smith story.
I’ve been filming cyclocross racing for a long time. It all started because I was bored during my sophomore year of college. I shot all the New England series races that year because Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was no place for a 20-year-old to hang out on the weekends. I ended up doing a majority of the work on the 2003 New England Series recap DVD that Adam Myerson was producing at the time. My cyclocross output chugged along in the subsequent years with “Transition”, “Transition 2”, “Cyclofile 1” and “Cyclofile 2”, and “CrossNatz”.
But by the time 2009 rolled around I was burnt out on the whole bike racing thing and wanted to spend my time in other ways. I joined a band, my hair grew long and I became a legitimate rock n’ roll dude.
It was September of 2010. The band was playing shows regularly, traveling around the east coast and trying to finish an album. Cyclocross wasn’t even on my radar. CrossVegas was two weeks away, but I wasn’t planning on being there. I got a call after work one day from Jeremy Powers. We hadn’t talked for a little while, but we had become pretty tight over the years. It wasn’t abnormal for us to call each other out of the blue for some unusual request: “Hey want to DJ for my parody rap group this weekend?” “Hey want to meet me at the Liberty Hotel on your lunch break to shoot some photos?”
I wondered what this call would be about as it rang…
“Smith!” he answered. “Remember how we’ve talked a few times about doing a web show? How do you feel about me getting you a ticket to Vegas? Let’s try it out.”
And that’s how it went. Powers footed the bill for the first season of Behind The Barriers, flying me to almost every race he attended, always saying “the people need this!” I paid for it in labor and exhaustion. Sleepless nights and redeye flights made that first season happen, all while I had a full-time job and a full-time debaucherous nightlife routine with the band. A regular part of my schedule became playing a show or rehearsing Friday night, partying until five in the morning, and jumping in a cab to make it to the airport for my crack-of-dawn flight. That was usually followed up with a Sunday night flight that would get me back to Boston just in time for my Monday shift. I tried to go easier on myself for season two, but it ended up pretty similarly.
Now we’re starting season three with a packed shooting schedule. The band fell apart in the spring. I quit the day job. Powers and I just came out with our first instructional video, “Jeremy Powers Cross Camp” and that’s going well. The amount of time and attention I’m giving this stuff is pretty uncanny. So the sport that I tried to move away from a few years ago has fully sucked me back in. And there’s only one guy to blame.
It’s funny how life changes and morphs before your eyes, and small little ideas build into things that change your whole trajectory. What if Powers had called me up two years ago just to talk about grabbing dinner because he was in town? I’d have my bass chops back right now, that’s for sure.
Thanks for reading and watching. There’s much more to come over the course of this very exciting cyclocross season. Stay tuned. The push for the show this season is to add more local flavor to each episode. And we will also be changing the main character of some episodes. “What, not always Powers?!” That’s right, not always Powers. Also, expect more European episodes, and maybe even an episode or two from even farther off lands. Stay tuned.