Up & Coming Action Sports Director with MTB on the Brain
The name Travis Fant may not be on the tip of your tongue when it comes to action sports videos just yet but to that we say just give it a little time. At only 23 years of age, this Floridian can already boast having graduated film school, started his own studio and worked on one of the hottest action sports films of late (On The Pipe 6 from Powerband Films).
We caught up with the enthusiastic filmmaker to discuss some of his forthcoming work in the mountain biking industry, and here’s what he had to say.
Travis, at what point did you decide filmmaking was the path for you?
It’s weird actually, even when I was just a little kid I would stare out the window on long drives and try to find music on the radio that would match to the scenery. I guess you could say it always kind of came natural to me.
Later on my dad gave me a camera to go film my buddies and I to make our own bike videos. I loved being creative and by the time I was in high school I absolutely knew this was for me. My mom and dad always told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be and I guess I was just fortunate enough to find out what that was early on in life.
And how did you go about putting your plan into action?
I really put my head down and focused on my strengths and weaknesses. Through high school I made sure I took advantage of each film class I could get into and outside of school I honestly think I was either behind the camera or behind the computer working on some little video I had made. Before I even went to college I had created 3 movies almost 2-hours in length in addition to some 15 mini videos that were around 3-minutes long.
Initially, what was your biggest inspiration?
I would have to say my biggest inspiration came in the form of the moto movies I had watched as a kid. There was just something about how they portrayed the riders and the rockstar lifestyles they seemed to live that appealed to my creative sensibilities. Even when I was young, I felt like I could do better with the material, or at least spice it up.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of the job for me is to sit down with someone who has never seen the footage or the edit of my latest project and just smile at what we’ve created together. I love when a rider says, “o dang that was sick!” To me that’s the moment when I know I killed it. I love the high of simply watching my work when the rider onscreen is pumped.
What is the most difficult aspect?
The most difficult aspect would have to be the long hours and the uncertainty of the future. It’s all about planning far in advance to ensure you are working somehow/someway.
In your opinion what is the most important innovation in modern filmmaking?
I am honestly digging a lot of the cable cam stuff they are doing right now in the mountain bike industry. I have been playing around with some ideas for shooting surfers using this technique born on the mountainside. Also the new Go Pro stuff is just insane! A 1080p high definition package in a thumbnail-size camera, this is such an intriguing idea to me. You can slap those things in hairy situations that you may not chance your $4,000 camera in and still end up with incredibly clean, crisp footage.
With computers/ digital cameras becoming more accessible than ever, how do you differentiate yourself from the hordes of fellow aspiring filmmakers?
Yea right now anyone can drop a couple grand and get a decent studio set up going. Separating one’s stuff from the rest is all about risk taking in my opinion. I don’t know how many of those people will lay their bodies down in a rut with plans of having rider and machine pass inches overhead just to get the perfect shot or hike down a hill that requires cable-suspension to film a mountain bike rider nail a drop. These areas require vision and commitment, not just fancy equipment.
If you hit the lottery tonight, what is the first thing you would buy?
I would buy some property somewhere in Florida and build a training facility for kids who may not be privileged enough financially to afford the costs associated with getting involved in riding. I would want my money to go back to action sports; this industry is my life, so to me it’s only natural to want to give something back.
What mountain bike film projects do you currently have in the works?
I am actually working with Marzocchi suspension in Valencia, California and making tech videos as well as team rider videos. I have also talked to some pretty heavy-hitters in the industry and while there is nothing set in stone just yet, I am optimistic about beginning a major mountain bike video as early as next year.
If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be and why?
I would maybe try to integrate some kind of class or workshop into the college level at film school specifically catered to action sports. There is simply not enough schooling/ training designed for the specific demands of action sports filmmaking. I had to actually go to the school board and fight for a class at my school. With persistence I was able to get the idea rolling and thanks to my efforts, students can now attend a class called Action Sports Cinematography 184. Suffice to say, I was super pumped!
If someone were to hijack your iPod or CD player right now, what would they hear?
O wow, haha, embarrassing! I have so much music in my system just for editing purposes that it would probably blow the average joe away! If I were lucky you wouldn’t find my hidden stash of Christmas music on there. Honestly anything from country to reggae to metal. I support all types of music because, and like me, musicians are artists with something worth sharing with the world. I appreciate that.
Now that you’re out in the field, can you think of any lessons that couldn’t be taught in film school (things that you can only learn from experience)?
Yea, no doubt. Most people think that this industry is all super rockstar lifestyle. Just party, party and have a good time, all the details in having an end product will just work themselves out. Of course that is definitely not the case.
As an editor/ operator, we are constantly changing our styles and trying new things to push it to the next level. To make a successful product, innovation is key. If anyone thinks that they could immediately become a millionaire doing this work, they are flat wrong. I have found we do this because we love the sport, not because we love money. Bottom line.
At this point what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I think working with Jay Schweitzer in On The Pipe 6. I worked with some of the best cinematographers in the business and the gnarliest riders out there right now. It’s hard to describe how much I learned and experienced.
What are some of your favorite non-sports oriented films/ movies?
I really love the movie Running Scared with Paul Walker. The editing is absolutely superb. It is super fast action, which really isn’t all that different from the stuff we shoot. I’m big on taking techniques and applying them to the unique demands of shooting mtb and moto. Another is American History X, it sparks so many universal emotions and the cinematography is just phenomenal.
If you could spend the day with anyone in the world, who and why?
You know I am still “FRESH” (no reference to my next movie, hahahaha) to the industry, but I am fortunate enough to have worked with a lot of the big names already. I wouldn’t mind spending a day with Robin Williams. The guy is hands down one of the most creative people on this planet. He can say something off the cuff that would take the average comedian years to think up. I like that he makes people laugh. I’m a subscriber to the theory that laughing is so healthy for everyone. At the end of the day you gotta sit back and smile at everything and he’s a guy who makes that his priority.
What advice would you give other up and coming action-sports filmmakers or individuals too intimidated to give it a go?
I would say as long as you have a camera, high quality or not, go out there and film. It doesn’t matter what you are capturing. Holding that camera and filming something is already giving you the edge over those who just think about getting out there and doing it. Practice really does make perfect. Push yourself and make sacrifices. Things may not be instant but think of your persistence as simply more opportunities to practice your craft. Odds are the people who achieved their dreams will be the first to tell you it took a long time to get there and that even through the rough spots, they stuck with it. Persistence is key.
If there’s anyone you wish to recognize for assisting you in getting where you are, please feel free to do so.
I would like to thank my mom and dad for supporting me through the ups and downs. No matter what they’ve got my back and it is absolutely incredible to have that kind of support behind me. Obviously I would like to thank God for blessing me with the opportunities that have come my way and for the wisdom to recognize them when they arrived. Marzocchi suspension for giving me a chance to show what I can do. Jay Schweitzer and Mike McEntire for helping me behind the camera and in the editing room for countless hours. If it weren’t for all of you, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.
Where can we send readers looking for more information on you and your work?
You can follow me on twitter at fant films or check out my blog by going to blogger.com and typing in fant films. Finally there is the fant films fan page on Facebook. Many of the pictures I have up now are from the moto film I am currently producing called “Fresh” but these are the best outlets for which readers and fans can keep up with everything I’m working on.
This article has been brought to you by Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine.