Filmmaker: Eric Tretbar

Film: Girl Meets Bike

1st Annual MFF Feature Narrative Film, Official Selection 2013

Q: What’s the name of your film in the MFF, and what’s it about?

A: GIRL MEETS BIKE is the story of Kat, a high school shop teacher who buys her first motorcycle with her wedding dress money and learns to ride over one summer.  But learning to ride is a more than just a skill for operating a two-wheeled motor vehicle.  It’s really learning the skills of independence and self-reliance, and discovering which people will help her become independent, and which ones want to keep her dependent.  


Q: What inspired you to make this movie?

A: I watched my sister buy her first bike and learn to ride one summer, and like most new riders, she pursued her new bike with a passion and gusto that reminded me of my first bike.  I realized that my sister’s story was a love story, a story of first love, like that inappropriate person most people fell for in 7th or 8th grade.  And like all first loves, our first bike is always a difficult love with plenty of drama, danger and comedy.  I had written other motorcycle movies before this script, but I wanted to write one which was simpler and fairly easy to shoot, so this “first love” story seemed right for GIRL MEETS BIKE since it didn’t require high speed riding or big stunts.  But the meaning of the story was still big, since it expresses the human determination to do things beyond our knowledge, skill and common sense.  And it IS potentially dangerous.  To climb atop a powerful engine and propel yourself through space is bold and risky.  But that risk also makes it more valuable, along with the feeling of freedom and pride that comes from successfully riding and repairing your own bike.  In this time of “virtual” activities and gaming, motorcycling is REAL, an activity which cannot be faked, bought, or approximated.  No wonder my sister wanted to do it.  No wonder we all do!    


Q: How did you find the MFF?

A: I believe that MFF found me, thanks to Corinna!

Q: Have you made any other films, and If so, is there a common theme throughout your films?

A: I’ve made a number of features, most of them set in various underground Minneapolis scenes:  THE HORRIBLE FLOWERS (2006), GIGI 12×5 (2005), SNOW (1998) and THE USUAL (1992) in the music scene; and GIRL MEETS BIKE (2013) in the motorcycle scene.  Thematically, my work explores the individual’s struggle for freedom against the expectations of the group.     

In their attempts to find their place and freedom, my characters follow and betray their hearts, repair and destroy friendships, find and lose love, confess and conceal their innermost secrets.  Despite doubts and weaknesses, they persevere against odds and naysayers for an ultimate expression of hope to viewers:  that we are not alone in our struggles, that freedom and unity are possible, despite the obstacles they pose for each other.

Q: Do you ride a motorcycle?

A: I ride a 1991 Moto Guzzi 1000s, which played a leading role in GIRL MEETS BIKE, with guest appearances in GIGI 12×5 and THE HORRIBLE FLOWERS.  I fell in love with this bike at first sight, just as in the movie, and bought it in 1995 with a $150 downpayment and a handshake.  I’ve since rebuilt it 3 times, taken it to Isle of Man and Mandello del Lario, and ridden back and forth to both coasts many times.  It has in the neighborhood of 200,000 miles. 

I love this bike because it’s a highway bike concealed in a sporty cafe racer.  It loves to do 100 mph all day, but is also fun on mountain roads on your way somewhere else.  I drove it on the German autobahn full-out at 130mph and was surprised to arrive in Belgium from southern Germany 3 hours early.  En route, I overshot Belgium altogether, noticing only when the license plates were suddenly French.  It’s a lusty bugger, a bit brutal, but more fun to drive than brand new bikes.  As someone says in GIRL MEETS BIKE:  “It’s a sick, primative kind of love.”

Q: As a filmmaker, what about the MFF and motorcycle films in general speaks to you?

A: Motorcycle films are a slippery breed.   Motorcycling is an activity, but like Jazz, it doesn’t lend itself easily to a story.  The trick is translating your own interest and emotions about motorcycles into narrative form, giving shape to the action of riding and surrounding activities to make it understandable and meaningful to non-riders.  When filmmakers can express the sexy fun, wit, adventure, comraderie, precision and lawlessness that motorcycles contain, they’re expressing something universal (and unexpected for non-motorcyclists):  how it feels to be alive.

Q: Have you had a chance to attend the MFF yet?

A: Yes, last year.  It was great!  And I recommend it to anyone in the western hemisphere and beyond!

Q: Possibly impossible question: Favorite bike movie?

A: Though I have other faves, I have to say THE WILD ONE with Marlon Brando, since it both mythologizes the (probably) not-so-wild episode of Hollister, California, but also, very precisely shows the bikes, riders, clothing and attitudes of the post-war U.S. motorcycle scene.  My favorite element is the built-in humor of this gnarly gaggle of bikers.  They’re not the borderline sociopaths of the 60s outlaw biker films, but a realistic group of friends, with their constant commentary, running in-jokes, and ruthless pecking order.

Q: What’s next for you as a filmmaker?

A: I have several new projects, two of which involve motorcycles.  One is PRIDE AND PREJUDICE on motorcycles which gives Austen’s marriage critique a 21st century update.  The other, ISLE OF MAN, is a comedy of motorcycle manners which sets a battle of the sexes during the IOM TT races. 

Keep you eyes out for an article about the film, Girl Meets Bike in the publication, Wide Magazine


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