Cat Bruce won the Short Narrative award at the 2nd annual MFF for her film Vincent Black Lightning, an animated film thatfollows the heartwarming yet tragic love story of Red Molly and James, A film about love, motorbikes, and a redheaded girl. Read all about Cat and the MFF award winning film here: http://motorcyclefilmfestival.com/vincent-black-lightning/.
Vincent Black Lightning will be screened at Petrolettes festival in Berlin July 29-31 2016 as part of an MFF films from the female perspective, so we took a few minutes to check in with Cat.
MFF: What new projects do you have in the works?
CB: After making Vincent Black Lightning, I went on to make a number of promotional animations, including a music video for a band called STRAW: vimeo.com/102508143. Following that, I made a short animated film called No Place like Home, focusing on a woman dealing with the threat of eviction. The trailer can be seen here: vimeo.com/154026285. I’m currently working on a few projects including another music video, and a promotional animation for a company I’ve worked for many times, called Black Cow Vodka, who make Vodka from the milk of grass grazed cows in West Dorset, England.
MFF:How did you find out about the MFF?
CB: I just happened to come across the festival online after making Vincent Black Lightning (an animated music promo) for musician Ewan Robertson in 2014.
MFF:Have you attended the MFF?
CB: I have not attended! I would have loved to, but as I live in Scotland, it would have been a very big trip, but maybe I will go another year!
MFF: How did you get into making films?
CB: I went to Edinburgh College of Art, and originally wanted to take the sculpture course. In my first year, I tried out all sorts of stuff, and after creating an animation, I fell in love with it and decided to do my degree in animation, which lead in to freelance animation jobs and making my own films.
MFF: Was making motorcycle films always an interest, or was this film an exception in your work?
CB: It was an exception, however, I have been inspired and may venture back into the animated realm of motorcycles.
MFF: Do you ride motorcycles?
CB: I do not ride motorcycles, however I don’t drive either. I’ve always thought that if I was going to use any vehicle, it would be a motorbike, but I haven’t gotten round to it yet. So I cycle a pedal bike and make engine noises with my mouth in the meantime. MFF: Is there anything you’d like to say as a woman filmmaker of a motorcycle themed film specifically?
CB: It was a great fun film to make. For me, when I think of motorcycles, I get a sense of freedom and adventure, which is something that as a female filmmaker, really resonates. As a filmmaker, you should be adventurous in what you are making, and you have the freedom to show people how you see the world. This is an important thing to remember, especially when at the moment, there are far fewer well known female filmmakers than males. The male point of view can dominate media, and that is why it is so significant to encourage female filmmakers and filmmakers from any other minority group; so we can see that there is more than one perspective, more than one way to live, more than one way to have an adventure, and more than one way to be free.
MFF: Anything else you’d like to add?
CB: I grew up in the highlands of Scotland, where we have a yearly Harley-Davidson festival called Thunder in the Glens, and I remember as a kid I really looked forward to it. Hundreds (or what seemed like hundreds) of folk from all over the world on Harleys, and other motorbikes would ride through all the wee highland villages, until they got to Aviemore where there was music and food. And it was so loud, it really did sound like thunder. It’s quite a poignant memory, watching and hearing these big thunderous and super cool motorcycles roaring past as a small kid. So it probably has positively affected the way in which I see motorcycles. Just thought I should give it a shout out.
Article by MFF Host and Head Judge Paul d’Orleans, reposted from his website, The Vintagent
Cliff Vaughs at the Motorcycle Film Festival panel discussion, which I moderated – a film of his visit to NYC is being edited as we speak (photo courtesy the Motorcycle Film Festival).
Cliff Vaughs, best known for his creation of the ‘Easy Rider’ choppers, sailed away from this world quietly on July 2nd from his home in Templeton, CA. Had it not been for Jesse James’ ‘History of the Chopper’ TV series, Vaughs would have likely vanished from history, but the question ‘who built the most famous motorcycles in the world?’ needed an answer. That led Jesse to a sailboat in Panama, where he found Cliff, who’d left the USA in 1974. Why he lived alone on a sailboat in the Caribbean, instead of soaking up praise for his work on ‘Easy Rider’, and his filmmaking , photography, and civil rights work, is a long story. I told some of that story in my book ‘The Chopper; the Real Story’, but Cliff’s life was too big to fit into one chapter of a book, and he dismissed ‘Easy Rider’ as “Three weeks of my life”.
Cliff Vaughs on Malibu beach in 1973, on his white H-D Shovelhead chopper. (photo courtesy Eliot ‘Cameraman’ Gold)
Cliff Vaughs was born in Boston on April 16th, 1937, to a single mother, and showed great promise as a student. He graduated from Boston Latin School and Boston University, then earned his MA at the University of Mexico in Mexico City – driving from Boston in his Triumph TR2. Moving to LA in 1961, he encountered the budding chopper scene, and soon had a green Knucklehead ‘chopped Hog’, as he called it; that’s where he befriended motorcycle customizer Ben Hardy in Watts, who became his mentor. Cliff was recruited to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963, and brought his chopper to Arkansas and Alabama, where he drag-raced white policemen, and visited sharecropper farms “looking like slavery had never ended.” He added, “I may have been naïve thinking I could be an example to the black folks who were living in the South, but that’s why I rode my chopper in Alabama. I was never sure if the white landowners would chase me off with a shotgun. But I wanted to be a visible example to them; a free black man on my motorcycle.”
Cliff’s chopper adventures in the SNCC was a story never told – he was too radical, too provocative, too free for the group. Casey Hayden (activist/politician Tom Hayden’s first wife) remembered Cliff as “a West Coast motorcyclist, a lot of leather and no shirts. Hip before anyone else was hip. A little scary, and reckless.” Cliff’s ex-wife Wendy Vance added “He was a true adventurer. … There was just some sort of fearlessness in all situations. It did not occur to him that he was a moving target on this motorcycle. At a march in Selma, the civil rights leader John Lewis refused to stand next to him. ‘You are crazy,’ Lewis said, ‘I will not march next to you.’ The fear was that, somehow, Cliff would make himself a target.”
A never-before published photo of Cliff on his white H-D Shovelhead chopper in 1973 (photo courtesy the Easyriders archive)
Cliff was indeed a target of many failed shootings, and his tales of riding his chopper in the South were incorporated into ‘Easy Rider’, after he returned to LA in 1965 to make films like ‘What Will the Harvest Be?’, which explored the nascent Black Power movement. Cliff was Associate Producer on ‘Easy Rider’, and oversaw the creation of the Captain America and Billy choppers, which became the most famous motorcycles in the world. He didn’t get the recognition he deserved for those bikes, partly because the whole crew was fired when Columbia Pictures took over production, and Cliff’s payout/signoff included a clause keeping him off the film’s credits. Publications like Ed Roth’s ‘Choppers Magazine’ explored Cliff’s role in ‘Easy Rider’ from 1968 onwards, but both Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper at various times claimed credit for building those bikes, and Dan Haggerty took credit too. Hopper acknowledged in his last year the seminal role Cliff Vaughs played, as did Peter Fonda, in 2015. Cliff went on to produce ‘Not So Easy’, a motorcycle safety film, in 1974, but left the US to live on a sailboat in the Caribbean the next 40 years. He was brought back to the US in 2014, as appreciation spread for his contribution to motorcycle history, and he was celebrated at the Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn last year; a documentary from his time in NYC is being edited as this moment. Godspeed, Cliff.
Cliff Vaughs with a re-creation of his ‘Captain America’ chopper in 2014
You were featured in “The Museum,” which screened at the second annual MFF. What was the origin of that film and how did it come to be? The National Motorcycle Museum in the UK asked me to take part in an exhibition of motorcycle based art to celebrate their 30th anniversary. I wanted to do something special for the museum as it does a huge amount of work keeping a lot of historical bikes running. I had produced a large studio piece for The Bike Shed Event 3 earlier in the year and wanted to produce a large piece for the museum. However, I also wanted to sketch at the museum, as I do when travelling to various motoring events. In order to do this I made a scrolling sketchbook that enables me to sketch on long rolls of paper. “The Museum” piece ended up about 3.5m long. I thought it would be great to document this approach to show people how I work and help explain what I do as an automotive artist; a lot of automotive work is studio based, working exclusively from photos.
How did you or Tom Rochester, the film’s director, hear about the MFF? I heard about the film festival in 2013, and when I knew the film was going to happen the MFF sprung to mind. Luckily we had finished it just in time to get it submitted.
You and your family have a history, shall we say obsession, with motor vehicles. However, you worked in video games for a while. Can you tell us how you got into that and how you made your way to automotive illustration? I’ve always like cars and bikes since childhood, especially custom cars and VW Beetles. When I met my wife Rowena I would go to her father’s house on the weekend, which was a real eye opener. Nick is fanatical about Morgan 3 Wheelers and British bikes among other machines, and it wasn’t uncommon to have engines on the kitchen table or even in the fireplace! I used to paw through his magazines and books, and my love for old machinery was revived. We went to events and race meetings, but my artwork at that time was not automotive at all.
I gained a degree in Fine Art specializing in painting, and my work was totally abstract based on satellite photography, but illustration, comics and graffiti have been constant influences. Upon graduation I wasn’t taken with the idea of a fine artist career, so I looked for other ways to make a living. A friend gave me a 3D program, and I soon worked out that if I could use it I could possibly work in the computer games industry. I locked myself away for six months, taught myself the program, and created a portfolio of 2D and 3D work. I got a job as an artist for about nine years, but towards the end I had become a lead artist and wasn’t really doing artwork any more.
This is where the automotive work started. I loved old black and white photos of racing scenes and started recreating them using India ink. Nick encouraged me to show them at a Morgan 3 Wheeler meet. After a really positive response I started showing at vintage motor shows where I would paint in oil or acrylic recreating a period photograph. This was fun, but at an event in France I saw Jean-Marie Guivarc’h, now good friend, sit in front of a Nick Morgan Aero and sketch it there and then. That’s when I had a rethink, “I could be sketching the real thing!” At the shows there are so many machines; now I mostly go around sketching with a portfolio of my work.
Your mobile studio, if we can call it that, is quite ingenious for your format. Can you tell us a little about your process? Yeah, this is a work in progress. I have a fishing stool that doubles as a backpack that fits an A4 sketchbook and materials—it’s perfect. At shows I go round the whole event and pick one machine that interests me to sketch. Sometimes people ask me to sketch their machines, and this is a great way to deepen my knowledge as I have direct contact with the owner who can tell me more about their machine. Sometimes people will stop and talk to me about the machine I’m sketching too. I love the whole social aspect of the motoring scene and I see the way that I work as an extension of that.
Much of your work is pencil, ink and watercolors. What about these media do you like? My roots are in painting, but the ink came out of the necessity to do something quickly. At events it takes me 1 to 2 hours to sketch a machine. I used to do just ink sketches using technical pens, but I wasn’t getting the marks that I wanted. I found flex nib fountain pens that give a wide range of line widths based on varying the pressure; it’s like a small brush. I also use a brush pen for larger black areas. After the show, in the studio I put washes of watercolour or ink on the sketches. This is all I can put over the ink sketch without destroying the work. I used to be scared of watercolour as you have to think about the white of the paper as your light, and layer up the paint to achieve shadows. But having used them for a while I’m getting fairly comfortable with them.
Much of the automotive world tends toward photography and industrial design illustrations, but much of the classic scene is about hand built works. Your drawings, which appear in the British monthly Classic Bike Guide, definitely show your hand and a process. Do you find a split in automotive illustration, and where else do your works appear or do you show them? I never thought of my work tending towards photography, I guess in a way I’m a cheap and slow camera. I can see the relation to industrial design illustrations, as I try to capture as much of the technical detail as possible. However, I try to keep a fine balance between being technically correct and the work existing as fine art. Jean-Marie Guivarc’h, Stefan Majoram and Jeremy Lacy are the only people I know who sketch in the same way, live on sight. I think sketching out and about is really a fine art practice, and the work tends toward that style because of the process. The artist has to be fairly fast and thoughtful about the marks; in a studio environment the work is even more considered and the work reflects that. Automotive illustration is in a strange place as it hasn’t been used extensively in publishing since the ’80s, although some magazines now use illustrations more as something to punctuate the photography. Automotive work has a select audience as it really appeals only to the motoring community, and that’s where it’s relevant. With my larger work I’m trying to push the automotive subject in more of a fine art direction; whether this will reach a wider audience, we will have to see.
You came to New York for the Film Festival, but you also did a bit of work by going to Sixth Street Specialsand Paul Cox Industries to do some drawings. Tell us about your expectations before you went to their shops and what you came to find and to do. My main aim was to use the scrolling sketchbook to produce 360-degree sketches of the workshops, but I was open to change if the workshop needed to be portrayed differently. I looked up both shops so I had an idea of what to expect, but I knew that it would all change as soon as I got there. At Sixth Street the main workshop was perfect for the 360-degree sketch as it was just one room. I sat in the middle of the workshop and sketched away as the guys carried on with their work. I really enjoyed experiencing the comings and goings of the workshop. Paul’s place was different than Hugh’s as it’s a large space with lots of different areas. I worked around the space producing a 360-degree sketch made up of the different sections. I spent 2 days at each workshop and within those 2 days I had roughed out the entire workshop and inked as much as I could. I took photos as reference so I could finish the pieces in the studio. I would have loved to do the whole thing on location but time did not allow. One thing that I didn’t know before I went to the workshops was that Paul used to work out of Hugh’s place when he started with his leather work. I was really happy that the two shops were associated it was a perfect connection.
What are you working on now and what do you have in your sites next? I’m considering a series of portraits based on world firsts, such as one I did of Yuri Gagarin, but I will see where that goes. I’m currently finishing off the Sixth Street scroll and working out how that will be displayed. Then I’ll finish the Paul Cox scroll. I’m producing these larger pieces for a solo show in the near future. I’m looking for a relevant place to do this so if anyone is interested please get in touch. I’m continuing with commission work and sketching at the last few events of the year. Over the winter I hope to get a chance to do more studio work combining my sketching with painting—a new direction again. Also Tom and I are planning on doing some more filming, so hopefully we have something to submit for next year’s festival.
This past weekend MFF was able to attend the Progressive International Motorcycle Show at the Javits Center in New York City. As a supporter of the 1st MFF, we were stoked to be able to get a crew together and return the good vibes.
1948 Velocette KTT MK VIII
We volunteered this year, as we do every year, at the NYCVinMoto booth. VinMoto is a free email list serve for vintage riders that we are members of and whole heartedly support. It’s a beacon of vintage iron amid a sea of cutting edge technology and it’s well worth stopping by to see the amazing bikes and meet the fantastic group of riders and volunteers that make up the community. This years line up was a collection of amazing singles, all owned and ridden by NYCVinMoto members, including a 1948 Velocette KTT MK VIII (pictured above). It is one of only 2 imported to the United States in ’48, was raced at Daytona in ’49, and is still flogged on the track today. Yowsa! Just to make sure we got the point across, we surrounded that amazing machine with a perfect Vincent Grey Flash replica, a plated and inspected 62 BMW R27, and an mostly restored but still mudded up ’66 Bultaco Matador.
Once our booth work was done, it was off to check out the current lines of a dozen or so motorcycle manufacturers. As always, it was great to see the manufacturers out in force with all their new toys. Strangely, somewhere in Jack’s film addled, North Brooklyn dwelling brain there is a craving for simple, reliable, fun transport with things like buttonstarts and flyscreens. Is sensibility the new black?
While watching Corinna’s first attempt ever at getting on a modern sport bike might have been the best moment of the entire weekend. Ducati should change the name from Panigale to Gattino in honor of the cat-in-a-sweater uncomfortable wiggle manuever she used to get on this thing. Definitely a natural fit.
Corinna digging on the Moto Guzzi V7 Racer.
Back in her comfort zone on a Moto Guzzi V7 Special. Everyone at the VinMoto booth agreed that the V7 is a modern bike that even an avid vintage rider can get behind aesthetically. It features slim lines, spoked wheels, and a 70′s inspired tank. The Racer edition (pictured above) retains the spoked wheels, and general design, but incorporates a vintage inspired fairing, chrome tank, rear sets and upgraded suspension.
Strangely, the other bike that it seemed like everyone at the entire show agreed on was the Honda Grom. Seriously, this face is the standard issue for every single person who got on this bike. A 125cc hooligan machine with BMX wheels that you can pick up? Yes please.
Our friends at Union Garage had their first booth at Javits this year in collaboration with Bell Powersports and it was gorgeous. Featuring several vintage italian bikes, fully restored by Moto Borgotaro. Union Garage is a gear supplier in Brooklyn dedicated to performance with style, and are currently taking orders on their fantastic jacket made in collaboration with Vanson.
Friends and huge supporters of all motorcyclists, Indian Larry & Genuine Motorworks were there as well, with as always, an amazing line up of custom steel. New bikes still crafted in Brooklyn, as well as historic bikes on display, built by the one and only Indian Larry.
Our friends at Zero Motorcycles were showing off some great new hardware. We were lucky enough to get a go on some of their machines at the festival and if you’ve never been on an electric bike you are seriously missing out. The acceleration on these things is addictive and charging around in stealth ninja mode gives serious doubts about the whole loud pipes things.
2013 MFF best feature documentary winner ‘Why We Ride‘ directed by Bryan H. Carroll, was representing strong all over the festival. If you have a chance to see this movie absolutely go, it’s a incredible exploration of all the things that make motorcycling so incredible.
Kevin Dunworth, of Loaded Gun Customs with his Bucephalus bike at the Triumph booth. This bike is the subject of the 2013 MFF official selection film ‘Loaded Gun Customs: Bucephalus Build‘, directed by Kyle Pahlow. And yes, Kevin is that tall in person, and yes, the bike is actually that small.
One of the things that really blew us away about Triumph’s booth this year, and their whole attitude in general, was a consuming need to constantly innovate while remaining firmly grounded in previous achievements of the company. With the exception of 33 days, Triumph held the motorcycle land speed record from 1956-1970. The Gyronaut held that honor from 1966 to 1970, and the Castrol Rocket will be on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2014 attempting to break the 400mph barrier.
This insane machine piloted by Jason DiSalvo, leaves me no doubt that the 400mph mark is on it’s way and coming fast. Just to hammer the point home even harder, they brought the incredible Double Vision. A 1370cc twin pre-unit built by Tyler Malinky of Lowbrow Customs to race the flats as well. Tyler and Lowbrow are also the subject of the MFF 2013 Official Selection film ‘Salt Ghost: Return Of The Nitro Express‘.
Because starting a film festival from scratch on top of working a day job isn’t quite busy enough, Corinna and I have also been involved in planning the New York City Vintage Motorcycle Show (NYCVMS) since 2010. Last Sunday, Bored, Stroked, Ported: The 10th annual NYC Vintage Motorcycle Show went down on n14th street in Brooklyn, graciously (and bravely…) hosted by Works Engineering. It was a total blast and I can’t say how proud I am to have been a part of it. I don’t think anyone will ever appreciate how much Erik from Works put his ass on the line and how hard he worked to make this one happen.
Amazingly enough, we were graced by the presence of no less than 2 members of our esteemed judging and hosting panel! JP from the Selvedge Yard and Paul “the Vintagent” d’Orleans (pronounced “Dor-leon”… I’m still working on it man I promise!) stopped by to spend some time and check out the vibes.
All in all, it was one hell of a hangout. Ain’t no better way to spend a beautiful Sunday than some cool, delicious, refreshments from Brooklyn Brewery & Kirin breweries, some rad bands, some amazing bikes, and a ton of good people. If you happened to be there and have any pics, post ’em up to the NYCVMS flickr group in this link so everyone can relive the fun. There’s a ton more there taken by a bunch of people.