Back in 2019, Evan Senn (above) made a film about dirt track racing, called Fast & Left. It won awards and lots of fans, including us. Now he's announced he'd like to make a follow up and he needs help from the race community to help finance it. I interviewed Evan about the hows and whys of the new film and the funding of it. Gary Inman Photo: Gavin Peters
SIDEBURN: You've announced you plan to make a follow-up to your popular Fast & Left film. What made you decide now is the right time, why has the fuse been lit?
EVAN SENN: A sequel to Fast & Left has been requested and talked about since the day the original premiered. I’ve always wanted to film more motorcycles and especially racing. It’s not something I talked about much, but I went broke making the first film. And the money that came back wasn’t nearly enough to recoup my costs. Of course, I am grateful to everyone who payed for the film, donated to the film, bought merchandise and to sponsors like Sunday Motorcycles, Gavin Peters Photography, Flat Out Friday, Light Shoe and Air and Asphalt. I have no regrets and the film changed my life, but I can’t afford to do that again.
Other than the riders and races, do you plan to do things differently with Fast & Left 2?
Indeed, some of my favourite parts of Fast & Left were actually captured towards the end of filming. I started shooting much differently (and much better) towards the end of production. I took a long break, about a year and a half, from watching Fast & Left. When I re-watched the film, I had a lot of notes for myself and what I would do differently. I’ll have much more back to back action and less breaks. Also, the original Fast & Left was shot only on race days. I’d like to have more content about preparations, traveling on the road and getting to know certain racers more. Not to mention some more daring and high-speed shots. I have a long list of racers, stories and themes I’d like to cover. I will also get more into the intricacies of racing that the original film did not address. Also, I will experiment with some ‘On Any Sunday’ style narration to deliver more information in a concise and entertaining fashion.
You wrote you plan to move to, and film in, Wisconsin, and also in Brazil - how much of the Flat Out Friday organisation is going to be a part of it?
Flat Out Friday will be a very big part of the film. Scott Johnson is an amazing person and has already helped to support me and the film. [Scott's Harley flathead racer is featured in SB47. He is the co-founder of Fuel Cafe, and we interviewed him about that place and its influence for SB37]. I have also become close friends the Brazilian crew (Chrys at GarageMetallica, Polenta and Guega). Those boys have a fire in their hearts for racing and for Fast & Left, going international will be a great way to show the all-inclusiveness of flat track.
Wisconsin racer, Dave Kilkenny, photographed by Evan Senn
I have been wanting to move out of Kansas for sometime now to find new opportunities and more work. On my last trip to Milwaukee I was reminded how amazing that city is and how strong the racing community is. I stayed a few extra days and met with Scott Johnson to discuss some future plans. It was then and there that I decided to move. Scott was the first person I told. That city speaks to my soul and gives me hope for the future.
In Kansas, racers would meet up for races and then quickly disband, there is not a tight-knit racing community in Kansas. There is a rich history and some amazing people, but no community. Wisconsin is the opposite, there is a very strong community and multiple events, gatherings, and races (indoor, dirt, ice, beach and more).
Even beyond motorcycles there are greater possibilities for other short films and more opportunities to work as a Director, Camera Operator, Camera Assistant and Editor in Wisconsin. Plus I love Hamm’s beer, dive bars and cheese.
You mentioned you're going to film Jeffrey Carver again. What are you hoping to capture with him?
I can’t speak for Jeffrey’s plans with AFT but Jeffrey has become a close friend and is my favourite person to photograph and talk to. He’s amazing on camera and he is truly the ‘People’s Racer’. I’d love to have him break down the sport and techniques as well as showing his attitude and style off the race track. Besides filming him at home in Alton, Illinois and at his local track, Ride Organic, I’d like to travel with him to some outlaw races.
I might not film any AFT races for Fast & Left 2. It’s difficult to capture entire races with one camera. Also, AFT is quite difficult to film because of their NBC deal, so a lone-filmmaker is not high on their list of priorities. I am extremely grateful to Michael Lock, Gene Crouch, Helen Pardee and Mitch Boehm for allowing me to film the elite level of the sport.
You launched a funding page to finance the film, and you're hoping for over $20,000. There's so much free content in the world all after our personal bandwidth, some of it really good, how confident are you that you'll reach the target and why?
To be honest, I’m not fully confident. The campaign is only a few days in and there’s not enough in there to cover gas and lodging to two races. I hate asking for money, but I know that’s part of the business. If Indiegogo doesn’t work, I will reach out to corporate sponsors and possibly Film/Art Grants. Film-making, much like racing is a very expensive undertaking with little return on investment. The campaign is to raise funds for travel, accommodation, rentals, crew, pre-production, production, post-production, graphic-design, music and expenses. This film will require lots of time and travel, I know because I’ve done this before. The original film was created over a period of two and a half years and I traveled to over 20 races.
I appreciate everyone who has donated anything to this film, I know money is hard to part with, especially in these times. I figured I would start with Indiegogo and see what is still needed after the campaign ends.
Evan riding his Sunday Motors 187. Photo: Alex Schneider
Previously people bought DVDs, merch, or paid to watch on Vimeo. Is it too much of a risk this time around to try finance it that way?
DVDs are dead, I didn’t want to make them in the first place. However, it was because of one fan that I did. DVDs cost a lot of money and only a small group purchased the physical media. I would strongly urge anyone making films, to stay far away from DVDs, although the older fans don’t even know what Vimeo is. I sold out of DVDs, but I won’t ever do that again, I will for sure make some more merchandise and charge a small fee to view the film if the funding isn’t reached. Although I can make the film free to anyone who donates to Fast & Left 2.
People will pay $6 for a coffee, but they just don't expect or seem willing to pay for YouTube stuff that might really stick in their mind, do they? Or am I being too pessimistic?
I completely agree. As a film-maker I am constantly renting movies, buying movies, purchasing tickets and supporting other film-makers. There’s a special place in hell for those that torrent, pirate and steal movies. I know so many people that simply will not watch a film because it’s not free. I don’t know how to combat that. One can only hope.
You got a commission from Harley-Davidson to make the film XR750: 50 Years of Wins off the back of the first Fast & Left, did you hope or expect to get more bike industry commissions after the response Fast & Left received, and also the quality of the Harley film?
I really did. I can’t blame it all on COVID, but that definitely ate up budgets and kept people off of the race track. It was an honour working with Harley-Davidson and interviewing Mert Lawwill, Jay Springsteen, Bill Werner, Scott Parker, Chris Carr and Jeffrey Carver and I am very happy with the end result. It still trips me out when I see Mert Lawwill in my phone contacts.
If I could help companies make more content like that, it would be a dream. I tried cold-emails to multiple companies with hopes of collaboration, but all went unanswered. My job is a film-maker and I would love to collaborate with companies, motorcycle or not, to tell the story of their brand, yet my phone has not been ringing off the hook over the past few years. I truly do hope that Milwaukee will provide new gigs and possibilities.
Thanks for your time and honesty. Anything else you would like to add?
A thank you to you. Your magazine is my favourite piece of print and the quality is top-notch. I’ll be a subscriber for the rest of my life. Your support and love for the sport is nearly unmatched. Thank you for keeping the sport alive and exciting. Thank you for your support and the help on the Harley-Davidson documentary. I hope we get to meet again soon.
Click to learn more about, and donate, to Evan's Fast & Left 2 Indiegogo funding campaign
Watch the original Fast & Left below