Canadian Classics – Hiatus/St. John’s BMX

To an outsider, the Maritimes have always had an awesome scene. Back in the day, one of the highlights of that scene was a series of videos created by Chris Nicholas. Chris was an awesome rider – he bombed huge rails, rode impossible pools, and in Deadline (2003?) he did a 5050 to second stage over crooked – maybe the first one. Chris was also one of the first videographers I knew of who used a DVX100 for bmx, and he was always doing interesting things with still cameras. Production wise, Hiatus was far ahead of its time. The motion graphics were dialed, the filming was on point, and the whole thing had a polished look that was unique and just really cool. All this was happening in 2005, in Newfoundland, for a local scene video.

The St. John’s BMX series introduced many of us to two big names in Canadian BMX – Jeff Evans and Phil Bartlett. In Deadline, Phil looked like he was ten years old. Two years later, in Hiatus, Phil had grown two feet taller and it was unclear that he was even the same guy. Jeff was also pretty young in these videos; he brought East Coast street style reminiscent of riders far to the south of him and totally owned the opposite grind variations of the time.

Chris has a long and detailed post on the history of their video series (including all of the videos in full) here: The St. John’s BMX Tetrology. He also took the time to answer a few questions about their scene of ten years ago and what it was like growing up riding in Canada’s most isolated province. Check that out after the link.

One thing that was always striking to me was the size of the video premieres you guys pulled off. How many people showed up to those things? How did you make that happen?

“Premiere night” was definitely the night we all looked forward to the most. We had amazing turnouts, especially considering the relatively small size of our scene. Maybe it’s a Newfoundland thing, but we were able to rally most of our non-riding friends, friends of friends and many others who were otherwise far removed from the BMX community. People just seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing, I think mostly because it was new to them. One of my University professors at the time actually saw an article that the university paper published about Hiatus. He thought it was super cool that I was into BMX and filmaking and announced it to the class! He actually showed up at the premiere by himself and everything; it was dope. The capacity of the theater we usually rented was just shy of 1000 and our last premiere in 2005 for Hiatus drew almost a full house. I think we tallied around 900 or so. That many people yelling and showing love for the video you’ve put so much work into is such an awesome feeling.

What drove the production value in your videos? Hiatus had a really cool aesthetic to it and I think you were doing things that were not too common at the time in BMX. Did you draw from other areas outside of riding?

Production value I think is relative to the era – ever since the DSLR
revolution hit, amateur filmmakers have really taken things to the next level. With that said, we really strived in our day to make visually pleasing videos with a cinematic quality. With Hiatus, we had a few sequences shot in 24p, which wasn’t too common back then. And even though my DSLR (20D at the time) wasn’t able to shoot video, I was making high resolution time lapses from stills, which are interspersed throughout the video. We actually licensed all the music for Hiatus and got contracts signed. It was a bit challenging at times securing rights, but we relied on a lot of local talent which ultimately made the video that much more unique.

There were definitely groups of riders filming back in the day, but not many were as consistent as you guys were and I can’t imagine anyone being able to build such a big local presence among riders and non-riders alike. Is there something unique to Newfounland that made the St. John’s videos such an entity?

Something I observed over the years is how online video hosting has changed the game. We were products of the VHS and DVD generation where your primary releases existed on those mediums. Even though there were plenty of younger kids in the St. John’s scene filming after us (and with nice gear too: PD-150’s, DVX’s, etc.), I noticed more day edits being thrown up online. People liked the instant gratification of uploading a short edit of the session rather than saving footage for a full length video. Which is fine, I mean, it comes down to personal preference how you distribute your own content. Who knows what we would have been doing with our footage if we’d been born even 6 years later!

The local presence always surprised me. We always had great turn outs at the premieres. The boys were great at hustling tickets, that’s for sure! And with social media not nearly as widely used at the time, we relied solely on posters and word of mouth for advertisement. People from Newfoundland are a great bunch though – they appreciate when their own are creating or doing something interesting. I think in the end, the good turn outs were just from friends showing love for friends, and I’m grateful for that.

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