INTERVIEW: Dana Brown

The son takes over the reins from his famous father to direct On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter.

Dana Brown lifestyle portrait

The director of On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter, which opens at theaters nationwide on November 7, is 54-year-old Californian Dana Brown. No rookie, Brown has previously made Step Into Liquid, a highly acclaimed surf film, and Dust To Glory, which is all about the Baja 1000.

Why make another On Any Sunday now?

Red Bull Media called and said, "Do you fancy making a motorcycle movie?" And I'd been thinking about it for a long time. I tried to talk them out of using the name On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter, but they convinced me to do it. I asked Dad if he thought it was a good idea and he said yes. In my opinion, a rose is a rose, so if we made a good movie it didn't matter. It was said to me, while we were shooting, that you'll never make one as good as the original. It wasn't said meanly, but it's a classic. I wanted to call it On Next Sunday.

What makes it an On Any Sunday?

The spirit of the movie. What it’s like to ride with friends. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed in motorcycling, the spirit, the fun, the camaraderie. I think there’s a juxtaposition of what has changed, the ability of the riders, the bikes themselves, the competition. It was a nice mix, because at its core it’s got the same essence, but it’s vastly evolved in 43 years.

Which riders made biggest impression on you?

They all impressed me in different ways. Robbie Maddison is in the movie and he jumps off an Olympic ski jump in Park City, Utah. Meeting Robbie and seeing what a family man he is and what a devoted father he is, and how serious he is about what he does. The flipside of Robbie is he does things like that.

We followed Marc Marquez last season and just by luck he ends up winning the thing. He’s an impressive young man.

Carlin Dunne is kind of like our Malcolm Smith. We went to the Bonneville Salt Flats with him and his dad. We also went to Pikes Peak where he rode this electric bike and ended up beating all the combustion-engine bikes. Carlin is impressive, but I don't have one favorite. It would be like choosing your favorite child. It's one of the reasons we worked so hard. We wanted to make a good film, but we wanted to make them proud that they're in the movie.

Dana and Bruce Brown lifestyle portrait

Robbie Maddison’s jump has been kept quiet until the premiere. What did it involve?

Robbie came up with this idea. One of his sponsors, Skull Candy, is based in Park City, Utah, where the ski jump is and he said to someone, “I’d like to jump off that.” They talked and talked and a year later, when I got hold of Robbie, he said, I have this jump in mind. I didn’t really care if it was attended or not, but they convinced me to unveil it for the movie.

The ski jump is super steep. Hopefully we capture that. We were looking down it thinking, “Are you kidding me?” A ski jumper kind of soars, but he’s on this heavy object.

He jumps 378 feet and fell the distance of an 18-and-a-half story building. I was nervous for him. You get nervous at a race, but you don’t feel responsible. Amy and Kruz were at the bottom and, though he wouldn’t listen to me, I said, “Hey, dude, just be safe. He looked at me as if to say, “It’s OK, I’ve got this.”

Compared to 1970, when On Any Sunday was filmed, there is so much more motorcycle media now, a lot of it delivered for free. Are you afraid that will dilute your movie?

I don’t worry about it one way or the other. What we do is tell the story that people will remember and feel it’s worth spending 10 bucks at a movie theater to see. That’s one thing YouTube doesn’t have; you can’t see it on the big screen. I hope you get more out of it than just tweeting or someone being interviewed , “It was a good race, I’m really happy.” You get to know these characters.

Was there anything you couldn’t do?

At the beginning, we thought about shooting the Isle of Man but we had to choose between MotoGP and the Isle of Man. Initially, our wish list was much longer. We also thought about doing the Dakar thing and we didn’t do that. You’re always going to leave things undone. Every section in the movie is probably a movie unto itself, but because of the nature of the film we try to cover the spectrum of what happens on any Sunday.

Dana Brown portrait

What was the biggest challenge?

We went to Zambia with Riders for Health, so the organization leading up to that was quite a thing, all the shots you have to take. We filmed ice racing in Winnipeg, it was 15 below and we also stood out on the salt flats all day. But when it’s challenging, it’s also a lot of fun. Like a motorcycle ride.

What is 4K technology?

4K just means the picture is that much clearer. There are 4,000 pixels rather than 1,800. You need a special projector. I think they’re already selling 4K TVs. It’s the next big thing apparently.

I hope it lets the audience experience what it feels like to be there. We tried to use every instrument to convey the feeling and excitement of what motorcycling is. We use a Cineflex helicopter, we used GoPros mounted on everything. We didn’t try to push the boundaries, just get the best shot available and to show the action from the point of view of the racer, from on the ground, from above, from the fans’ perspective. I just try to use all the colors in the palette to tell the story.

Red Bull Media House financed the film. Was there pressure to use Red Bull athletes?

Not at all. It’s funny because I’m curious to see the reactions to that, because we weren’t under any pressure. Carlin’s not affiliated with anyone, but Robbie, Dani and Marc are. When we picked Marc, we thought of following Valentino Rossi, because win, lose or draw you have Valentino Rossi, but we thought that if we went with Marc at least it was his rookie year and we could show him on the big stage every time we revisited him.

Is The Next Chapter the last chapter?

Never say never. The world of motorcycling is an endless source of great stories.

Dana Brown, Director of On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter.

Dana and Bruce Brown.

Dana Brown.