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Method in the Madness: Nitro Circus 3D

Nitro Circus 3D in the September 2012 Red Bulletin magazine Red Bulletin Magazine

 

Red Bulletin: Nitro Circus has been a DVD series, a show on MTV and has traveled through the U.S. and Australia as a live tour. Did you guys do a movie because the big screen was the only thing left to conquer?

Travis Pastrana: With MTV we had to tell [them] exactly how the stunts were going to work out, exactly what was going to be done every day, and every stunt had to be approved. So if we saw something that was good -- say, we saw the double back flip [on a tricycle] and we’re like, “We want to do that the next day!” [They would say,] “You can’t do that because you said this is what you’re going to do, and this is what’s been approved.” We don’t want to be under those restrictions. We want to do our film. Now we have full control.
Gregg Godfrey: You go from a television show to a movie and then you have to justify why people are going to pay a little more money to see it on the big screen. You can’t just say the stunts are bigger and more dangerous and they’re more exciting because it’s in 3D. They are. But we also tell the story of Nitro Circus and how it organically grew from all of us hanging out together.
Dusty Wygle: When shooting DVDs or doing a live show, everything is just like, “Go! Go! Go!” But the movie is so much different because leading up to it, they’re like, “What do you want to do, what are your ideas?” So you can do the stuff that you’ve been thinking about for a long time.

And now the technology is there to actually show the stunts in 3D.

Jeremy Rawle: Sports is definitely leading the charge in 3D. Our whole goal is, instead of people feeling like they’re passively watching this, for them to actually feel like they’re riding shotgun or being there, seeing it.
Tommy Passemante: It was extremely difficult to get into the groove of actually filming [with the 3D cameras], because we’ve been so used to guerrilla shooting with handheld point-and-go cameras. These 3D cameras take an hour or so to set up. During a stunt, you’re already sitting there scared to death, you’re ready to go, and some guy yells, “Camera spike!” [a power surge] and you have to sit there for 45 minutes looking at the exact stunt you were prepared for at that moment and deal with that.
Pastrana: There are only two other films that have even shot with the quality cameras that we have: Transformers 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 4. This is the first independent 3D film.

There are scenes around Pastrana’s house in Maryland, in Utah and in Panama. How did you choose the locations for filming?

Godfrey: The great thing about the movie is that it expands. We use Mother Nature in the fullest to hurl our bodies into the void of darkness somehow, some way, and you can’t do that in arenas. Filming the movie, you sit there and look at a lake and you kind of dream up how you can turn this big broad expanse into 3D -- how you can eject a body or turn a certain stunt to catch it on film in a way that it looks like you’re jumping into the camera.
Rawle: We went to Panama really because we had stuff we couldn’t do in the States. We just couldn’t get permitted [for BASE jumping] or it was illegal. We couldn’t deal with that, so we had to say, “We still want to do it, so let’s go where they’ll let us do it.”
Wygle: Going to Trav’s house is always fun. It’s better than Disneyland for us, to be honest.

There were countless concussions, broken bones, bruises, etc., but what was the worst injury during filming?

Jim DeChamp: I decided to park a car on my head, for some reason. I tried to barrel roll a car with very little education on how to properly do that. I used whatever I knew how to do and we just didn’t do enough research, I guess. You have to go out on a limb a little bit. And we went there and it didn’t work out. I was in the hospital for a month. I got lucky. I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m perfectly fine.
Passemante: The roll cage failed and came down and crushed Jim and I. That’s how he broke his back and had a brain bleed and all kinds of stuff. It was pretty gnarly. I got off pretty lucky compared to Jim. I just had really, really bad seatbelt bruising. When we landed I gathered myself and looked over and Jim was lifeless. That first look, I really thought he was dead. For about five minutes, it was one of those things where I thought my buddy was seriously dead next to me. It’s not a place that I want to be again.
Godfrey: It’s a scary thing going to set each day. I have to do a gut check, make sure I feel like everything is as good as it can be. And yeah, bad things happen and you have to overcome it and it just sucks.
Rawle: I struggle with this. I struggle with any one of us getting hurt. And so for us to have [Jim and Tommy’s crash] in the movie is really difficult, but we also feel like it’s necessary. It’s necessary from the story element -- and we’ve talked to Jim and everybody at length about it, but we feel like we’d be doing Jim a disservice if we didn’t show this. We’ve never gone heavy before like we do in that section of the movie. But also we want people and kids who are going to be watching this movie to see it. What has happened with our content is that these guys suddenly become like cartoon characters. Suddenly they’re Wile E. Coyote falling to the bottom of a cliff, creating a big poof of smoke and a crater. And I think that’s been hard, because it doesn’t allow people to connect to these guys in a real way. When you see Jim’s stunt, you see the stakes are high, we’re doing things that have never been done before, and there’s no exact science as to how to pull it off. We’re using our best judgment because none of us want to get hurt. But that’s the stakes and these guys know it. We all have gone through the risk analysis; in the end you decide to do it.
Pastrana: Everyone is like, “Why do you keep doing this? Why do you keep building stuff? Why do you want to set the world record for distance jump in a bus with eight people?” But that’s not the point. [The point is] you wake up every morning and you smile.

The quick hits of the DVDs and the TV show don’t allow for much emphasis on the Nitro Circus gang’s camaraderie. In the movie, you get a lot more backstory.

Pastrana: The movie lets us get back to why we started Nitro Circus. It was 2002, and it was the foam pit at my house. Everyone came over and was trying to learn tricks for X Games.
Andy Bell: Every day is like, “Why the hell am I part of this crew?” It’s such a crazy bunch of people. But the best part is everyone is such good friends. Everyone pushes each other and we yell at each other to do stuff a lot -- but everyone loves each other like a big retarded family.

A European tour starts in November -- and then what’s next for Nitro Circus?

Godfrey: My mind is always going, and Trav’s mind is always going on new things to try. It’s not even like we plan it out, or try to one up each other -- but we’re always trying to challenge and grow.
Passemante: The one thing I actually wanted to do that never even came to light -- I don’t think they want to do it -- is to get a day to play football with [Baltimore Ravens linebacker] Ray Lewis. I’m a huge fan. He is just my favorite. If you’re going to get stuck in the dirt, you might as well get it done by the best.

 

 

Check out the September 2012 issue of Red Bulletin magazine (on newsstands August 14) for more articles. To read the magazine on your iPad, download the Red Bulletin iPad app.

 

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