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A Midwest man better know how to fish!
If there’s one surefire way of weaseling your way into this god-forsaken industry, look no further than video production. Thanks to sites like Youtube and Vimeo, upstart is easy — get yourself a sketchy camera, pirate the latest editing software, come up with an eclectic or ironic name (I’m looking in your direction here Abortion Survivors), make friends with the good dudes at the mountain and voila! You’re the proud owner of your very own video production company.
Oddly enough, for as effortless as it may seem set up such a venture they are nearly impossible to manage successfully. Just ask Mike Thienes, one of the founders of the Midwest based Bald E Gal. Though his accomplishments lack any sort of profitibility, he’s succeeded in the sense that he’s given hungry Midwest shreds a global platform on which to get noticed. This is something that played a significant role in launching the careers of folks like Joe Sexton, Zach Marben, Jake Olsen-Elm and Jonas Michilot. Capita pro and Bald E Gal alumni Dan Brisse sums it up best:
“Mike Thienes is the man! If he wasn’t back in Minnesota building Bald E- Gal when I was getting a start in shredding there is a really good chance I would never have gotten the opportunities I have now. He has been creating films year after year regardless of budget, giving the young, hungry kids a chance to get in front of a camera and show their shred skills. Thanks Mike for being so bad ass.”
Not bad for a dude still tending counter at a skate shop.
Boring question number one: when did you start snowboarding?
I started snowboarding with my pal Emmet Klocker around 1988 when we were 12. We needed something to do in the winter when we couldn’t skate his mini ramp.
Severe alcoholics often speak of a moment of clarity when they become conscious of the fact they are worthless shitbags – did you experience a similar moment when you realized that you probably weren’t going to be a professional snowboarder?
Yeah, in 1996 when I met you, Ben and a bottle of whiskey at Nationals in Telluride Colorado. Right then and there I realized that I’d rather travel, film and party with my bros than be a stunt man.
It seems that being a film producer has the potential to woo just as many if not more women than a pro shred. A professional’s skill will digress with age, whereas a filmmaker’s progresses with maturity – like Martin Scorsese.
I don’t think I scored too many scurvies because I make movies. Midwest chicks don’t really care. As far as progressing with maturity, I have a girl now, so the future of wooing woman is not too bright.
Ten years of Poaching
What number video does Poachers X make for you?
This will be our 10th production & our 7th distributed project.
Your films are a bit more polished than most crew flicks — what’s advice do you have for someone just starting out?
Make each edit better than the last – have it in your mind before you film it. Keep it interesting, try different angles, work with the riders and have fun. Our editor Brian Dow makes TV shows and really knows his shit. I would advise editors to work with people better than them and just learn from the process. Any editor, filmer or rider that thinks their shit doesn’t stink will never get any better.
Obviously, there’s other people behind the scenes at Bald E-Gal Productions because there’s no way you could pull it off yourself – explain your job. What would you say you do there?
For sure, there are many involved. I enjoy working with people -filmers, artists and riders that are better than me. I try to put a group of riders that rip from cool local shops, coordinate filmers that want to make videography their career, and graphic artists that create visual beauty. Like this year I worked with Sam Fenton & Sam Larson on the filming end, Rhea & Dawn on the graphics, and Dow & Turk on the postproduction. Those guys kill it! Every year is a little bit different… Anthony Cappetta was a big part of our early releases and a bunch of homies have contributed over the years. I would say that I try to help people that are talented succeed.
Minnesotans as well as other small-resort types have been breaking through into the mainstream media over the past few years — why do you think that is?
Places like the Midwest, East Coast and Finland have small hills, cold temps, and tow ropes. If you get good here, then get the opportunity to travel you rip apart the whole mountain. Way more people live in places with crappy snow than epic mountains. Kids can relate to their riding and personality more than say a big mountain rider that rips shit in most places where your average kid will never get to go. Also having videographers like Justin Turkowski, Anthony Cappetta and Riley Erickson filming over the years has helped set the bar pretty high.
Mike and Mr. Zac Marben
What are the three gnarliest things you’ve ever seen go down while filming one of your guys?
Each year I see something really gnarly, but then it gets out done the following season. That’s just progression I guess. Guys that have really impressed me over the years would be Joe Sexton, Dan Brisse, Jake Olson-Elm, Dirt Ez, Jonas Michilot, Cody Beiersdorf and Ryan Paul. Brisse does gnarly shit every year, every time out though. That dude is a robot.
What are your thoughts on seeing things change from VHS to DVD and then on to video networks like YouTube and Vimeo?
VHS to DVD was dope. We could add bonus chapters – no more be “kind & rewind”. Video networks like Youtube and Vimeo are cool too in that it allows them to reach people that wouldn’t normally reach. Like I said I’m not trying to make a living off this, just trying to get the riders footage out there. Personally, I like having the actual DVD to watch at home and being able to geek out on the cool artwork [of the case].
When the DVD is dead will you quit producing or continue wasting time and money making films?
I love wasting time. We never got paid for the Smorgasbord & Trees Please titles. We made and distributed 40,000 copies of Tiller — that went out with a Japan mag called SNOWstyle in exchange for a free ad. I have never made a cent off this and never really intended to. All the sponsorship dollars and proceeds go to the filmer’s budget. Justin Turkowski, Brian Dow and myself just do this for fun.
What keeps you motivated to still make films in a time when a person’s footage is gutted, chopped and strung around online?
I am stoked on helping my friends out and working with creative people. I think viewership is the most important, no matter how it is viewed. For the riders and their sponsors, viewership and exposure is everything.
What other filmmakers do you look up to?
I really like movies from Pierre’s Minhondo (People & Neoproto), Justin Hostynek (Absinthe films) Pirate Movie Productions and Justin Meyers (Videograss). In the Midwest the Porter brothers and Riley Erickson do the coolest shit. When I was a kid, I could not get enough of Whitey McConnaghy’s videos & the Robot Food videos were rad. A video call “Flying Circus” is were it all started for me loving snowboarding videos.
Best video to come out last year? What are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
Holy shit, I work at a shop and we geek out daily. Last year, I thought the People video was the best flick, but there were a lot of good ones. I’m looking forward to Nowhere (Absinthe Films) In Color (Transworld) Videograss, & House of 1817. Our shop dudes Brisse and Olson-Elm are in the first two, so I’m the most hyped to see those flicks. Team videos kinda blow, but that’s just me.
If a man sends you multiple pictures of the fish he’s caught, you post multiple pictures of the fish he’s caught
I’m only giving you four thank yous here so who’s it going to be?
I would like to thank my family, friends, the shops, and everyone that has contributed – much love.
I’ll give you a bonus for grandma because I know you visit her stinky and hungover the morning following the first premiere. You got any good jokes?
Your mom is so UGLY, it looks like her face caught fire and your family put it out with a fork.