Introduction by Daniel Kinney Interview by Christoph Böttcher
What is the BCSD? What makes the event one of a kind? What are the reasons the event is going strong for ten years now and that it is getting more successful every year?
It’s really pretty simple. What started on a whim has been built up to be one of the largest and most exciting rollerblading contests in the world. The Bitter Cold Showdown is the result of years of improvement, organization, hard work and determination. Every decision made has been to improve the event for those bladers that attend. As a result it has become the destination for rollerbladers all across the world.
What is your role? How much time do you invest in the event every year? What is your profession in the real world?
I am the founder and organizer of the Bitter Cold Showdown. Although each and every year I have plenty of amazing help, every decision rests with me. Outside of blading, I work as a video editor at a large video production company. We do everything from local corporate videos to national television commercials. Any time I spend on the Bitter Cold Showdown is outside of my already existing career. Which definitely makes things interesting at times.
The video we’re about to see was produced at BCSD X, the 2010 event. What was its purpose?
The purpose of the television pilot was not necessarily to be aired on television. But rather it was a vehicle to put forward the most current professional presentation of competitive rollerblading. The pilot is not necessarily geared towards rollerbladers; it is geared towards those outside of rollerblading looking in. We all know rollerblading is amazing, this is meant to be a different way to show that. Of course, the best possible outcome of this project would be a fully funded television series featuring multiple stops on the World Rolling Series tour, but there is so much else that needs to be done before that is possible.
Who was involved in the planning of all this? How did people react when you introduced them to the idea?
I produced the project but I had a lot of help from consultants to formulate exactly what we wanted to do. Everyone that I approached about the idea was really excited and immediately ready to help. One of the things I am most proud of with this project is being able to show what we are capable of if we all work together.
Matt Mickey and Arlo can be seen in the video doing the commentary. Who was involved with the production behind the scenes and who put everything together in the editing room?
If you look through the credits of the project you will find that there are not many names in there that you do not already recognize from recent DVD releases or online video projects. Some of the best video-bladers in the industry helped with this and I am grateful to all of them. Somehow I also directed. I say somehow because that was probably one of the most challenging days of my life; organizing the contest and directing the pilot. Luckily, enough planning went in to both that everything went pretty smoothly. As far as postproduction, that was me as well. It took a day to shoot everything but months to edit.
What efforts were made to encourage TV stations to feature this in their program? Easy task or hopeless endeavor? Why did it never air on TV in the end?
First of all, any and all efforts directed towards network television were done in the United States. We simply do not have the resources to explore these options in every country. Which is part of the reason this is now being released. It is time to see what other opportunities may come our way.
Although I cannot go into detail about what networks this was presented to, I can say that overall we have learned some interesting information. It is not only rollerblading that is falling out of favor as a sport, but skateboarding and BMX as well. In the US it is the stick and ball sports that retain popularity and interest with networks; basketball, football, baseball, etc.
Any other contest you see on television like Street League Skateboarding, Maloof Money Cup, Dew Tour, etc. that feature skateboarding and BMX are referred to as time buys. Which are basically modified infomercials. The airtime is paid for and is sometimes very expensive. Only through large corporate sponsorships are the events able to be aired on television.
Like I mentioned above there is not a big interest in extreme sports presented as a sport. There is plenty of interest in the personalities of extreme sports, but interest in the competitive side of things is waning.
The awesome thing about this project was that it was professional enough to be presented at some of the largest networks in the United States. With that we received official “passes” from these networks, which is more or less equivalent to a rejection. Which was actually good news. This means that many of these network executives sat down and watched this program to find out what rollerblading currently is really all about. With that, although this will likely not be seen on television, we definitely turned some heads.
When watching the videos it’s obvious they look a little different than the usual blading edits that are released on the internet or videos even. What was your intention with making the pilots in this fashion?
I wanted to make something better than what has been done recently. I began to be very dissatisfied with the work I was doing along with everything else I was seeing and wanted do something that would set a new example. You hear very often that its, “just a contest edit” or an “online edit.” In the end, it is exactly what you make it. If you don’t put any effort into your work it shows, no matter the excuse.
Most rollerbladers take pride they don’t have to fit into regulations ‘regular sports’ put upon their participants. How do you react when someone dislikes the making of these video because they feel blading isn’t portrayed how they see it or how they’re used to see it?
Rollerblading is many things and the argument has been made many times that contests are irrelevant. The bottom line however is that they are the most effective way of promoting rollerblading to new bladers. They offer an opportunity for those new to the sport to not only meet some of the best in the world, but meet fellow bladers as well. I see them more as a blading party with a contest, than strictly a contest. Even the most prolific street bladers in the world understand this.
Additionally, like I mentioned above, this is not meant for existing rollerbladers. Although Charg!ng, Valo 4 Life and Game Theory have their appeal to outsiders, they were created to promote rollerblading (a brand, Pros, etc.) to other rollerbladers. The intention from the start of this project was to present rollerblading to those that may have no familiarity with it or are just down right misinformed.
Why do you think it’s important to show the well organized, competitive side of blading rather than its street skating portion?
I think both are equally important, however the third side of rollerblading that so many are overlooking and neglecting is personality. Not nearly enough energy has been put into establishing any bladers as a legitimate personality. I do not mean yelling at the camera, hassling rent a cops or getting wasted, I mean legitimate television personalities equivalent to those you see in reality television.
What is it that makes you believe this is an effort that – while it might not look “real” to a certain percentage of bladers – is good for everyone that skates?
So little of what you see on television is “real.” Everything is produced in one way or another. A project like this could potentially be good for everyone that blades because if the money existed to do more episodes like this, the money would also exist for more tours, higher paid professionals and various other blade projects. It is all connected and anyone that rejects one side of blading for the other is pretty foolish.
The videos get pretty intense at times and what is shown is quite impressive. To us as bladers probably more than to the outside eye. What do you think does it take for a skater/trick to reach the admiration of an untaught eye? What makes good skating exciting to watch?
I think the athleticism and risk of blading is pretty evident to both insiders and outsiders. Of course there are certain tricks that fellow bladers understand and appreciate much more but that is all relative. With this project I wanted to draw the viewer into the competitive side of blading. I wanted to show how these competitors pushed each other to do better and performed under enormous pressure. You do not have to really understand what Chris Haffey is doing to understand the enormous pressure that he was under at the 2010 Bitter Cold Showdown.
Once I showed a nearly completed edit to Haffey he told me something that made me realize I had accomplished what I was going for. He mentioned to me that at times he was worried about who would win.
Why do you feel your event is a good opportunity to be used as a tool to bring blading to a larger audience? What are your efforts to follow this path in the future?
For me, I am in the fortunate position to be working in the video production industry and also coincidentally organize one of the largest events in blading. So using the Bitter Cold Showdown as the event to do this kind of production was a pretty easy decision. However, in the future, unless something changes, I will not be pursuing another project like this one.
I am working on another television pilot that will feature rollerblading, however, it will be completely unlike what you see here.
Countless edits being released on the internet every week, pro skaters touring the globe filming for videos and attending contests, expensive carbon fiber skates sell like sliced bread. Doesn’t look like we’re doing too bad, does it? Why make blading bigger in the first place?
Because there is not a single professional in the rollerblading industry that makes what he or she is worth. When it comes to BCSD, WRS or any other project I work on that is always my long-term goal; putting more money in the pockets of those we idolize and that push the limits of rollerblading.
A naive view of blading sees high quality edits, Pros touring, large contests and high technology blades and says, “Hey, lets keep blading underground, so we don’t have to sell out.”
Anyone with any knowledge of the industry knows that although there is some growing success here and there, most companies are just getting by and your favorite Pros are barely making enough to live comfortably. Very few can make a living off of rollerblading alone. That is what I really want to change.
Given the fact rollerblading would – for whatever reason – “blow up” again: would our industry be able to handle this? What have industry leaders done over the years to promote the sport and why did none of those efforts catch on? WRS seems like a good thing but what else is done to reach the long-term goal of getting more recognition?
I believe that rollerblading will not necessarily “blow up” again. There will be no massive wave of interest that floods into the industry changing everything overnight. Just because it has happened before with skateboarding and BMX does not mean it will happen with rollerblading. I believe the growth that rollerblading will see will be steady and upward propelled by projects that bring multiple talents together to promote blading to a larger audience.
In very vague terms, the WRS is dealing with the competitive side of the sport by providing a network for competitions all over the world. The WRS also brings together the major manufacturers in rollerblading for a kind of collective decision-making and networking. The WRS does not function with some massive budget that it can swing around to try and change everything that may be flawed in the industry. What it does is establish a framework for future growth and expansion.
With all of that being said this television pilot is the first of many steps that the WRS will be taking to bring together talents from all across rollerblading to create dynamic professional presentations of rollerblading that will hopefully help promote further growth.
What can every blader do to strengthen the sport? Must I feel bad if I choose to ignore all the politics and just go out and have a good time on the blades? Isn’t going out and having fun one of the most effective ways to promote blading?
A great follow up question to the previous policy heavy question. I encourage every blader reading this to try and ignore all of the politics and just go out and have a good time. Bringing others into the sport or changing one mind at a time is the most effective thing anyone can do to help promote. However, if you are one of the few that really wants to get involved I encourage you to email me or the WRS directly at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
It is great that so many have their opinions and thoughts about the WRS and so many other aspects of the industry but so much of it is based off strong personal opinions rather than fact. There is a big difference. Know the difference and know that your opinions are just that; your opinions.
On top of that, don’t pirate videos, buy more blade gear and get others to do the same. Enjoy rollerblading for what it is and let others worry about what it isn’t.