In 2013, BMW Motorcycles teamed up with California motorcycle designer Roland Sands to design a motorcycle that was an homage to one of their most loved bikes, the R90S. That project was such a success that earlier in the year they revisited that idea, letting Roland’s signature style influence a new BMW motorcycle, the Concept 101. Jonny Zeller directed short films for both bikes, taking a look at the creative process that inspired them.
Most recently, the Concept 101 piece tells a story of dual craftsmanship. Featuring not only the fabrication of the motorcycle, it also shows a local leatherworker painstakingly assemble a belt. Cutting back and forth, it draws a clear comparison between the two endeavors.
“The aesthetic of the piece was designed to portray class and elegance rooted in craftsmanship. Those who can afford this bike don’t live a basic life. They live a stylized life. However, many are eager to escape the city, taking refuge in the simplicity of small towns or rural getaways. Although they choose to leave the glamour of the city behind, they still bring a hint of it with them. It is a melding of rustic craftsmanship with modern standards and finesse. This audience is used to polish and perfection and the piece would have to inject that flavor into a picturesque setting with every shot,” explains Zeller.
“Getting to work with Roland is always fun, and seeing the way his passion was reflected in Juan Lara, the leatherworker, really made the storyline hit home,” Zeller said. “Creatively, they’re not that different, whether you’re building a bike, a belt, or a story.”
Though the premise is simple, the shoot was technically more difficult. Working directly with BMW’s development team in Germany, pre-production was a tangle of time zones and plane tickets. However, once the logistics were sorted out, the rest came together. The production spanned two long days on location in Camarillo, California, the windy hills of Santa Barbara, and the gorgeous California coastline.
Although the piece was created for a motorcycle company, Zeller wanted to drive home an emphasis on craftsmanship and let the bike fit in more subtly. “Soft selling a product these days is way more powerful. It doesn’t have to be brand, brand, brand anymore. Audiences, especially on the web, don’t respond as well to the blatant hard sell anymore.”
To achieve the look he wanted, Zeller brought in his go-to DP Alex Jacobs. Jacobs shot on the Red Dragon using the Cooke Anamorphic/i prime lenses for all of the bike build and leather worker footage. The camera was mounted on a J.L. Fisher 10 dolly for the shots that required larger moves and a small slider for the intimate details. The Angenieux Optimo 24-290mm zoom lens with an anamorphic adaptor paired with a second Red Dragon was mounted on the Ultimate Arm for the running footage. The anamorphic look was necessary for creating the cinematic, story-driven look that was so crucial to the soul of the project.
Lighting also played a large role in crafting the right look of the piece. A combination of large 20K lights and mirrors reflecting off of the sun were shot through windows to achieve a sunrise feel during both the leatherwork scenes.
An overhead softbox light set the ambient light for the motorcycle assembly scenes. 20K lights and mirrors were used to send light through slats of wood on the barn to create rays of light. Various Mole LED lights were utilized for fill and to highlight small features on the motorcycle.
An entire glorious day was dedicated to the running footage. “Driving along the California coast is a totally unique experience and BMW wanted to show the way their bike behaved on the road, illustrating the combination of BMW’s German engineering and Roland Sands’ west coast creativity.” That much time in a camera car gives the editors a lot to work with, but also an insane amount of footage to dig through. “Everything just looked so good! It was hard not to over shoot.”
The motorcycle was “code red” which meant it had to be completely covered any time the cameras weren’t rolling. Police officers closed down each road, the cameras started rolling, the bike was uncovered, and then the shooting began. “It was a tricky process and took up a ton of time, but we’ve done it before with Toyota so it comes with the territory. Working with top secret products is always fun!”
Of course we couldn’t make it through a shoot without seeing some massive burnouts from Roland. Thankfully he waited until the end of the shoot to destroy the tires!