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Jan 30, 2024

In this episode, we sit down with cinematographer and director Shannon Vandivier to discuss his work on the Life Time Grand Prix series "Call of a Life Time." Shannon shares his journey into the world of filmmaking and storytelling, influenced by his father's career as a photojournalist. He explains how he approaches the editing process as a second director and the importance of having a clear vision for the story. Shannon also delves into the challenges of filming off-road racing events and the strategies his team employs to capture the essence of each race. He highlights the importance of building trust with the athletes and creating a connection that allows for vulnerability and authentic storytelling. Throughout the conversation, Shannon emphasizes the goal of the series: to showcase the dedication and inspiring stories of off-road athletes and to foster a sense of fandom within the community.

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About the Guest(s):

Shannon Vandivier is a cinematographer, director, and camera operator based in Austin, Texas. With a passion for storytelling and a background in photography, Shannon has honed his skills in capturing powerful imagery and using it to tell compelling stories. He started his own company in 2013 and has since worked with notable clients such as Netflix, BBC, and PBS. Shannon's work can be seen in various projects, including the Lifetime Grand Prix series "Call of a Lifetime."

Key Takeaways:

  • Shannon Vandivier's passion for storytelling and capturing powerful imagery stems from his father's career as a photojournalist.
  • The editing process in filmmaking is akin to being a second director, and it requires a clear vision for the story.
  • Filming off-road racing events presents unique challenges, and Shannon's team employs various strategies to capture the essence of each race.
  • Building trust with the athletes is crucial for creating authentic and vulnerable storytelling.
  • The goal of the Lifetime Grand Prix series "Call of a Lifetime" is to showcase the dedication and inspiring stories of off-road athletes and foster a sense of fandom within the community.

Notable Quotes:

  • "The power of editing comes with a clear vision. You don't know how your story is changing unless you know what your story is." - Shannon Vandivier
  • "The bike has always been the vehicle to fun. And as I've matured through life, I've continued to stay on the bike." - Shannon Vandivier
  • "The reality is, editing is second directing. The power of editing comes with a clear vision." - Shannon Vandivier


Automated transcription, please excuse the errors:

[00:00:00] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): Welcome to the show. How you doing, man?
[00:00:04] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Man, I'm glad to be here. I'm glad to be with you.
[00:00:07] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): I'm excited to have this conversation. It's probably a, an outlier. If I think back to the catalogs of conversations I have, it's usually athletes, event organizers, and event producers. So you're my first cinematographer, director, camera guy.
**** - (): Super excited to have this conversation. Cause I think a lot of us have seen your work in Certainly Lifetime, uh, Call of a Lifetime Season 1, which followed the Lifetime Grand Prix. But after looking at your website, I think there's probably a bunch of other things that we've probably seen of you over
[00:00:41] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: the years.
**** - (): Thank you. Well, maybe, maybe not. It depends. Uh, it's a big world out there. There's a lot of content, but I certainly am honored, you know, um, to be your first. Uh, camera nerd and a storyteller on your podcast. So for those of you listening who are hoping to learn anything about power numbers or Watts or course design, uh, you will be disappointed.
**** - (): Uh, but if you want to learn about storytelling and how incredibly, um, challenging it has been, and at the same time, rewarding, um, to spend a year at this point, two years with all the top off road athletes, um, in North America and now also internationally. You're in the right spot and I will, I will tell all right now.
**** - (): I'm
[00:01:26] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): excited to get into some of those challenges. Shannon, just to set the stage, where, where are you located and what's your relationship been to the bike?
[00:01:36] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Um, let's see here. Most I'm 36 years old, born in 87 and, um, I was born here in Austin, Texas. I'm currently in Austin, Texas. Um, it's a great base camp and we have good airport hub.
**** - (): So I've never found an excuse to leave other than maybe my draw to the mountains. Um, and so, you know, like most nineties kids, like the bike was the vector to get around the neighborhood, and it's always been about. Um, for me, the bike has always just been the vehicle to fun. And as I've kind of matured through life, I've continued to kind of stay on the bike.
**** - (): Um, mountain biking to me, um, has become my favorite way to process. Even before this podcast, I went and spent an hour on the bike, just getting into a bit of a flow state and just getting my mind channeled in the right way. I do a lot of my riding, um, believe it or not. Use voice memos for that. But a lot of my thinking and processing on the bike, um, as it specifically rates, relates to call of a lifetime.
**** - (): But yeah, I think the bike is certainly a relevant character in my life. Um, and definitely was the reason why I was even interested in, um. Dipping my toe, which, which turned into diving off into the deep end, um, of creating content and storytelling in this space.
[00:03:01] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): How did you find your way to a camera in the first place?
[00:03:04] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Ah, now that's a good question. So my dad was a photojournalist, and I grew up in a house that was covered in, um, film negative slides. And slideshow reels, and the smell of rolled film in the freezer as you were like sifting through to go find your toaster strudels or whatever. Um, and so like, I think I was five when my dad stuck his first hand me down in my hands.
**** - (): He would like sit me on the curb and as cars drove by, you know, I would earn new rolls of film if I got like cars in focus as I panned with him going by. I remember that specifically as a memory. And yeah, just, you know, my dad is, I've always been against flying, uh, airline travel. We always road tripped everywhere and we were always going somewhere.
**** - (): So I spent a lot of time traveling the world. Um, and controversially, I think I was like 12, 13 years old, you know, when my dad was taking me on shoots with him that maybe were like considered conflict zones, like still don't know, but like in, um, in a really unique way, I had a father who just really was passionate about using a lens to tell stories.
**** - (): He was a still photographer and, um, from a young age, he was just passionate about teaching me the power of the lens and the power of creating imagery and using that imagery to capture a moment in time that tells an important story. And as a journalist, um, you know, he saw himself as a responsible party and keeping politicians accountable and, um, corporations accountable.
**** - (): And he's. He still, to this day, um, heartbreakingly, probably, sees journalism as the means at which we keep society on track, um, and the truth in, in the public square. And so I've always had a value for storytelling in that context. And um, And yeah, and through, through certain life circumstances, I think I've particularly given an empathetic, um, perspective on life.
**** - (): Um, and you know, I, we had a tragedy in my family. I, we lost my youngest brother when I was nine and. Um, you know, there were some hard years there, but where, where it landed me was, um, man, life is special, and there are some really important stories to be told, and it's really important, um, and I love the idea, I should say this, I love the idea of a camera, and, um, and a lens being the vector to creating an introspective revelation in somebody, right?
**** - (): And it's this really unique thing That camera and storytelling and filmmaking can do, right? It can compress time in a way where we feel like we can learn a life's worth of lessons from somebody else in 90 minutes or 30 minutes. Um, and I, and sometimes that feels like magic to me. Um, of course we don't have the scar tissue of experience to ingrain those life lessons and anchor into our life, but at the same time, they can, they can be seeds.
**** - (): That will one day maybe blossom. And so, um, I saw it through my father growing up. I saw how his imagery impacted people. And, you know, I, I always, I always respected that. And I'm really proud that I get to follow. In a sense, my dad never did any filmmaking, but I get to follow in his footsteps. And, um, and so that's kind of what led to me to where I am now.
**** - (): I started my company back in 2000 and 13 and started Get to play with real clients in 2016, um, I've been, uh, won some awards and been featured on, you know, yeah, we've got, you can go check out. It's weird talking about yourself, right? And so there's a lot of things we've done out there and I've gotten to work for Netflix and BBC and PBS and, you know, all the big names out there.
**** - (): I'm honored to continue to work with them. And, um, I, I just, it's not about the, who I'm working for. It's about the, what I'm creating. And so that's, that's my guiding beacon. That's what pushes me forward is the, what I'm creating.
[00:07:15] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): Amazing. Thanks for all that insight into your backstory. I'm curious, you know, your father obviously instilled a love of still photography and while, you know, someone picking up a phone or a camera today.
**** - (): Video is the obvious medium. Was there a point in your. Childhood, going into college, what have you, that you decided photography is great, but video will allow me to express some of the storytelling elements that I'm so passionate about?
[00:07:45] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Yeah, it's a great question because no one asks that question. You know, um, I was frustrated with still photography.
**** - (): You know, it's what I always had in front of me. And it's, I always, like, my dad used to have this drill with me where he would hand me magazines. This is before the computer, right? So, like, he would hand me magazines, a pair of stickers, and some tape. And I had, I have still to this day, I probably dig them up, I have these spiral binders.
**** - (): And he told me, son, you need to train your mind's eye. And he would make me go cut out. Pictures from magazines, stacks of magazines that, um, that I liked to train what, what I liked. And I always remember just, like, flipping through these magazines and cutting these pictures out and pasting them in my, my spiral notebook and training my mind's eye.
**** - (): And I always just, like, remember feeling like, man, like, I don't fully understand this image. Like, it's a cruel image. But, like, I want to know everything that happened. Like, it could be a Formula one car, you know, like on two wheels about to flip over. And I'm like, did it flip over? And I just remember thinking and always feeling this wall with still photography.
**** - (): Now I'm still a still photographer. I love still photography. It's a wonderful way to capture a moment, but in terms of the completeness of a story, in terms of how technology has advanced, there's no question that filmmaking and story is the ultimate form of storytelling. It's the most. Um, and so, yeah, it's, it's a good question.
**** - (): Yeah. Recall anybody asked me that question before.
[00:09:25] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): So thinking about the amount of film that I've caught over, you know, over my life, my big problem has been the editing of it and I don't have any skills, Shannon. I'm going to be totally transparent with you on that, but I am curious about like the editing part, because, you know, you're capturing a lot of footage, regardless of what you're doing.
**** - (): But the editing is really key to making the storyline come through that you're trying to capture or that did happen out there. I'm curious. So you, you know, obviously you started to build the, the technical skills to shoot with your camera. What was that process like to become an editor that could get that end product that really conveyed?
**** - (): The stories either yourself or your clients were looking for.
[00:10:10] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Yeah. I mean, that's a great question. The reality is, is editing is second directing, you know, um, the power of editing comes with a clear vision. Reality is you don't know how your story is changing unless you know what your story is. And so, for me and my process, and like you, I don't have a ton of skill sets in life, but one of the things that is so hard for me to do is to walk into the field with a camera and not have a plan.
**** - (): If I don't know the story I'm going into the field to tell, then I don't know how it's changing in front of me. And if I don't know how it's changing in front of me, I don't know where to point the camera. But if I've defined my story and my characters, um, then As it's changing, as things are falling apart, is usually how you can define changing and filmmaking in the moment.
**** - (): Um, you can adapt and I think, you know, editing is like baking. If you don't have the right ingredients, you're not going to have a tasty product. You have to do it in the right order and you have to give respect to the ingredients and you have to have good quality ingredients. And so to say that, um, there's any one piece of, of creating a product, a film that is more important than the others.
**** - (): It's, it's just like taking a screw out of, um, a mechanical mechanism, like everything will fall apart and nothing will work if you don't have sometimes even the smallest thing. And so, um, our cinematographers, you know, we had up to 14 people in the field this year. We had helicopters, side by sides, motorcycles, um, multiple editors in the field.
**** - (): I mean, what we accomplished this year and the sheer manpower that I had to. bring together, unify and disseminate and share a vision with, um, and follow through with that vision on, um, that in itself became the greatest, um, challenge, but it also became the greatest reward. And why I believe when people see season two of Call of a Lifetime, they're going to see, well, if they watch season one, they're going to see a big improvement.
**** - (): They're going to see improvement in a few ways. And I'd love to jump into that, but. To be direct to your question, um, that editing process is a dance and I have a principal editor, his name is Blake Campbell. He's been working with me for eight years. I mean, his sole income comes from me and has for many, many years.
**** - (): And he is one of my key relationships that I carry within my company because, um, again, I call the editor the second director. I script ahead of time. I take a script after we've shot it, and our AEs will process everything we shot, which is a lot. I mean, I don't want to underestimate under, um, overstate this, but it's a lot of content around a hundred terabytes of footage we curated this season.
**** - (): Um, and I take that pre script and I marry it to what the theoretical versus the actual, what we went in to shoot versus what we actually shot. And I reshape a script and I put that in front of my editor. And then somehow he always makes it better. Better than what I envisioned, better than what I direct in the field.
**** - (): I mean, the sound design, the secret sauce of, you know, um, uh, trick editing and creating a visceral experience. And, you know, a lot of our style and a lot of the things that I think people will come to see. to know as our fingerprints as a company. Um, a lot of that has to do just with the consistency and you know, the, the, the experience that we have or that my editor has and spending time with me through the years and knowing, you know, kind of what I like.
**** - (): And when I shoot something, I shot it specifically to be edited a certain way. And now I don't even have to communicate that to them. So I can't take credit for it. I am a editor on this series, but I am by no means the principal editor. I'm just the guy that comes in and messes his timelines up, and sometimes it's easier to just jump in there and tear up a timeline than it is to actually just write it out on paper and have someone else go in there and try to read your brain.
**** - (): So read about it
[00:14:32] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): to give the listener a little context for those of them who have not seen call of a lifetime series. One it's available freely on YouTube by the time this is broadcast season two will be available as well. What Shannon's been describing is not just a simple. Race storyline of a singular race, which may be a lot easier to tell.
**** - (): We're talking about the entirety of the lifetime Grand Prix season. So whether you're talking about season one or season two, I'm just Shannon, Shannon curious, you've got a bunch of athletes in the lifetime Grand Prix, both on the male and female side, you've got. You know, the, the favorites, you've got the dark horses, but there's plenty of them to choose from.
**** - (): How did you or, and or working with the lifetime team decide who to key in on? And you talked about having an idea of what that story arc might look like. How did you approach it at the beginning of the season and how did it evolve? And what were some of those monkey wrenches thrown into the plans?
[00:15:36] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Yeah.
**** - (): Great question. Um, yeah, golly, you're gonna make me think. Um, okay. So to, to fully answer that question, season one, I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, It was the classic scenario where Lifetime saw my accolades and experience as a film director, knew that I could execute, signed a contract with me to go in based on a concept that I presented, which was modeled after Drive to Survive, the Formula One series.
**** - (): Which really, I just saw as such a fascinating thing, like, blew my mind. I knew nothing about Formula One. I pressed episode one of that thing on Netflix when it first came out, and it instantly made me a fan of Formula One. And as a director, as a storyteller, I was, I had to dissect that. I was like, whoa, how did they brainwash me so quick?
**** - (): And I realized that the way they, what they did, and the model that they set forth, which was ingenious, was, we're human beings. We first and foremost relate to other human beings. So before I needed to understand the formula of model, you know, the racing and the point structure and the courses and which events are more important than other events and the key players first, I had to fall in love with character.
**** - (): I had to pick who my favorites were and they did such a good job doing that and pulling you into these characters, helping you understand what they're like, you know, what's at stake for them, what their goals are, what they have questions they're asking, you know, um, and that instantly grabbed me. And so I thought that's cool.
**** - (): And then I thought bike racing is confusing and, oh my gosh, the Grand Prix, which is what the series is. Built around is an easy to follow series, limited races, invite only, cash prize, easy to follow point structure. Sweet. We have all the right ingredients and most importantly, good characters. Um, and so athletes are always good characters because athletes are passionate and they're driven and focused, you know, um, and they're mental.
**** - (): Um, and, um, and so I thought, man, this is so cool. And so. Getting on back, getting back on track with your questions. Season one, I had no idea who to pick. I just started researching, started reading everything I could find. I started just at the advice of, um, Rebecca Sands and Michelle Duffy, um, and Ryan Cross, you know, who all work with Lifetime, um, and Kimo Seymour.
**** - (): Um, they started telling me, I just asked a lot of questions. I took the list of all the athletes and I just thought, what's this person about? What's this person about? Who are they from? Where, you know, who are they? Where are they from? What's interesting about them? You know, what have they been through in life?
**** - (): How did they get into racing? And so, man, season one was like this crash course in education. Um, and it really took me months to get educated on all of that. And. Somehow, in season one, we made mostly the right picks. I think we were like 7 for 10 out of men and women on who we filmed with and who ended up in the top 10.
**** - (): This season, that was a lot because of these relationships. That's one of the coolest parts. What I'm most rewarded in, in creating the series, is It's a trust thing. I mean, to tell a person's story requires time, face to face time. Um, they need to trust me. They need to know they can be vulnerable with me, and I'm not going to betray that trust.
**** - (): You know, if something happens, then I'm not going to throw them under the bus, you know? If it deviates from who their normal character is, what their normal persona is, if If they are naturally a bit of an against the grain person, then that's their character. That's journalistic to present them as who they are.
**** - (): And if they say it on camera, and that's, and they're not afraid to shy away from that, then I will embrace that, you know? Um, and so I think that that's where interesting storytelling comes, because that's what makes this community unique. And so this year, our character selection was a heck of a lot more Experientially educated because I have relationship with the athletes.
**** - (): I knew already who the returning athletes were and how good they were and what their strengths were. And then I really just had a light lift of researching the new athletes that were coming in. And a lot of us were asking the same questions. How's Matt Beers gonna do? You know, like, How is Danny? Who is Danny Shrosby?
**** - (): Like, is a UK national champ someone to keep your eye on? Turns out she's really powerful. You know, um, you know, you got Brendan Johnson. I mean, what a cool story. Like, man, he's one of my favorite storylines this year. I had so much fun spending all year long with him and having all these touch points and staying in constant communication and I can say right now, like he's a friend and I love that and I love that.
**** - (): I have that relationship with him because I'm rooting for him in many ways. You know, it's weird because I'm rooting for all of them anyways, because all of their stories mean something. It means something to the community that knows them, that surrounds them because there's not one of these athletes that isn't inspiring.
**** - (): And that's the coolest part, right? Right. Um, can't go to an NFL game and go jump on the field and hang out with the players and run your own drills. You know, you can't do that in basketball. You can't do that in golf. You can't do that really in anything except for cycling. You know, I mean, maybe I can't say that, right?
**** - (): Like maybe there's another one out there that you, this is runs a similar example, but that's the cool part about off road cycling is that these are mass participation events. Everyone gets to line up on the same day together with these athletes and then, um, so yeah, anyways, I think I just like really ramped into my own excited digression from that question you asked, but yeah, that's, that's
[00:21:30] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): what we're all about, Shannon, happy, happy to have you.
**** - (): I
[00:21:33] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: picked the athletes based off of who I thought was a really interesting person who I, when I scrolled through their Instagram, you know, was it just bikes? Was it just all bikes? Was, are they just nerding out in a bike park? Maybe that's the character I'm looking for. It's like, who's the nerdiest bike people?
**** - (): But then you got characters like Anna Yamauchi. Like, go scroll her Instagram. She's cool. She surfs. She bikes, you know. She's like always like, you know, in a van somewhere, you know, like, uh, Christopher Blevins, her boyfriend is also just like a really cool guy to follow on Instagram. And so it got me excited.
**** - (): I was like, you know, I don't know how she's going to do as a racer, but that doesn't matter. Because she's coming in on the back foot. She's coming in as a total green racer. She has never done a race series before. She's really very new to racing. And so she's got a lot to learn. And I love that perspective.
**** - (): I love that perspective of someone coming in that really, you have no idea how they're going to do. They don't have experience. They need to see the series with fresh eyes, which is an important perspective. Again, For those people who don't know much about racing. And so, you know, my selection of characters was strategic and it was about how I want to continue to evolve the story and, you know, who's got a story to tell and who's good on camera, you know, like that's also a thing.
**** - (): Like if you're awkward on camera, that doesn't make good storytelling. So, you know, like those are real investments. There's, I can't name any names, but. There's times when you invest time you have your crew get with people and film with them and you walk away thinking like, yeah, I don't think it even does them justice to use.
**** - (): Yeah, that's okay. You know, that's okay. You mentioned
[00:23:16] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): that that trust that trust required to have a real authentic conversation and representation of the people you're filming. Do you feel like. You know, going into year two, because of the efforts in year one, that it was easier to kind of get embraced by the newer characters and the newer people you were working with.
[00:23:35] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Oh, my gosh. I mean, without a doubt, year one, we were trying to convince people like, Hey, this is gonna be cool. Yeah, we had season one, they already knew it was cool. They all love it, right? Like, maybe not all of them, you know, like, depending on who you are. And I think the reality is, is, Is we didn't have to prove ourselves.
**** - (): We didn't coming into walking into season two, people, people realize that this vision that we have with the series is about truly just building fandom. Just honestly, it was just like, what better way to say it? Like we want to make off road racers famous. Like we want people to know how cool they are and what, how much they sacrifice to do this thing that they do and how impressive it is.
**** - (): Um, and the world should see that and be inspired by it. And so that was the objective. That was the goal in season one. And we had to have a lot of conversations with athletes. Like literally like Pacey McKelvin was having to text Keegan for me and be like, dude, Shannon's cool, like. I think you're going to like this project like you should just sit down and have an interview with them and you know, and then walking into season two, you know, I'm, I'm calling Keegan.
**** - (): I'm like, Hey, man, when can I get on your schedule? And usually he's like, cool. Anytime that's not before the race focus. I respect it. Um, he manages time so well, which again, it's Why he performed so well. And I think that was an interesting learning experience this year is, is really getting to see Keegan's dominance and as a character, see that evolve.
**** - (): And then how that pairs to what I'm learning about him behind the scenes. Um, and, and how that's a testament to, you know, how to be successful. And so. Yeah, season two is, I mean, here's a spoiler, average length of these episodes is like 35 minutes. I mean, some episodes are 45 minutes long. Wow. Last year, I think some of the longest ones were like 22, 25 minutes long.
**** - (): And that is a testament to people giving us time, to good story. It's also a testament to the hardest nut I've ever had to crack. In filmmaking in my career, hands down is how to film off road racing. That is a challenging thing to do. It takes a lot. I have a
[00:25:50] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): bunch of, I have a bunch of questions on that front.
**** - (): Yeah. Before we jump into the technical part of filming off road racing, I'm curious, like you, you said you, you go in and you choose a selection of athletes to work with. And I imagine, you know, we don't know when you start filming, you don't know if someone's going to have an injury. Someone's going to drop out of the series or, you know, something unexpected has happened.
**** - (): Do you go in with ten athletes knowing you probably only have eight storylines you can tell and certain ones end up on the cutting room floor and don't end up making an appearance in the series?
[00:26:28] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Yeah, no, I mean, it's a good question. No, I don't think anyone spent time with us and did not make the cutting room floor.
**** - (): Period. Uh, however, there are certainly investments you make on the front end of a season, hoping someone might do better, but if they're not performing and. They don't necessarily have some compelling aspect of the story that keeps you really interested. Um, then you might see them fall off in the series, you know,
[00:26:55] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): that's normal.
**** - (): Yeah, conversely, I imagine you might have a character, I keep saying character, but an athlete who starts excelling later in the season. And you didn't really think that you would be following her throughout the year as closely, but it's clear they're doing exceptional things in the
[00:27:13] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: series. I mean, last year, Haley Smith, she wasn't on our radar until I think I interviewed her after the race at Crusher and the Tusher last year.
**** - (): I mean, that's a long way into the season. I mean, I was like, man, who is Haley? You know, again, I just didn't know what I was doing. She wasn't on my radar. No one put her on my radar, but like when you look at her on paper. I, she should have been on my radar from the get go, but the reality is, is she had a strategy to her season.
**** - (): She was gonna, she didn't want to burn herself out too quick. She wanted to be peaking, which is a strategy, right? To be peaking on the back end of such a long season. So, last season, The female champion, right? Of the, the, the number one spot of lifetime Grand Prix. We didn't even know about her until Crusher.
**** - (): We didn't even recognize who she was or how, how impressive of an effort she was putting down until then. So, um, this year, I can't say that that happened to us. We got lucky, you know, in that sense. I think I was hopeful. I was hopeful some of my, the dark horses like Matt Beers would have showed up a little bit more.
**** - (): Um, honestly, I think that I really wanted, I want to see Keegan lose. Like I do, you know, like I want to see him lose. Not because I don't like Keegan, but because like. Dang, like that dude ran and ran and kept running and just ran away with the series and which in itself Became a really important part of the story this season But I would love to see someone challenge him.
**** - (): I would love to see that right dethrone Keegan like dude, that's gonna be a cool storyline when someone actually shows up to do that I think Keegan wants that too, by the way You know, like Sophia as well. Like I think they're there to race and when they actually have something to race for, when they have someone really pushing them to their limits, um, that's when you get stronger and that's when you really understand who you are.
**** - (): And so, yeah, I think, um. Yeah, I don't know. I could, I could, you want to keep going. I can keep talking, you know, like, dude, uh, my brain is hit on some of these topics because I mean, I've literally analyzed these writers, these scenarios, these dynamics, every possible way that I feel like I can't. And so coolest and most inspiring part of it, all of it is just simply the fact that, you know, um.
**** - (): What's happening in North America is so unique and so special. And yeah, the fact that those international athletes, although I wish they would have performed a little bit better, some of them, you know, some of them performed great and really kind of figured out where they were in the pecking order here.
**** - (): And I think it's really cool. All of them are coming back next season. Yeah.
[00:29:56] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): I think clearly like a bunch of them figured out what it's like being in the U. S. this long or doing, you know, how to handle coming back and forth to their home country and back to the U. S. So yeah, I'd like to think in 2024, some of them are a little bit better prepared to be super competitive and that'll be exciting for all us fans.
[00:30:15] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Yeah, Matt Beers said it best. We were doing an interview at Big Sugar and he goes, I can't do a South American or South American, South African accent. Um, it'll probably come off as like a leprechaun or Australian, but he says, you know, I've cracked the American code. He's like, I figured it out. I'm coming back next season.
**** - (): And the American code is altitude. And he's like, and I'm coming back and people better watch out. So I think he's like, he's, he thinks there's an American code and he's just spent the season sussing it out and figuring it out. And now he's going to come back this next season, um, with a different or better training plan.
**** - (): So yeah, I love it. Which is cool. You know,
[00:30:55] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): you had mentioned something earlier and it might've been before we started recording just about sort of the challenge of creating a series after we know the results already. How do you think about that? I mean, obviously there's such an infusion of the personal storylines that's a huge bonus that we don't get throughout the year as race fans following these races on social media.
**** - (): So how do you think about, you know, the fact that the results are known and you're still, you know, building a story narrative about the season? Hmm.
[00:31:29] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Okay. Um, did you, did you follow any of the racing this year? Mm hmm. Yeah. Do you get a tingly, like overwhelming sensation and a grin on your face when you saw who got first or second, say at Leadville?
**** - (): Yeah, a hundred percent. Right. Do you think when I frame this thing up around a story that shows you inside that writer's face, what he's feeling emotionally or what she's feeling emotionally and everything that In the immediate past and also the distant past that she's had to put in to get to that moment, that maybe that tingly sensation and the way you experience that race will be even that much more elevated.
[00:32:14] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): Yeah, a 100 percent Shannon and I like
[00:32:16] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: that. Right? It's like, I'm thinking about how, like, the reality is, it's like. Man, I, I don't remember. I, I watched Formula One, I guess, but sometimes I've forgotten one. But like, the reality is, is like, the episodes aren't about the race, really. You know, like That's funny, I don't Which I don't think is a
[00:32:35] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): vector.
**** - (): I love that series as well, and I've never watched A Formula one race in that season. My entire experience is like a year removed because I just watch it during that Netflix series.
[00:32:47] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Totally. Right. And so I think that like, to me, I think there's a cool thing, right? Like if you're a hardcore, like Grand Prix or just off road cycling fan and you follow everything.
**** - (): Um, I think you're gonna have watched the race in real time and understood the value, the importance, the significance of who won or, you know, the characters involved, the racers involved, and why it's a big deal that they won. But when you get a chance to watch our series and you get a chance to like really see behind the scenes, you know, like we're in their homes with them, you know, like we are, um, We are showing a layer of vulnerability that you actually haven't ever seen before.
**** - (): I mean, there's never been put out there on these particular, you know, people. Um, and so I think how I've approached the creative on this is to not even think about the fact that, you know, the results are out there because it's about the layers. You've seen the one, the layer of them crossing the finish line or the footage of them racing that race.
**** - (): But. I've got five more layers to peel back for you, and I'm going to connect some dots for you, and I'm going to show the interpersonal relationships between the women and between the men, you know, and sometimes in some cases between the women and the men, you know, because the men's races often can impact the women's races, you know, that's a challenge.
**** - (): That's another way that lifetime is looking to continue to evolve, and they want You know, as this thing that's happening in North America right now, you know, it's, the evolution is going to come at the pressure, the ideas, the sentiment of all of us, you know, or all the, the key components of all the racers, the mass participants, as well as the pointy end of the spear, you know, as well as these athletes who are way out front and who are only making this faster and faster and faster.
**** - (): And so the rules will change a little bit. They're already changing a little bit, you know. It's cool to see, you know, how the women feel you heard it when you were watching the race unbound, you heard women have their own start. And maybe you saw an interview too, about a woman saying, Hey, this is really cool.
**** - (): We're really excited for this, but I unpacked. The shit out of that, like, like in there, like, I really wanted to understand from the most core credible writers, why is that a big deal? How does that actually change the dynamic dynamic of your race? Like, um, how was it safer? Like, what does that mean to you?
**** - (): Like what happened to you last year versus what is going to happen to you this year? You know? I think there's a lot of examples like that. Storylines that just really, I think will, will come to life. And I think you're going to see. What's currently like, I don't know, as an analogy, two dimensional, you're going to see three dimensional, right?
**** - (): You're going to see these storylines and these races and what's going on. And, you know, these athletes right now, as we speak are, are already getting in five to eight hour rides. You know, like if you're following them on social media, they're already training, you know, like a month off. Like that was their off season.
**** - (): They went to Mexico, had a margarita and now they're like. Already binge eating carbs and like, you know, crushing crazy miles. And all they're thinking about is like Mid South, you know? And then after that, it's BWR. And then it's like, it's just months away. And so, you know, like those are the stories and that's the layer that I'm excited to show is just really.
**** - (): The sheer amount of dedication and that goes, yeah,
[00:36:20] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): it's been super interesting getting to know some of these athletes through your eyes and through your storytelling. I definitely for myself became more of a fan of certain athletes and less of a fan of others, which was super interesting. I think the other thing not to be discounted, and maybe this is a good segue into the technical challenges of filming these events was, you know, you have the best equipment to film these.
**** - (): Racing environments. So if you're looking to see what is the gravel feel like in Bentonville, your camera footage and the equipment you have on in the field gives you that feel, which I love because I'm I've always been about exploring. The different types of gravel in the U. S. and what the experience is like and trying to extract that from race organizers.
**** - (): So I definitely appreciate that thread. For the listener to just think about before you answer this question, we're talking about mountain bike racing at Sea Otter on single track. How do you get in there? We're talking about cruising 200 miles across Kansas where Coverage is difficult. The terrain is difficult.
**** - (): We're, you know, in Bentonville, we've got all these different locations. Schwamigan, for God's sake, I don't know how you get any footage there. So, talk about, and maybe you can juxtapose Season 1 to Season 2, how do you get out there in the field? How do you get these shots that make us feel like we're part of the race?
**** - (): Man,
[00:37:47] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: you know, golly, what a question. Here's the thing, man, is like, it's been trial by fire. It's really what it's been. It's been a lot of mistakes made. It's been a lot of hard lessons. It's been a lot of adapting. I mean, the IQ that we've accumulated at this point is extremely valuable to me, to my team.
**** - (): You know, like, I don't know, like, I think the reality is, is. Anyone outside of my team probably doesn't even really see it. You can hear my words that I'm about to speak right now, but the reality is, is everything I'm about to say has come at the cost of a lot of brainpower, a lot of thinking. I mean, the softness of the gravel, how much dust.
**** - (): That it's composed of, how sharp it is, how far that we're going, how much potential mud is on the course. If it's too dry, what's that going to do to the race and how we cover it. If it's too wet, what's that going to do the race and how we cover it. I mean, compare and contrast big sugar to unbound this year, you know, like moon dust versus the thickest, stickiest mud that you can find.
**** - (): I mean, the type of mud that buries you down to your axles and stops if you do it the wrong way. And so. Um, you know, Schwamigan, oh my gosh, Schwamigan, Schwamigan's hard, Schwamigan's scary, Schwamigan's so fast and covering Schwamigan is really tough. So, all right, let me break this down for you. Every race has a characteristic.
**** - (): And the first thing I'm asking myself is how much of it is two track versus single track. Single track obviously is the hardest thing to cover. Um, you know. The, the way you cover it has a lot to do with how often and what the shape of the course is. Where can I create cutoff points? How can I leapfrog riders?
**** - (): Uh, we're using e bikes a lot at Sea Otter. That's a huge characteristic of Sea Otter is getting out there on e bikes. And so we'll go cover, honestly, 40 miles in a race ourselves on e bikes with. Camera backpacks on, drone strapped to them. And I've got a team of seven people just on e bikes out there mobbing around and doing what they got to do.
**** - (): On top of that, we find the access points where I can get a vehicle out there. I can get bounce around. That's another unit. That's another crew. You know, a helicopter is a wonderful tool. And we didn't have that at Sea Otter this year, but certainly is in the conversation right now for this next year. I think helicopter obviously is the best way.
**** - (): And I'm so grateful to Lifetime for their continued vision and investment into the tools needed to be successful. And that's been a part of the learning process and, you know, like any wonderful. Client, you always go over budget on these things and they haven't murdered me yet. And so I just can't thank them enough for that.
**** - (): Um, and so, you know, the reality is, is it's all in the effort to just produce, produce the highest quality content that you can. Um, but. You can't have one thing if your content is all statics of a rider swiping by, or it's all constant tracking motion, you know, or it's all from a helicopter, then it's one dimensional, you need all of it.
**** - (): And that in itself is the inherent challenge to make it cinematic, really particular about the quality of my, if I put my name to it, I want it to be the best, you know, and that's something that cinematography is incredibly important to me. Um. Probably borderline OCD on that. And so I think that that is a huge weight that I put on myself and my team to make sure that we execute.
**** - (): And tools of, of the trade, um, help a lot, but again, diversity is key. And so you need a mix of all of it. And so you need to. I mean, our strategy plans probably look pretty similar to like what it looks like for like a Navy SEAL team or Marine team when they're like planning a siege on a city, you know, we've got maps out and I've got, you know, upwards of 15 people in a room sitting there and I'm, I've got code names for the units.
**** - (): I'm like, all right, unit a unit B unit. C unit D, here's what you're doing. You're going to leapfrog you unit, um, be here. And then you're going to pivot over to the Eagle's nest. You know, like we've broken down the course into its variable carrier characteristics, especially as we've defined the course. I mean, that's one of the most valuable IQs that I currently hold is like.
**** - (): Say another team is to walk in after us and try to execute the same project. I know almost every corner of every turn of every course, you know, like that in itself is an investment of time. It's an IQ and in doing so you can actually, we've got to a point where we understand the dynamics of the race.
**** - (): And part of that is the strategy of the racer. I know when, I can predict when someone's going to attack, and it's based on the terrain. It's based on where they're at psychologically, at what point in the race, and how they need to separate, create separations in the field. Yeah, yeah. First 25 percent of the race, you can.
**** - (): You can count on selection one happening 100 percent like that's intentional, that's strategic. They need to blow the field up as soon as they can. Once you're, you have your, your lead in your chase group, um, then it becomes, um, then it becomes an interesting dynamic of. Using key features on the course to start weeding guys out.
**** - (): So you'll see attacks happen on hills. You'll see Keegan and Finstie try to blow Cole up, you know, and he'll be a cockroach. He'll keep coming back, you know, and they'll keep trying to blow him up. They did that at Sea Otter this year, you know, he kept showing back up. He kept showing back up all the way up until.
**** - (): Um, that, that, uh, that final climb and, um, that final climb is certainly, um, where Keegan and Fenstein finally got that separation from them. But until then they were using the landscape and they were strategically using, um, the, the pack dynamics to To create certain scenarios. And so we can use that to our advantage.
**** - (): And when we have that IQ and we understand the essence of, of racing and my whole team understands that my whole team has experienced at this point, then you're successful. And that's what we figured out this year. I mean,
[00:44:06] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): That's the gold for us fans when we're watching this. If we can actually see that moment where the elastic is stretched to the end and it bursts and see and feel that emotion, like that's the moment that we all want to be in.
**** - (): That's so difficult to capture in off road
[00:44:21] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: racing. Well, to predict where it's going to happen, right. And I'm not saying I'm a hundred percent, but every race we were there, you know, every race at those moments, you know, when someone drops out of the race, you know, Alexis Skarda, like one of my favorite people, um, in the series, honestly, cause she's so, she's a very intense, like she's a really laid back person, actually, which is funny, but when she races, like she puts her eyes on and like, man, that girl, like, look, I get out of her way.
**** - (): She's. She's a killer. Um, and so like seeing that point where she actually had to drop out of Unbound, it was actually a really sad moment for, for those of us who were rooting for her, you know, but to be able to capture that, to be able to tell that part of the story and to see where she, um, she actually had to To fall off of Sophia, um, was, was hard.
**** - (): Um, and so, you know, like, capturing that, I think as a fan, I think you're going to really be able to relate to the sheer effort that goes into these things, and the psychological warfare that is going on between riders, but also the hardest person there is to race is yourself. Yeah. So, capturing
[00:45:29] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): those moments.
**** - (): Having spent Yeah. Having spent so much time thinking about these series the last couple of years and becoming a true fan yourself, is there a single race that you'd call your favorite?
[00:45:42] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Hmm. That's a great question. I like Unbound the most, a hundred percent. I think Unbound is interesting because you just don't know what's going to happen.
**** - (): Um, it's a really fun race to film be in the, in the sense that we actually logistically, it's one of our, our, it has the fewest amount of logistics. Um, because it's just 200 miles of gravel road. So our vehicles, we can do a lot of leapfrogging. So our coverage is really good. So our storytelling is really good.
**** - (): It's really dialed. And you know, this year I'm looking at the nuance. I'm looking at the nuance of who's pulling and who's not pulling. You know, last year I didn't know about pulling and I didn't know about, you know, like everyone doing their work. And so this season being able to just watch the strategy and on the men's side, it was like so crazy inspirational because you had seven guys.
**** - (): That, like, basically, once you got through the mud, worked together, truly together. Nobody, nobody sat on the wheel at all. Everyone worked together, like, it was kind of crazy because it came down to a sprint at the end and it's just, like, didn't seem right. You know, like, Pete Stettin, I think, was seven out of the seven guys.
**** - (): But, like, man. You're talking about seconds, you know, you're talking about him putting in so much work. And if you look at the year before he got, I think eight, but it was a way different race, you know, like amount of effort. I don't think his result actually justified the effort that he put into it. But yeah, it's because they all work together that they all got through it.
**** - (): And so it was really cool, which might change people's strategy. A guy like Pete next year might be like, forget this. Like I'm a, I'm actually going to be bolder and blow the steel, blow the screw up, you know, and try to actually make a flyer happen or convince three guys to fly off with me sooner so that we know it doesn't come down to seven of us trying to sprint each other, you know, like, so I think Unbound, I think is.
**** - (): I like it because there's a lot of strategy involved, you know, single track mountain bike racing is heavily dependent on skillset, which I'm a mountain biker predominantly. And, and I get that and I think that's really cool. I like filming mountain biking a lot because it's really dynamic and fast and windy and like you have the trees and like when you see our cinematography this year at sea otter, I think you'll be really excited.
**** - (): We made it pretty, um, it is pretty. And so, um, but. But gravel racing is like this beautiful blend between mountain biking and road racing where you actually have, you don't have teams necessarily, but man, it's so cool to see these pack dynamics form and then to see the respect or disrespect they built for each other.
**** - (): And so, um, it's like last season in season one, I believe it was Ivar who, I mean, we. We filmed it. He sat on that wheel a lot. He was the most well rested going into that sprint. There's no question about it. You know, like the thing it was talked about, he won, you know, that's a strategy. It's not how you become popular, but it's certainly a, an opportunity to win.
**** - (): And so, you know, that's a strategy and you might, you know, you, you might need to be a bit of the match, you know, like to actually win some of these races. And
[00:48:50] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): so, yeah, you can't get away with it too often. But, you know, you got, probably got one big one in you where you can sit in, people don't know you.
[00:48:59] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: Yeah. Yeah. How many times do you have to win, uh, Unbound to secure a couple of years worth of sponsorships though? You know? So,
[00:49:05] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for all the time, Shannon. This was super exciting to get the behind the scenes. Clearly, you guys put so much work and effort into it, you and the Lifetime team.
**** - (): I'm super excited by the time this airs, I'll probably have binge watched the entire season two and I encourage everybody out to go out on, uh, it's on Lifetime's YouTube channel to find the
[00:49:28] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: content. Right? Yeah. You can find it, um, on Lifetime's YouTube channel on their social media pages. You can certainly come follow me at Shannon Vandiver or my company at Code Collaborative.
**** - (): Um, and you'll find all sorts of fun stuff there, but. Thank y'all. We really, I really hope you enjoy it. I really hope that you fall in love with the characters. And again, the goal at the end of all of this is just celebrate, um, getting outside and being healthier. And, you know, we want to harbor on just how inspirational these athletes are.
**** - (): And so you can expect to be inspired. If you want to get inspired, check out this series, because these athletes have inspired me for sure.
[00:50:07] - ():  Craig Dalton (host): Yeah. Fantastic. Thanks, Shannon. Thanks,
[00:50:10] - ():  Shannon Vandivier: dude.