Interview: TGR Skier Erik Roner Stars In Nitro Circus 3D Movie
By TetonGravityResearch | July 30th, 2012
Erik Roner has starred in Teton Gravity Research movies for almost a decade. For the past few years he’s been known in the ski world for his stand-out ski-BASE jumping segments in our films. His current web series Roner Vision is one of the best ski-athlete series out there. But mainstream America knows Roner for being on the MTV show Nitro Circus with Travis Pastrana. For the past two years Roner and the Nitro crew have been creating a feature-length 3D film to share with the world. On Wednesday, August 8, the movie hits 1000 theaters across the country. We caught up with Roner before the premiere to find out more about the movie and what it’s like to film with the Nitro Circus crew.
TGR: How did Nitro Circus 3D come about? What did it take to make this happen?
Erik Roner: We did two seasons with MTV, then more or less took the last two years to focus on doing this movie. And in doing this movie we came across a lot of hardships and a lot of learning curves, dealing with Hollywood, dealing with insurance, dealing with the studios, and we've kind of just had to force feed this the whole way. We ended up financing it ourselves, because at first a lot of the studios, when they heard about all the stunts we wanted to do, they said "There's no way we're going to be able to insure this." We kind of did it under the radar and then sold it back to the studios after we had done it. So, fortunately, it worked out and we're hoping everyone likes it.
TGR: How did Nitro Circus begin? To me, it kind of comes out of the Jackass realm of things. Is anyone from Jackass involved in Nitro Circus, or is it a completely different crew?
Erik Roner: It started out with Travis Pastrana filming stuff in his backyard with the neighbors, cousins, whomever he could get over there. And then he started making DVDs to help pay for everything they were wrecking and destroying.
Greg Godfrey was in Hollywood trying to be filmer/director guy. He saw Crusty Demons III, and he said "That's what I want to do." He moved to Utah, did one film-shoot with Travis, and saw how gnarly Travis is and how motivating he is to people around him, and said "Hey, do you what to go into business together?" So sure enough, they started Nitro Circus and started shooting DVDs for awhile.
Then Johnny Knoxville and Dickhouse Productions did an Evil Knievel tribute with Travis' Nitro Circus crew. After that, those guys said "We need to do a TV show with them." And they were an instrumental part of lining up the MTV show we did for two seasons. After that, when we started doing this movie, this movie was all Godfrey Entertainment. So the Jackass guys helped, like Knoxville and Jermaine from Jackass have good interviews in the movie, kind of talking about who we are and what we do. So they're definitely a part of the movie, but as far as directing and putting the movie together, they didn't have any part in it.
TGR: Tell me about the movie. Have you watched the movie yet? Have you seen a final cut?
Erik Roner: Yeah, we had a screening at X Games at that Mann's Chinese Theatre down on Sunset Boulevard, which kind of felt like a premiere. You know, over a thousand people, kind of key industry people, and all the Jackass guys were there. The feedback was really good. I was really impressed with the movie. I was questioning it at first: If we, on our own, could pull off a theatrical movie. Of course we could do the DVD stunts, stunt reels for the ADD crowd that we're so accustomed to. But actually putting together a theatrical movie, that mom and pops and the kids are going to want to see, as well as our hardcore fan base is going to want to see. And I surely think we did. There's a nice storyline throughout it that kind of shows where we've come from and the type of people we are. And there's a lot of insane stunts that we do where people are laying their lives on the line. There were definitely some accidents that happen along the way, and some hardships, but all-in-all we all came out in one piece and I think everyone's super proud of what they did for the movie, and everyone's really excited to share it with the world.
TGR: Who's in the Nitro Circus crew?
Erik Roner: The main cast is Travis Pastrana, Street Bike Tommy, Jolene Van Vugt, Me, Special Greg and Jim Dechamp. And we've included a couple new people in this movie, Aaron "Wheels" Fotheringham. He's the kid who's in our live show, he's in a wheel chair, he has spina bifida and the kid's nuts. He tries all kinds…he tried the loop, he does the mega-ramp. He's truly inspiring for the stuff he does and the situation he's at. And another guy we introduced is Dusty Wygel. He's just another kind of Special Greg-type kid that's pretty much good at everything and fun to have around. We use him as stunt-feed. "You're the new guy, you try this first." For us older guys that have been through the ranks.
TGR: Who comes up with the stunt concepts? Do you come up with your own or do you all talk about it together?
Erik Roner: A little bit of both. Some of the stunt ideas in the movie definitely were mine, and everyone tries to come up with a unique stunt for themselves, especially in this movie-type environment. We all get together and have big brainstorming sessions. We call it nitro-physics. Someone comes up with an idea, and then someone else chimes in, "Oh, well you could do that, but if you put this on top of it…or you put a little twist on it, and the stunt's this much better, or gnarlier, or this much more dramatic." So there's definitely a lot of brainstorming sessions that go down, but for the most part we all try to come up with individual stunts.
TGR: What do you do in the movie? What parts are you in and what was the gnarliest thing you did for the flick?
Erik Roner: I have a few different things that I'm proud of. Without giving away too much of the movie, one involves a blob, a large building and base-jumping. Another one involves kind of a human-version of Angry Birds. And another involves a building-to-building gap jump with tricycles. It's like a 40-foot gap and the buildings are 400 feet high. It's real intimidating. There's no safety nets. In real stunt movies, the details that go into every stunt are crazy. We're a little looser, we're a little more fly by the seam of your pants. We try to do things smart, we're not dumb, But at the same time, we don't have the budget or the time to spend to create these huge stunts. That's who we are and that’s the way we roll and that’s kind of always how we've been. We stay true to that in this movie, even though we were doing way bigger stunts, shooting them in 3D, and [it's] a lot bigger production.
TGR: I'm excited for the 3D aspect.
Erik Roner: I've never really been to a lot of 3D movies and I've heard a lot of people say they give them headaches. They really did a great job capturing 3D. There's a few scenes in there where we heard people say it was the best 3D they've seen. There's a big crossover scene where there's trophy trucks and dirt bikes and helicopters and monster trucks, and everyone's jumping at the same time. And the 3D had it so layered that you really feel like you’re right there, it's so neat.
TGR: What's it like filming with those guys compared with filming a ski movie?
Erik Roner: There're similarities and there're differences. There's still the nerves the night before a big day, and you've got a lot of things you're laying on the line, and it's an intense situation. But you're with your friends, it's a scramble, you're having the time of your life, you're traveling around, it's so much fun. It's normally not as intense as skiing because when you'e out skiing you're always trying to get the best shot and film the most perfect line you can do. And we have an environment with Nitro where we kind of live by the ethic pass that there're a lot of failures. Still, you're out there trying new things, pushing things outside the comfort zone, and you're inventing stuff, straight up. You're doing things people have never done before, and whenever you're doing that you get footage, even if you lace it, or you completely wad up. So in that regard you're a little more lax, but at the same time you're always doing gnarly stuff.
TGR: What was the most memorable day shooting for you?
Erik Roner: My best shoot was when we went to Panama City. There're a lot of illegal things that are tough to do in the States, that either cost a fortune or everyone just says "no." You go to Panama and get someone a six-pack of beer and they let you on top of their roof, and you can do whatever you want. I personally had a lot of fun there. I always like when I get out of the States because the rules are easy to bend and it allows me to do the things that I want to do. Like I said, in this movie we've had some great successes, we had some some pretty big failures and some seriously close calls. Jim had a pretty bad car crash and was in a coma for a few days, but he's doing alright. But those things are serious, they're really real and it puts things into perspective. Everything we're doing and everything we believe in, and we're trying to push ourselves through, and to showcase to people that you can do. But some of the feedback we got from the movie was pretty inspirational, which kind of surprised us, because this is what we do, this is what we want to do. But people kind of look at it and say, "Wow, these guys are really pushing outside the limits, they're creating this job. They're creating this whole world where they travel with their friends, and it becomes a job." People were seeing it as inspirational, and that was really cool to hear.
TGR: What's the whole message behind Nitro Circus?
Erik Roner: Motorsports is where it began, but it's become so much more than that. It's basically a competitive spirit among friends, pushing each other and pushing the limits of what's possible. In anything, you know? Whatever we can come up with, whatever we can do. It's just us having a great time, you know? Sometimes we come away inventing or creating something amazing, and sometimes we come away with broken bones. It's kind of the nature of the beast.
Click Here To Watch An Episode Of Roner Vision
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