That’s Not It: A Shawn Elf Walters Interview

Left-Right: Riley Smith, Shawn "Elf" Walters, Tate Roskelley and Cameron Wood chill out at the spot. Photo: Katie Panzer

Putting together a BMX video is no easy task these days, but filmer Shawn “Elf” Walters and the boys behind 2007’s That’s It are at it again. This time around, they are going the independent route with no financial backing from brands or shops. Walters, a professional rider himself, has been around the Salt Lake BMX scene long enough to watch it blow up—and he wants to show the world just what makes our city so special. I got the chance to accompany their film crew to one of their favorite street spots while they stacked some footy for their new video, Killjoy. After a few hours of shooting and filming, a freak afternoon squall drove us into the nearby Twilite Lounge where we were able to talk about their crew, their video and life in general.

SLUG: That’s It was very well received. Is there any pressure to go bigger this time around with Killjoy?
Walters: I wouldn’t say bigger. There was a lot of effort that went into that video and I’m going to put just as much effort into this one. No matter what, with the type of riders in this, there’s no way it can’t be just as good, if not better.

SLUG: Tell me about your crew-riders and filmers. Are you the only filmer?
Walters: This one is predominantly me so far, but [Jordan Utley] is going to be coming in some time soon to be a huge part of the editing. I’m really rough with the editing, but he’s a master behind the editing and he knows how to tell a story and just put more feeling into a video. I like to make fun of my friends while I edit. It’s basically a medium to make jokes on your friends. We got Tate Roskelley, Cameron Wood, Riley Smith, Matt Beringer, Mike Aitken, Rob Wise and Dave Thompson. Those are all the main guys that are going to have parts in the video. Anyone that rides that we’re friends with, I want to try to get footage of them. Obviously, there’s no way you can really get everyone, and you never will—somebody will be mad about it.

SLUG: Is there anyone new to this crew who wasn’t in That’s It?
Walters: No. For the most part, it’s all the same people.

SLUG: Why did you pick these specific riders?
Walters: None of us tried to force ourselves to hang out with each other, we just turned into who we rode with. Little by little, that’s just how it became. It’s whoever you have fun hanging out with that becomes your crew of guys.

SLUG: Whose edit do you think will be the most talked about?
Walters: The Salt Lake scene is really well respected and people look at riders from all over the place and people are wondering what people are up to here. Everyone has a taste for every rider here. Especially Rob Wise: He’s one of the best street riders in the world, and so is Dave Thompson, as far as technical and burly abilities. It’s hard to really pinpoint that one. With the last video, Mike Aitken’s part was nominated for part of the year. It was probably the best part he’s ever had in a video. Mike was in a coma for months: He wrecked on his head really bad. It changed his life. He’s still riding, and he’s going to have a part in this video. That will be a huge reason people are going to look into this video. They’re going to want to see what his riding is like now. The dude is the epitome of the toughest, most pure person ever. The dude takes it so hard and he gets up laughing and smiling. His part was so huge when it came out, and it still is—and it’s to a Madonna song. It doesn’t seem like that would work, but it works amazingly: That’s why Jordan is such an amazing editor. Matt Beringer also fell and hit his head and was in a coma. He’s completely fine now, but that affects all of us in a massive manner. Every time I’m rolling up to something, that is always in the back of my head, [and] Mike will be the first one to say, “Go, you pussy.”

SLUG: Are there any major differences between That’s It and Killjoy?
Walters: I’ve been doing a lot of the editing and I obviously have a way different style than [Utley]. I like very different music, but we’re both going to come to a happy medium. The music will be a little different. I mean, we don’t want to make the same video again. And [Utley] has become really good at motion graphics, so you can expect to see a lot of things like that in it. We’re going to totally work together and choose what’s best for everyone’s style.

SLUG: It’s been almost four years since That’s It was released. What has everyone been up to?
Walters: That kind of goes back to those injuries. You don’t want to make another one directly after that anyway. I’m the only one who hasn’t had to film another video part, but every one of these guys has had to film other video parts. So much of your heart and effort goes into that, you don’t really want to be filming another one. But that whole time in between this, I’ve been filming everyone anyway and that’s how the clips added up. 

SLUG: Killjoy was filmed in Salt Lake and all of the riders are local. What makes the Salt Lake scene so unique?
Walters: It’s not to say that no one else is unique, but it started with one rider named Fuzzy Hall that lives here. Growing up, everyone in the whole country—the world—looked up to this guy. He was a racer who dirt jumped. Little by little, some other people came in, like Mike. Mike is still probably one of the most heavily imitated and copied riders in the world, hands down—for dress, style, the way he rides, everything. He has the heaviest influence on BMX I’ve ever seen. When Mike shows up to the skate park, he’s so good that pretty much everyone just stops, sits and watches the magic happen. No one seems to want to ride like anyone else here.

SLUG: When most people think about Salt Lake, they think snowboarders, yet there seems to be a really large talent pool of BMX riders here. Any ideas on why that might be?
Walters: I really have no idea. Compared to some of the bigger, better-known places to ride, the per capita of riders here is nil. But the few that are here are so on their own thing—it makes this place known. Honestly, Mike and a few other dudes were just that good that it brought a lot of attention here.

SLUG: What are some of the difficulties in filming a BMX video?
Walters: If someone can’t get [a trick], having the patience to just sit there. Flat tires, bike malfunctions. I would never want to work with a filmer who doesn’t want to be there. So no matter what, even if you don’t want to be, you’re still patient—you have to be. The outcome from being patient pays off, tenfold.

SLUG: Are you guys going to put out a DVD?
Walters: Ideally, I would love to have it for sale at the premiere, but I don’t know if that can happen or not. If not, you’ll be able to pick it up at 50/50 and The Wood Shop.

Look for the premiere of Killjoy coming in mid-November and make sure to pick up a copy at your local BMX shop.

Left-Right: Riley Smith, Shawn Shawn Shawn