The state of the industry with John Cavan
28 Sep, 2009
Times are rough in the snowboard industry where each day we hear of companies cutting employees, pro riders getting dropped and shops going under but what about companies working hard to survive and continuing to bring you the products you love?
John Cavan, Rome Team Manager and Filmmaker behind Kids on Shred checks in to discuss the state of the industry to answer how the economy is hitting them, illegal downloads, team impacts, twitter interviews and the million dollar Ball Park Frank question.
Shay: How is Kids on Shred holding up during these economic times?
John: Well that’s kind of an interesting question, Kids On Shred Productions is kind of on hiatus for the time being….gone on holiday if you will, but We’re gearing up to start work on a new film, not quite sure exactly when we’re gonna get the nod to start filming full on but I’ve been shooting a few things here and there and we are just kind of giving everyone time to breath and grow. The economic crunch believe it or not didn’t play into our decision to not make a movie this year at all, we had planned right along to take this winter off, I think it’s important for the riders to get a chance to do something different, ride with new people and learn without the pressure of feeling like they have a gun to their head, we don’t want things to get stale and just go through the motions. I wish I personally had a little more time to chill, but I’m glad I have a job HA!
Shay: Who are the minds behind Kids on Shred?
John: I really don’t think we are pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes, KOS is Rome, it’s our video division and we’ve kind of developed it into the production of our team movies. I work very closely with the creative crew at Rome to come up with a direction that we want to go with for all videos. We are very team influenced; I go back and forth between the office/art crew and the team on the road which is ultimately the riders and the other filmers. Kids On Shred refers to a brand ideal that means a lot to Rome and that is always LISTENING to the Kids on shred. I can tell you for a fact that this isn’t bull shit because anyone’s ideas are up for discussion in our war room, whether it be an idea that Bjorn and his brother came up with on the lift in Snowbird, an idea our sales manager thought of at an on snow demo with some shop kids, a song our glove guy heard at a show, or an idea Laurent had while skating with friends. One thing we’ve kind of prided ourselves with is not being too cool for school, and I think our movies have had a little bit of everything and that’s probably why such a wide variety of kids have related to it.
Shay: Who comes up with the location shots in Rome’s films, are the riders responsible for scouting their own or do you scout the locations?
John: The riders come up with most of the spots, Myself and the other filmers…and probably any serious filmer for that matter are definitely sponges when it comes to spots, I have a notebook full of places I’ve been and places I want to check out. We use our reps as well as friends to turn us onto new places. To me one of the funnest things about being a snowboarder….and a snowboarder who makes movies for that matter is exploration and finding new zones. I have a few go-to spots, and I’m not the gnarliest of backcountry dudes so I rely pretty heavy on the team to head to the right spots. It also is becoming more and more about the ideal spot for a certain trick so that plays a big role in it too.
Shay: Any changes with the team going on?
John: Unfortunately that question you asked about the economy and KOS doesn’t have the same answer for the team. Rome like every other brand in snowboarding has been deeply effected by these crazy economic times and although the number of positions at our company that have fallen victim to these times may not be as big as say a Burton or a DC when you factor in the size of our brand it’s just as tough. That goes for the team to. The team is an extension of our marketing department and every department at Rome felt this crunch. We had to make really hard decisions that unfortunately really didn’t come down to performance but had a lot to do with where their contracts fell in the budget. I have gone to war with all of these guys for two movies, almost any of our riders would do anything thing I asked them to do, so it’s been really hard. A short answer to a question I could go on and on about is yes we had to make some big changes to our team, Max, Yan and Marius are all no longer part of the pro team, it’s sucked more than any words I can type here can describe, but it’s something that in the end had to happen. We’re definitely regrouping and moving forward from here. I’ll do anything for those three and it’s been a hard pill to swallow.
Shay: Question from Twitter Interview, How do you balance being friends with the riders and being their team manager/filmer?
John: This is a great question…..and I’m not sure if I really do it the best, but I will say I am very tight with all of our team riders. Rome is a small brand so we all are expected to do quite a bit, I work pretty hard and I commit myself pretty heavily into projects. The riders want to work harder for me cause they see that I’m working hard for them. We can yell and fight with one another about things and there really is no drama. For the most part when we have to make hard decisions they know that it’s nothing personal we have good working relationships. It is very hard to go through some of the cuts like we just went through though I was very and am very tight with those guys.
Shay: Anything new coming up for Kids on Shred?
John: We are in the beginning stages of our next movie. I’m not 100% sure what it’ll be or when it will be released but everyone on our team can put together a banger video part. I think we may take our time a little more with this next movie and film it a little more like a skate team video, but as soon as I know and the team knows we’ll let you know ha ha ha, how was that for dodging the question……Oh yeah and we’re doing the TWS Team Shootout again as well.
Shay: What are your thoughts on the TWS Team Shoot Out/Ball Park Logo ad cover?
John: Ok here goes with the Ball Park thing. First of all I have a magazine background, I am very aware and very nit picky of the ethics and sanctity of the photographic image and the sacredness to a lot of people (myself included) that a magazine cover represents. That being said, people need to get over this thing. I really think there are about twenty people, that are talking about it. We (Rome, the riders, and Scott Serfas, plus all the other teams) knew nothing about Ballpark even being a sponsor until the cover was announced, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that there is a logo on the cover, I think perhaps the biggest deal could be made with the graphic design by trying to make it look like it was on a dumpster when they could have just plopped it on there and called it good, probably the graphic designer was just trying to make it look a little cooler. 90% of kids that look at that cover don’t even notice it. Is it kind of shitty that they put it on there, yeah, is it really worth the agro blogs NO. They didn’t make LNP go twenty feet higher, they didn’t make the gap look way bigger, they didn’t make the night look more ominous, they simply added a logo to the cover of the title sponsor of the event that was the major feature of the mag. It by no means says “the cover is for sale”. It’s not the first time it’s happened and it isn’t the last time it’s gonna happen (certain drink logos appearing on covers…). I’m not saying this because it directly pertains to Rome or one of my riders either, I just think the reality of the matter is we are in desperate times in this economy, Snowboard magazines which I love, are in trouble and they are all trying whatever they can do right now to stay afloat, if that’s having a contest “fueled by Ballpark” and getting a logo put on the cover (not faked onto something that really shouldn’t be done) or if Nike 6.0 wants to sponsor some big event and they work a deal where they get a banner on the cover for that issue as long as the photos are good than do it, if it keeps the mags going during these times without sacrificing the validity of them than do what you need to do. It’s easy to cry about men jumping in life rafts on a sinking ship when you are sitting safely on the deck of another boat not about to drown. TWS has Annie, Muzzey and Nick looking out for the final product, Snowboarder has Bridges and Engelsman, I think any one of those five people can make the right “ethical” call as far as covers and what not go…….Just as long as they steer clear of that UFC bullshit…HA HA
Shay: What is ShredTV and what was the inspiration behind it?
John: ShredTv is like a channel of videos that are produced by Rome and friends of Rome. They can be anything from trick tips to a run at a local park and they can be made by anyone from me to Rome’s interns and reps to local shop kids. This season the majority of the videos have been produced by myself and Rome inhouse, but as we slide into the production of our next full length video I hope for it to become more of an open format for great shredding vids regardless of rider ability or production crew. Short answer it’s just a home for fun shred videos.
Shay: What are your thoughts on this year’s snowboard films, any favorites that get you pumped for the season?
John: Oh man, I’m like a nerd when it comes to shred movies, I haven’t seen them all, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the Forum movie, Pat, Jake and Eddie are all my friends and I always like what they put out, plus I hear John Jackson has the part of the year. I really liked LNP’s part in Videograss along with Louif’s part and actually I was really hyped on Bittner’s part in there too. The thing that has me the most stoked this winter seems to be snow..I know that may sound funny but the People movie is just awesome with how much slashing and fun pow riding there is, that made me want to go snowboarding more than anything, that powder cowboys part is soo sick, and Marben, Eiki and Lucas’s parts are all no joke. The Absinthe movie opening with Nicolas Muellor is all time, Gigi’s section and MFM’s sections are super good and Rice is just out of hand in there he’s so clearly on another level it’s almost kind of funny. I could go on and on but that’s what comes to mind right off the bat.
Shay: You were the recent interviewee on Rome’s twitter interview, how did you get selected?
John: HA HA that’s kind of funny because I absolutely hated Twitter, I thought it was the dumbest thing on the planet ( I still kind of do) the team guys have all been laughing at me because once we decided that it was making a difference and kids were responding and people were communicating with the brand, I had to kind of make sure we were using it so I was on the team guys to stay on there and keep updating, which is cool because with the Rome twitter you are talking to Laurent or Bjorn or Marie or Eiki they all use it. We want to do more interaction with riders and so after the success of the rider interviews we decided we should do some product ones, last minute it was decided to throw me to the wolves first to test it out and see if kids would care about someone other than a pro rider. It seemed to work pretty well and I got a ton of questions so that’s pretty cool, We’ll probably have one about board tech specifically camber, maybe one about graphics, and of course some more pro interviews…If I had to do one I’m not letting Marie get away without doing one HA!
Shay: In the twitter interview, if there one question you wished you had received?
John: Man…that’s a good question….I guess I would have maybe liked to say something about my influences. I am a huge fan of The Garden I think every snowboarder should see that movie. Recently I read some website making fun of people who answer with that movie as their influence and it bummed me out. The Garden has fun with friends, it has travel, it has love of snowboarding, and at the time it was mind blowing with the progression that happened in it, plus it had a super creative vibe all of these things are what I try to aspire to when I make shred movies. I can still watch it today and get hyped. I also grew up in Mass so I was lucky enough to come up with a real shop Eastern Boarder they were and still are no joke, snowboarding and skateboarding come first to them and they were/are like a family I hope that aspect of snowboarding, the real true shop, never goes away
Shay: Downloading and pirating snowboard films has increased, how do you feel about snowboard films being downloaded instead of being bought?
John: Man I’m getting hammered here with these questions one right after another HA. Here goes, there are kids that will argue that we should be giving away all our films for free or simply asking for a donation. I want to back over those kids with my truck repeatedly. They have said things about the bigger film companies like “they are the man” “they are new Hollywood” “they need to get with the times and understand that kids don’t want to pay for snowboard videos” “Any kid with a lap top can make a movie these days, so no one is going to pay for them anymore” I’m the first to admit I’m kind of a snowboard video nerd, I have a ridiculous snowboard movie collection and honestly I have paid for nearly 90% of those films. Even now when I get videos sent to me by my friends I still usually buy them in shops because I’m so anxious to see them that I usually don’t want to wait. The whole experience of seeing a movie for the first time and rewinding tricks back and seeing new things I love every part of that. So I have a problem to begin with with getting some version of it online, but the thing I have the most problem with is the fact that it’s stealing 100% and why someone doesn’t understand that that’s what they are doing is unfathomable to me. Can you walk into a skateboard shop and take a skateboard and “donate” 5 dollars for it, No you can’t. why on earth would you reason that you can do that with films. Maybe I’m just not cool, but another thing I don’t understand is why do you upload it in the first place, does your life suck that much that the only satisfaction you can find in your miserable existence is uploading someone’s work so other people can download it for free. I mean come on get a life, put down the jack rags and realize that cyber kudos from dipshitslasher69 aren’t real.
What’s even worse for me is this fact. I work for a brand, I don’t work for simply a film production company, at the end of the day if my film is “stolen” and uploaded online and then downloaded a thousand times, Rome isn’t getting the profit we would have gotten through video sales but our name and our brand is still getting out there. It sucks and I’m morally against it but it’s not death for us. It is death for film companies however, they make no profit, they don’t gain anything by having it out there, so it is just bad. Without making any money and when I say making money it’s really a wrong statement because we’re really talking about breaking even, but without getting money you can’t progress, you can’t afford to travel and film the things that make snowboard movies special, and when this happens than yes the statement made that any kid can edit a movie on a lap top is so true because we will be saturated with mediocre films shot in the park at Big bear and they’ll all look the same. What’s funny is these same little kids that write these dumb diatribes about how movies should all be free will be the same kids complaining when the shred films start to suck.
Shay: Do you feel there are any measures that can be taken to decrease downloads?
John: People aren’t gonna like this, but probably the best way to decrease illegal downloads and the line of thinking that everything should be free is to stop with all of the 150 new snowboard videos a year. When I started making films I did an east coast film, at the time there were two movies in the east coast (probably two to many, but still just 2) now there’s like thirty something…..Fucking eh, thirty something movies about one scene…..there’s little johnnie’s productions and aunt millie’s films and Brutus the Barber beefcake visuals everything just gets lost and saturated, If you had the Absinthe movie and say the People movie each year and then every few years you had a brand put out a video and then sprinkle in a couple small ones, than things would be much more special, you’d feel like you have to buy that movie to see what’s new and what went down. I think that using Itunes also legitimates a lot of films cause you can’t really steal it and you have to have all of the music rights. I don’t know , I guess the key to surviving will be adapting….I’ve also heard that Fully Flared re-established some shops faith in selling movies again so I guess that could be a good sign.
Shay: How was the transition moving from west to east?
John: Good question, but I’m from the east coast…I’m a masshole I lived in NH and VT for a bit and then I moved to mammoth for a few years to work for Grenade and then Mongo, I was kind of a vagabond for a bit and then Rome’s Marketing Manager Ryan Runke lured me back to the east coast to work at Rome, I was excited to be back on the ice coast. No disrespect to the rest of the country but people are a little more real here, which I think is a reason why all the east coasters tend to stick together when we are out west. The saying is definitely true about the east if you can figure out how to ride here you can figure out how to ride anywhere Jake Blauvelt, the Kass brothers, Clancy, Pat Moore, and a little guy named Todd Richards have all seemed to do just fine coming from here.