Director Pete McGill talks with the MFF about ‘Richie Pan Forever’
MFF: Raw and genuine, Richie Pan’s America the Series was first started in collaboration with the late Richie Panarra, tattooist, motorcyclist and artist. Can you tell us a bit about how you first became involved in this project?
PM: I make a living working in reality TV. Once or twice a year, I’d end up in South Jersey and go visit Richie, and sometimes get tattooed. As we became friends, we often talked about making a real motorcycle or tattoo show. One focused on the true characters that shape both cultures everyday, not manipulated drama. In April 2015, we decided to try something and see where it led.
MFF: What did you learn about Richie’s impact on the motorcycling community and the tattoo industry?
PM: It was very personal. Richie touched the lives of a lot of people in both communities. He was also somewhat of a historian for both. He had an immense respect for the people who came before him.
MFF: And what did you learn about his love of his panhead, Viola?
PM: He frequently said that Viola was the coolest bike in the world. And she might be. There are details for days on that panhead. Mixed matched parts, missing bolts, and seemingly random customizations. It may be his best work of art.
MFF: Anything new you learned from a production or direction standpoint?
PM: This was a really small project; just me and the person I was interviewing for most of it. I feel like that intimacy made it easy for the guys to open up. They lost awareness of the camera and just talked. The challenge of this was letting go of the way things are normally done. I recorded audio straight to the cameras, didn’t use monitors, or crew members to manage either. For safety, I ran 2 cameras, a wide and a tight, right next to each other. Each camera had separate audio. For the most part it worked out, but I would definitely make sure I could monitor audio next time.
MFF: Favorite memories filming on location?
PM: Shooting Tommy Granger at “The Church of What’s Happening.” Richie loaned me his Street Glide so I could ride over with him, Cindy, and Joe Fessman. Tommy and Richie’s dynamic was perfect, they had us laughing the whole day. We drank beer and ate hot dogs while we shot. It was the last interview Richie did and a day I’ll never forget. Richie left behind countless friends and contemporaries. It was incredible hearing people’s memories about him in Richie Pan Forever. Do you have any favorite sound bites or shots from the film? Fat Bob didn’t want to go on camera. I had asked early on and he wasn’t into it. He stopped by while I was interviewing Von Rothinfink. After a couple of drinks, he agreed to tell a couple of stories, and I got a little more out of him. Including the last clip of the film. That clip gets a tear from me every time.
MFF: Any production or direction challenges you’d like to cite?
PM: The huge one was losing my co-producer. Richie was not only on-camera talent, but a creative partner in the project. His passing not only changed the trajectory of the project, but the impact it would have. No doubt it would be an even better series if he were here to put his fingerprints on it.
MFF: What inspires you? What keeps you creating?
PM: Watching people do their own thing is super inspiring to me. For this project, The Motorcycle Film Festival was hugely inspirational.
MFF: Do you ride yourself? If so, what are your earliest memories of motorcycles?
PM: Yes. I ride pretty much everyday. When I was a pretty young kid, I had a neighbor who was a biker. He’d kick his bike over and the whole complex would shake. I couldn’t get enough of it.
MFF: And what do you ride these days?
PM: My everyday ride is an ’86 Softail with a narrow glide front end. It’s gotten me from coast to coast as well as all over LA for work. I also have a 1980 Shovelhead stroker in a jammer frame that was built by Alex Lopez and company at Born Free Cycles in Burbank, CA.
MFF: What are some of your favorite motorcycle films?
PM: Choppertown: The Sinners, the El Diablo Run movie, and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.
MFF: Favorite annual moto events?
PM: Annual: Hazzard County. Biannual: El Diablo Run
MFF: Will you be attending this year’s Motorcycle Film Festival?
PM: I never know where I’m going to be. My professional life is a little crazy that way but I would really like to.
MFF: What’s to come from Pete McGill?
PM: Only time will tell. I have a few other ideas and things I’ve spoken to people about. My business as a lighting designer and flying coast to coast to spend time with my children keep me pretty busy, but I hope there will be time.
MFF: Any MFF exclusive you’d like to share with us? Something that folks don’t know about your work or process?
PM: I try to let people finish their thoughts. It makes it harder to get concise sound bites, but being genuine is more important to me. Sometimes that means the final edit has a lot more of my voice in it than it should.
Join us Thursday, July 14th 2016 at the Coney Island Brewery for the NY Premier of the film Richie Pan Forever.
Event sign up here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1178993532151856/