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In July, Beamafilm were honored to be among the sponsors of the first ever Melbourne International Film Festival. “Spoke”, directed by Em Baker, won the Audience Choice Award. Em and two friends recorded their journey as they cycled across the United States from San Francisco to Orlando – and investigated why the US is among the most dangerous countries for cyclists.
Beamafilm got the chance to talk to Em about the making of “Spoke”, and what it was like cycling across the US.
Hi Em. What inspired you to make “Spoke”?
Since learning it was something people actually did, I was keen on attempting to cross the United States on a bicycle. When I spoke to people about my idea, a lot of the feedback I got was concern that I would be hit by a car. I did a little research and learned that the United States is indeed the most dangerous developed country for cyclists, with approximately 600 cyclists killed each year. That seemed like something worth investigating.
Do you have any standout behind-the-scenes stories from the making of the film?
When you say you’re going to cross a country on a bicycle (especially as a woman), people are quick to tell you how dangerous strangers are and how you have to be careful around them. Our experience was the total opposite, and we were surprised almost daily by how kind people were.
We had strangers pull up next to us in their cars and hand us cash. We had folks who saw us in a MacDonald’s book us a hotel for the night. We had people offer to let us stay in their fancy guesthouses and use their jacuzzis. We had people offer us the floor of their trailer. We slept in living rooms, backyards, garages, and a barn full of miniature horses. In the film you see people at a gas station buying us food, and that was a nod to the many instances of human goodness we didn’t manage to capture on camera.
In another interview, you said you gathered over 500 hours of footage from your journey across the United States. How long did that take to edit? Are there any moments you’re disappointed couldn’t fit in the final cut?
It took me three months to even watch all the footage. After that, it took two years to edit. I wasn’t working on it full-time though; I was working on other people’s films, and studying for a while too. There’s nothing that comes to mind that I’m disappointed about cutting. I’m pretty ruthless, and once footage is gone it’s dead to me haha.
Do you think you’ll be planning another long-distance bike journey soon?
Haha, maybe! I’ve kind of done that now. I’d like to cross a country on horseback…
How have audiences been responding to “Spoke”?
Really positively. It’s a little film with a little budget, but it has heart, and I think that resonates with audiences. We’re underdogs in every sense! We were lucky enough to win the Audience Choice Award at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, which was a really proud moment.
Are you currently working on any projects you can tell us about?
I’m heading to Mexico in a few weeks to film my current project! Watch this space…
All images © Mariposa Street Films 2014