(Photo: Fred Murray)
Every once in a while, throughout the course of recorded BMX, a video has come along that turned an otherwise very regular place, into a part of BMX folklore. Dave Parrick’s “Trash” did it for Austin. Jef Zielenski & Glenn PP made New Jersey notorious with Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Through Blueprint, Shad Johnson immortalized Portland. And Joe Cox made sure that everyone in BMX knew the name “Sheffield” with Voices.
These videos all have some things in common. They all featured mostly unknown, or at least unproven riders. They launched pro careers and in some cases, were instrumental in launching some of the most popular bike companies of all time. They were all focused around a single scene, not promoting a single brand with team members scattered all over. They were all edited and filmed on a level above what a lot of professional videographers were putting out at the time. And they all impacted the way people thought about BMX.
It’s dangerous to put high expectations on someone’s shoulder when they’re young. We’ve all seen riders who quickly rose to prevalence and then crumbled under the pressure (does Steven Hamilton ring a bell?). Well I’m confident in saying that Donnachie belongs alongside names like Parrick, Scerbo and Cox. If you’re skeptical, I have a strong feeling Nearly 2 will convince you.
First off, I’ve got to admit I was sleeping. It’s not like Alex was completely unknown before Nearly 2, he just hadn’t caught my eye yet. I watch more web videos than almost anyone, so it’s easy for me to lose track of the names of riders and companies. It’s even harder to keep track when you’re talking about a kid from Perthshire, a town of a little more than 100,000 people. He’s been interviewed by Ride UK, he has had some extremely popular web videos and he’s gotten sponsored by companies like Mutiny (who he left for a spot on the BSD team) and Lotek through his local distros. A search of his name on TCU turns up 21 posts that include his name (all except one were authored by Brett or Kurt), which is a lot. But even had I been paying closer attention to Alex’s prior coverage, I don’t think it would have prepared me for Nearly 2.
Nearly 2 is a video so powerful that as I began watching it, I found myself speechless. It’s the great American BMX video, but it was mostly filmed in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Alex is only 18, a fact which is almost impossible to believe when you watch it. It’s hard to point out what Alex is good at; he’s good at everything. The filming is immaculate (it’s only ever slightly offbeat during Alex’s part since he couldn’t film himself). The editing is fantastic. The music selections are some of the best I’ve heard in years; I couldn’t name a single artist featured (aside from Mac Miller, a brief reminder that this video was made by riders not even in their 20′s and still capable of picking music that they’ll no doubt regret a couple years from now) but I immediately fell in love with almost every song. And as I’m sure you’re assuming, the riding delivers as well. The video is just a total package, which is impressive, but the fact that this video was put together by a kid from Scotland, with no one around to teach him how to put a video together is simply hard to comprehend.
The funny thing is, I first saw this DVD with Alex sitting next to me on my couch. The BSD team were staying with us at our house for a few days. The crew consisted of guys I was already good friends with (David Grant, Tony Malouf), young kids I immediately hit it off with (Reed Stark), foreign guys I had hung out with before (Vincent Perraud), foreign guys I had never hung out with before (Dave Sotherby, Kriss Kyle) and a young, quiet Scottish kid named Alex Donnachie.
I have been told over and over again by people that I am, in a word “intimidating” when they first meet me. But I’m telling you, I immediately became intimidated by Alex knowing that he had made this video at such a young age. I was so impressed I barely talked to him aside from a few prodding questions while I spent a couple days riding with him and his teammates. I assumed he probably felt the same way towards me, as most younger riders I meet seem pretty taken aback when they realize I’m the guy who runs the website they check every day (and sure enough, when I went to look at his Facebook profile I saw that he had requested to be my friend a long time ago and I had never got around to approving him), but that did nothing to change how impressed I was.
One thing I love about the video that deserves to be highlighted is how decidedly 2012 it is. The dress code calls for skinny jeans and helmets; nothing says modern day BMX more than 16 year old’s wearing helmets to ride flat ledges. The music is the kind of infectious indie-pop that someone who grew up studying web videos edited to MGMT would edit to. This is the kind of video that only a group of kids who aren’t legally able to get into bars yet could produce. There’s no cynicism, no sarcasm, no manhood-justifying fights or weed smoking b-roll. It’s all straight forward and honest.
Once he got home to Scotland I simply had to start asking him how he learned to film, edit and ride so well at such a young age via Facebook chat (I never intended to publish this conversation so excuse our grammar and spelling:
“i was really taken aback by that video… one of the craziest things i’ve ever seen
i wanted to ask you while you were out here how you learned to film and edit? it’s seriously bizarre how on point your filming is given that you’re super young and live in the middle of nowhere. we were all tripping out about it.”
“haha cheers, spent two years making it, and before that i made the first nearly and a 20twentybmxdvd, i just spent ages watching skate videos, and love how good they are to watch and just really want to make a bmx video that is as good as they are”
I saw the first Nearly pop up online a few days before I watched Nearly 2 but I didn’t get around to watching it then and after seeing Nearly 2 I wanted to write about it (and watch it 5 or 6 more times) before I learned about the original.
“yeah man it’s so sick that you were self taught. most kids just grab a camera and start fucking around but it’s obvious that you had a real analytical mind state and just made a focus of learning how to do things right”
“the oss dvd is sick, really enjoyed it”
I like that he barely acknowledged all the compliments I was laying on him, and instead chose to compliment my latest DVD, a project which certainly took less time and effort to produce than his video. Humility is always nice. Our conversation then unraveled into me telling him that I was going to write this article, and then interview him and he was gracious but he clearly felt awkward receiving my compliments. Who knows how awkward he’ll feel once all his friends read this.
It’s a weird position I’m putting myself in here, comparing Alex to names like Scerbo and Cox who’s works have stood the test of time. But I’m confident that anyone with harsh words for me in the comments here will see what I mean once they get their hands on the DVD. It should be in the TCU web store in the middle of next week and we can continue this discussion then.
*Note: I was going to wait til I had the copies in stock to post this but Alex’s section in his first DVD, the 20Twenty video just came out today (it was originally put together in 2010) which got me inspired to finish this write up.