Interview by Rom Marcucci
Photos courtesy of Will Wesson, Josh Malczyk & C.Nelson James (http://www.meatheadfilms.com)
Nine episodes later and the Traveling Circus wraps up for the season. Newschoolers called up the main players this past week to discuss the conception, realities and future of the online video series. Line founder and head honcho Jason Levinthal, team manager Josh Malzcyk, silent Will Wesson and hippy killer Andy Parry chatted with us for over an hour. Our chat covered all aspects of the Circus, from its inception to its future. - Rom Marcucci
I want to talk about the background of Traveling Circus first. Where did the idea come from, where did the name come from? What was the inspiration for the whole series?
Jason: Will’s done with his answer to that question. Did you get that Rom?
Yeah that’s good (laughs).
Jason: Whenever Will answers just put quotes with nothing in them (laughs).
Will: Anyway, I had just graduated college and Andy was in a similar situation. We didn’t want to get real jobs. We obviously wanted to be skiing, so we came up with this idea to make edits and basically went to J’s house and threw it out on the table.
What were your initial thoughts and how did the first conversation go?
Will: J said we should make a bigger outline of it with more of a plan and we just went from there.
Jason, with all your experience, what were your initial thoughts and advice? Line has a massive website with tons of videos on it. Pollard has been doing the webisode thing for a while. What was your take on Andy and Will’s plan?
Jason: They are creative dudes that are always coming up with different edits. Kids would be stoked on them but they would be treated as just an edit. I saw an opportunity here to take what everyone does and try to bring it to the surface of the skiing world. Instead of being looked at by a couple thousand people as, “Oh, cool those dudes from Rochester made an edit, check it out,” they’d say “Hey have you seen the most recent episode.” We had a lot of years of practice on how to promote that level of project. Not just Line but also Will, Andy, Shane and all the dudes from the I Hate NY crew’s edits over the years. I just wanted to help them take it to the next level. Will and Andy basically came to me and said, “We want to do what we’ve been doing but we want it to be a regular thing, a regular show. We want Line to help us put it out there. Most importantly, instead of going the traditional route, which is funding a skiing lifestyle by trying to become a pro, we’re going to do it our way. We just want to go out with a video camera and document what we do everyday with our friends.” So I said, “If you guys actually come back to us with some shows, we’ll give you some money to help fund it, and if you don’t, no big deal.” They took the ball and ran with it. Everyone is stoked: us at Line, them, and obviously the people watching it. It has turned into its own entity and gotten a life of its own thanks to a massive collaboration of Line doing what it does well: communication, marketing, packaging things and presenting them and people like Andy and Will, documenting real life skiing, not trying to make it Hollywood like a lot of other people think it needs to be.
When was this conversation, before you went to Hood last summer?
Will: Yup it was in June.
Jason: What happens is every year these guys hit the reality that the season is over, what the hell am I going to do to be on snow next season? They then come over to my house, sit in my breezeway, and tell me all these great ideas that never come to be. One year it was a magazine, the next a video magazine, etc. This was the newest idea and I think the difference is that Will was out of college and needed something official or something that would sound official to tell his parents. (laughs)
Will: Yeah, some sort of weak excuse to not got to grad school or get an official job.
Jason: They had some rad inspirations for it from this show about two dudes traveling the country for no reason with no money.
Will: Yeah, Thumbs Up. It’s an online internet miniseries on VBS.tv of these two guys hitchhiking across the U.S. They don’t pay for food. They don’t pay for transportation. They just go on a crazy adventure
Jason: It wasn’t just, “Hey we want to eat ramen every day.” It was let’s just go skiing every day. That’s part of what makes it unique. If these guys were living the pro lifestyle it wouldn’t be reality. It wouldn’t be as interesting and we know what that looks like already.
Where’d the Traveling Circus name and song come from?
Will: Over the summer I was describing this idea to some of my friends. Multiple people said, “like a traveling circus type of deal.” When J was asking what to call it, I had no idea what to, so we went with that.
Jason: The song was part of what I thought Line could bring, giving it a little more of a consistent presentation than just having some random edits show up. I’ve always loved the Sponge Bob opening theme song so I thought we had to create something like that. So, Will, you wrote the lyrics right?
Will: The majority of them. Nicky B added some of his own.
Jason: Nicky B, the first person to ever buy a ski from Line when he was a little kid.
Tell us a little bit about his history with Line. It’s funny he ended up creating the theme song for The Traveling Circus.
Jason: I was making skis in my garage at my parent’s house. I’d made 30 of them at the time, and one day this kid shows up with his mom, 12-years-old, at my front door. His mom says, “Yeah we heard you guys make skis from the guys at Ski Market in Latham, NY. He doesn’t want to get into snowboarding, and skiing doesn’t have the right product for him to do what he wants.” They literally walked into my living room and he became Line’s first customer. Then when we had a factory in Albany, NY, his mom would drop him off and he’d jump on our trampoline and ride our halfpipe and also pack up skis and tape boxes, whatever we needed. His mom would say it was good for him. Free work! (laughs) He just always stayed in touch. Eventually, he moved out to Tahoe and helps our reps out there, The Red Dawn. He’s part of the entourage, another character in Line’s Circus. And he went to school for music, so I went to him, not knowing anyone else to go to. He took the couple lyrics and made it into a serious thing from scratch. It’s pretty sick.
You guys met him while you were in Tahoe, right?
Will: Yeah we skied with him, he’s in episode 7 while we skied at Sierra at Tahoe.
Who did the animations for the intro?
Josh: That was Shane.
Andy: Shane is one of our good friends from back in NY. He is from Syracuse. We started skiing with him and filming for I Hate NY and things have evolved from there. Last year he was a huge part of our project for episode one. He’s just a friend, that’s all we are is a group of friends going out, we just like skiing a lot, we like filming, and apparently people like to watch our skiing and filming.
To me, the vibe of the whole intro is just goofy and fun and weird. Was that the type of skiing and atmosphere you wanted to showcase in the series right from day one?
Andy: I think our style of skiing and our true selves are just weird, wacky, and goofy. From Erik Olson, to me, Will, Ahmet and Giray, we’re all pretty weird. I think we wanted Traveling Circus to convey our personalities and strange quirks. It’s just taking the reality of it and putting it into an intro.
Will, you do most of the editing. What kind of feeling are you going for when you’re putting it together?
Will: We basically just try to film as much as possible, things that are going to be funny, some are going to be boring. I try to take out all the boring stuff and have alternating funny and skiing parts. A skiing edit with a little bit of the things we do that I think are funny.
Jason: On that note, Will has a really special eye for not passing the small but often most interesting things in life. You see it the most in his skiing. The things that most people ride right on past he’ll stop, session, and modify. It’s the same thing with his filming, which I think, adds a lot of the vibe and the funny ass shit, like the dude on the roller shoes in the ski lodge. A lot of times most people would blow it off, laugh it off, or say, “That’s not cool enough to be in my video.” Will and Andy are one in the same as Line’s attitude. It’s the reason they were consumers buying Line skis for years and now they’ve been riding for us for years. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s just skiing. There’s no “we’re too cool for school” attitude at Line, in the video, or in the riders we sponsor. Skiing is perceived as the nerds’ side of action sports. If you think about it, skiing isn’t cool, which is why if you do it, you are cool, cause you’re a real rebel, not a follower like everyone else that is too self conscious to do something others don’t think is cool. That’s why the strongest community in action sports is skiers. It has come full circle. It goes back to Will. He’s documenting stuff that isn’t that cool and isn’t that exciting but that’s what makes it so unique, so funny, so entertaining and one of a kind. There’s also a lot of elements we’re missing because Will is behind the camera, which is why next year we’re working to add Shane to be the film guy. Capture more without losing what we’ve got.
Let’s slide into what went down. What did you guys go through to find all the unique ski stuff that’s in the videos?
Andy: The rail into the pond was pretty unique and cool. Everything else was pretty much just going around and filming features that people have already hit like the rail gardens but our advantage is we can do something completely new and different on the same old thing. We’re just adding our own flavor to it.
What was it like to have to deal with the hassle of filming and creating entire episodes trapped in weird locations rather than sitting down in a nice fancy editing studio all summer?
Will: It was definitely a challenge. I don’t have a laptop to edit on so I’ve got a 24-inch monitor iMac. Bringing that in the back of Andy’s car created some problems in travel. We worked it out and had good friends to help us along the way with places to set up. My computer’s not broken yet. (laughs)
Jason: (laughs) I’ve got to say, the funniest was when they showed up in Vegas. Will doesn’t keep the computer in anything but the original box. Will is walking through the Luxor (huge casino in Las Vegas) with a full on full-blown Mac box like he just got home from the store. We should have filmed that. That’s the kind of stuff we need Shane involved in. It’s outrageous.
Will: It was definitely a challenge to find space in the back of his car every time.
Tell me about living out of the back of Andy’s car for six months.
Will: I always bring way too much. It was always packed to the brim and you could never see out the back.
Andy: It was always a challenge. Will definitely brought more than I did. It was hard to get the camera out sometimes. I put a bunch of miles on my car, did a lot of oil changes. I’m really hoping it will make it back to NY in the next few days. I will be driving back tomorrow.
Do you have any funny stories about sharing that thing between the two of you for that much time?
Will: I wouldn’t say funny stories.
Andy: Little small things. We aggravate each other. Yesterday we were driving and we tried to get into an argument just because there’s nothing else to do. It can get pretty tight.
While you stayed at my house, I noticed you spent a lot of time getting music rights. Why’d you make the decision to start getting them and how much of a hassle has it been since then?
Will: About halfway through the episodes we had to start getting music rights because it should be more legit. We don’t want to get sued. We don’t have any money. It has not been easy. We’re still working on that.
Jason: It’s kind of a snowball effect of the more people are watching it, the more serious you’ve got to get. We got halfway through it and we had 20,000 plus people watching each episode so I asked Will to get music rights from now on. That was a whole learning process in itself we’re just barely starting to grasp. Line for next year would like to put this out a few thousand DVD’s to distribute for free through our dealers. I know it’s a pain to get rights and sucks to do, but it’s the right thing to do for the show and the musicians. We saw on the message boards people want to buy the whole first season, so we decided instead of selling to just give them away. There’s a cost producing all these DVD’s, but we really want to maintain the free aspect of the video.
Some skiing webisodes are very polished, like Nimbus, while some are as raw as it gets, like Cosco’s Chug Life series. You guys fall somewhere in the middle. Where do you find the balance of skiing versus non-skiing and reality versus picture perfect tricks?
Will: I like watching perfectly filmed tricks and epic stuff but there are other times you want to see what really goes on. I just wanted to bring more of a feel that people could relate to. I’m not going up in helicopters and skiing somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I’m just driving down the road and hitting a rail or going to the local resort and hitting the park. I felt like having more of a raw feel would be appropriate. I’m not a film major and trained in filming or editing in any way, I’m just doing it for fun.
A lot of the appeal is how easy it is for the average skier to identify with what you’re doing. Any thoughts?
Andy: When we first showed up at J’s house last summer, our pitch was that we wanted to make something like Nimbus but more relatable. All that stuff is not realistic for the average skier. It costs money and you have to be good. We wanted a web series that showed us just going out and doing things that everyone could do. Hitting a flat box and doing some weird tricks, jumping through trees, building a kicker in the backyard of your friend’s house is something that most skiers can relate to, especially those jibbers in the East Coast where we’re from. We wanted to show people how much you could do with what you have.
Andy Parry, trend setting.
It shows a little bit in your videos I think but the way you guys live is crazy. Living in the little closet at Giray’s house or sharing a room with me, eating ramen every day. Talk about what it’s like living on the road for so little money.
Will: Traveling around skiing is not very affordable so we sacrificed on the side of food and living situations. Living on people’s couches, floors, in closets. Sharing rooms, thank you for that. Camping is our latest place in Mammoth. All these things cost money so where we cut money we do. We might be a little uncomfortable or hungry but we’re still skiing.
Andy: Actually, Rom, for the month we were at your house I wanted to go for $2 a day on food. That’s when I started eating ramen with broccoli pretty much every day, twice a day. Truth be told, I’m actually a huge fan. Right now I’m sitting on a couch inside after two weeks of living in my car sitting around a campfire. I’m not really sure how I feel about being back to reality but it is going to be really nice to sleep in a bed. I’m really looking forward to that.
What was your favorite or most hilarious living set up?
Will: Any place we had a bed or hotel room courtesy of someone else was my favorite.
Josh: Hilton in downtown Whistler.
Andy: I think the Hilton was probably the best situation. At Rom’s house was damn good too. Probably the worst situation was living in Colorado. I really don’t like Colorado.
Will: He’s an idiot.
Josh, it seems like you really try to cater to these dudes when they come around. Is that to try to keep them around, or do you feel bad for them? (laughs)
Josh: Whenever I’m traveling with Andy and Will, we walk into a place where they’re eating. They never know if I’m going to pay for the food so they’ll order about $2 worth of stuff. They’ll get milkshakes and saltine crackers. I’ll tell them to order what they want. They’ve got bigger stomachs when I’m here. It’s really shown me how much I spend on food. Will says it’s because I have a job. Will said to Steph Myers and I that we eat a lot. Three meals a day is pretty crazy (laughs). I try to help them out as much as possible. The little things you can do keep them happy and say thank-you for everything they do.
Jason: No one spends less money on food than these guys. It should be a contest to see if anyone else can ski what they ski and spend as little as they spend and stay alive. Literally.
(laughs) I honestly don’t understand sometimes.
Jason: What was your budget a week, what’d you spend?
Will: On average, somewhere between $20 and $35
Jason: You’re talking everything from gas, skiing food, lodging, everything?
Will: We pretty much tried to avoid paying for skiing whenever possible. We bought one season pass.
Crazy. So you’re saying pretty much anyone could do this?
Will: If they want to. Save your money and do what you want to do. If you want to do it, you can find a way if you really want to.
Jason: I just want to put it out there. This whole first season came from those dudes coming to us saying they want us to help market and put this together. This is true ski bumming. Know what I mean? This is what these guys set out to accomplish. Not only are we going to make something out of nothing on the hill, we’re going to make something out of nothing as far as how we get to where we get. The challenge of making a cool jump out of nothing is the same challenge as finding your next bed or where your next meal is coming from on a budget.
Andy: Yeah, it has definitely been a challenge. Three years ago I would have never thought I’d be living in my car for two weeks in Mammoth or living on someone’s floor for a month, eating ramen noodles every day. I was more of a comfort kid. I liked to have my bed every night I’d go to. f you really want something, you can go out and get it. Especially if you’re doing what we’re doing. You can just go out and…ski and do whatever, as long as there’s snow. Having no job for both of us for the last four or five months since Ruby Tuesdays is the best and worst thing you can do. I have the ability to go wherever I want to whenever I want to as long as someone wants to give me some lift tickets and a floor space.
Garrett, Andy & Will at Mammoth
I want to talk about highlights of this season. I’ve got a couple topics. What was your favorite skiing?
Andy: Skiing in California was one of my highlights. There were two days at Squaw. A powder day where we skied all mountain, and a park day that I learned some new tricks I was really stoked on. California has it going on. I love California.
What was your favorite shot, episode, or moment that happened while skiing?
Will: My favorite episode was either episode 1 (Hood) or 3 (Road Trip). They were both big adventures. We had a lot of fun with them and they weren’t too stressful. It was kind of just go out and have fun and film it.
Andy: My favorite is either episode 1, the Hood episode, or episode 7, which was filmed in California. In 7, Will did a really good job editing. Some of the shots from the GoPro really added to what we were doing. Hopefully we’ll be most stoked on episode 9. Will and I did some tricks that we learned and then got on film. That’s really exciting to go out, do a new trick, then you see it in the episode and you’re like “Oh, snap. That wasn’t as good as I thought it was but it’s still sick.
LJ & Andy
What was your favorite non-skiing stuff? What did you enjoy off the hill?
Will: It is always a fun time hanging out with LJ because he’s crazy and you don’t know what he’s going to do next. Either during rail gardens in Episode 5 or sometime on the East Coast with him and Ian Compton.
Let’s talk about the future. What have you been doing since episode 8 came out? What can we look forward to when episode 9 drops with the interview?
Episode 9 is filmed in Squaw Valley and Mammoth out in the California springtime. You can’t really beat the weather or the park. Perfect conditions.
Will filming for Episode 9
Any highlights for the Newschoolers kids about what they can look forward to seeing when they hit the play button?
Will: Basically, a whole bunch of really good skiers, a lot of Level 1 guys were there at the same time. We filmed a little with them and Henrik Harlaut was throwing down on some smaller skis.
How does it feel to have created the Traveling Circus?
Andy: It’s pretty sick to go from a couple years ago Erik bringing me skis down from Burlington that were my first pair of free skis. Now I’m riding for the company I originally loved and still love. It’s a really weird feeling to have a kid come up to you and ask for an autograph, thinking why would you want an autograph from me and be stoked on me. It’s hard to look at it from the past, but if I was a little kid, I would be super stoked.
Will: I don’t know. It’s a cool feeling to know people can see what you’ve experienced, what you enjoy, and your take on skiing. It’s an even better feeling that they like it. It is a dream come true in some terms but obviously I didn’t dream about sleeping in Andy’s car and eating ramen noodles.
J, you’ve got to be psyched on the exposure Traveling Circus gives Line?
Jason: At the end of the day, its all just skiing and that’s what keeps all of us grounded. We’re psyched. Honestly I didn’t ever think it was going to be more than Will and Andy sending me one edit. I’m really proud of what they’ve done. Will showed up at some skiboard camp Mike Nick and I held back years ago. It’s really cool that something we did could get a kid like Will to drive him to dedicate more of his life to his passion. He created new things that later inspired other kids that in turn could do the same to other kids. It’s an endless cycle. I’m proud on a personal level seeing that and the evolution of how people can inspire others and others and others and it just keeps going. There’s nothing better than a ‘job’ that you enjoy. No one is going to get rich on skiing but if we can do what we enjoy and doing what we do supports skiing that’s all good. They’ve helped Line out a lot and we’ve helped them and that’s the whole point. For next year we’ve adjusted our budgets to get more behind what they’re doing, get more serious, build a website, make sure we have the right equipment, but we still want them to keep it real.
Josh: It’s something that globally people are asking for. It’s not just an East Coast thing. On a personal level, I met Will in math class sophomore year of college. He was wearing a Vermont Open backpack and I was like, “Whoa, you’re a skier?” I finally went skiing with him and truth be told, he’s been this good forever. It’s cool to see my buddies get their comeuppance and get recognized on this level that they should have for a while. With Line we’ve always been able to see that but it may have been more difficult in the community. I’m stoked I fell into this job as team manager to be able to work with people I know and like.
There’s Line Traveling Circus Week at Windells. Give us all the info.
Josh: I guess it was an excuse for me to get out of the office for a week. I needed some sacrificial lambs so I had Andy and Will design up some custom features. We’ll have a lot of Line guys at Windells for session 5, July 16th - 23rd. There are still spots available. We’re trying to bring the whole Line entity together.
Jason: Traveling Circus is Line and Line is Traveling Circus. We are one big circus, one big family. Expect the unexpected. That is what Line has always been about. Whether it is product, marketing, graphics and that’s what these guys’ riding and lifestyle is all about. Everyone from the office is going to be there: R&D, sales, graphics. It’s just a big rally.
Who else will be there as far as Line athletes go?
Josh: Pollard is going to be there. LJ is tentative, he’s got a camping trip planned in Vermont we’re trying to get him to change, but he’ll be there all summer. Ian Compton said, “This would be like missing a concert with Biggie and Tupac featuring Elton John.” (laughs)
Ian Compton, pro apple ripper
You’ll be filming Season Two Episode One there?
Will: Yup, that’s the plan.
You’ve got Shane McFalls filming full time next season. Will, that’s going to help you out a ton. You got called out for not skiing in a few of the episodes, but you were filming all of these, right?
Will: Yeah, I’m pretty pumped Shane’s going to be helping us out next year. It will just help us film more because being behind the camera is fun for a while but I really just want to ski. We really don’t always have a lot of time to finish the episodes. It’s just a lot easier with another guy helping us out filming.
Andy: This coming year he’s going to be the essential part of our project because he’s going to be doing the filming, editing, and all the work that we hate to do (laughs).
What’s Shane’s experience?
Andy: Shane is actually the one who filmed the Powder Award-winning jib run Will had on the playground in Burlington. Filmed for Meatheads, filmed for I Hate NY. Shane has the best experience for what we need and he’s going to be a good addition and make things so much better next year.
Jason: Is he going to fit in your car?
Andy: We haven’t tried it just as of yet, but we’ll work it out. Maybe we’ll just attach him to the roof rack.
J, you mentioned you’re stepping it up for Traveling Circus?
Jason: At the end of the day, it’s kind of its own animal, and as you feed it, it gets bigger and you need more food to keep it going. So while last year we didn’t even have it in the budget because it came in randomly afterwards, this year we’re making it official, putting the money needed behind it to make sure no one starves to death on the road and everyone can get to where they need to be as well as dramatically increase the amount of people that can see it. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re hoping to produce a few thousand DVD’s that are going to be free and available at Line shops globally. Go in the shop early, grab your free DVD and there’s going to be a ton of bonus stuff in there. At the end of the day we’re just trying to make videos that people enjoy that bring the reality of skiing, not the Hollywood drama of skiing.
Talking about ways to finance it. I know this has a ton of Newschoolers fans. Is there some new way for members to help support this for next season?
Jason: There’s been a bunch of message board comments that people enjoy watching the shows so much and appreciate them being free, that they’d love to contribute in some way. So we’re working on producing some Traveling Circus swag that people will be able to buy to support the cause. It always runs way over budget so the more support it gets; the more we can invest in it. We’re going to be investing more not only into the whole production but also into a website. I think this has great potential for more viewer interaction and participation in the future. Making videos isn’t Line’s business, this is simply a way to get more people to open their minds and get involved in skiing and get stoked on the sport. At the end of the day everyone needs to stop and think what are the brands, the people, and the athletes that reflect their own beliefs and attitudes in the sport. Whether it’s buying from your favorite shop, or buying product that your favorite skier represents, if you want them to be around the next year, show your support, even if it’s just telling your friends.
Andy: For Traveling Circus to happen, Line is the only company that would support us to this level and go out of their way, moving things around to make sure it’s going to happen next year. The three of us have jobs and are actually going to support ourselves next year skiing, not going broke. Not eating ramen noodles two meals a day, maybe just one meal a day. For us, knowing that there’s a team manager, a brand director, a whole company behind us, it’s great. I couldn’t be more stoked, it is pretty much a dream come true.
So that’s a wrap. Even after such an entertaining run this season, Traveling Circus will be better than ever next season, starting with Windells in just over a month. It is the feel good story of the season. Will and Andy have gone from rags to riches, zeros to heroes, or maybe, more realistically, two meals of ramen daily to just one, with plenty more entertainment to come.
Andy & Will would like to give special thanks to their Mom's, Dad's and Grandma's, along with Ski The East and Meathead Films.
And now without further ado, episode 9...
For info, news, updates and to donate to Andy & Will, go to http://www.linetravelingcircus.com