An Interview with Dan Foley
Dan Foley makes riding a BMX bike look really good. He also makes BMX videos look really good. Coincidence? Probably not…
Dan balances riding professionally and creating top-notch video content at a level that is difficult to comprehend. We caught up with Dan to learn about how this started, how this is maintained, and what keeps him pushing both…
How old were you and how did you first get into riding BMX?
I started really riding BMX when I was eight. I had a friend in the neighborhood I’d roll around with - jumping off anything we could find. He would go race on the weekends at a track that used to be nestled in the middle of the Moto track at Budds Creek in Maryland. One weekend, my dad took me to join and it just snowballed after that.
How old were you and how did you first get into filming?
I was probably around fourteen. A friend of mine got a video camera and we started messing around with it when we’d go riding. We originally filmed stuff just to see what we were doing, but then that wasn’t enough and it just kept progressing.
How would you describe the journey of going from a kid who liked riding BMX to becoming a pro rider?
It was honestly pretty organic and linear and I'm extremely grateful for that. I've had a strong passion for riding since the beginning, so I naturally wanted to ride all the time. My parents were super supportive and made it easy for me to do. Plus, there were enough things to ride locally to keep progressing - shout out to Ben Hittle for the countless ramp sessions. When you ride all the time, push yourself a little bit, and have a strong support system in place, you inevitably get better. Moving to Greenville for college played a big role, too. I got to ride some of the best parks in the world with some of the best riders. Combine all this with the aid of some of the established riders in the Greenville scene like Colin Mackay and Allan Cooke and the stars aligned. I'm so thankful for all of it!
How would you describe the journey of going from a kid who liked filming to doing it professionally?
Replace "riding" with "filming" in my previous answer - haha. I just kept with it and got a little better with each little project I did. Living and going to school in Greenville helped me learn quite a bit both through classes and through actual experience shooting with local riders. By the time I graduated, I had started selling small videos to BMX media outlets like Vital BMX and it's been rolling ever since.
What is your relationship like with riding today?
I love it just as much as always. It still gives me a feeling like nothing else does and gives me my most honest outlet to express myself. I don't quite ride as much as I once did due to work and it being a little harder on my body, but the feeling it gives me is still comparable to when I was eight-years-old and just starting. The desire to progress and feel more connected to my bike is still very present, too.
What is your relationship like with filming today?
It's all over the place with the variety it throws at me and I love that. Some of it is definitely work, but some of it is definitely passion. Things like shooting the USA BMX Freestyle Series are a good mix of both. It's busy work, but it's documenting the up-and-coming blood of BMX, which is incredible. When I'm not working on projects for other people or companies, I go shoot footage of myself riding and that really keeps the passion flame alive through everything else. It's like going out solo on a treasure hunt and, if I get a clip, it's like a little piece of personal gold.
Did you go to college for film?
Kind of. Technically, it was a communications degree with a concentration in media production, but I still learned plenty about shooting and editing. I went to East Carolina University and graduated in 2012.
How did that influence what you do today?
It helped me get my foot in the door both as a pro rider and videographer in the BMX industry due to the university being in Greenville. There was a huge BMX scene there from the late 90s into the 2010s, so it was a unique opportunity to learn about video stuff in school while also being in the perfect spot to progress my riding.
You create a lot of self-filmed content. Do you see that as “the best of both worlds,” or is it more-so out of necessity?
It's a little of both. I'd say it's more of a "best of both worlds," but also it's a bit of a necessity if I want something shot reliably on a regular basis.
Does your bike make it on most of your filming trips?
For longer trips, absolutely. For trips that are only a few days long with little downtime, not so much.
You’re a regular behind the camera at the USA BMX Freestyle Series. What’s it like shooting younger riders and amateurs compared to shooting the best riders in the world?
It's actually pretty similar. At an event, riders are trying to pull their best runs. They either put it together or they don't - which applies to both ams and pro. I just point the camera at them and hope for the best. The energy and stoke is definitely present in any rider when they make it all work. It's amazing watching it happen through the viewfinder, no matter who they are.
Is there anything you’re currently working on that you’re fired up about?
Absolutely! I'm currently working on two projects I'm super excited about. One is a piece for Vans I've been working out since last September with Dennis Enarson and Perris Benegas. They'll both have full parts and there will be a mix section with a bunch of different Vans riders in the middle of it. They've both been absolutely destroying it, so I'm really looking forward to cutting it all together. I'm also really deep into a new self-filmed part for Cult. I just have a couple clips left I want to get for it, but I'm more stoked on it as a whole than anything I've done before.
Riding-wise, what do you think makes a good BMX video?
Just being intentional with whatever you're doing. It could be the spot selection, trick selection, riding style - whatever. I think it's most important to put thought into everything, pay attention to the details, and stay true to yourself as a rider.
Filming and editing-wise, what do you think makes a good BMX video?
See above. There are no rules or guaranteed formula, but it definitely helps having intention in how you shoot and edit.
Riding-wise, what’s your favorite video you’ve ever released?
Probably the last part I did for Cult. I feel like every part is a little piece of evolution as a rider and the most recent one is just the most recent documentation of that. There may be riding in past edits that's more technical, difficult, or burly, but I like a collection of footage that's the most honest representation of me as a rider now.
Filming and editing-wise, what’s your favorite video you’ve ever released?
Probably "Whirlwind,” which was a piece on Scotty Cranmer for Vans. Scotty is unreal and getting the opportunity to tell his story was unlike anything else I've experienced. I also had no idea what I was really doing going into that, so the fact it came together at all is something I'll always be really proud of. It's been the most challenging piece I've done so far.
Did doing either thing for a living change your approach?
I'd say my approach with video stuff changed in the sense that I had to learn to let go of projects. When I started making videos, I'd want them to be perfect and would spend so much striving for that. That mindset isn't sustainable if you're doing it for a living though. Riding has more-or-less stayed the same. I feel like I'd be pushing myself as a rider and filming video parts whether I was a pro or not.
What do you think your future holds as a professional rider? Do you hope to stay involved in the BMX world post-pro career?
I have no idea, but I plan on riding for as long as I can and trying to maintain what I've got!
What do you think your future holds as a professional videographer? Is this something you want to be doing for the rest of your life?
I also don't really know. I'm just focused on wrapping up these bigger projects I'm working on now and seeing what's next. If I stay excited about making videos, I'll keep doing it. But if not, I won't.
What advice do you have for anyone interested in getting involved in filming BMX?
Just do what excites you and stay true to yourself. Be critical of your own work and always look for ways to improve. Listen to any solid advice and critiques, but don't let them consume you or change you. Be reliable.