ENSŌ is the latest film to be released from director & cinematographer Dylan Wineland. It's a poetic, visceral glimpse into the life and mind of motocross freerider and co-director Aaron McClintock. What we appreciate most about Dylan's films is that he uses motorcycles as a means to tell stories that dig deep into experiences that we all face as human beings, regardless of whether or not we ride a bike. This juxtaposition is stimulating, striking a cord with many of our senses all at once. We caught up with Dylan to learn more about how he assembled an all-star team to produce this behemoth of a passion project.
Ensō is one of many films that you've produced alongside Aaron McClintock, can you talk about how two became close collaborators?
Aaron and I grew up racing motocross together, I always looked up to him and his riding style. We filmed our first project together almost a decade ago. We immediately hit it off and realized that we had way more in common than our love for dirt bikes. Since then we have continued to tell our stories and share experiences with our films. In the process we learn a lot about the craft and ourselves.
I also want to mention that Connor Barnes has also been a part of every project. He is probably the most grounding person to ever have around. He really balances Aaron and I out well and is an amazing cinematographer. It has been a trio this entire time and is always truly a collaborative process. In the making of it we these films sort of become a single unit. It's pretty awesome.
What was the impetus behind Ensō?
Aaron and I live states apart. I am in Utah and he is between Colorado and California. It’s been that way for years. So a lot of our friendship takes place over the phone. We spend hours going down existential and spiritual rabbit holes. I think it’s in both of our nature to question and ponder life’s meaning and that shared passion is the basis of our friendship. One of the topics that we couldn’t stop talking about was this idea of letting go in order for things to pan out the way that they need to. It had become an undeniable pattern during our years of creating these films. Whenever we went into a project full of expectation and this need for control and perfection, we would just crumble.
On the contrary, whenever we said “you know, fuck it, let’s just go shoot” things seemed to align. Almost to a point where it couldn’t be coincidence. I am not a “woo-woo” type of person, but I have always left room for the mystical because of these experiences we’ve had. And then it sort of happened that the idea of letting go of perfection became the premise of our film. The irony of it all is that it was something we had to practice while making it.
Producing this type of film, especially as a passion project, requires an insane amount of dedication. You need to have both the creative vision and the leadership to pull such a team together. What was it like working with the crew you assembled?
Aaron and I are so use to keeping our productions small. It’s usually just Aaron, Connor Barnes, and myself. But with this project I really wanted to push myself creatively and some of the ideas I had in mind required a team in order to execute. I think as an artist, it can be tough to “share” the creative process sometimes. However, with maturity I think, it has become much less about who does it or how it gets done. As long as it gets done, that is all that matters. And when you open those doors for others to come in, its truly amazing what sort of things you can accomplish. To my delight, everyone on this shoot was more than happy to volunteer their time and jump on board. Looking back, there couldn’t have been any other way. Every single person that was a part of this was crucial for accomplishing the vision and I am eternally grateful for their hard work and dedication.
"At the end of the day, there is nothing we enjoy more than making these films. Even if we go broke doing it. If you’re passionate and have the burning desire to make something, just send it."
What was the biggest obstacle you faced during production?
I will be totally honest here because I think it is important for other artists and filmmakers to hear this. When you take on a project at this magnitude it’s not cheap. Even with everyone volunteering their time and people are giving you discounts, it is still incredibly expensive. When you add up gear rental, insurance, hard drives, gas, food, RV rental, post production costs, and other costs you never foresee, it adds up. I tried and was really hoping to get a sponsor on board, but it seems that the nature of the motorcycle industry just has no interest in these sort of films.
I am sure there is a lot I can work on as far as selling ideas go, but it’s tough for an artist to become a sales person. At least it is for me. I went ahead regardless and Aaron and I self funded the project. It was and has been stressful at times but it’s the risk that we were willing to take, and honestly, I wouldn’t have had any other way. At the end of the day, there is nothing we enjoy more than making these films. Even if we go broke doing it. If you’re passionate and have the burning desire to make something, just send it.
A lot of your work is in the realm of motorsports, which brings a tremendous energy to these films. But you’ve also managed to weave a very human element into these pieces, which brings an added layer of depth and soul. Can you talk about how you approach your subjects and how you’re able to make an otherwise machine-like world relatable to the common person?
Aaron and I have always had the idea of the machine acting as a tool for something greater than just physically taking you somewhere, but also taking you somewhere spiritually. I grew up riding and racing dirt bikes so dirt bikes have become my tool for transcendence. But I hope that anyone can be moved in someway by the films whether or not they have an interest in motorcycles. That is why I have always wanted to lean into the human element. It really is about the human more so than it is the machine. The machine is just the tool or the craft which they use to experience the mystic.
"Our goal has always been to create an experience. I want the audience to feel like they are going along with our subject rather than spectating."
You sometimes play the role of both Director & DOP, which puts even more weight onto your shoulders. What is your pre-production like that allows you to be prepared to wear both hats while on set?
What’s crazy about these passion projects is that I am essentially forced to wear all these different hats. I am not a producer. In fact, everything that makes up the idea of what a producer is, I am opposite. However, with these projects I find myself embracing the entire process. Everything from making sure we have insurance for gear and half and half for our coffee while we are out in the field. All of the mundane things have to get done before you can set off to go create. I think because it’s a necessary step I have to take to get to where I want to go, I don’t find it that punishing. Once we decide that we are doing it and commit, I sort of go into a zone and just start checking off everything I have to. I actually really enjoy it.
What are you trying to say through your films? Or what kind of feelings do you hope your work evokes?
This is a really good question, honestly. I think with each of our films, we do want to give some message of some sort. We really try to not be too on the nose about it though. I’d rather leave more for the audience so that they can experience the film in their own way. However, I think more importantly than having a message in our films, our goal has always been to create an experience. I want the audience to feel like they are going along with our subject rather than spectating. One of my biggest inspirations with film was Life Cycles and I remember it taking me somewhere. I was as much a part of that film as I was watching it on my TV. And that is what I have been striving for. I hope people feel that when they watch the films.
"I think as a by product to filmmaking, you find yourself taking a deeper or a more conscious look at the world around you and you tend to find meaning in places where you never would have guessed."
How does being a filmmaker influence how you go about your day to day life?
I think how I have gone about my everyday life is what led me to become a filmmaker. I have always spent a lot of time getting lost in things. I was often referred to as a space cadet for most of my life. And I can’t deny that. I spend a lot of time with my head in the clouds. I love listening to music and going on vision quests and using those moments as inspiration for creating something new. I will say since picking up a camera, I do look at things differently. Not only am I constantly looking for good light, with or without a camera, but I am also much more curious about people and their stories. I think as a by product to filmmaking, you find yourself taking a deeper or a more conscious look at the world around you and you tend to find meaning in places where you never would have guessed.