The first dirt track movie since On Any Sunday to capture the spirit and family feel of the sport
Words by Joy Burgess
Photos by Evan Senn
In 1971, Bruce Brown’s epic On Any Sunday brought riveting stories about motorcycles and racing to the big screen, featuring racers like Steve McQueen, Malcolm Smith and Mert Lawwill. The documentary popularized motocross, desert and flat track racing with millions of enthusiasts and mainstream folks at the time, greasing the two-wheeled skids for decades of massive growth and popularity. But since then there hasn’t been a flat track film that grabbed the world the way OAS did…until now.
Enter Evan H. Senn, the man behind Fast and Left, the new flat track film that’s taken the world by storm. By the time the documentary had its U.S. premiere in Wichita, Kansas last November, the film had already won Best Short Documentary at the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival. It went on to be shown at the French Riviera Motorcycle Film Festival, premiered in the UK with all proceeds going to injured Singles rider Oliver Brindley, and also premiered in Greece, Brazil and the Portland Motorcycle Film Festival. Harley-Davidson even backed a showing of the film at the One Motorcycle Show as it held a 50th Anniversary party for its legendary XR750.
Flat track history traces back more than 100 years, a grassroots sport that got its start in farmers’ fields, at dirt horse tracks and county fairs. And Fast and Left is very much a grassroots-style film that takes what’s arguably the greatest show on dirt to its birthplace – the local track. One fan described it like this: “It’s the only film that’s been able to express how deep the passion for flat track is.”
With just a 35-minute run time, the film looks beyond the excitement that comes with racing at speeds of over 100 mph on dirt ovals. It digs into the loam and gets a deeper understanding of the people of flat track, from old grizzled racers who still use duct tape to hold their steel shoes on to youngsters getting their first laps in to Moms who get out there and race with their kids. And from local amateurs to professional American Flat Track racers, there’s one theme you just can’t miss throughout the film: family. And it’s that very thing – family – that’s made this short film resonate with the motorcycle community around the world.
We caught up with Senn to bring you a closer look at Fast and Left, how he first learned about flat track, the effort it took to create this film with a bare-bones crew, and some of the best stories he discovered along the way.
Tell us a bit about your film background.
I’m a documentary and commercial film-maker in Wichita, Kansas, and I’ve been doing this for ten years. Fast and Left was my fourth short film. My other films were based on singular characters – unique characters I met, saw, and then told their stories. Then, I went three years without making another film and thinking about what I wanted to do next. During that time I started riding, learned about motorcycle racing, got hooked on MotoGP, and then discovered flat track.
How did you get into flat track?
A photographer friend of mine was going to a flat track race, and I’d never heard of it. He took me to that first race and I fell in love with it. I saw old guys and kids out there, and visually the bikes and leathers captured me immediately. I loved it all and I instantly knew there was a story there. Later, when I started bringing my camera, I started getting to know the people and it quickly turned into a passion for me. And people had a desire to see what I was doing because a flat track film hasn’t been made in about 30 years. People wanted to see anything on flat track, and I wanted to be the one to make it.
How long did it take to make the movie, and how much effort was involved in making it a reality?
Two years. Once I started learning about flat track I found out about the Kansas Fair Circuit, which has a rich history that goes back more than 100 years. Being from Kansas, I was attracted to the Kansas flat track history. I went to those local races to film, and then I also shot the American Flat Track Oklahoma City Mile in 2018, which is where I met Brad Baker and Jeffrey Carver Jr. I got hooked on AFT and Jeffrey’s character and story, and later added more AFT races to my calendar. I went a lot more places than originally planned, and the film was only shot on race days. After my first season following the sport I had an okay film but was just getting to know people. So during the off season I put together a rough film and created a plan on what and where to shoot the following season to make it complete.
You stumbled across an old, practically unseen film as you were making Fast and Left. Tell us about this.
Along the way I did a photo study on racing in Kansas and hunted down this bi-weekly newspaper from the past called the Checkered Flag News. I came across someone who had nearly all of them and he allowed me to come over and see his collection. As I leaved through them I saw ads for a motorcycle film that was shot in the Midwest in the early 1970s. I thought I’d been the first person to make a motorcycle film in the Midwest, so I wondered what the story was here. Turned out, I was able to get in contact with the guy who made the movie – Dick Ainsworth. At first, we weren’t sure if the movie still existed. He sent his wife out to the garage and they found a copy of the film! It hadn’t even been watched in more than 40 years, and there was this one copy left. We got the film digitized and there were some amazing shots in it, including some footage of ‘Bultaco Bill’ Snyder, who’s featured in my film. Had I not made Fast and Left, this film may have been thrown away and no one would have seen it.
The film has been exploding all over the world. Did this surprise you?
I’ve definitely been surprised. I talked to racers who told me the film would have a large audience, but I didn’t think so. I knew it would be a quality film, but after its release I woke up to emails from Germany, Italy, Australia, Greece and other places. All over the world people are enjoying the film and gathering to watch it.
What kind of feedback have you been getting?
One of the biggest things I’ve heard is how people across the world are shocked at how similar flat track is around the globe. People in Greece or Brazil are saying things like, “This is how we do it, too!” With a lot of other motorcycle films out there, I wanted to do something different that had heart and soul, and I love hearing that people connect to those elements in the film.
I also enjoyed seeing Bultaco Bill (one of the main characters in the documentary) watch himself on film. He told me the film’s done a lot for the sport and that it means a lot to people in Kansas and beyond. And, of course, Jeffrey Carver. He dug it, and he liked that it was chill, nostalgic and fun.
Are you going to start racing flat track yourself?
I’m going to start in 2020. I’ll be at races whether I bring my full camera setup or not. I’ll get to hang out with the racers again. And I have a Sunday 187 I plan to take out on the track the day after the races to run some laps on a track that is prepped and primed. I don’t know if I’ll ever race competitively, but I’m definitely going to start learning to go fast around a dirt oval. And a huge thank you to American Supercamp for the class and Lightshoe for my steel shoe.
We’ve heard flat track played a big part in your marriage. True?
It did! My wife Tayler and I dated for six years and we adore each other, but marriage hadn’t been brought up. The racers gave us a lot of guff about not being married yet and the guys would joke with me about stealing her and ask me why I hadn’t sealed the deal. I proposed to her sitting on the bleachers at the track in Stockton, Kansas. We got married the next week at the Jeeps Motorcycle Club track on the starting line. They fired up the bikes when we said, “I do,” and waved the checkered flag. I have to mention what a huge help my wife Tayler has been. She was at every race, she did all the graphic design, logos, merchandise and credits. And spiritually and artistically, she helped make this film possible.
What’s the biggest thing you want people to get from Fast and Left?
The flat track community has really changed my life for the better. And what I really want is for people to see this movie, look for a local track, and go at least once. That’s my biggest thing – I want people to go to a race.
Fast and Left is available for purchase on evanhsenn.com or on Amazon.
Scottie Deubler (American Flat Track Announcer/Off the Groove)
“The generation before us had On Any Sunday, and it allowed a lot of people to learn about flat track and start racing. I think Fast and Left is doing the same thing – getting the next generation into flat track. Evan made superstars out of normal racers, and I was blown away by how good this film is.”
Chris Carter (Off the Groove)
“Evan Senn is a special dude…an amazing storyteller. Fast and Left blew my expectations out of the water. I got emotional, and I didn’t even know why I was crying. For someone who is so new to the sport, he just captured the essence of what flat track is in a 35-minute short film without using words.”
Bill Snyder (7-decade Flat Track Rider aka. ‘Bultaco Bill’)
Evan did a real great job, and the best part was he showed clips from 40 years ago when I had hair (laughs). He showed a great cross section of amateur racers with some pros thrown in. I enjoyed being a part of it, and for a guy that started off not knowing anything about flat track, Evan figured out it out pretty good. He and his wife are good people; they didn’t just film and leave. They’d intermingle with the racers and we’d sit down with beers and tell stories.
Jeffrey Carver (AFT Twins Racer)
Fast and Left is a very raw, earthy film, and it’s being shown around the world. Evan’s goal was to have people come together to feel the vibe of flat track and experience it on the grassroots levels most racers come from, and this film does that.