Who is Steel City Media?
The Joe Bowman Interview
Photos by Callum Wood, Duncan Philpott & “Mad Dog” Boris
In an age of incessant video content being released weekly, few media outfits have the ability to create memorable content. Steel City Media happens to be on that list. With fun, captivating series like This is Peaty, the Sheffield-based company has managed to do just that. Our interests are always piqued when we see a Steel City flick about to drop. Wanting to know more about the lads, we dropped a line to Steel City foreman, Joe Bowman for some insight into the other MTB export from Sheffield town.
TLW: Who is Steel City Media?
JB: Steel City Media is a film production and digital marketing company based out of Sheffield in the UK (God’s own country) and is headed up by myself. Depending on the size of the project, there’s normally a small crew of trusted friends/ freelancers brought in to tackle things. My old mate Duncan Philpott is normally on site to capture everything imagery wise, as long as he’s not fishing haha.
TLW: Tell us a bit about yourself and your role?
JB: I guess from the start there’s never been any specific ‘roles’ unless it’s a slightly bigger job where you can step back a bit and direct others, but to be honest I love to get involved with every aspect of filming and struggle to sit back and be just a lump directing from a chair. I should probably learn to delegate a bit better to reduce stress sometimes.
Keeping busy and getting involved with all aspects of production can also keep things fresh because you’re always learning new stuff and just trying to make things happen. Filming, editing, pre-production planning, marketing, social and everything else can all become pretty personal I think. And when you’re producing things for clients I’ve worked with for a long time, I always want to kill it for both them and myself.
TLW: What was the catalyst the led to the creation of your group?
JB: To be honest I think it was out of last minute necessity and panic, hahaha!
Back in 2012 when I was still a wee squid, Steve Peat asked me if I fancied ‘making some web videos’ with him and a few weeks later I was on a flight to the first World Cup… SCM was basically born out of needing to put a name to producing those videos I guess?! Looking back, it was probably a good move setting up a legit business because it definitely looks way bigger from the outside than it actually is, hahaha.
TLW: What is your favorite thing to film?
JB: Filming with close mates is usually the best, especially when both you and the rider are psyched on the idea and really want to smash it. I’ve always been a big believer in trying to make sure the rider is always stoked on what you’re doing. I try to look after their opinion during shoots, because if they’re not happy, then the riding won’t be as rad and the final product ain’t gonna do either of you any favors.
Over the years filming with Rat and Steve we’ve definitely had more than a few standout moments from the, “This is Peaty” days. I also loved shooting a bit closer to home with Craig Evans (Hardline Champ). Swinny for Hope Tech and Cotic Bikes has been rad too. I’ve always been really fortunate to shoot with some of the most fun and creative riders, which has definitely helped shape the way we do things.
TLW: During a typical day on location, what are your biggest obstacles?
JB: Honestly, the biggest obstacles are normally happening before the shoot. Developing elaborate ideas, logistics, or even just getting the actual go ahead for things takes up so much time and is definitely the gnarliest part of filming. No one really gets to see, but without nailing all of the above, you’re shoot isn’t going to go too well.
Living on the side of tracks at World Cups, I guess the classic problem is missing your rider when you’ve stood in the same spot for over an hour! Always a classic squid issue. Like any job, I guess it’s just one big learning curve as you go along and all the above things have definately gotten easier over time.
TLW: Do you know when you’ve got a banger in the lens or do you typically wait until you’re back home to watch the footage?
JB: I reckon you always know if you’ve got a good one before you even have a quick recap on the camera. It’s always a rad feeling to get a proper good shot that the rider or whoever is in front of the lens is stoked on too. I reckon even if you just get one absolute gem each day on a shoot it can keep the spirits up for the entire thing.
TLW: When you’re spotting a location or an angle to shoot, what are the things you look for?
JB: I guess it depends on what you’re filming, but for bikes specifically I think I’m normally looking for sections where the rider is probably going to get loose or do something creative that will come across on camera well. It’s so hard at World Cups year after year going back to the same places, trying not to stand in the same spots and filming straights at Leogang. It definitely keeps you on your toes and makes you look for different things.
Like most riders I grew up watching a ton of Rankin/Clay/NWD dvd’s, and without even thinking about it I reckon I absorbed quite a bit from their styles and implement it into what I do. If you watch Earthed, Rankin always had this way of being in the spots where crazy shit was going on, and always use to get those ‘moments’ that we all remember, like the Sam Hill rock gap in Vigo in Earthed 3.
Clay always seems to know how a rider is going to look in a shot before he’s even got his camera on a tripod. When the shot finishes on a pull-focus right up to the bluddy retinas it’s mad! So much respect that he can line up something like that and pull it off with the speeds that they’re coming towards the camera at, especially when it’s a one shot or nothing during finals at a World Cup.
I remember wanting to get better at pull focuses like him, so I stood on the side of the main road outside my parent’s house and just tried to pull focus on fast cars until I got better. I think most vehicles thought I was a cop with a speed gun though because there was a few pissed off passers-by.
TLW: How important are camera settings and lighting to capturing the content you do?
JB: I reckon I’m probably the worst or least fussy person when it comes to settings or waiting for ‘the light’. Obviously I’ll make sure the camera is always setup properly, but I won’t make any crazy changes from shot to shot, I’m definitely more run and gun with nearly everything we do. Depending on the shoot, it’s more fun that way I reckon for both the filmer and the rider most of the time. With all that said, depending on the shoot, it’s worth spending a whole day on one or two shots sometimes… I think the more kit and tech you start playing with, the more time it takes to get these really creative shots, like using a cablecam for example.
TLW: Would you say that beginners looking to start creating videos invest in expensive equipment?
JB: The only thing I’d get if you can afford it is a decent enough laptop that can handle your footage and some hard drives! Don’t skimp on them. I think there’s definitely a lot of hype around kit, 4k this, 240fps that, but honestly when you’re starting ou,t getting a small camcorder or DSLR that you can stuff in a bag and head to the woods with your mates is the one. More kit equals more stress for sure, and less time spent actually doing cool stuff. But all that said, after a while certain bits of kit definitely become more and more tempting, haha.
TLW: What has been the most useful bit of advice you’ve received?
JB: Go commando on the hill for full breathability.
It wasn’t advice, but I think the best thing you can try and do is not stress too much and enjoy it. Obviously sometimes things get too hectic, but trying to put it all into perspective definitely helps and reminds you to just try and enjoy things!
TLW: Any parting words of wisdom for the growing little squids out there?
JB: Go forth and buy a camcorder young squidlings. #pannzooms.
Have fun and go film your mates in the woods, maybe get to some races if you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The older squids look scary sometimes but they’re a good bunch.
Oh, and we have a full length feature film coming next year in partnership with Creative Concept! #GAMBLEfilm.
Cheers, Loam Wolf!