In the Early summer of 2019 I received a phone call and the caller on the other end of the phone said: "Hi Tommy this is BMW Motorrad in Munich and we wanted to know if you want to come to Germany and ride a top secret motorcycle for us?"
I paused, thought to myself "this has to be a joke", but I played along and said "hell yes!" Next thing I know I'm sitting down with the whole global marketing team and it hit me that this was the real deal. I have to take a moment and say through this entire process I still sit back and ask myself how I got so lucky to get to be a part of this amazing experience. I do need to say thank you to BMW Motorrad for the opportunity and letting the little guy be the "face" of their newest concept bike. BMW Motorrad let me know this project was nothing like they had ever done in the past, and that it was going to be an entirely new segment of motorcycles for them. They said this concept would be a cruiser - and to be honest I instantly envisioned giant plastic fairing and more bags then you have things to store in them. I mean this is the same company that gives you the GS...and nothing against the GS, but I personally don't see myself on one anytime soon unless I magically end up in the alps or back country 1000 mile trek. So needless to say, I couldn't envision the end product, but I was eager to see it.
With meetings done, hand shakes and hugs aside, I signed all the top secret non-disclosure agreements and away we went. But first, I want to pause and say that I went on behalf of myself and ButterScotch. I only agreed to be apart of this epic project with one stipulation: that myself and the brand ButterScotch were represented in a true light that we were there to work together. I did not want to be just a talking head for a huge corporation. The BMW team responded to exactly the point I was saying: "this is the exact reason we wanted to work with you. The brand you have created and the following that is there is true and this is precisely the reason why we chose you. So please reference the brand, talk from your point of view and perspective and most importantly be yourself."
I try very hard to keep the ButterScotch Identity authentic, true, and transparent to the public - from projects we are working on and the day to day life I live not only as myself but as the brand I represent and am creating along the way. However, I had to keep the BMW project hush hush as this was for a never before seen concept bike and the whole project was sworn to secrecy until the concept project was officially launched a few months later. This was something new for me as I always try to report in real time what is going on in life and the ButterScotch brand.Back to the "top secret mission". The plan was to head off to Germany to film in locations such as Munich, Stuttgart and Hamburg. First stop, we landed in Hamburg and headed straight to an abandoned airstrip to meet up with the rest of the BMW Motorrad team to finally see "the bike". I have to admit I was a bit nervous because I wasn't sure what to expect. I even had a bit of a panic moment again thinking on the plane "what if the bike is just terrible?!"
After what felt like a 2 hour drive, we got to the air strip and the box van finally arrived shortly after us. A team hopped out of the van, and a man with a long gray pony tail lit up a cigarette and cracked open the back doors of the van. Next thing I know there is a crowd of people around the van and I see wheels touch the ground but I can't see the bike yet and my first thought was "wait they must not have it with them," as I didn't see a tall cruiser, or giant windscreen. I got closer and my jaw literally dropped. There it was, the concept R18. When I tell you I was completely floored, I honestly mean I was completely floored. The man with the ponytail, cigarette still hanging off his lips, threw a leg on the bike, flicked two switches, and fired it up.
Not only did the bike look incredible, the sound and crack of the throttle hit everyone in the group and we all started grinning ear to ear. The circle of people started to cheer and we all looked around at each other in awe.
The R18 Concept is out in the wild and this isn't your Dad's BMW...or maybe it is)... but I will get back to that. One thing is for sure - this bike is not something you would expect coming from the same guys that produce the GS or the RR bikes. This is a bike that is continuing the story of heritage and soul. This was a passion project and the 2nd part to a story that started with the R9T. The R18 is a Big Boxer motor that is already shaking things up and is keeping people on their toes to say the least. It is a beast of a bike, excellently crafted, standing tall and proud as a German engineered piece of art that is ready to rip.
Back to the circle of people standing at the air strip - I'll never forget what happened next. The ponytail man with the cigarette came up to me and said "You're a professional rider, correct?" I thought to myself, "well I am a professional and I am a rider... so hell yes I am". I looked back to him, nodded my head and said: "I sure am". He then handed me the keys.
Now lets hold the phone right there, a total of 2 people have ridden the bike: Edgar the head of design and the master mechanic himself. Meaning, I would be the 3rd person ever to ride this priceless, one of one, bike. No pressure at all. I geared up, grabbed my leather, gloves and helmet and just like that I was twisting the throttle and into 4th gear, blazing hell down the runway. The feeling of the big boxer motor under me is familiar and exhilarating. It just kept pulling and I was out of runway.
I brought the bike back to the tent to call it for the day, and all I could do was sit there and smile like a little kid on Christmas. The whole group is excited as we start filming the following day and you can feel it in the air.
5:30am Call time,
the Sun wasn't up and we arrived at major down intersection of Hamburg, Germany. This was the first location for the day, where we were shooting both still and static images that would later be the posters and launching content of the R18 Concept storyline. No easy feat to close down major intersections let alone in a busy city like Hamburg. We had to act quick and everyone had to work a single unit. We were shooting both still images and recording video, but we had to be aware of 2 crucial things. First, the bike is still top secret and it needed to be kept hidden from the public eye, spy photos and basically anyone with a camera phone that could leak images and throw a wrench into the campaign launch. So we had to move quickly, get the shot and bring the bike back into its protected tent until the next setup. Second, it was almost 6:30-7am and rush hour was in full effect,so we were only able to close down the roads for 3 minutes at a time to avoid getting the whole production shut down. (Trust me when I say there was actually a City official there with a stop watch making sure we kept time.)
We got about 4 setups, and then suddenly: rain. The road started to get slick and everything was wet.
We had captured the most perfect sunrise between the buildings on the last round and then we needed to get a little more B reel for the video. So next, we had a chase truck and camera rig on a boom, I was fully geared up, the bike was running great, and I had a head set in my ear inside the helmet with about 4 different people yelling different directions. Some in English and some German ( I don't speak German). We took off out of the tent, the boom truck was out front, and I heard in my headset "OK TOMMY PUNCH IT". So I nailed the throttle to catch up to the camera for a takeover maneuver and at that exact moment the whole bike gets loose and we go side ways...(oh yeah the rain).... I heard the entire microphone crew simultaneously take a deep breath and hold it....as I quickly remembered growing up on the East Coast in the mud and water of single track riding with my brother, I shifted my hips, adjusted the throttle and slid the back tire back to the proper behind the bike location and rode it out back to the tent. Everyone in the tent was white as a ghost and I was just kind of smirking like a little kid. One of the bike wranglers came up to me and said: "ok you can ride..." . This was the final shot:
Next stop was back to the the airstrip for more filming. I have to say this was a blast getting to take the bike back to the air field and ride on a closed set. Doing dynamic movements with the camera crew was so much fun and really getting to ride the bike. We shot both film and still imagery at this location and it was amazing getting to work with the film crew and the BMW crew. Taking breaks, hanging out in the tent and just getting to become friends with the team as we were crafting the story that was going to be the R18 concept. There was always so much of a personal element to this whole project and that was just one of the many reasons I really enjoyed my time with the BMW team. It didn't feel like I was working for big brother, but with a group of friends that were all equally excited about their new bike.
Welcome to Stuttgart, our second shooting location within Germany and probably one of my favorite locations in all the filming we did. A semi-small town that is home to the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums. We shot at an awesome location that was an old auto garage turned into event space that now hosts high end fashion shows, automotive shoots, and pretty much anything else you could think of. It was a perfect location for the R18 Concept, a place rich with history. A family owned garage that restored classics cars for decades that now has a second life of hosting events from creatives all over the globe. Very much inline with the R18 Concept. A bike that looks back to the past of BMW Motorrad, using bikes like the R23 and R5 that are direct style icons the helped create the R18. The R18 re-introduces BMW back into the cruiser segment and creates a whole new experience for new generations. I use the phrase "re-introduces" because looking at the history of BMW they created cruisers long before this was such a widely used term from other manufacturers. This is something we dove into in a much deeper way with episode 1 of "A Bavarian Soul Story" which was a direct spin off of the R18 Concept shoot I am telling you about now in this blog post.. so yes there is more to come. ;)
Ok, back to Stuttgart: We were in Garage 229 and one of the things I have to highlight throughout all of this project is that BMW Motorradd is investing not only into the bike but the overall experience with the bike. From the clothing you are wearing to the look feel and sound of the bike. This is important, and BMW has taken note of the new era of rider that identifies with this lifestyle on and off the bike. This is one of the reasons I was selected for this project. ButterScotch solidified that we are not just a bunch of ill dressed bike riders. We are professionals, with careers, that have interest in not only the bikes we choose but the items we wear on and off the bike as well. This is why I created ButterScotch: to outfit you in your daily life on and off the bike. If you ride, awesome, you have those pieces that will work on and off the bike equally and effortlessly for the full experience. If you don't ride, thats 100% fine with us, you can still care about what you wear, with good denim, boots, leathers, and quality basics that will never go out of style. #ClassicsNeverDie and it is true. This is something BMW Motorrad can agree with.
At Garage 229 we not only used some of the ButterScotch items in this shoot we also mixed in some of the early BMW Heritage collection into the shoot to showcase the full experience that is this new chapter of the BMW Motorrad story. It was the perfect location to show off the bike and the lifestyle we all live on the day to day. Meeting up with friends, grabbing a coffee, and then heading out for a meeting or weekend ride.
Land of Windmills was the last of the locations in Stuttgart and the last round of shooting for the R18 Concept project. Myself and the BMW crew found ourselves in this fun back country winding road a few hours before dusk in the hills of Stuttgart, where the road was lined with fields of massive windmills. The production crew locked down the road and it was all ours until sundown.
The camera truck was locked and loaded, and the bike wranglers had the R18 concept fully fueled waiting for me at the tent. It was bitter cold this day and the sun was going down, but I couldn't wait to get the bike out on this road and put it through the paces on the twisties.
Away we went and I'm back with the crew in my headset shooting dynamic movements. The small sprinter in front of me and a cameraman hanging out the back on a rig that looked like it belonged in a mission impossible movie. "Ok now Tommy, over take us and punch it." Running through the gears and the R18 concept was just getting more and more fun. We were chasing each other through the back country of Stuttgart and it honestly felt like something out of the movies... maybe because it basically was. I can still feel the big boxer motor pulling through the turns an upshifting into the higher gears into the straight aways.
The sun was almost down and myself and the crew were waiting at the very most southern point of our two landed closed road when over the mic I hear "ok guys lets get that martini shot" and this was by far one of my most favorite scenes from the whole shoot - not because it was the last take of the day and overall production - but because of what happened next both on screen and off. We took off into the now dusk covered woods, with rolling hills and open fields of windmills. Headlights were on, the wooded area had a small layer of fog rolling in, the camera truck out front then broke to the left to capture us weaving through the tree lined road and into the snake turns of the country road. To our left the sun was now cresting behind the hills and the amber colored hills were outlined in the most perfect colors. It was the martini shot. We rode towards the hills and the crew came over the mic again "ok guys we are not stopping, we are heading straight to the staging point for the final capture." I looked out to the left and the rest of the crew parked at the end of a country road a few yards past a massive windmill base. We pulled up and I parked the concept bike beneath this giant windmill in the middle a field in Germany and it was the picture perfect ending to this wild ride. The R18 Concept shoot was a wrap and it couldn't have ended any better. We got the last light and the ride to get there was perfect. It is something I call a "Unicorn Moment" when everything just lines up perfectly.
The production went perfectly, the scenes were epic, the bike far exceeded my expectations and honestly the crew and I now call each other friends.
The R18 concept project changed my life, and this project was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm grateful to have gotten to be a part of this production and for what was still yet to come (stay tuned). At this time I had no idea there was more in the pipeline for this project but I was just excited to have been able to say yes and push myself outside my comfort zone for it. We did a small interview segment during one of our shooting days where we talked about my background a little bit, my history around bikes, my up bringing and things that inspired me. That segment along with getting to know the team was just the beginning of an awesome look into the past and present about telling the story that was to come about bringing this concept bike to reality with the series "A Bavarian Soul Story." I'll touch upon that story line in later blog posts, but for now take a look at the video below that is the first look at the BMW R18 Concept and final version of the back story from above. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave your comments below!!