Dear Rider | The Jake Burton Carpenter Documentary

The documentary on the late Jake Burton Carpenter

In the age of unlimited content at the click of a button, global sales and superhuman spectacles of athletic performance on every refresh of your social media feed, it’s often hard to see past the faceless identity of a brand. It’s perhaps never truer in the case of snowboarding behemoth Burton. We’ve become so familiar with the Big B’s success and dominance in the industry that it’s easy to overlook the man who made it all possible in the first place.

“It’s a deep dive into the history of snowboarding combined with personal interviews with members of Jake’s family and friends”

Jake Burton Carpenter was a pioneer and a businessman, and arguably the ‘Godfather’ of snowboarding, helping shape it into the sport it is today. But, beyond that, he was a husband, a father, a friend, and an obsessive snowboarder, loved by many.

Dear Rider is an intimate and revealing documentary on who Jake really was. It’s a deep dive into the history of snowboarding combined with personal interviews with members of Jake’s family and friends, and with some pretty personal and, at times, even critical observations from those who knew Jake best. Dear Rider pays homage to Burton in an honest, moving and powerful film.

Jake in 1989.

We sat down with George Burton (Jake’s oldest son and executive producer of the film), Emmy®-winning director Fernando Villena and producer Ben Bryan to hear the real journey behind the film.

“It was a different film when Jake was alive,” Fernando opens up the conversation. The team had been working with the idea of making a Jake Burton documentary since 2018, with Jake then being very much involved in the planning of it.

Jake and Craig Kelly at US Open in 1988.

Committing to a documentary that showcases an entire life and career isn’t something you take on easily and initially Jake had his own reservations about how the film would be perceived. But as producer Ben Bryan explained to us, “Once Jake decided to do something he was all in. He was writing, he was showing us all his home video footage, taking us through his basement and all his original documents, all these slides that never had been developed.” Ben thinks back to how it all first started to come together. “He was in the process of making it in the beginning but then obviously, things changed…”

“Once Jake decided to do something he was all in”

Jake in 1981.

“His DNA is in the film so I worked off of what was already there”, Fernando tells us. Jake’s sudden passing and the outburst of the global pandemic forced the team to take a different approach to the project. “We had to craft a new idea, one based on archives and interviews. It was always meant to be archive heavy but not all archive. So, prioritise shifted and resources shifted. Luckily, there was an amazing archive, both the snowboarding archive and also his personal archive.”

Executive producer, and Jake’s first-born George, became the buffer between the family and the production team. “Everything went through him as far as the family was concerned,” Fernando tells us. “He was very engaged and very supportive. We got into some topics that don’t necessarily put Jake in the best light but he [Geroge] said to just keep going in that direction. He was really instrumental in giving us the space and freedom to explore and to get to the truth because people can smell bullshit. So we just got to dig and dig and dig and George was very supportive and didn’t shy away from any of it.”

“His DNA is in the film so I worked off of what was already there”

Ben continues telling us about George’s involvement in the process, “He really picked up where it left off. Jake was clear that he wanted the project to continue and Donna supported that even though that was an incredibly tough time for them, having Jake pass so suddenly, and just to keep on going because Jake was so passionate about it.”

Jake Burton and Shaun White at US Open.

“I watched a bunch of raw cuts and not really being a filmmaker I also had a lot of trust in the crew. They needed someone from the family to kind of ok things and make sure they weren’t overstepping boundaries or stepping on any toes that my dad would have called out.” George explains.

For George, the beauty of Dear Rider is that you don’t necessarily have to be a snowboarder to appreciate it, “Watching this film awakens your spirit, living life to the fullest and following your passion, trusting in your community and your family but be able to overcome hardships. I think it really awakens you as a person and motivates you to live a life full of passion, which is also authentically you. There’s no pretending.”

Jake Burton at Baldface

He continues, “A lot of snowboarders didn’t really know the history behind Burton at all so it’s good if it kind of gives you this rich, detailed history of what happened. It’s good to know where we came from in order to know where we are going.”

“If you’re only telling one side or painting a pretty picture, that’s when people smell bullshit”

Fernando thinks back to the beginning of the process, “Jake’s desire was to make a movie that didn’t upset the core, I was like what does that even mean at first, but how I interpreted that was don’t bullshit anybody. If you’re only telling one side or painting a pretty picture, that’s when people smell bullshit. I wanted to tell the story, Jake thinking Alpine was the future of the sport, which it clearly wasn’t, but his resiliency and his love for the riders and willingness to change the course and to improvise and find the smartest person in the room and listen to them.”

Jake in 1981.

Dear Rider, is an authentic watch, and we’re not the only ones who rate it. Fernando Villena has really managed to capture the human story here, making the 1,5h documentary go by so fast. “He really dug into the human elements of the human story. He was being very specific in what he was looking for which made it really relatable.” George on Fernando as a director.

“He really dug into the human elements of the human story”

When Fernando sent through the final cut to Donna, Jake’s wife, she texted him back saying, “I saw it twice and I felt like he was sitting next to me”.

Snowboarders taking over the US Open halfpipe and fly high during the mens halfpipe finals in Vail, CO on February 27, 2020. Ride on Jake.

In order to put it all together, Fernando collected 41 sources of Jake’s interviews from four different decades audio tapes no one had heard of, resources from mainstream media outlets and anything else they could get their hands on. He then used the material to craft Jake’s way of telling his own story and get to the heart of who Jake was as a human. Quoting Ben, the producer, “It’s a combination of people who love and care about snowboarding, people who care about telling an authentic human story, and putting that together, that’s the magic of Dear Rider. I think the film will bring people back into the sport, remember their early love for snowboarding and attract new people.”

Dear Rider is now available to watch in the UK by Amazon Prime.


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