by Ad Wasey
June 11th, 2010

Biker Fox and director Jeremy Lamberton will be in attendance at the Friday night screening of “Biker Fox”. Buy tickets now!

Read the Rooftop Films preview of “Biker Fox”.

There’s no one way to describe Biker Fox aka Frank DeLarzelere III, the titular character of Jeremy Lamberton’s documentary, but Biker Fox does his best when confronted by a Tulsa County zoning official:

“I’m 50. I do a front flip on a bicycle.”

Of course, Biker Fox is much more than a performer on a bicycle. He deals muscle car parts out of his home (the no-no that prompted the zoning official’s visit), he rides dozens of miles daily as part of an intense fitness regimen, he’s an undiscovered self-help guru, and he’s an avid hand-feeder of raccoons (“You’re biting my finger, dude! What’s wrong with you, dude!”).

I talked with “Biker Fox” director/co-producer Jeremy Lamberton ahead of the Rooftop screening.

Rooftop Films: Tell us about the film for someone who’s just finding out about it for the first time on our blog.

Jeremy Lamberton, “Biker Fox”: The movie is the story of Biker Fox, health advocate, muscle parts guru, nature conservationist and quasi street perfromer. The story focuses on the dichotomy of his two personalities, Biker Fox and Frank DeLarzelere III, and how he struggles with them on a daily basis. I like to think of him like, what if the Wild Child grew up and learned English and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, next to some woods. That’s what he’s like. He’s part wild animal.

RF: His name is Biker Fox. Legally, he’s Biker Fox.

JL: I call him Biker, I never call him Frank. First of all, it’s not his name, and I don’t like to destroy the illusion of the character. It’s also more fun that way. Like code names.

RF: If we talk about one of his quirks, it has to be the screaming. It’s iconic. What’s the story of the Biker Fox Scream?

JL: He calls it the Biker Fox Growl. It’s part of his shtick. There’s a tape where he’s practicing it, an hour of him, zoomed in, just practicing that scream. He’s definitely taken a lot of his personality from the raccoons. The raccoons are constantly fighting, screaming and making crazy noises. I don’t know if it’s because he’s spending too much time with them, but I know he has a very intense, very powerful feeling about life and I think that at times it just explodes out of him.

RF: It’s electric and it’s one of his appeals when you see him in videos on his website, online and in the documentary. He’s popular, but yet to break out online like, say, “Winnebago Man,” but what’s the reaction been in Tulsa?

JL: He’s big-time famous here. He’s a real-deal celebrity. When he goes out, he gets swamped and people crowd around and take pictures. It’s crazy.

People say they don’t like him, but they still go [online] and watch! People seem to really like him or they seem to really not like him. And that’s what I liked about his character.

RF: But he’s not just a subject for you. You became close friends with Biker Fox are still are. How did the relationship come to be?

JL: I was driving around in South Tulsa (in the Summer of 2006), which is the part of town that he rides his bike, and I saw this pretentious-looking guy with arty glasses, shaking his ass at me, shaking his ass at other cars. I cut him off at a Taco Bueno parking lot next to a bowling alley and said, “Who are you? What are you doing?” He freaked me out, but at the same time I wanted to get to know him better.

I invited him to announce the kickoff of the Tulsa Overground Film Festival (a festival Lamberton co-founded with “The Apparition” writer/director Todd Lincoln, but which has been on hold as they worked on making films). It was a huge hit and we became friends from that.

And we were both doing similar experiments. I would go out with my video camera and take an extension cord 100 feet into the woods and a little work light hanging from a tree and put a camera on a tripod. One night I’d put pizza, one night I’d put cupcakes, one night I’d do Cheerios and see what kind of animals would come out of the dark and eat these things. To find someone that has these similar obsessions, doing similar experiments, was like meeting your twin brother.

RF: He’s very outgoing — or at least the character Biker Fox is. But you wanted to reveal the other side, the man who has run ins with the law and has difficulty taking his own advice to “be the light” that others admire. How did you manage to capture any reality when the record button is like his own ‘on’ switch?

JL: When the camera’s rolling, he feels like he needs to entertain all the time. He turns into Biker Fox, the character. Trying to get good footage of Biker Fox is like getting good wildlife footage. You have to hide in the woods and wait for hours just to get 30 seconds. I got sick of that. We were trying to make a documentary at this point. I just decided, “Biker, don’t call me to come over. I’ll call you and remind you to set up the camera. And while you’re working tomorrow, shoot at least a tape. While you’re exercising on your bike, take your helmet cam with you. When you’re feeding your raccoons, turn your camera on. When you’re eating a sandwich, turn your camera on.” Getting him to shoot the footage was the only way we could really get him to act naturally, rather than always be on. He could turn on the camera and be natural because he forgets about it. He completely forgets about it for 15 minutes — he’s thinking about his business, wanting to exercise, not eating — and then he’ll go back [to being Biker Fox]. We used his ADD to our advantage.

RF: But then you’d have even more tape, most of it being completely unusable, I’d assume.

JL: I would pick up ten tapes a week. Or more. Sometimes twenty. And I’d go through every second of it. You’ve got watch everything, because in an hour-long tape, there might be 30 seconds of good video — but that could be 30 seconds of the movie.

RF: And he came to you with some tape already shot as well?

JL: He’s been wanting to make this movie since 2000. [There was] ten years worth of footage he’d already shot. I think there was 500-600 hours of footage before I even started. Three hundred of that was just him feeding raccoons. He gained their trust to the point that by the end of the movie, they’re in his house, sitting on his lap, letting him pet them.

RF: “There’s just something about feeding wild animals by hand. It’s a very special gift that Biker Fox has.”

JL: He’s narrating his own movie. He’s shooting most of his own movie. I would say he shot 80 percent of the movie. We didn’t know if it was going to be 5-second or 2-minute or 5-minute clips of wild, psychedelic nonsense. We didn’t know.

RF: Many of those clips, with Biker Fox against a green screen in his home also appear in the documentary. How did you start thinking about converting these hundreds of hours of tapes into a documentary that had a story or anything resembling a narrative throughline, instead of some YouTube clips that would get a laugh and that you might be able to screen at a short film festival?

JL: It’s a funny shtick, but I don’t think it’s worthy of a movie. It took a while to figure out what the story was going to be, because most of the video was of him screaming, or 300 hours of him feeding raccoons at night, or him working in his shop, working on a grille or a bumper. And all of a sudden, there’s a flash of a possum and a weed wacker and some 85-year-old woman all in a row like some experimental film and it would go right back to what it was. It wasn’t until I got to know him, and watched all these tapes of the character behind the character, that I really became interested. It wasn’t until he was getting in trouble with the law — he was charged with three felonies within a year — that it kept intensifying the story. Trouble was finding him, and that’s when I realized, this could be a documentary.

Biker Fox fights back and I like that about him. He goes too far sometimes, but it’s good for the storytelling.

RF: In telling his story, there are a number of filmmaking devices you could’ve used to create this documentary portrait — you could’ve interviewed his employees, customers, friends, fans, accusers, experts, media… but you’re not doing any of that here.

JL: We didn’t want anyone sitting in chairs talking about Biker Fox. We didn’t want Biker Fox sitting in a chair talking about Biker Fox. If you’re making a movie about someone, then you should make it as much like that character, and even at times, taking my style, my preferences out of it, to benefit the story being most like Biker Fox, the character.

RF: You handed over a lot of control to Biker Fox with him shooting the majority of the movie himself. What did you think of his footage, as someone who has studied film and photography.

JL: Someone with a trained eye might think, “Oh, I’ve seen this before, I’ll frame it like this.” Or, “It’s cooler to have to have it off to the left” but he wasn’t thinking about that. He was just setting up the camera, and if it looked alright, he was OK with it. If I was shooting, I would just try to set up the camera, make sure he was kind of in the frame and I’d hit record. It was a return to an amateur approach to cinematography. We’re using cameras from Hi-8 video to high-definition and everything in between. And some of his tapes were copies, and copies of copies, and we didn’t have any hang-ups about needing this to be all high-definition. That added to the character of the movie.

RF: Your film played at Slamdance earlier this year and I know you’re looking for distribution, most importantly to mass-produce the 300-hour box set of Biker Fox feeding raccoons, but what’s next?

JL: I’m developing a documentary about the sport of racing pigeons. My dad breeds and flies racing pigeons in Tulsa. It’s a very weird niche with a lot of characters in it and a lot of room for cool photography. I really want my next project to be narrative and I’m working on a couple of scripts. But [the documentary] is much more immediate.

RF: And until then, you’re continuing to go to festivals with “Biker Fox”?

JL: I had to get in to Rooftop. This was the one on my list. Rooftop Films really gets it. I’ve been to every major city in the United States, never been to New York. This is going to be my first time and I’m really psyched.

Buy tickets for Friday’s screening of “Biker Fox” and follow @RooftopFilms on Twitter.


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One Response to “Filmmaker Interview: “Biker Fox””

  1. jim says:

    the same Bikerfox who as Frank DeLarzelere back in the day claimed to be supporting the troops while grossly overcharging them for his auto parts.
    Yeah I’m really interested in seeing a movie ab out an old man with the mentality of middle school slacker who thinks he doesn’t have to follow the rules.

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.


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