My interview with the directors of Freeload Daniel Skaggs and Ryan Seitz.
Can you introduce yourself to the readers?
We are Highway Goat Productions based out of Montana, USA
Can you tell us a bit about Freeload?
Ryan – Freeload was our debut feature-length documentary film. Director, Daniel Skaggs had hopped trains and traversed the country for many years before this project came to fruition. We met while Editor Mather McKallor and myself were finishing film school. He mentioned that he desired to show folks the world of train hoppers and we dove right in.
How long have you been making films for?
Ryan – Highway Goat has been making films for 5 years.
Is train hopping something you’ve had experience with in the past?
Ryan – Yes, Daniel had spent several years riding the rails before we began filming.
How did you meet the characters of Freeload?
Daniel – I approached train riders on the streets and outside of freight yards. He walked right up to different riders and told them about the project. They either said yes or no at that point.
You were with them for over a year. I felt like I could have spent a lot more time watching Freeload. Why did you edit down to just over an hour?
Ryan – Filming for 18 months did produce a great deal of footage. With the interweaving plots and constant movement across the nation, it was our primary goal to create a film that flowed and held intrigue. I would rather leave the audience wanting more instead of over indulging.
Did you encounter any problems with law enforcement while filming?
Ryan – Big Dan T. (Daniel Skaggs) encountered many problems with law enforcement while filming. He was pulled off trains by police and spent the occasional night in jail. Riding trains is dangerous and shunned by the authorities.
Can you provide an update on any of the characters?
Daniel – Most of the characters are alive and well, but not all of them. Ponyboy just got shot in the ass a couple days ago while trying to steal beer. Blackbird is holed up in the mountains with his girlfriend. Xmas and Skrappe are still around. Dice has since lost an arm and leg to a train. Hotbox, a minor character, was run over and killed by a train two summers ago.
Were there any characters that were originally supposed to be in the final cut but chose not to? If so what was the reason?
Ryan – The main subjects of FREELOAD are the ones that Daniel spent most of his time with. He travelled with these guys for 18 months off and on.
For me the documentary was very informative. What were the main lessons you took away from spending so much time with the characters?
Daniel – Life on the road is hard. The lifestyle is psychologically unhealthy and the environmental conditions are always changing. Alcohol and drug addiction is rampant. You are constantly looking for food, water and a place to sleep, while also dodging police. Trains are giant hunks of steel that feel no emotion, they don’t know life or death. Riding trains is very dangerous and should not be taken lightly. But for me, it’s the greatest feeling in the world; the best orgasm you’ll ever have is on a train.
What are some of your favourite documentaries?
“Vernon Florida” by Errol Morris, “Sweetgrass” by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Ilisa Barbash, “Rich Hill” by Tracy Droz Tragos, Andrew Droz Palermo – These films are true “slice of life” movies that are HUGE inspirations for us and the types of stories we strive to tell.
What is your favourite film?
This is a tough one… As I primarily watch documentaries, probably something from the list above…
What is your favourite mode of transport?
That would have to be by car… We spend a lot of time driving across country and its such a great way to find yourself in the strangest of places.
Favourite travel destination?
PLANET EARTH is our favorite travel destination!
What is your next project?
We are currently in post production for our next film “Skips Stones for Fudge”. It follows the lives of competitive stone-skippers! More info can be found at our website: www.highwaygoat.com