The John Penton story is an American story about family, competition, ingenuity and entrepreneurship that everyone will appreciate.
John Penton and his brothers ran a motorcycle shop in Amherst, OH while they competed in off-road motorcycle races called enduros. John was a championship rider as well as fabricator and mechanic. He soon realized the heavy machines like the Harley’s, BSA’s and Triumph’s they all were riding could be beaten by smaller, lightweight bikes, a revolutionary idea at the time. He utilized the German built NSU and BMW motorcycles as the basis for his competitive bikes. In the 60s, he served as the eastern distributor of the Swedish brand Husqvarna, a motorcycle that revolutionized the sports of motocross, enduro and desert racing in the U.S. When his attempts to convince Husky to produce a smaller, lighter motorcycle fell on deaf ears, Penton created his own design and commissioned KTM, a small moped and bicycle maker in Austria, to build it. The motorcycle was an instant success in off-road competition and led KTM to expand its efforts in the motorcycle realm, initially in conjunction with Penton and ultimately on its own. Today, KTM is the largest manufacturer of motorcycles outside of Japan and winning championships around the world.
John Penton’s personal life was filled with triumph and tragedy. He had three sons with his first wife, Katherine, who contracted multiple sclerosis and died at the age of 29. His siblings helped the emotionally shattered Penton with his three young sons while he tried to work and chase for the national enduro championship in 1958, riding his competition bike to events all across the eastern U.S. and Canada and winning numerous ones. Afterwards, he toured Mexico alone on his motorcycle. Upon his return to Ohio, he was challenged by his brother Ted to break the record for transcontinental travel held by the legendary Cannonball Baker. In the spring of 1959, Penton successfully took up that challenge and became a motorcycling legend himself.
In the 60s, Penton forayed into the international arena, competing for the U.S. in the International Six Days Trial, the Olympics of off-road motorcycling, numerous times. It was his trips to Europe to compete that planted the seeds of his desire to build a better motorcycle, one that would help young Americans develop their skills to compete on the international stage. Ultimately, his own sons and nephews became some of the finest off-road riders America has ever seen, on motorcycles designed by their father and uncle.
There is so much to talk about with John Penton himself that we suggest everyone clicks on the American Motorcycle Association's Hall of Fame website to learn about this incredible man and his family's story:
Now the film project:
After reading Ed Youngblood’s book “John Penton and the Off-Road Motorcycle Revolution” in 2007, renowned motorcycle biography director Todd Huffman (The Motocross Files-Speed, Legends of Supercross-CBS, The Carlsbad USGP:1980, One Chance to Win, and Bob Hannah's 1981 Massacre at Saddleback) thought there was a story to be told there. In June of 2007, on location to shoot interviews in Michigan for The Motocross Files, Todd and accomplished Director of Photography, Michael Graber, went to Amherst, OH to at least get “John Penton on tape”. Two days and seven hours worth of HD tape later, Todd and Michael had John and Jack Penton as well as nephew, the late Dane Leimbach, on tape.
Fast-forward to the fall of 2010 when Penton enthusiast Jack Martin contacted Todd to suggest a film project about John Penton’s life. After reading Youngblood’s book in 2000, Martin had also come to believe that a documentary of John Penton’s championship enduro career, his development of the Penton motorcycle line and the tremendous effect that had on the sport of off-road motorcycling would be a wonderful demonstration of American ingenuity, entrepreneurship and family values. Martin contacted Huffman about a potential film and suggested that Lyle Lovett narrate the film since he had competed on Pentons as a teenager and remained a motorcycle and Penton fan. Todd contacted Motorcycle Hall of Famer, Mark Blackwell who is personal friends with Lyle who said he’d “be honored to be the voice of the film” since as a 14-year-old boy, Mr. Lovett worked sweeping floors at a Penton dealer in Texas.
By November of 2010 PDM, along with supporters and fans of John Penton, had produced a teaser to generate interest, complete with Lyle Lovett voice-over and music. It’s time to finish the project (again)
This project was originally on Kickstarter for 30 days in June of 2012 and at the time we were needing to raise $275,000 to cover the cost of the film ($200,000), Kickstarter and Amazon fees ($27,500) and fulfillment costs for back rewards (estimated south of $50,000). Since we are now here, it's obvious that we were not successful with the complete funding but we did have $75,000 in pledges most coming at the very end. Everyone said we should have had more time...hence 60 days on this campaign.
What the first project did do is raise great awareness for the project in the motorcycle industry with media appearances by Lyle Lovett several times as well as filmmaker Todd Huffman.
We also decided that we can lower the Kickstarter campaign costs by looking hard at the budget and only raising funds for outta pockets costs on the production and parts of post-production. Travel costs, equipment rentals, freelance camera and audio crews, animated graphics vendors, etc. We also realize (and have experience with other projects) that there will be "sponsors" of the project once it is underway who will want their company associated with the film and pay for the privilege. This will allow us to complete the film on time and on budget with a lower Kickstarter.com campaign this go round.
We will use all the media clips from the last campaign as well as some teaser clips from the John and Jack Penton interviews to build on the new awareness and momentum. Also, we will have a coordinated "Evangelist" effort with key influencers for the project in motorcycle shops, clubs, companies, Facebook Groups, etc. so everyone will be spreading the word of this important story.
The plan now is to get into production the spring and summer of 2013 traveling back east for interviews with Penton family, friends and enthusiasts. Also, there will be a 10-day shooting trip to Europe including Austria (where Penton's were made by KTM), Italy (where Penton’s line of Hi-Point competition clothing was made by Alpinestars) and England, Germany, Sweden, etc. where longtime Penton customers and competitors will be interviewed. Both John and Jack Penton may accompany the production to Europe to see some of their old friends. We plan on capturing those moments on film when they happen.
Approximately 50 interviews will be involved with the production.
In late 2013 the post-production process will begin and will involve more pick-up interviews and re-creation shooting to fill holes in the story. More editing, music and effects will be undertaken through the spring and summer to get the film ready for a fall release on DVD and digital downloads. A premiere will be possible in the spring of 2014 or perhaps in time for the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days event at the end of July in Mid-Ohio.
If you're a motorcycle or dirt bike fan in the US or around the globe, or you just love a great story about American spirit, tenacity and ingenuity, then you can be proud of having been a part of bringing this project to life.
Give the gift of supporting “The John Penton Story”!
Also, if we reach our goal before Christmas, we will send all backers a PDF “Certificate of Support” in their name with their Backer level and rewards they will ultimately receive. This can be printed out and used as a great stocking stuffer or other gift idea this holiday season.
Thank you for supporting this project being part of bringing John and his family's phenomenal American story to life.
Risks and challenges
As with any creative (and manufacturing i.e. DVD/BluRay production) project there are always the potential for delays. With this project we could anticipate delays with:
• Key interview subjects not being available in time to shoot before final editing begins.
• Third party vendors like graphic artists, animators, music licenses, DVD authoring, etc.
• DVD/BluRay manufacturing delays with equipment, personnel, etc. beyond the filmmaker's control
• Additional reward item suppliers like poster artist, giclee printers, book suppliers, etc. having delays beyond the control of the filmmakers.
All of the above (and possibly others unforeseen) could inhibit rewards from being sent out by projected date (June-2014)
But these risks and challenges should be minimized because of our proven track record with completing high-profile motorcycle documentary projects for Speed TV, Feld Motor Sports / CBS and our own projects that have sponsor obligations tied to them.
We have quality, capable vendors and resources that we have worked with a long time and they understand our needs, quality and deadlines.
There is enough time planned that in case an interview subject is unavailable we can reschedule or use a different resource.
There is very little that can keep this from being completed on time for everyone to enjoy and receive their rewards.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)