Dust 2 Glory: The Dana Brown Interview

Dana Brown’s Dust 2 Glory roars into theaters nationwide for a one-night-only showing December 6. Read our exclusive interview with the man behind the film.

Some 13 years after the classic Baja 1000 off-road documentary, Dust To Glory, acclaimed filmmaker Dana Brown is a it again with his latest project, Dust 2 Glory.

Dust 2 Glory
Filmmaker Dana Brown (center) worked with a small but talented crew to capture his latest Baja racing epic, Dust 2 Glory. The film will premiere in theaters nationwide on December 6.

It’s not a remake. It’s not a sequel. But it is an epic glimpse into the passion and brotherhood that unites the brave souls who risk life and limb to compete in one of the oldest and grandest forms of motorsports, off-road racing on the Baja California Peninsula.

In an unprecedented release, Dust 2 Glory will hit theaters nationwide on December 6 for a one-night-only, one-time run coordinated by Fathom Events. You can click on the link here to find out where it is showing near you and purchase tickets to see it. The thing is, if you don’t catch the film on December 6, then you may have to wait a long time before it is available on DVD, making it worthwhile to make the effort to view Brown’s latest Baja epic in its rightful setting, on the big screen.

DirtBikes.com sat down with Brown to discuss Dust 2 Glory, a fascinating work of which he is justifiably proud. In fact, Brown isn’t afraid to claim that it might be the best he has ever done as a director. Produced in conjunction with iconic Baja sanctioning body score, Dust 2 Glory is more than just a film about the competition that takes place in Baja. It’s a true human tale of the triumphs, tribulations and sadly, the tragedies experienced by those who put it all on the line to contest the SCORE Desert World Championship during the 2016 racing season. It’s not just a racing film. It’s a people film. Brown wouldn’t have it any other way.

DirtBikes.com: Congratulations on the completion of Dust 2 Glory. How many feature films that have been released in theaters does that make for you now?

Dana Brown: About a 140… [laughs]. Actually, this is five, I guess. Let’s see, Step Into Liquid, Dust to Glory, High Water, On Any Sunday, the Next Chapter, and now this one.

Dust 2 GloryDirtBikes.com: But what is it about the Baja racing scene that made you decide you wanted to do a second film, Dust 2 Glory?

Dana Brown: Baja is such a big canvas that you can only paint on part of it. You could make a film about that racing every year, and every year it would be different—different characters and different emotions. It’s way bigger than any one movie can really cover, so it seemed like a natural thing to do it again, knowing that I wouldn’t be repeating myself.

DirtBikes.com: It’s hard to believe that it has been 13 years between Dust To Glory and Dust 2 Glory

Dana Brown: Yeah, kind of. The older you get, the more time flies by, and you move on to other things, but what was really hard for me to believe was that when I did go back down there, to see just how important the first one was to people. It was really surprising. I mean, I knew that people liked it, but I didn’t know that they liked it that much and how much of an impact it had with that community. It made me want to be sure that we did a really good job we did on this one.

DirtBikes.com: That’s true. We know of people who got involved in racing in Baja just because they saw the original Dust To Glory, and it made them want to give it a go.

Dana Brown: Yeah. I’ve had people come up to me and say that I cost them money. [laughs] They say, “Dana Brown, you cost me money, because I saw the movie!” I’ve heard that a lot. You know that racing down there is not the most inexpensive thing to get involved in. Nobody’s really mad at me, though.

DirtBikes.com: You mentioned not repeating yourself. Dust 2 Glory truly doesn’t come off as a remake or a sequel to us. It’s like an entirely different film. The first one was more of a “Heroes of Baja,” documentary, focusing on legends and the top racers in the class. Dust 2 Glory comes off to us as way more blue collar, more about the “Joe Everyman” who spends most of his paycheck and puts in tons of hours just to make the Baja 1000 or maybe race the whole SCORE Desert World Championship.

Dana Brown: I think that’s right. When we did the first one, we only had two months of prep time, and when you go down there that’s who you see and who people push you toward, the big-buck guys with their shiny objects, which is great. They’re great people. But then you experience it and you notice all of the other stories that you didn’t get to film. With Dust 2 Glory, that was the point, to introduce the audience to all of the surrounding stuff as well as the shiny objects. That was how I figured it would be easy to do something different and yet still have it be as interesting as doing one with the fast guys. There’s such a unique thing with that race where the slow guys are just as interesting as the fast guys.

DirtBikes.com: And this time you actually got to experience a little of the dust yourself by racing with one of the teams in a Volkswagen.

Dana Brown: Yes, I did. I just sat in the co-pilot seat for 80 miles with Eric Solorzano. He kind of duped me into that. [laughs] I had a great time. It was just 80 miles, but it was unbelievable. If you’ve never done it, you really should because it’s crazy what you see out there, fans covered in dust and having a great time. I was just watching them and filming a little bit. The racing down there really is one of a kind, and that’s what makes it evergreen.

Dust 2 Glory
Brown and company film a segment for Dust 2 Glory. The movie covers the entire 2016 SCORE Desert World Championship season.

DirtBikes.com: One of the major challenges with this film that was different than the first one was that in the Dust To Glory you focused only on one race, the Baja 1000. This time around you covered all of the races that make up the SCORE Desert World Championship, including the 2016 Baja 1000.

Dana Brown: And we had a much smaller crew and about the same amount of money to do it. [laughs] But the thought was that this time we would be able to get to really know the people. That’s how we did it, by covering the whole season, and it worked out well. By the time the 1000 came around, we really had access to everybody, and their stories all came together. We weren’t just invested in a few people this time. But I didn’t look at it as a problem of having too much content, and we didn’t end up repeating ourselves. What’s really interesting is that stuff that so many people think is boring in their lives can be really fascinating, and I think that really comes through in Dust 2 Glory. It was really lovely to have the time to experience all of that. I think that’s what makes this film different. It has a lot more depth.

DirtBikes.com: What stands out to you with the regard to the motorcycle segments in Dust 2 Glory? You focused on the Ironman class, which was interesting, but to have to deal with the deaths of motorcycle racers Travis Livingston and Warrior Built team rider Noah Evermann at the 2016 Baja 500 had to be a tough thing. You’d be remiss not to include their stories, but at the same time the challenge is to treat it with the proper perspective.

Dana Brown: Yes, and not so much. When we first announced that we were doing the film at the Off-Road Expo in Pomona, the Warrior Built guys had a booth. I didn’t know anything about them. I was like, “Really? You guys race this thing?” And they said, “Yeah.” They all had their prosthetics on and everything. So we started following them at the start of the season, and then that [accident] happened to them at the Baja 500, and we thought that would be it, that we wouldn’t see them again. But then they came right back for the Baja 1000. They’re just amazing people. Honestly, everything you’d want the military to be is embodied in those guys. I don’t know how they were able to keep smiling all the time. I’d probably be bitter. We couldn’t talk to them for 20 seconds and not realize that we had to tell their story, but then the way it unfolded, it was really a “wow” moment for us.

But I don’t think I make anyone out to be a bigger hero than they are—except for maybe Ricky Johnson. I try to help him out [laughs]. Those Warrior Built guys just really are that big.

Dust 2 Glory
In Dust 2 Glory, Brown (kneeling, center) tells the tragic and triumphant story of the Warrior Built motorcycle racing team, a group of wounded combat veterans with a passion for racing in Baja. It’s one of many story lines in the film.

DirtBikes.com: You worked with Carlin Dunne again, and fans of On Any Sunday, the Next Chapter might well remember him. He came off as Superman in that film, but he was more Clark Kent in Dust 2 Glory.

Dana Brown: Yeah, which was great. I mean, not for Carlin, but… When he told me that he wanted to do the Baja 1000 in the Ironman class, I knew we were going to follow him. He’s just a good dude with such a great story. Plus, I think the concept of the Ironman class is probably the easiest thing for people not familiar with that racing to understand—one man, one motorcycle. It’s a compelling story, and Carlin just happened to get sick and pull out, but it works. I think it was good to see that he’s not Superman.

DirtBikes.com: It’s like you said, as a storyteller, you can’t go wrong in Baja.

Dana Brown: Right. You don’t have to juice anything up or cover anything up. You just have to say what you saw. There’s just something about that place that will always be wide open and wild.

DirtBikes.com: It seems like there is always that one take-away in these projects where you can say that that one thing made the whole effort worth it. Can you share one from Dust 2 Glory?

Dana Brown: I’m repeating myself, but just getting to know the people in the film. The humanity of that race and that experience, even when you’re down there just filming it, it’s like you’re part of a family. I don’t know how to explain it. There’s something about people with a shared passion that overcomes money, overcomes race, all of it. Everyone down there is involved, and all of the bullshit that everyone thinks is super-important elsewhere just falls away.

Dust 2 Glory
Brown and crew interview Ironman motorcycle racer Carlin Dunne, who was a star in one of Brown’s previous films, On Any Sunday, the Next Chapter.

DirtBikes.com: You’ve had a few pre-screenings of Dust 2 Glory, and the feedback has been pretty good?

Dana Brown: So far, and I’m really happy with that. I knew I couldn’t go back and just redo what we did with the first one, so to have people tell me they like this one better than the first one is gratifying.

DirtBikes.com: And now the big Dust 2 Glory premiere happens on December 6. It’s going to be quite different than the usual movie premier. Tell us about it.

Dana Brown: On December 6, the movie premiers in 600 theaters across the country, through Fathom Events. It will play at 7:30 p.m., no matter what time zone you’re in, and it plays just for that one time. If everyone shows up, they’ll play it again a week later, and if that goes well then it will be get a regular run. It’s neat because it kind of goes back to the way my dad did it with his surf movies, where he four-walled it [renting the theater space and having viewers come to see it]. In this case, we’re four-walling it 600 times at once. If the tribe comes out to see it, then the word will get out. This fits financially. Phantom Events does a lot of one-off screenings. It’s unconventional, but I think it’s the way to go. People can just go on fathomevents.com and enter their zip code to find out where it is showing near them, and they can buy tickets through the website as well.

Dust 2 Glory

DirtBikes.com: Filmmaking is a birthing process, and it seems like whenever someone puts out a film, they are asked what they’re going to work on next. So… What are you going to work on next?

Dana Brown: [Laughs] Right now, I’m just hoping that December 6 works out because that could open up a lot of opportunities. If Wednesday works out well, then I’m a hero, and if it doesn’t, I’m an idiot. Actually, this is my worst time, right now. I love working on films, and I’d much rather be doing that than worrying about things that are out of my control. I just hope people get out and see it. If they think it sucks, well, I can deal with that, but if they don’t get to see it, that would be a bummer.

DirtBikes.com: Could you ever see yourself going back to Baja to do a third film?

Dana Brown: Sure. It would depend on if we had the right people and the right story or stories. I love Baja, and I’d love to do it, but I will say this: I’m really proud of Dust To Glory and Dust 2 Glory, but if we ever do another one, I think we retire the name. [laughs]