“Biker Boyz” got its start and its name nearly three years ago when Michael Gougis, a freelance journalist writing for the now-defunct Los Angeles New Times, stepped into the world of African-American motorcycle clubs in Southern California. The “Biker Boyz” feature was an in-depth tour of a seldom-seen world, guided by Manuel Galloway—a motorcycle racer ironically known in the streets as Pokey—who is one of the fastest men on the scene. Pokey granted Gougis, an outsider, unprecedented access to gatherings of hundreds of bikers and their rides, from Japanese sport bikes, to chromed-out American cruisers, to huge cruisers with nearly all the accoutrements of a passenger car. The bikes highlighted in the article were stretched-out, lowered and nitrous-oxide enhanced drag cycles like the one ridden by Pokey at triple-digit speeds in dangerous surface-street races.
More impressive than the detailed descriptions of motorcycle races were the article’s well-crafted studies of the men riding the bikes and the motorcycle culture to which they subscribed. Populated by both blue-and white-collar workers, predominantly Black motorcycle clubs were described in the article as having more in common with the Rotary Club than the Hell’s Angels; organizations with rules and codes that serve as a sort of fraternal order. Prospective members are brought in by a sponsor and are expected to represent their brothers well whenever wearing the club’s insignia, or “colors,” in public.
Gougis expounds, “This is a whole society that revolves around the motorcycle. These people build bikes, they reengineer them, they race them, they ride them, they get together with other people who ride... It is a world that nobody on the outside of it knows about, that nobody outside of it wants to know about. It is completely self-sufficient. It survives on its own and once you’re inside, it’s just the most amazing social structure—very organized, very rigid, very protective of its members from the outside world.”
The article’s vivid description of this underground was undeniably filmic, which was immediately apparent to producer Stephanie Allain. “Gougis captured a fascinating sub-culture that I don’t think the average person really knew about. I certainly didn’t,” she affirms.
Allain knew her first task would be to turn Gougis’ factual article into a fictionalized action adventure screenplay. She met with screenwriter Craig Fernandez, who recalls, “I went into a meeting with Stephanie Allain, and the first thing she said was, ‘Have you read this?’ She laid down the article, which was a really fast and interesting read. Right away, I told her I knew how I could turn it into a film script.”
Fernandez continues, “The original story from the article had a really strong theme. It discussed the old school guys and their old traditions…and then there is a new generation of bikers who are more about the race and less about the respect. We knew the drama would have to come from the conflict between these two factions.”
The initial script found its way to Gina Prince-Bythewood, the writer and director of “Love & Basketball.” While Prince-Bythewood liked the script, she didn’t think it was up her directing alley, although she knew of someone she believed would be perfect to take the helm: her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood. “I thought Reggie would be really great for this project. I asked him to read it and he did, and something just clicked for him.”
An accomplished writer, as well as an up-and-coming director, Reggie Rock Bythewood had earned acclaim for his directorial debut film “Dancing in September,” as well as his screenplay for Spike Lee’s “Get On the Bus.” In addition to agreeing to direct the film, Bythewood brought his own vision to the “Biker Boyz” screenplay, that of an urban Western with a new definition of what it means to be the “fastest gun in the West.”
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