21 Days Under The Sky

Four guys. Four vintage choppers. One 3800-mile ride across America. It’s the perfect script for a road trip movie.

21 Days Under The Sky is destined to become one of the all-time great road trip movies. It’s the story of four guys on old-skool choppers who start out in San Francisco and ride the Lincoln Highway, the oldest route coast to coast in the States, to New York.

It’s the kind of road trip most of us aspire to but never achieve, a mammoth 3800mile ride on vintage custom bikes that predictably break down, adding colour to an already great adventure.

This isn’t a film about bad-ass bikers but four genuine guys who live for the freedom of the road and their motorcycles. Spliced into the action are stories about the original chopper guys of the 1960s, people like Tom Fugel (founder of El Forastero MC) and the late David Mann, whose art inspired a generation of bikers in the 1970s. Directed and shot by Michael Schmidt, the camera work is stunning and the narration, superbly written by poet and journalist Kate O’Connor Morris and delivered by actor Robert Patrick, captures the flavour of what a road trip on old skool choppers is about.

21 Days Under the Sky movie poster
Josh Kurpis, 21 Days Under the Sky

Josh Kurpius was one of the guys featured in the movie and we caught up with him at Art and Wheels, Basel.

What was the catalyst for the movie? 

The director Michael Schmidt also directed 6 Over and I think he wanted to be involved with something else that showed his capabilities. A few years ago he asked me if I’d like to be involved with 21 Days. I’d been riding around on my Ironhead chopper for some time. He got some other guys involved in what was a low budget movie.

It doesn’t look low budget.

It was just four of us riding with no chase vehicle. There was one van on the trip for the cameraman – Michael was doing the footage himself. And there was a total of four other
film crew guys involved. The script writer, Kate, rode a Sportster on the route so she could get a feel for the riding, whether it was in the sun or the rain.

How much of the movie is scripted?

There was nothing set up specifically, though we might have done the occasional ride-by a couple of times to get a really nice shot. Ninety-five percent of what you see in the film is
as it happened. Michael went on ahead a few times while we gassed up to get himself in position for a shot. We had no script ourselves, well maybe Michael had one in his head,
but we didn’t ever work to one. And the route was only kinda planned out – like we would ride from San Francisco to Brooklyn.

How did your bike perform?

My bike ran okay. I’ve been riding my Ironhead for some time now and it’s always treated me well. But we had some troubles to deal with – as you will on any road trip with old
bikes. Gentry’s frame cracked and the exhaust port cracked right off too.

How different was doing 21 Days from other road trips you’ve done?
I’d say making a movie during a road trip was a little different to a regular road trip with your buddies. Normally you ride with people you know really well but on this trip, while we all knew each other and rode locally, we’d never been on a road trip together like this before.

Would you do the trip again?

I have a close-knit family of friends who travel everywhere on choppers but this was a different group. But, yeah, I’d do it again. I’ve done long distance rides for a while now. I work enough to earn a living.

You said Michael asked you ‘years ago’ if you wanted to take part in this movie. When was it filmed?

We filmed this three years ago but Michael didn’t have the budget to finish it. Then 20th Century Fox stepped in and helped.

How do you think the public will receive the movie?

It’s kinda part documentary, part movie, part art. It works on a lot of levels to tickle your senses. I’ve had people already saying that they’ve been inspired to ride.

What about the effect on you?

I’ve spent the past 10 years on the road - it’s been my life. I don’t know where I’m going to sleep or eat, but you don’t stress about things like that. I’ve got to know people all over during the years I’ve spent on the road. Life is so colourful.