Baron Von Filmstar

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Laurie Kirkby (above) spent a year filming the Baron (aka Dick Smith, see p74) build this high speed Triumph, then went to Bonneville Salt Flats to see what happened.

“Laurie asked if he could do a short of ‘me in the workshop’, so I told him we were busy building the bike for Bonneville and asked him why not do a film on that. He’s like ‘fuck yeah…’” That’s how a new movie, Salt Bike –A Year With The Baron was born. It’s not just a racing documentary, it’s a behind the scenes look at how one of the UK’s leading Triumph builders and custom artisans goes about his work – including their efforts at Pendine as well as Bonneville.

Dick adds: “I’m terrible in front of camera but he hung around for a year filming. The aim was to do a promo vid but then he wanted to make a feature film so now it’s got British Board of Film Classification and is on iTunes. Not only that, he got Ewan [McGregor] to narrate the thing. I’d built Ewan a bike and we became mates, and him and Laurie had worked together and shared a passion for bikes so they became mates.”

So that’s Dick’s version of how the movie came about. Turn the page for Laurie Kirkby’s version of events…

What’s your background in the film industry?

I’m actually a sound engineer working with bands and orchestras. I mainly do shows in London but I’ve started doing corporate videos too. I used to hire people in to shoot stuff but then thought why not do it ourselves? So I bought cameras and started doing video.

How long have you been into bikes?

I got into bikes at 16 – I got my brother’s moped and passed my CBT but then got a car at 17.

I wanted to get back into bikes and re-did my CBT in 1998. I saw a Ducati Monster, booked my test, passed and bought it.

Where did the interest in custom bikes stem from?

I rode the Monster for a couple of years but always loved the chopper thing. I’d wander around Dick’s shop and loved the shapes of the empty frame with the wheel in the back. So I bought a Sportster and a Paughco frame and built my own bike, and rode that for a long time. Now I have an old Softtail that I ride and I’m building a pre-unit rigid, which is here at Dick’s.

How do you know Dick?

I got to meet him first when I was working with Ewan on a show. At that time Dick’s workshop was five minutes from where we were working. Ewan said, ‘I’ve got to get one of his bobbers,’ and asked me to go around to Dick’s with him. So off we went and we met Dick and Del – I kept in contact with them.

When did the project with Dick start?

We began in 2012 and it went on the backburner. Then the bike was finished for 2013. I wanted a lot of shop life so I spent six months after that shooting stuff. Then I edited it. That was a steep learning curve because I had to do everything.

Who is the film aimed at?

Originally, this was a two-hour film but I wanted it to appeal to anyone, not just bikers, so I had to cut it down. It became an hour – I hope we’ll get people saying: ‘that looks interesting, I’ll have a look.’

You got Ewan McGregor to narrate it. How did that come about?

I’ve worked with a lot of famous people and most are work colleagues. But Ewan and I get on well because we’re into bikes. He’s a lovely guy. I emailed him and he’s like, ‘if you need anything, let me know.’ He said to send him the cuts and he’d narrate it.

So where can we watch it?

It’s on iTunes and, soon, Netflix.

So what does the future hold?

I’d love to do more bike films – but maybe 20-minute shorts.