The name Jamie Thomas might not have been that well known around the disc golf community prior to the 2015 European Open. Thomas has been working at The SpinTV and Discmania as a video producer for the last few years. Odds are, you’ve seen some of his work, but the work spoke for itself.
Thomas moved from behind the camera to a prime spot in front of the camera for the 2015 European Open Insider Show on SpinTV. This live, one-hour show, aired online every night after the action on the course came to a close. Thomas hosted the show with many special guests and gave us who couldn’t be in Finland a chance to be as close to the action as possible.
Hosting a live show is never easy and Thomas did one solid job taking us through the day’s action. We’ve been in his shoes before and it certainly is no easy task. On his way back to the United States, we got the chance to get inside the mind of the host himself.
Before we get into the European Open experience, lets go in the way back machine… You went to school for film, correct? Is working with film/media something you’ve always wanted to do?
“You got it, I actually have a B.A. in Film Studies and a M.F.A. in Film Directing. Growing up I never had any idea what I wanted to do as far as a career. I wanted to play collegiate basketball but in hindsight I was not nearly disciplined enough to put in the work to make that a reality. It all started in an English Lit class in high school, where I had a really amazing teacher who wanted her students to connect with the works being taught, so she allowed us to do pretty much anything and present it – movies were my friends and I’s attempts to be lazy and not write 2-page double-spaced papers. It was obviously waaay more work, but ultimately so rewarding we started asking all of our teachers if we could do it.”
When did you first get started with disc golf? Did you ever think you could combine disc golf and your passion for video for a career?
“I started playing in March ’09, my last semester at NC State. I badly sprained my ankle playing basketball, and after getting off crutches and out of the boot the doc said low-impact activities only for awhile. Well my roommate had been trying to convince me to play for awhile at that point and I went with him, mainly just to shut him up about it because I thought it was the dumbest sounding thing, but after one round I was instantly hooked and we played 4-5 days per week until I graduated. I love golf so I just thought of it as a cheap replacement for a similar mental challenge, nothing more.”
You joined The SpinTV a few years ago. Tell us about that experience. What has been your favorite piece you’ve worked on?
“I owe so much to Avery Jenkins, that guy is family to me. He talked me up to Jussi and Esa Arokki who had already produced Deep In The Game and they gave me the opportunity to produce content in the US. I had worked a little bit in disc golf at that point, making a short documentary about it in film school and crewing up with Derek Hastings as he was finishing up Chains and shooting 2011 Worlds. My favorite piece I’ve produced is Save Jarva! What an amazing course and scene, it was so gratifying to hear that ultimately the course didn’t get pulled and is safe (for now). I really love the 30 for 30 series and I tried to model the approach in a similar way. I hope to do more like that in the future.”
Earlier this year you also jumped on board with the Discmania crew. What is it like working with them?
“It might be cliche to say, but they’re a family. Literally—there’s a Discmania house in Rancho. Those guys work non-stop to support the brand, the team, and even myself when I was tour managing for Simon this year. I’m proud to wear the shield and be associated with them.”
You have spent a lot of time with Simon Lizotte and Avery Jenkins this year. Talk about working with those guys and traveling with Simon.
“Man, I love those guys, I know if any of us stopped being involved in disc golf tomorrow we’d still be friends for life. It’s funny, Avery and I actually saw each other in a different location (city, state, or country) in every month of 2014. Simon is a trip, I could tell stories about him and the tour all day. You’re obviously concerned on the outset when you know you’re going to spend 24 hours a day over the next 12 weeks in close quarters with someone but it went so smooth. He’s an endless entertainer, he made a very stressful job fun. Plus playing rounds with him…it’s just stupid how talented he is.”
You just spent another week in Finland for the European Open. This wasn’t your first time traveling abroad for disc golf. What is your take on the European disc golf scene?
“Disc Golf is cool there, that’s the best way to put it. I told Jussi in the morning as he dropped me off at the airport that it invigorates me to come back and work on the scene here in the US. I know if we can all work together to shake the stigma surrounding us that it can really be special. Don’t get me wrong, casual rounds with friends having brews and just enjoying the game is awesome and I hope that never goes away, I just want to show that there’s also that other side—where our top guys can be taken seriously as athletes and fierce competitors. Also—the next generation of amazing disc golfers is coming of age in Finland. We should take note or Presidents’ Cups in the future will start going the other way.”
Many watched the European Open’s Insider Show with you as the host. We thought you did an outstanding job as host. Did you have any previous experience in front of the camera?
“Wow, thank you! That was my first experience doing a live show. I thought I was mediocre honestly. I re-watched every show after the fact and critiqued myself, there’s so much I can improve upon. The team around me was so good. Hannu’s graphics, Eino’s pictures, Esa’s directing, Mikael’s producing…we’re all working together to execute the vision. I’ve received so much support from the disc golf community via texts and facebook, it’s amazing. I’m definitely aware we have our doubters too, but I hope that they’ll give us a chance by being patient and seeing what’s in store. What we’re doing is definitely not what people are used to, and when you upset the status quo you’re bound to get some pushback, but I just want to emphasize that we’re all working towards the same goal. We want to make our community proud and give the fans as well as the players the professional level coverage they all deserve. No matter what my final role ends up being in that equation I won’t stop working to that end.”
How many people did it take to get those shows live on the air every day? What was your favorite part of the show?
“Our crew was at least 12 strong between camera operators, editors, graphics, stats, live tech crew, etc. Everybody put in 14+ hour days. About half of our crew had never seen disc golf before, so there was a training element to it as well. They’re all rockstars in my book, never complained, they were just on the grind from minute 1. I think my favorite part of the show was just seeing all of the elements coming together…sometimes at the last minute! I also have to give major props to all of the players coming on the show after an intensely draining round and opening up on camera.”
You were also able to be the commentator for the live broadcast of the final round. What was it like working with that crew?
“That was hard. I don’t think I did as good of a job on that broadcast (sorry everyone). They accidentally had the Finnish broadcast playing in my headphones as well so it was kind of like listening to one song and trying to sing another at the same time. If I get the opportunity to do that again I’m going to try to shadow some professionals and learn their tricks. I only learned that we were doing that after the tournament had actually started so I didn’t get to prepare as much as I did for the Insider Show format.”
After traveling back to the United States, what do you have planned for the rest of the season?
“Oh so much is going on it’s crazy. My home tournament is coming up—shout out to the San Francisco Disc Golf Club. So it’ll be fun to actually play some golf and compete. As far as SpinTV, I had a great chat with Gregg Barsby on the flight to Stockholm and we’ve got some ideas in the works. Other than that I’m also involved with Jussi’s DiscGolfPark brand. I’m concentrating in the south at the moment, specifically my hometown of Baton Rouge, LA. I’ve got two courses approved there so far and the goal is to make that a destination in the future for players of all skill levels.”
We ask all the pros and we have to ask you too… What’s in your bag? What are our favorite discs?
“I’m all Discmania now. I’ve been able to simplify my bag and honestly never been more confident in my discs. It sounds like a sales pitch but I love the direction that we’re going with the molds.”
Swirly S-line P2
C-line PD (3rd runs are my favorite)
“I basically keep 3 levels of stability in each category (putters, mids, fairways, distance drivers). The FD is by far my favorite disc. I think it’s the greatest disc on the market. If I could only play with one disc for the rest of my life that would be it.”
Is there anything else you want to include?
“Well, first I’m honored that you think I’m worthy of an interview! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to take two passions of mine and combine them into a career, so to everyone who supports SpinTV and Discmania, thank you so much for allowing us to create the content for you. We just hit 4 million views on YouTube and surpassed the 25k subscriber mark, and I believe our first (non-teaser) video was released in May 2013!!?”
“I’ve traveled to 4 continents in the last year for disc golf, and I don’t say that to boast, but to encourage everyone to believe in Disc Golf. I never thought a few years ago that these kinds of things could happen for me with this sport, but now I’m all in. We can all achieve more than we ever thought possible, both individually and collectively, and that reality gets closer with every day that passes. I love this community, it’s given me so much in 5 short years, it’ll take me a lifetime to pay it back. Everyone go out and pass on the love that Steady Ed imparted upon each one of us when he pioneered this game. Peace!”
Thanks to Jamie Thomas for talking with us and letting us tell his story of his involvement with disc golf. We can’t wait to see what videos he comes up with next!