A short film will soon make its local debut at Casa Escobar restaurant—“The Woolsey Fire Through the Eyes of Marshall Mullen.” Mullen, 25, a Malibu native and professional mountain bike rider, got together a group of friends to make the five-and-a-half-minute video. It introduces the Woolsey Fire with actual news reports and cell phone videos of Malibu houses burning down, followed by breathtaking shots of Mullen riding his mountain bike down the denuded local mountainsides in the weeks afterward.
The finished film wasn’t uploaded to YouTube until May 24, because Mullen didn’t want amateur copycats trying to imitate his mountain biking feats down the Santa Monica Mountains. Mullen, whose father Rick Mullen was mayor of Malibu at the time of Woolsey and worked to fight the fire as a Los Angeles County fire captain, wanted to ensure less experienced riders wouldn’t take unnecessary risks riding through the barren landscape.
“We waited until all the hills had regrown vegetation, because we didn’t want other riders trying these things,” he said in a phone interview. “I just wanted to showcase the mountain bike riding because it was so unique.”
“For people in Malibu who experienced the fire, seeing the film was very emotional,” Mullen said. “It seriously triggers a lot of emotions when people from here watch it.”
Mullen produced the film, cinematography was done by Jasper Wesselman, and aerial cinematography/drone footage was by Malibu local Brendon O’Neal, who lost his home in Decker Canyon to the fire. Both Mullen and O’Neal contributed cell phone videos.
“During that one month after the fire, I took at least two rides a day [on the burned areas],” Mullen said. “I figured I might never have a chance like this again. It’s some of the best riding I’ve ever done, and I’ve been all over the world.”
In the YouTube posting for the film, he wrote, “Out of the ashes... came the rare chance to explore terrain that I had never seen. Old, overgrown roads became open again, and trails long gone could once again be used. It was a short window before the winter rains brought regrowth, but from the ashes came unique opportunity.”
Mullen’s athletic prowess on the mountain bike, going off-road over rocky terrain, down steep inclines, and jumping across gaps, has to be seen to be believed.
He first started getting the attention of national mountain bike magazines and fanatics about six years ago, when his hand-built mountain bike course on Malibu family property was discovered by friends and mountain biking professionals alike.
It took Mullen nearly five years to perfect the course, starting on it when he was only about 13 years old. He built his own jumps, which send riders flying into the air and across gullies. The dirt course is full of sharp turns, steep embankments and steps, and allows plenty of room for performing stunts like tail whips. A 2013 online video of him riding the course got 50,000 views. The course proved so popular that he had to start saying, “No,” to many asking to use it.
Mullen has been riding bikes most of his life—he learned to ride when he was about three, got his first bike when he was five, and his first mountain bike when he was about 10. He wasn’t that interested in mountain biking at first, until a new next door neighbor became his biking mentor—Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford, an avid enthusiast. The two developed a friendship that has now lasted for over 13 years and they often hit the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
“I’ve never met anyone in cycling like Marshall, in that he’s absorbed so much information and has become such an amazing rider in such a short period of time,” Commerford told Bike magazine a few years back.
Mullen is currently employed by Specialized bicycles as an athlete and ambassador, where he’s assigned to various filming projects, events and clinics around the country. He’s been mainly riding an electric “eBike” for the past two years. “It’s an electric assist—there’s no throttle,” he explained. “It’s the same workout, but you can go twice as far and twice as fast.” Mullen also designs mountain bike courses for other individuals and companies.
Matt Diamond of Diamond Lane Entertainment will present Mullen’s film on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Casa Escobar, 22969 Pacific Coast Highway at 8:30 pm. The film will be shown first, followed by a live musical performance by Brandon Jenner & Friends. General admission is $14.36 (which includes a fee) and reserved VIP tables are $100. The video can also be viewed at youtu.be/pGo9IQMaWh4.