Anyone who has ever met videographer Christopher E. Fiffie of Big Rig Videos, and taken a picture with him, knows that he loves to give the “hangin’ loose” sign. But, for a relaxed and easy-going guy, Chris takes his work seriously. With attention to every little detail, each of Chris’ now-famous “Rolling CB Interviews” are second to none. Always learning, Chris constantly strives to make his videos better. Upgrading all of his equipment and techniques is ongoing, and as the technologies advance, so does Chris. But, how exactly did this industrious young man get started – well, in a truck, of course!
The engagement Chris and his videos have on social media are evident in the number of likes, shares and views each of his videos receive after posting them. Filming then editing, and sometimes adding music, depending on the video, Chris always shows trucks and truckers in a positive light, much like my dear friend Bette Garber did in pictures many years ago. Three years ago, someone left a comment, comparing Chris to Bette, but he did not know who she was. After looking her up, he realized how highly he was regarded by this person. It was a pleasure talking to Chris and learning just how he got started in this business, and how much pride he takes in the final product he creates.
The old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and in this case, the “trash” turned out to be more than a treasure. A friend of the family worked for the upscale city of Boca Raton, Florida, as a trash collector. One day, this friend brought a corded video camera he had found in someone’s garbage to Chris’ father’s shop. Chris was about 13 at the time, and he started tinkering with it. He learned that if he hooked it to the TV he could make and edit videos, and this was when his interest and true passion for creating videos really began.
As the years went by, his father saw the interest his son had, and told Chris he could go to the store and pick out the best video camera for an upcoming family trip. After doing some research, to make sure he got the right gear, he bought it. With this new camera, Chris’ interest doubled. He didn’t participate in sports, but he began making videos of his friends that did, while continuing to learn and improve.
Fast forward to when he was about 20, and that “new” camera was becoming outdated. He realized that if he wanted to upgrade his equipment, he would have to get a job that paid well, because the things he wanted were not cheap. Looking in the want ads, the jobs that paid the most were heavy equipment operators and truck drivers. A friend suggested that maybe he could drive a bus, but Chris knew he wanted to drive a tractor-trailer.
The company next to his dad’s mechanic shop always had trucks backing into their yard off the street. Chris started watching how the guys were doing it, and learned. A friend offered to let Chris learn by backing a truck around his yard, and this is where his truck driving career began. Trucking became the career that would help finance the video career he dreamed of, but who knew just how intertwined these two careers would eventually become.
After getting his CDL, Chris eventually started moving heavy equipment. He did this within his home state of Florida, never thinking about running over-the-road. It was about 1998 when he left this first driving job to start his video production company. Starting from scratch, he had no contacts, but, again, did his research and made it work.
In 2006, Chris and his family had a home built in Brooksville, Florida, which was a great area because there was no competition for his photography and video business there. He looked in the want ads and found a local job to get his “trucking fix” just for fun. He was hired on the spot, once again moving heavy equipment. He was there for about 6 months. While working there, he got to know the area and scoped out good places to open his studio. He joined the Chamber of Commerce and offered photography, web design and graphic design, along with video production, that locals used for their businesses, as well as TV commercials. By now he employed five people, but in 2008, like so many other small businesses, he was forced to close his studio when the economy went south.
It was 2009 when Chris attended his first truck show at the 75 Chrome Shop in Wildwood, Florida. It was very impressive, and it would be his first taste of a truck show. While there, he interviewed Carl Carstens, Vinnie Diorio, Todd Roccapriore and Bud Farquhar, to name a few. In 2012, a friend of his had a connection with Bryan “Bossman” Martin of the Chrome Shop Mafia and introduced Chris. Bryan asked Chris to come to the Mid-America Trucking Show that year and film what the CSM crew did at the show. This was Chris’ first experience with a large trucking convention, and he was not only impressed, but a little intimidated, as well. But, what Chris thought was just a one-time project turned out to be the beginning of something wildly popular!
Very impressed by Chris’ work, Bryan Martin asked him to come to other shows, and as a result the Truckshow DVD Series was born. These videos, created by Chris and sold at 4 State Trucks in Joplin, MO (and online), showed all the cool stuff that the people missed if they weren’t at the show (or maybe they were there, but still missed some good things). As one might imagine, these DVDs were a big hit.
In 2012, Chris went to Wheel Jam in Huron, South Dakota, to document the show. He had never been to the Midwest, and only had the show organizer’s name, Scot Marone. But when he got there, that was no problem – he met new friends and did what he does best. It was from here that his first rolling video made its debut. Shawn Cielke from Haugan, Montana, and Wesley Wulff of Gann Valley, South Dakota, offered to let Chris ride in the back of Wesley’s pickup so he could film the trucks running up and down the road. Wesley’s son drove the pickup, and Chris’ first rolling video was produced. When he put it on the internet, people really liked it.
In September of 2013, Chris started the Big Rig Videos Facebook page, and watching it grow quickly made him get more serious about this venture. When the page was first created, it got 17,000 fans on day one! Chris said, “It was like tapping the ground and oil came out.” There was so much interest, and then one person was tagged on a video, and from there it all just went viral. Chris said that when he took breaks in his studio for lunch, he’d look for truck-related videos to watch, but never found any with decent quality. So, he decided to take his expertise in filming, editing and sound and change that.
Around the same time Chris created his Facebook page, the Street Petes convoy was organized to travel from Grayling, Michigan, to a show in St. Ignace, Michigan. Chris really wanted to film while rolling along with the convoy as it traveled, instead of setting up and shooting everyone as they passed and then trying to get ahead of the convoy to set up and do it again. This time, he thought, why not talk to the drivers as they traveled, as well. Getting a hand-held CB and a headset with a wind-canceling microphone, he patched the two together with cables. One test run proved that it would work, thankfully, as his flight left at 6:00 a.m. the next morning! Sitting on a bean-bag chair placed in the back of a pickup truck, rolling along at 55-60 mph, everything looked and sounded good… and so began the Rolling CB Interviews.
The drivers in the convoy were excited about what Chris was doing, and when he reviewed the footage later that night at the hotel, he was excited, too. He particularly remembers talking to Dennis Mitchell, during the convoy, and how emotional he got while talking to him. Being able to capture this kind of raw emotion and share it with others was something that Chris felt would be popular, as well. And it was.
From a production standpoint, getting this video footage was difficult – and a little bit dangerous. He had to make this idea safer to film, but he didn’t want to lose it to someone else, so he had to figure it out fast. “It was such a cool concept, but I didn’t want to half-ass it,” he said. Again, he worked through the problem of making the filming process safer and the image quality better. All the while, people were watching his videos and fueling his fire. Each year he would invest in the equipment he could afford to keep upping his game and make the videos better. One of those improvements included adding a rolling studio to his list of assets.
Listening to Chris talk about his 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT 8 (which he calls “Mission Control”) was like hearing a driver talk about the truck he loves. They only produced 3,837 of these cars over the three years of production. This slick black beauty has a lot of “wow” factor, but it also fits his needs perfectly. It has the big 6.1L motor option and, since it’s a wagon, it’s large enough to carry all his equipment. The cameras are fitted to the car’s exterior, and allow filming while safely driving and talking to the drivers he is working with. “I get to drive a cool car and hang out with drivers with cool trucks.” This car is a tool, much like a truck, and both are extensions of their operators.
Sometimes an unplanned event can turn into something incredible. This happened when a truck driver from the Netherlands came to Florida on vacation and wanted to meet Chris. Looking to make it a little more exciting, Chris picked him up and they went to Wildwood to the 75 Chrome Shop together. When they arrived, they found a beautiful 359 Peterbilt hooked to a cattle pot. After finding the driver, JR Richardson, he was kind enough to not only give this driver a ride, but he even let him drive once they got back to the parking lot after filming on the road. But, that is just the first part of this story.
After shooting some rolling footage out on the road, JR told Chris about a friend of his named Randall Motley, who also pulls a cattle pot, but he does it with just one arm. They met up and he agreed to let Chris video him driving. The camera had a slight vibration, so they had to stop on the side of the busy highway to make an adjustment. But, when it was time to pull that truck off the shoulder and get moving, she was rollin’ coal and flexing from side to side as Randall got his 1,100-hp combo up to speed, flawlessly running through the gears, with no right arm. Chris put together the video (http://www.bigrigvideos.com/motley) of what it looked like from the outside, as well as from inside the cab, which really showed people that you can have a disability and still drive a truck.
In 2014, while at 4 State Trucks, Chris spotted Bob Spooner’s yellow needle-nose Peterbilt and step-deck trailer. When he saw the driver, Chris decided to do a simple walk-around video of the rig, which quickly turned into an impromptu video that touched this man’s life like no one had before. Chris posted the video (http://www.bigrigvideos.com/spooner) and got great comments – those on the internet said Bob was the quintessential American Trucker. Bob told him, “I’ve been trucking for a long time, and every day has been better and better since that video was posted. People who have seen it come up and want to shake my hand.” Stories like this touch Chris’ heart and prove that he is making a difference in people’s lives.
During the 2015 Chrome Shop Mafia “Guilty By Association” truck show in Joplin, Missouri, the tables were turned on Chris. The guys at J&L Contracting had asked several times earlier in the year if Chris wanted to drive their “Contender” Peterbilt. It had been almost 10 years since Chris had drove a combination. Before the show got underway, there was time to hit Highway 44, so Randy Menkel drove the camera car while Doug Jameson rode shotgun with Chris in the truck. They were supposed to talk about upgrades to Contender, but Randy had questions… and from that, the first reverse Rolling CB Interview was made (www.bigrigvideos.com/fiffie).
It is safe to say that you have really “made it” when you are featured in one of Chris’ videos. I have a favorite – it’s called “Fire It Up” (http://www.bigrigvideos.com/fire-it-up) – which includes daytime footage and scenes from the 2016 MATS show, when we got to ride around the fairgrounds at night all lit-up. It was amazing, and watching that video is like getting to relive it every time! Pictures are great, but getting to see the trucks moving, the lights glowing and the smoke rolling, well, it’s just different. Getting to hear those big diesel engines purring, along with the Jake brakes and the train horns blaring, is simply awesome.
So, if you see Chris and his black Dodge Magnum out there on the road shooting a video, flash him the “hang loose” sign and then get out of his way, because you are probably blocking his shot. Chris certainly knows how to let his hair down and relax, but when it’s time to work, he’s all business. If you have seen the work Chris Fiffie does, then you know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, then head on over to www.bigrigvideos.com and get caught up. You will not be disappointed!