Tahoe local Jay Schweitzer launches new film, Gnarnia

Sara Jackson

Lake Tahoe native, Jay Schweitzer has spent the last 26 years in the trenches filming and editing Daredevil-inspired films, focusing on long distance jumps, free riding terrain and FMX, freestyle motorcycle sports. 

Provided / Jay Schweitzer

Schweitzer started his career at Sierra Nevada College, where he graduated with a bachelors in business administration and a minor in electronic arts.  While at SNC, he started interning for Mike McEntire of Mack Dawg Productions, the leading snowboard film company in the world. 

In 2004, Schweitzer joined forces with his old mentor, Mike McEntire and created Powerband Films. Schweitzer saw a demand amongst motocross enthusiasts to show more natural terrain riding, rather than the new trend of ramp riding and tricks. Since then, Powerband Films has spent the last 20+ years dedicated to reviving freestyle motocross and bringing it back to its roots.

Schweitzer’s current film, Gnarnia, debuting Oct. 17 at the Heavenly Cinema Theater, boasts the only true long-distance motorcycle jump in the world, with the takeoff and landing.

Doors open at Heavenly Cinema Theater in South Lake Tahoe – 6 p.m.
Autograph signing featuring: Colby Raha, Scott Kranyak and Jason Borosky -6-7 p.m.
Film plays: 7-8:30 p.m.
Raffle/snowboard giveaway: 8:30 p.m.
After party at The Golden Nugget: 9 p.m.-

“We made a 200-foot-long landing, that’s 35 feet wide.  My partner Colby Raha, he’s really the top motorcycle jumper in the world that’s doing big jumps.  And he wanted to get into long distance jumping and follow in Evil Knievel’s footsteps and break a bunch of world records,” says Schweitzer.

The jump site was built at the Reno Fernley Raceway.  Schweitzer and Raha went out there and set up the jump site, and brought out a whole jump crew, which involved a radar guy to help calculate the correct speed, and a landing guy, whose job it was to check windspeed and direction.

When asked how many takes, he films before getting that perfect shot, Schweitzer said, “Obviously, we’re trying to keep the riders safe. So we do our testing and build up to the big jump.  We start smaller and slowly pull the ramp back. And that way it’s safer for the rider. But when he goes for the final jump, with the big ramp gap, it’s a usually a one-take thing. So everything has to be in place. Everything has to be perfect.”

Gnarnia took Schweitzer his crew, and his riders two and a half years to shoot, with another year of editing. 

Schweitzer says that there are really no other filmmakers right now that are doing the types of films that he is doing.

“As far as the free riding and the big distance jump, there’s really nobody else that’s doing it on the level that I’m doing it on. They’re not shooting it on the cameras that we’re shooting on. They don’t have the jumps and locations that we do. You kind of need all of it together. You have to have the locations, the cameras, the good camera operators, and you have to know how to shoot these jumps to make them look big. You have to just know how to do it, and put it all together, obviously with a good soundtrack, and then a storyline. It’s very hard to do,” explains Schweitzer.

Building long distance jumps is nothing new to Schweitzer. The first films that Schweitzer shot for his company Powerband Films, was a series of films called On the Pipe. Here he built natural jumps on private ranch properties known as Danimals and Jackpot Ranch.  He and his crew created 200-foot hill jumps, off camber hips, step-downs, and cliff drops. Schweitzer’s On the Pipe films (seven of them) features the top motocross and freestyle riders in the world.

So, it was no surprise when Schweitzer took freestyle riding to the city. A lot of the footage they shot in urban areas is in the middle of the streets. All the scenes are shot super-fast because they’re waiting for cars to clear, and to make sure there are no cops around.

“One of the guys in our movie, his name is Scott Kraniak, we call him ‘Scranny.’  He did all the jumps in the middle of his hometown in Bakersfield. And, you know, he’s jumping off Big 5 Sporting Goods.  He’ll air over the road, like a two-lane highway, or it might even be bigger, might be a four-lane highway. He did one successfully, and then the second one his bike started nosediving, and he crashed. He was in a coma. That’s all in the movie,” adds Schweitzer.

You can catch a screening of Gnarnia at the Heavenly Cinema Theater on October 17. Go to the website to purchase tickets and checkout the trailer.   

This will be the final showing in the theaters.  Tickets are available for pre-sale at $15.  The price will go up to $20 on the night of the showing. 

Be sure to stay around for the after party at the Golden Nugget at the Circle Bar.  There is no entry fee.

After its big screen debut, Gnarnia will be available for streaming on iTunes and Amazon Prime.  And also on Blu-Ray.

“People are gonna be really surprised, and it’s gonna be a thrill ride.  There’s nothing like this movie out there right now in the world.  It’s literally the most dangerous jump on two wheels,” said Schweitzer

Jay Schweitzer’s instagram: onthepipeseries / Colby Raha’s instagram – ColbyRaha


For more info about Jay Schweitzer, visit

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