Skip to main content

The Movie Pedlar

Meet Brett Cotter - Curator and Pedlar of the Big Bike Film Night

“The first spark of inspiration for the Big Bike Film Night (BBFN) occurred to me when I was working in a hotel restaurant in Kananaskis in the Canadian Rockies, near Calgary. I’d been inspired by the world-renowned Banff Mountain Film Festival and thought wouldn't it be neat to have a festival dedicated to bikes”, explains Brett.

However, Brett didn’t do anything with his idea until 2015.

Now living back in Taupō, the catalyst for bringing his Big Bike Film Night to reality was when the town’s iconic Giant Bike sculpture was vandalised. Adorned in its polka dot king of the mountains livery, the sculpture had been erected to celebrate Taupō’s rich cycling culture (it’s trails, the annual 160km Round Taupo Cycle Challenge etc.), but unfortunately it was uninsured.

Cue that idea for a bike film festival…

“I reached out to a handful of film makers who kindly allowed us to screen their movies as part of a fundraising initiative for repair the statue”, recalls Brett, “And we ended up raising $2,300 towards the sculpture’s repair with screenings in Taupō, Rotorua and Cambridge”.

And, boy, were those initial screenings popular.

“We had people queuing out of the cinema doors and sitting in the aisles” laughs Brett.

It was whilst sitting on the floor of a cinema aisle during one of those first screenings that Brett saw the audience’s reaction to the films. They were clapping, laughing, and fully immersed in the films.

And as Brett concludes, “the rest is history”…

Well, not quite.

Following the inaugural Big Bike Film Night, Brett knew that he had to “smarten up his act”. A new brand and logo followed shortly, and Brett became committed to annually curating the best short films on cycling from around the world.

“Films find me, and I find the films”, explains Brett. “But they must all meet four strict pillars of storytelling. Our films need to be entertaining, original, informative and above all else inspire the audience to get out and ride bikes”.

The 2016 edition of the festival became a national New Zealand event. The first scheduled screening in Christchurch sold out a month in advance, and Brett’s twin brother was roped in to help cover additional screenings whilst Brett looked for larger venues in the city. St Margaret’s College offered their auditorium as a venue which seated 700 patrons.

"We'll never fill that", thought Brett...

It sold out. Again.

In 2017 the Big Bike Film Night went trans-Tasman with a show in Hobart organised by friends of Brett. Dates in Melbourne and Canberra soon followed.

“The BBFN is now even in Scotland”! exclaims an excited Brett.

“I was riding the Old Ghost Road a few years ago and pulled into Stern Valley Hut quite late, and it was dark. The hut was only dimly lit by candlelight, so you couldn’t make out the faces of the other bikers staying the night. So, I introduced myself to the hut with a friendly ‘hi, I’m Brett from Taupō’, and a reply came back from across the other side of the hut”,

“I know that voice! You’re Brett the Big Bike Film Night guy”!

“That voice was from a chap called Ollie Hawkley. We kept in touch with each other afterwards and a year later took the BBFN over to Scotland with him”, laughs Brett.

The Big Bike Film Night is now a full-time job for Brett. Now in its 9th year, the 2023 festival will have 62 screenings nationwide and has become a much anticipated and well-loved feature on the annual cycling calendar which connects biking communities from around the globe.

Now leading from the theatre podium, rather than seated in the aisle, will be Brett Cotter passionately and infectiously “spreading the bike buzz”.

Be sure to book your seats early.

Catch the 2023 Big Bike Film Night in cinemas across New Zealand from 15 February - 15 June 2023

Related Stories

Go back to all articles