2008-02-21 / Community
Motorcycle haven is subject of winning documentary
The Rock Store has been known as a motorcycle Mecca for decades, but the quaint mom-and-pop pit stop in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains is about to become an even bigger tourist attraction with the release of a new documentary film.
Christopher Leps, a veteran stuntman turned filmmaker, finished producing "Ed & Vern's Rock Store" last September. He has since taken the show on the road, and of the eight film festivals it has entered, the 42-minute flick has been named Best Documentary three times.
The first award was garnered at "Gone with the Filmfest" in Fillmore, followed by two more awards in Arizona and New York. Leps said he expects to enter the film in several more festivals this year.
The film documents the history of the rural Agoura motorcycle hangout and its longtime owners Ed and Vern Savko. Originally built in 1909 as a stagecoach stop between Calabasas and Camarillo, the Rock Store underwent several incarnations before it was purchased by the Savkos in 1961.
It has since become a popular weekend destination for motorcycle riders throughout the region, Leps said.
"(The Rock Store) is not just about the motorcycles," the 36-year-old filmmaker said. "It's about the community. Members of Hells Angels talk to guys who are lawyers and doctors. Then Jay Leno pulls up. It's a gathering place that pulls everyone together."
Leno shares his Rock Store experiences in the film, as does Chad McQueen, who recounts the many trips he and his late father, actor Steve McQueen, made to the store.
Other celebrities who've visited include Matt LeBlanc of "Friends" fame, actor Ewan McGregor- even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who sometimes stops by when taking a break from his duties in Sacramento.
"We went from nothing to being known internationally," Ed Savko said. "We have people come from all over the world to visit the Rock Store."
The common bond between regular folks and star-studded bikers is the machine they ride. Whether a shiny new Harley-Davidson, a vintage caf racer or a fasterthangreased-lighting Japanese crotch rocket, the motorcycles are the real stars of the show.
But there's something more intangible that keeps patrons connected.
Leps said his film is about the "magic of culture . . . the Sunday drive culture in America." Riding motorcycles, after all, is more about the journey than the destination. The Rock Store has managed to keep that culture alive, he said.
The idea for the documentary was hatched while Leps was shooting a motorcycle sequence for another movie on Mulholland Highway.
At first he was wary of the hundreds of motorcycles parked in front of the store. He imagined that he might accidentally knock them over like dominoes and that angry bikers would come streaming out of the restaurant ready for a brawl.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. He said the patrons turned out to be exceptionally friendly, funny and downright "cool."
Leps said he's proud of his first documentary, especially since he's a self-taught filmmaker.
"I just starting shooting my own stuff," he said. "I remembered what it was like to shoot and edit and tell a story as a kid. Some of the best film school advice you can get is from watching movies."
Leps expects to have a DVD of "Ed & Vern's Rock Store" available soon. He's also hoping the product will be able to air on the Travel Channel.
"It's been a great journey," he said.
The film is narrated by Peter Cullin and produced by Alex Manifin and Joe Bacarro.
For festival screenings and other information, visit www.rockstoremovie.com.