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Where Are They Now? Danny Vanzura’s Journey

From Wakeboarding to Hollywood and then some! Danny Vanzura’s journey in his own words.

September 6, 2021
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Danny Vanzura on location
Danny Vanzura fell in love and learned to film while shooting a new sport called wakeboarding. Courtesy Danny Vanzura

I started wakeboarding in 1993 with Jim Davis on Lake Howell in Casselberry Florida. There we met Billy Stroud who was riding with Scott Byerly and friends, and soon we were too. I started shooting video on a VHS Camcorder every day. We’d watch the footage after every session day after day. It was Scott and Ryan Byerly, Rich Goforth, Brannon Meek, CC Roberts, Drew McGuckin, Gregg Necrason, Andrea Gaytan, Sarah Cline, Johnny King, and more. Rich always made sure I was at photo shoots and events.

Jim Leatherman boosting over the road
Jim Leatherman’s Road Gap to Boardslide over Danny Vanzura. Courtesy Josh Letchworth

In 1994 I teamed up with Brooks Ferrell and Ronn Seidenglanz to work on the Gravity Films/Sidewayz project “High Wake Drifters”. In my second project, “24/Seven”, we featured a section I filmed with the Women of Wakeboarding that was inspiring and powerful. Andrea Gaytan, Sarah Cline, Tina Bessinger, Kristin Lutgert, Sonja Scheffler, Tara Hamilton, Farrah Dawson, Yoko Suzuki, Yoko Ebihara, Mardi Primeaux and Mero Narita really stepped up and showed the world, women’s wakeboarding was legit. For our next video, the three of us decided to break off and do it on our own. Ronn had already established Sidewayz Films and we decided to join forces. Our first video, “Switch” was nominated for a “Spirit Award”. Sidewayz Films went on to become a pillar of the wakeboard industry.

In the late ‘90s a few riders started taking Wakeskating more seriously and broke free from the bindings of wakeboarding. Scott Byerly and Thomas Horrell were modifying wakeboards and spending more time Wakeskating.

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I really loved Wakeskating and filming it even more. I was riding and filming with Thomas as much as possible. Every day he progressed, which meant Wakeskating was progressing. My time spent with Thomas also reignited my passion for music. Going to shows became an important part of my life.

Some of my best memories were shooting with Brooks Ferrell and with photographers Doug DuKane and Josh Letchworth.

Danny Vanzura filming bands
Fugazi in Orlando (top). Danny shooting Pennywise at Warped Tour (bottom). Courtesy Danny Vanzura (top), Josh Letchworth (bottom)

In 1998 I was introduced to David Segal from Bootleg Television. He filmed bands at local venues and broadcast on local tv. I contributed by shooting all the punk shows in Orlando. This is where I had my most memorable time behind a camera. I was on stage filming Fugazi.

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Danny filming for Jackass stunts
Danny hanging off the top of the loop shooting Tony Hawk, Matt Hoffman and Bam Margera (left). Matt Hoffman’s first time sticking the loop for Jackass from Danny’s point of view (right). Courtesy Danny Vanzura

In 2000 my friend Tim Payne called. He has been building ramps and skate parks since the 80′s. He asked if I’d shoot a project he was working on. It was the loop he built for the Jackass TV show.

Tony Hawk and Matt Hoffman dressed as chickens and rode the loop into a kicker that launched them into a lake. This led to me shooting for the TV show, Jackass the Movie and the Wild Boys show.

Danny filming Jackass stunts
Tony Hawk and Matt Hoffman in action. Courtesy Danny Vanzura

Another influential person I met was Jordy Klein. He is a Director of Photography who specializes in underwater filming. His father, Jordan Klein Sr. is a living legend in underwater cinematography. It was an amazing adventure to work under these guys. Jordy hired me to work on commercials and eventually a feature film as a camera assistant. This led to many opportunities and my current career as a camera technician in the film industry. I have also worked with Peter Zuccarini, another amazing Underwater Cinematographer on movies including “Baywatch” and “Venom”. I’m always learning from these gentlemen and wish we could work together more.

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Danny Vanzura with Spike Lee
Spike Lee and Danny Vanzura at Super Bowl XLIV. Courtesy Danny Vanzura

In 2009 I started working with NFL Films as a camera assistant/film loader. I was with them for 7 years. During this time, I worked the 2010 NFC Championship game that sent the New Orleans Saints to Super Bowl XLIV. I also worked Super Bowl XLIV in Miami and had the opportunity to work with Spike Lee on “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise”. We were shooting the Saints fans celebrating the rebirth of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Saints won their first Super Bowl appearance for the franchise that year. In 2012 I was the camera assistant for NFL Films when the Miami Dolphins were chosen to be featured on the award-winning HBO’s Hard Knocks series.

Danny close to the action
Danny close to the action! Filming Gregg Necrason for Pete Santa Maria’s “Wide Awake” (left). Scott Byerly’s 50/50 over Danny shooting from the water (right). Courtesy Josh Letchworth (left), Josh Letchworth (right)

Scott Byerly asked me to come film with him for the “Devise and Conquer” event in 2011 and we had a blast. That’s the last time I filmed any wake sports.

Danny Vanzura working on films and TV shows
2011 Personal tour of Space Shuttle Discovery on the launch pad for its last flight while filming “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (left). Working on the Stunt Unit on MacGyver (right). Courtesy Danny Vanzura

I’m now in Georgia working on Films and TV shows full time. I really miss those days and thank you for the opportunity to go down memory lane.

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My biggest supporter has always been my wife Kristen. We starting dating in 1992 and married in 2000. None of my memories or dreams are complete without her.

Danny’s Wake films:

“High Wake Drifters”, “24/Seven” “Thirty Dirty Tricks”, “Switch”, “Switch 22”, “Wide Awake”, “Decline of the Waterski Monopoly”, “Linear Perspective”, “Sfumato”, “Volume Wakeskate Videos”.

TV Shows and Movies Danny has worked on:

“Jackass”, “The Celestine Prophecy”, “Never Back Down”, “Sidney White”, “One Tree Hill”, “Endure” ,”Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, “Spring Breakers”, “Oculus”, “Dolphin Tale 2”, “The Middle”, “Nice Guys”, “The Originals”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Survivors Remorse”, “Bay Watch”, “Step Sisters” ,“MacGyver”, “Venom”, “Teenage Bounty Hunters” and “Die Hart”.

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