“I’d be very happy with being in the top 10, but obviously we came here to win” -Joy Stehney, Slaughterhouse Five.
“I think if people saw the receipts, they would think we were nuts!”-John MacDonald, Swillin’ Smokers
The BBQ Jones: a short-form episodic documentary series comprising 13 episodes, 3-6 minutes each in finished length. That was the plan anyway, but like many plans, life had a different course in mind.
For a variety of reasons, this project never (as yet) materialized beyond the production stage. It was filmed near the end of 2004, the final video that would have marked a BBQ trilogy about championship bbq competitors and the art of authentic, low & slow (charcoal) barbecue cooking. (Previous DVDs: Inside the World of Championship Barbecue and BBQ Secrets: The Master Guide to Extraordinary Barbecue Cookin’ )
Remarkably, the passage of time has not dulled the potential of this project because of the unique story and the remarkable ensemble of colorful, real-life characters that populate the film. There’s passion. Pathos. Humor. Personal drama and triumph. It’s life within a subculture that’s fiercely dedicated to the mission of winning and in mostly a friendly way, outdoing the other guy. It’s a moment in time that’s captured, and as such, it’s timeless.
Brief outline of The BBQ Jones documentary
This is the story of one man—Scott Jones— and his unquenchable thirst to win. He began his barbecue competition career at one of the largest events of its kind: The American Royal Barbecue in Kansas City. We had filmed him during that event for our first barbecue documentary (Inside The World …), his was the newbie team that had never been in a contest before. The other team (2 Fat Larry’s), headed by Larry Mayes, was a veteran team, to illustrate the contrast between two very different skill levels and approaches to competing.
The BBQ Jones was filmed the next year at the same event after Scott admittedly got “bitten by the Q”. The subsequent clips that follow (Why; The Letter; My New Baby) include his showing Rebecca the new cooker he bought, the extra garage he built in order to house it, and the trailer to transport it. Jones talks about the nights he spent sleeping on the couch as the mounting pressures of his BBQ obsession led to periods of marital discord. When you see those short clips (released in in order on December 13, 20, 27), you’ll get a glimpse of how serious this sport can be. It’s really something.
About BBQ competitions
In the world of competition barbecue, competitors are often obsessive about the sport. Winning becomes it’s own form of addiction. These extreme competitors spend excessive amounts of time, money and labor in the grueling preparation needed to win (or score high) on the barbecue circuit. One competitor says he travels 30,000 miles in a year, spending thousands of dollars on equipment, supplies, food and travel expenses.
Scott Jones’ wife tells us, “it’s like throwing $20 bills out the window” on the highway. That metaphor aptly captures the horror some spouses feel about competition barbecue. The successful competitors and the serious wannabes are driven to succeed. Their chosen lifestyle exacts a toll on them and their families. ‘BBQ widow’ is a common term competitors use referring to the less than enthusiastic spouse who often plays a supporting role in their husband’s quest.
Except for what we may see on television and the short internet videos and occasional documentaries, this world is largely hidden from ordinary view. This film enters this exotic world and while focusing on one competitor, also aims it’s myopic view at the wider culture and the people who share the same ultimate goal: to get called up onto the stage.
In this documentary, the smoke filled skies over Kemper Arena are where mad dreams play out.