Below Fraser Newton’s name on his Anthill Films business cards is his title: “The Swiss Army Knife.”
And really, there is no better way to quantify not only the multitude of skills Fraser brings to a job, but also his appetite to get the job done.
Throughout the last decade, Fraser has managed bike shops, run mechanic programs for renowned international mountain bike races, run point for conventions, tech’d for boutique gyms, worked as a private mechanic for high-end clients, taught and guided mountain biking, and assisted on film and photo shoots. And these are just the bike-related jobs.
“Being the Swiss Army Knife is just being able to come in with an open mind and accomplish what needs to be done, and I'm always happy to do that,” he says.
A few years ago, in an effort to have more flexibility and time to spend with his family, he made the decision to work for himself and became the sole proprietor of Flying Fraser’s Cyclic Consulting (FFCC).
“Everything I do, even though these days it’s all different and all over the place, it all has something to do with biking in one way or another,” Fraser says.
The diverse roles Fraser plays may seem random or chaotic, but they are actually the result of successful nonconformity that began during childhood. When Fraser entered the school system in rural Jerseyville, Ontario, his older brother and sister were already enrolled in gifted programs where they were given more challenging projects to complete as part of their regular school curriculum. Although his teachers identified these same traits in him, Fraser had challenges staying focused.
“They couldn’t sit me still,” Fraser says. “I couldn’t get the work done. I was all over the map.”
He was taken for testing in nearby Hamilton and recalls the gold cups and monitors that were placed all over his head and chest while the doctors asked him questions and showed him flashcards.
“After that testing they wanted to put me on this new attention deficit medication—basically Ritalin,” he says.
Instead of opting for medication, Fraser’s parents took the opportunity to move out of town to more acreage. The property was in a valley with spring-fed fields, a hardwood forest and a manmade four-acre pond stocked with bass. The nearest neighbor was a horse stable half a mile away.
“Instead of numbing me, they just gave me more space to run around,” he says. “I couldn't imagine needing an alarm and having to take pills. I don't even know how that would have all panned out for me.”
Fraser began learning the skills it would take for him to manage his hyperactivity. Instead of waking up early to catch the school bus, he would ride his bike the seven miles—and usually still arrive before the bus. At school, his teachers adjusted the curriculum to his needs. He also became heavily involved in leadership programs and clubs that allowed him a variety of activity in his school day that isn’t readily available to most students. Between leadership conferences, student council, AV club and athletic events, he was constantly busy and rarely confined to a classroom. Fraser excelled in high school—apart from poor attendance— earning impressively high grades.
“A big part of it was just being able to understand what to do with that extra energy,” he says. “And that I wasn’t allowed chocolate—it would make me just absolutely crazy. I’d come home, and my mom would ask if I’d had chocolate. I’d be like, ‘Did the teachers call?’ But no, she just always knew.”
After high school, Fraser was accepted to Queen’s University for engineering—both his father and brother are mechanical engineers—but instead he found an eco-tourism management program that was hands-on. Upon graduation, Fraser began building a career that migrated across Canada with the seasons.
“I would sign up to run sled dogs for four-anda- half months,” he says, “but at the end of that I’d know I was going to drive boats for a couple of weeks, and then drive across the country and fix bikes and do stone work and throw in a trip here and there. It was always the same thing, but always changing.”
Fraser’s varied experiences, willingness to get the job done, and expertise quickly made him an invaluable part of any team. When he got the call to help out at the Trans Rockies in 2005, they didn’t just need a mechanic, they needed someone who could drive the truck, empty the garbage, buy groceries, and run the checkpoints. But for Fraser, no job is too complex, and no job too small.
Anthill Films, a Squamish, BC-based production company called him during the filming of unReal, their 2015 feature-length film. They needed help repairing a frame while on an ice cap.
Fraser’s skills and experience meant he was able to quickly replace the triangle in unpredictable conditions immediately after getting out of the heli. But he stayed for a week, building trail, fixing equipment, and helping around camp. The shoot’s long days and adverse conditions were naturally comfortable—and enjoyable—for him.
Fraser now works regularly with Anthill and still does everything from running errands to creating new equipment to get the shot. Part of his job is taking information from creative discussions, distilling it, and inventing and building products to execute new concepts. One of his most successful projects was a simple piece of moldable plastic with magnets that he used to engineer a detachable camera mount for a helmet. The camera operator could follow the action on a zipline and attach or detach the camera as the rider hit the lip of a stepdown. The seamless shot transitioned between follow cam and point-of-view footage, creating what they termed an “out-of-body experience.”
Being able to draw from all areas of his expertise to find solutions has been one of the biggest keys to Fraser’s success. While filming in Spain, Fraser had two blown shocks—one damper and one air seal—and needed to create one that worked under a time crunch. Using a piece of scrap rope, he tied the shock to a tree and managed to get it apart, but
when he put it back together, it wouldn’t hold air. A second diagnosis revealed an O-ring blown into the air can and one still in the shock body.
“Wow, I guess you either know what you’re doing, or you’re stubborn,” someone watching commented.
Fraser’s workflow is a perfect amalgam of both. It’s not so much that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but that he’s stubborn enough to see something through. That same self-awareness has helped Fraser continue to harness his excess of energy as an adult.
“I’ve definitely been called out for going over the top where I have to catch myself, and that’s something I’ve dealt with since I was a kid,” Fraser says. “I’ll be working on one thing and then I’ll find something else, especially because my shop’s such a cluster fuck. I’ve got 1,001 started projects, but that’s part of it.”
Fraser has proven that success comes in whatever form you create. Traditionally, making more money requires a focus on a specialty. Attending college or university to attain a masters or PhD is often necessary to gain expertise about a specific component of a larger system. Instead, Fraser did the opposite. He’s found success in creating his own career, one that allows him the wide-open space to function at his fullest potential.
“It’s not necessarily that I need to zone in on something very specific,” Fraser says, “it’s that I am a specific thing that can zone out.”