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Royal Antler: The Story Behind the Storytellers

Tony Franklin and T.C. Worley saw an opportunity a year and a half ago. Not only did they seize it, but they held on for dear life and haven’t let up since.

The duo, known as Royal Antler, has a combined level of creative passion that is off the charts. And it’s this ambition to create that drives the creative film company’s on-screen storytelling.

Birth of the Antler

Franklin and Worley had both long been independently successful prior to joining forces. Franklin, an Art Director at Target whose understated demeanor belies a steely intensity, has developed a reputation as a top creative mind in the advertising ranks of Minneapolis. Worley, an independent photographer who positively exudes calm, has compiled an impressive client list during his adventures around the globe.

The two came together for the first time in an icehouse, of all places, on a fishing trip to Wisconsin in December of 2010. The timing couldn’t have been better.

With personalities on opposite ends of the spectrum, the pair found common ground in a shared urgency to produce films. Franklin was waiting to pounce on the right opportunity to direct, and similarly, Worley had been looking to transition into videography when the time was right.

“We pretty much became speed dial brothers overnight,” said Franklin. “That’s what keeps it organic. We’re not identical by any means, but we have the same goal to work with each other.”

While both continue to hold their respective full-time gigs, you wouldn’t know it based on the quality or quantity of film they’re churning out. To call filmmaking a hobby or Royal Antler a side project would be badly missing the mark.

Free time is a thing of the distant past, as Franklin and Worley are in an almost constant state of writing, shooting, and editing. And they wouldn’t have the early mornings and late nights any other way.

“I don’t know what it would take to derail us, because we’re hell bent on making this stuff,” said Worley. “I get antsy when I’m not shooting.”

Getting in the Groove

Though they would say it was just the first step, Royal Antler drew praise from across the country with the debut of their first film, Deep Custom — a six and a half minute dive into the craft of Erik Noren, the irascible eccentric behind the iconic Peacock Groove custom bike brand in Minneapolis.

“The whole story of Peacock Groove was just waiting to be told,” said Worley. “It was shocking to me that no one had ever shot Erik’s bikes before.”

The film, by no means the first showcase of custom frame building, sets itself apart by transporting the viewer deep into the steel-cluttered warehouse shop of Noren, where craftsmanship meets performance-driven art.

In a matter of minutes, the man known as “The Liberace of Bikes” comes to life on screen. With saws grinding and sparks flying, Noren’s personality grabs hold of you, slaps you across the face, and leaves you wanting more of his shenanigans and bike mastery. Without ever having met the man, it’s hard not to feel a sort of bizarre connection when you see him pedaling his passion around town.

The Almanzo 100

Coming off of the success of Deep Custom, Royal Antler was at it again this spring. Franklin and Worley set out to the bluff country of Southeastern Minnesota on a mission to tell the story of the Almanzo 100.

With 100 miles of gravel roads and 6,000 feet of elevation gain, the Almanzo is the granddaddy of gravel races. Each May, it attracts riders from around the world. And punishes them all.

Franklin and Worley managed to not only capture the range of suffering and triumph on race day, but also uncovered the story of how the growing legend of the Almanzo came about because of one man who had a vision to create community with a bike race. A really, really hard bike race.


When Deep Custom premiered in Minneapolis in December, Charles Youel, the founder of ARTCRANK, was one of the several hundred in attendance. “What I saw blew me away,” said Youel. “I knew that I wanted to work with these guys—I just didn’t know on what.”

An introduction and open-ended conversation turned into plans for Royal Antler to do what they do best—tell a story.

“I wanted to do something on film about the show, because to me the most interesting thing about ARTCRANK isn’t the pictures that stand still, it’s the motion and interaction of the show, and the work that goes into it” said Youel.

Over the course of several months, Franklin and Worley worked furiously to create what they feel is their best story yet.

It all comes together

On Thursday evening at the Parkway Theatre in Minneapolis, a year and a half of work will be on display in a 30-minute program of short films about bikes. But it’s not about Franklin and Worley. Or Royal Antler. It’s about the stories. It’s always about the stories.

“I would love nothing more than people to leave the theatre that night with a desire to do more than they’re doing right now,” said Worley. “Whether it’s riding more, painting more, whatever they’re passionate about. I want to move people.”

– Patrick Murphy


Four short films about bikes

Thursday, August 23
Parkway Theater
4814 Chicago Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN

7:00pm – 11:00pm

ARTCRANK // The Almanzo 100 // Deep Custom // Off The Map

ARTCRANK, Royal AntlerCrash + Sue’ and Dero proudly present an evening of bike-inspired short films at the Parkway Theater, including two world premieres: ARTCRANK and The Almanzo 100 (both featuring music by DOOMTREE).

> Admission is FREE.

> We’ll show the full program four times throughout the evening.

> Dero will provide free valet bike parking across the street from the Parkway Theater.

> Buy a raffle ticket to win premium outdoor gear from — all proceeds benefit Full Cycle, a nonprofit bike shop that provides free bicycles and work experience for homeless teens and young adults.

> Enjoy food and drinks at Pepitos before and after the show.

RSVP at our Facebook event page!


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