Henry has been the driving force behind the Slam video. His massive amount of dedication and enthusiasm towards documenting skateboarding in London really shows in the video, which is a solid hour of raw street skating from almost everyone in the capital’s scene. The pre-orders for the Slam video are in the post today, and you can grab yourself a copy from here, so here are some words from the guy behind the whole project..
Why do you personally film skateboarding?
I film skateboarding because it needs to be filmed, and I just ended up being that guy. Skating needs to be seen and shared, and presented in an emotive way so as to inspire and educate the young and impressionable …and I guess I just took the aesthetics of it all, skateboarding is just aesthetics and accomplishment and I get some sort of satisfaction from being able to bring that from the streets to an audience.
The Slam video is your next full skateboard film since Writer’s Block. Do you reckon much has changed in London in the last 5 years?
Ha, well Writers block seems a long time ago, nothing like this video. I think skating has changed a lot in the last 5 years, it’s changed differently in different parts of the world but in London the main thing that happened was it became popular. There’s so many packs of kids in the city on the weekend now, to the point that you don’t even really acknowledge each other like we used to. With that comes the rinsing of spots, increased Police interest and security is so tight. The plus side of this is that the Slam riders have been thinking outside the box bit more, skating lots of shitty spots, and exploring even further into the outskirts of greater London. Skating here has become a lot more focused on style, finesse and speed.
How is it filming for a full film in comparison to the web edits you’ve been producing? Web edits have become companies main output recently, what’s your opinion on them in comparison to a physical DVD?
Well at the filming stage skating is always the same, the process of going out and getting clips is the same hard graft as ever. The good thing about some of the web edits I have been doing lately is that they can have a concept or a visual idea to drive it, so I’ve been directing the skaters a lot more in those situations, they don’t have to be so skate heavy, its more about telling a little story or whatever. The biggest difference in making a full length DVD like this is the timescale, I have been stacking clips for this video for over 2 years now, just tucking them away on my hardrives, sometime stuff I filmed a year and a half ago gets blown out by someone else doing it and putting it straight on the internet, which sucks as that’s then a wasted clip, but that’s how it goes. Most of what we got is too good for the internet in my opinion.
How’s it going filming everything in HD? Filming skating can get pretty risky, or just being in sketchy areas, have you had any near misses recently that could have been expensive?
HD is just a different format, the ins and outs of filming are basically the same, as far as I’m concerned anyways… I haven’t changed my approach, the camera is a hell of a lot heavier but I’m used to that. A lot of people seem to get HD cameras and suddenly don’t want to film lines, or cant film them properly. I don’t really understand that and don’t really like the direction most people who shoot HD are taking, everything has to be so epic and over dramatised. My camera has definitely taken a beating, its held together with stickers and elastic bands at the moment, the lens is covered in scratches which is inevitable if you film skating properly everyday, a random stray board is gonna come your way at some point, but I just deal with it. I think my reactions are pretty good, there have certainly been a lot of near misses lately!
How do you go about finding new and interesting skate spots to film at?
Well I grew up in London, so I have covered pretty much all of it to a certain extent. I know where I have and haven’t been and will spend hours on Google streetview scoping the places I haven’t for potential spots, then use them as a guide and go scope that area, maybe half of them turn out to be skateable, but more often then not you find something even better just round the corner. It’s the only way to be productive as so much of the inner city spots have been rinsed to oblivion.
The deadline for the video was in the middle of winter, what was it like filming through those last few cold and dark months? Can you realistically use generators in London nowadays?
There isn’t a single generator clip in the video so far, I recently moved to Holborn, 5 minutes from Slam and its too expensive and not necessary to run a car when you live so central, so I cant lug a genny about, its all just been fish eye with a light, which I’m quite stoked on as it keeps the footage looking as raw as possible. It bloody cold now but I just wrap up warm, I’ve got hand warmers, foot warmers, thermals, whatever u can think of to keep me warm out there. Nothing beats winter London footage though – big hoods, gloves and leafless trees just seem to optimise English skateboarding so I’m always stoked when I come home with clips even if I’m frozen solid.
What’s your approach to filming with different skaters? I guess some skaters know a specific spot and have a trick in mind they want to get down, whereas other guys may just want to tear down a street and see what happens?
Everyone has different agendas, some have to work half or all the week, some don’t, some always have a spot in mind, especially slightly older guys like Jensen, Snowy and Joey; they have been doing this for a while, so when I’m out with them I let them take the lead. With some of the younger riders we just got out and see what happens. My favourite formula is to come up with two spots to hit, a fair distance apart and then skate between them hitting stuff on the way.
How do you see the filming process in comparison to the editing process? Do you try to get the skaters involved with the editing, or does that just get a bit complex?
Filming is the real chore of it all, although I obviously love it, and it’s where all the hard work lies. It’s super rewarding when you get the clip, but sometimes depressing when you don’t. Editing is the most fun part for me, I love the puzzle, knowing that all the clips I have will work in one perfect order, and just finding that order is the best thing about it. I like to keep working edits of everyone’s parts and invite them to come and watch it whenever they want, I want their input but ultimately know whether something will or wont work editing wise, and I think most of the riders trust me to represent them in the right way. I’m always open to suggestions but wont hold back if I don’t think what they come up with will work!
What’s the usual ratio of stuff filmed to footage used? Are there any sections in progress that have become lost on your hard drive and you wish you’d had a chance to complete?
I get everything out eventually, this is the longest I’ve sat on footage for a while, any offcuts I will blog as soon as possible. Everything in the City of Rats is basically everything I have, Its not just only the best tricks technically, but just whatever looks good aesthetically, there will be some fairly simple stuff in the video but its looks fucking amazing and that’s why its in there.
Obviously skate films have a massive influence over what you produce, right? Does any of your work get influenced by films outside of skating? Any favorite directors?
Lately I have been getting more into the story telling aspect of film making, and trying to bring that across into my work without taking away from the skating or making it too glamorous and arty. I don’t actually watch many films at the moment as I pretty much have to work all day everyday. I have always been a big fan of British cinema, especially the more gritty films, old and new. No specific directors inspire me that come to mind, I might just see little things here and there that give me ideas. My biggest thing is to get a feeling across with the skating, to create atmosphere and convey a certain emotion without being to over the top and obvious.
Are there any particular sections or moments you are really hyped on?
Haha, I’m not going to pick favourites, I don’t think I could if I wanted to, all I’ll say is there going to be great parts across the board. The video covers the full spectrum from seasoned pros like Jensen, Snowy, and Joey, to the new generation who are in their prime like Lucien, Rory and Smithy, to the young up and comers who will be the future of London skateboarding for years to come. Seeing Casper and Darius progressing at such an emphatic rate makes me smile, I’m almost like a proud dad with them two!
* Portrait Photo by Sam Ashley