JIM CRAVEN INTERVIEW
Frontside Ollie - Henry Kingsford
You recently made the move to Cph. What are some of the differences you've noticed from living in Manchester and how has the move affected your life and skating?
In relation to skateboarding, the main difference is just the number of spots here, as well as the treatment of skateboarding by the public as well as the government. It's really easy to go out for a day and skate a bunch of really good spots without getting kicked out or having any hassle, and the types of spots are super varied. In Manchester there's only a couple of spots I could really catch a vibe at because my skill set is quite limited, but here there are so many. In terms of life in general, it's probably that I have two cycling jobs and I ride my bike everywhere, including to and between each skate spot. So yeah, I'm basically never off a bike, unless I'm skating or sleeping! Thats a really big difference from Manchester, for sure.
Emil Maar - Backside Heelflip
Photos By Jim
You shoot photos and film, do the two things ever get in the way of each other? As in have you ever missed getting the footage while shooting a photo or vice versa?
Absolutely. The more 'seriously' I take the photography side of things the worse it's getting too! The way it always used to work was that when someone was trying a trick, I would be snapping photos until it really looked like they might do it or had the trick fully worked out, at which point the skater would shoot me a look or say something along the lines of "You're a filmer, stop pissing about and film it!". At that point I would stop shooting and start filming, usually secretly quite upset because I didn't get a decent photo.
Jay Johnson - Wallie one foot on Thomas St
More recently I've been fighting back against that pressure to stop shooting a lot more, which has led to quite a few tricks having no footage. One example is Luca Prestini's switch wallie in the most recent Grey. I had the photo in mind already, and we both went there with the understanding that we would film it after getting a decent photo. If you know Copenhagen, then you'll know that Nyhavn bridge is quite literally the most touristy and busy bridge in the whole city, so Luca was only getting to try the trick about once every 3 minutes in between cyclists and dawdling Americans. In the end, for several reasons, I made him do it about 5 times. It took ages and was super frustrating, but was an absolute gent about it even though I could tell deep down he hated me at that moment. After getting a shot we were both happy with, we both agreed "Let's get the fuck off this bridge and come back sometime at night to film it". About two days later, work started on the bridge and that obstacle has been completely removed! What are the chances? Either way, I'm stoked that we stuck it out with the photo instead of just taking the first one he did and filming it instead, it's probably my favourite skate photo I've ever shot.
Luca Prestini - Switch Wallie
You and Dom Henry recently got the cover of grey with his Switch Wallride, Congrats! Talk us through that and how many times did Dom's board go in the water?
Oh man, yeah that's one to tick off the bucket list isn't it. Grey cover! I'm so stoked. The whole thing was a bit of a saga though, haha. We were out that way for a different wooden deck spot, which is more like a regular hubba. He wanted to try something on it, but ended up doing that thing where he just rode up to it for ages and shouting. So I think he was pretty keen to redeem himself. We saw the wallride spot randomly a few minutes later, and immediately I ran off down this little jetty and started shouting about how sick a photo would look from there. Our friend Gustav who was out with us that day volunteered to be a board spotter just out of shot.
Dom Henry - Switch Wallride
Pretty much straight away he started trying it, which is quite out of character for Dom, especially on stairs and wallrides! It was pretty hilarious how bad his first few attempts were. He started getting closer but then inevitably sent his board into the water. I think on the first day, that only happened once. We ended up getting kicked/vibed out by some very angry residents right when he started getting really close to rolling it away. So, me and Dom went back on our own about a week later, with the aim of filming it. I already had a couple of really good photos of what could be considered "photo makes" from round 1, so we figured we needed the footage to back it up.
Because it was just a two of us, we decided the best thing to do would be to set up my camera on a tripod over on the same jetty, whilst I stood by the water and acted as a goalie for Dom's board. It turns out I'm a really shit goalie. I think the board went in about 5 or 6 times. It was October, and here I was standing in my boxers at the bottom of a wallride going in the sea every couple of minutes to fish out Dom's board for him! The most demoralising bit came when he did it. He did it so good! I ran around to go to the camera, and saw that it had stopped recording after about 18 minutes for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I have no idea what happened, but we didn't actually have the footage of the make. That was a hard thing to have to tell Dom, he was so beaten up by that point. Just another 10 more minutes and his board in the sea a couple more times, and we got the clip, and the cover!
You've made many edits and videos in Manchester, looking back which is your fondest?
Probably the first Cons Core Store Challenge edit we did. It was so sick, the whole crew got super into the spirit of it. Everybody was keen! It just really has a sense of community to it. Ken's music, Marcus's animations and then the entire crew out in the streets! Yeah, I can't really explain it but for sure that edit brings back a lot of really good memories.
Your video's "Land" and "Island" are awesome. What made you want to make those edits and what were some of the challenges you faced while making them?
I think the spark for those was going to a few ditches around Northampton with Tom and Joel in around 2011 or 2012. We hit a few in one day and I remember just being so stoked on the vibe, being out in the middle of nowhere making it happen on some crap spots. It set me off thinking about how much else there must be out there. Tom and I used to watch a lot of the old Death videos and Big Pushes where they skate loads of crazy ditch and rural spots too, and it just inspired us a lot. "Land" was actually quite chill to make. We would just head out on day trips from Manchester in Toms car, over to something that looked promising in the Peak District or wherever. We went down to Northamptonshire for that too, and stayed at Joel's family home. I remember it was great summer too, really warm and very little rainfall, so lots of dry ditches! It was actually just intended as a Tom Day video part for Grey in the beginning, but when I sent over the clips to Henry I think he got really into the idea, and wanted to make it something a bit more special. We got Zach Riley and Joe O'Donnell more involved then and Henry came up for a few days too.
Joe O'Donnell - Frontside Ollie
When it was released, I think it's safe to say that we were all pretty surprised by how it was received. That really emboldened us I think, to go on and do a more elaborate version with all the spots I had been finding online, as well as spots people were telling us about. We basically set aside nearly 2 months in the summer of 2017 and went on an absolute mission. We drove from John O'Groats to Land's End, but with so many detours on the way. I have no idea how many miles we covered but all the driving was being done by Tom, who had a stomach ulcer at the time and still came through with some of the best stuff in the edit. What a trooper! The weather was terrible almost the entire time, Tom had the world's smallest car, I lost my tent, my phone broke, my camera fogged up and I had several anxiety related meltdowns. It was probably the best summer of my life!
Your more recent work for Carhartt was also conceptual, sticking to skating one architect's work around Europe.
How did you come up with the idea and how was it making that?
It was actually kind of Pips idea! When she was in her first year of studying architecture in around 2013, she was doing a lot of research and came back from uni with a bunch of scans out of a book of buildings she thought would be good to skate. A lot of it totally wasn't, but in there was some stuff I recognised, which was all by the same architect, Santiago Calatrava. That set me off on several years of researching every project in Europe he ever designed and built, and working out what could be skated at each one. Pretty much every building he has ever made is made of banks and transitions right to ground level, and it is all super austere and imposing. I couldn't really let the idea go, anyone who worked at NOTE probably had me talking to them about it at one time or another! In 2019 I shot Joseph at Carhartt an email with all the spots and evidence of them being skated, along with others that had never been skated before to our knowledge. Surprisingly, he took almost no convincing at all!
Making it was a really amazing but also quite odd experience. For example, 3 days in Tenerife with Jonas Skrøder and Henry Kingsford, repeatedly getting kicked out of two different "spots" and skating a shitty seafront skatepark the rest of the time. Or the same thing with Pepe Tirelli in Seville, 5 days and 3 spots! Quite a few of the trips were just for one or two spots and were usually just with one or two skaters, almost all of whom I had never met before, it all felt pretty ridiculous. We did 7 trips in total, I think. I'm so grateful to all of the skaters who got involved in that, they were absolute legends, even though they were all probably wishing they were anywhere else.
What is it about a more conceptual approach that gets you stoked?
I just find that I work a lot better with big creative limitations. Some people - I guess you definitely fall into this category Joe - have this ability to pick up a camera in pretty much any situation, be creative, make something happen out of nothing and be stoked on the outcome. But for me, if someone just says "take that camera and make something", there's too many options and my mind can't focus on anything at all, and therefore either make something really generic that I don't actually like, or nothing at all. So, if I set a rule, for example only skating ditches in the countryside or spots designed by one architect, whatever the limitation is, it then narrows the scope of what there is to focus on or think about. For me, that then sort of allows me to be more creative and focussed in a way that I can't be otherwise. That probably sounds quite stupid, but I think my brain gets overloaded otherwise.
I get what your saying, You and Dom Henry have been skating quite a bit recently trying to get clip's for the new NOTE video, How have you found life on the other side of the lens. And what's it like filming with Dom (Dom as the filmer)
It's sick! It's really odd to actually try quite hard on a skateboard - the last time I tried this hard was when I was about 16. Since then, it's just been one no comply every 6 months. Dom is a super supportive filmer though. It's nice to have someone to bounce ideas off and see what he thinks about stuff I want to try, and if he thinks it's crap he's not afraid to say so! But if he's down, then he's super down. He always bringing the hype and convincing me to keep trying, because I always want to give up after about three tries. It's quite funny being told by one of the UK's most tech skaters that my hippy jump, followed by an ollie, is 'sick'...haha. We've been having some really fun sessions filming though, I can't wait to see the finished product.
Dom Henry - Switch Flip
What are you looking for when shooting or filming skate stuff? It seems like your good at framing people in epic back drops. You think it's more about the spot or the trick?
It totally depends I guess, if I'm working on something more conceptual, or I have a specific photo in mind, then sometimes I stop caring about tricks too much. Obviously, it needs to be at a certain standard, but I'm usually happy to keep things quite simple as long as I have a shot I'm happy with or whatever. Making Ollie Lock do some ollies on the banks at the Lowry bridge come to mind! haha. But in day-to-day filming or photography, of course, it's all about tricks, and making them look as good as possible. I have so much more respect for 'proper' skate photographers after trying to shoot more seriously too. If you go out with a crew, the odds of going to a super photogenic spot where there's a decent photo opportunity are so low. The whole thing is a nightmare, and making what you can out of what you're given is a skill I'm having to work on, that's for sure.
Emil Maar - Ollie up to Crook
One of my favourite edit's you made was "Solstice". What was the story behind that and how long did you film for it?
At the time I was working for a corporate film company in Salford, making training videos for a computer firm. That was gnarly. I think I personally made about 30 hours of it, and it was all so incredibly tedious and boring. Not just to make, but to watch! I was commuting from Chorley to Salford to do that, and after the first month or so doing it, I was just so miserable and needed something else to focus on. I had so much built-up energy after sitting around doing that for 8 hours. I started taking my camera with me to work, and then every day after 5 I would just head to NOTE and meet whoever was keen that evening, by which time it was already completely dark. After doing that for about a month, I rushed the edit out for the winter solstice in 2012, which was meant to be the end of the world or something. It all came together really quick. I used a track by my mate Paul Rice from Leyland, and intercut the music video he already had for it, which all worked out really well, thanks mate!
What's next? Any new projects in the works you want to share?
Theres a project that I have in the works with Grey and Vans, we shot some stuff in the summer but it's all been pushed back for the foreseeable future for obvious reasons. We are tracking the English coastline hitting a bunch of crusty spots. The stuff from the first trip is looking really sick, I'm really excited to get back to the UK to finish it. Other than that, covid has basically ruined all of my other plans and dreams, so I'm just trying to make the most of being in Copenhagen and skating as much as possible. Hopefully I can film some stuff here in Copenhagen too once the city has thawed out!
Tom Snape - Switch Heel
Cheers Jim we miss you mate, Any shout outs?
Firstly, a massive thanks to Henry at Grey - if it wasn't for him backing the projects we've done so hard, often at personal and financial expense, they almost certainly wouldn't have happened. I've been sending him daft project ideas for 5 years now, and he's been the guy who has turned them from a pipe dream into a reality. Thanks to Splodge for employing me and putting up with me pissing off at short notice so often and generally having the crew's back. Thank you to Pip for putting up with me in general, and supporting me in all the ways she does. Thanks to Joseph Biais at Carhartt, Clare Boland-Dean for her help during her Sole Tech years, Mat Fowler and his band mates and Spillage Fete records for allowing us to use their amazing music. Big shout out to the whole Manchester crew, can't wait to come back and catch a vibe at Platts!
Catch Jim actually skateboarding in the new NOTE video "New Normal" Out soon. Check out more from Jim @jimcravenfilm