"Pedestals are low and nothing can stay on top for too long without being taken apart."
The rich history of British skateboarding will have inspired people way abroad the island shores, mainly though a handful of video productions that are referenced all the time, to this day. It is with those images that Jacob grew up, and you can tell hi kept them in mind when working on his own full length. In the end, XIth Hour is one of the best video to come out of the whole of Europe, this year, and perpetuates, with panache, the British skateboarding tradition. It made sense to us to meet this character, especially when we heard he actually did not own a camera…
Copenhagen skater, Magnus Kreiberg, filmed with you in London and told me he tried a line for hours in the middle in the night, and you never gave up filming nor complained. Do you think this is a good example of the efforts you have to put in to release a video like this?
I think it’s pretty difficult to get footage that you’re going to value unless you’re patient. It definitely helps if the person you’re filming is aware that you’re patient too. That let’s them feel comfortable enough to relax and do what they’re doing as well as they can, and maybe play around with it too, depending on who they are.
Most of the video has been filmed in your environment, and some of the featured skaters are good friends of yours. Did you ever fear that the video could turn in a “homie” video, only your friends could enjoy?
This was definitely something I thought about. I’ve always tried to maintain a high level of quality control with the skating, anyway, and luckily my friends happen to kill it! Besides the style of editing that I aspire towards doesn’t really suit a “homie” video, I’d say it’s a bit too impersonal for that.
Dan Magee helped you with some aspects of it. Can you explain to the young generation who he is, and what impact he might have on you, as a UK filmer?
He was the creative director of Blueprint from the beginning, and responsible for the whole aesthetic, a large amount of the filming and all the editing of the videos. For mine, and the generation before, British street skating was presented through his lens. Blueprint was the giant of UK skateboarding and the videos trumped anything else that existed at the time. What we saw in those videos and the way it looked was, to me, British skateboarding, and to a certain extent still is. He influenced the musical tastes of a whole generation of skateboarders and this effect is still visible.
How would you define the “British touch” in a skate video?
I’m quite stumped on this, it’s a quality I’ve been trying to capture for a long time since watching Lost & Found when I was a lot younger, and I’m not entirely convinced I’ve managed it. One thing I’d say is that, though it sounds clichéd, growing up skateboarding in Britain doesn’t allow you to have a perfect, measured push, learn to hold your block tricks forever, or have the best, calmest flatland tricks. This pervades British skateboarding so heavily that it must contribute to the aesthetic in videos.
Besides that I’d say a common thread could be a simple visual style, with a tone of solemnity that doesn’t take itself too seriously, leaving room for some humour in the background. British music is usually predominately used too, which accounts for a lot.
Of course this is just one strand of British skateboard videos, there’s the whole spectrum that you’d see anywhere else.
Kevin Lowry and Tom Knox
There are tons of different spots in the video, some of them are really sketchy and hard to skate but make the video fun to watch. Did you push skaters to skate them –to avoid a “Southbank video”– or did it happen naturally?
Well, luckily, everybody I film with, I’m either quite close friends with or has a fairly refined idea of what they like to skate already, so they would rarely suggest anything that didn’t fit what I wanted. Of course, sometimes, I’d have to nudge people in a certain direction. As the video came together, I’d show everybody involved to give them a better idea of where we were going with it. I think there was an unspoken agreement from the beginning though.
Working on this kind of project is a full time job, however it's probably not your livelihood. What does looks like your life beside filming and editing?
Well, I took a couple of crappy jobs whilst I was doing it but they didn’t last for too long, call centre and museum jobs. I have filming work on and off which keeps me afloat and I borrowed quite a lot of money from the likes of Kevin Lowry and Tom Knox and my flatmates. I don’t have any expensive habits or tastes, so the main expenses are rent and travel.
I started filming it just as my literature degree was finishing. Since then it’s been the densest period of skateboarding in my life. In my actual spare time I read as much as I can, and just try to see people where I can.
As mentioned in the video “Shot using today’s most regressive technology”, you don't own all the brand new equipment. What did you use for XIth Hour, any up and down? I heard you actually don't own a camera?
Used the classic setup of Sony vx1000 / MK1 Fisheye. One camera broke and I constantly had problems with them playing up. Besides that I edited 90% of it on an old Macbook G4, that used to belong to Magee. No it’s true I don’t own a camera, I used one that belongs to Neil Smith for some of it, one that belongs to my flatmate Tbone, and finished it with one that Knox bought. I used one of Morph’s lenses for some of it, Lowry’s for some of it and my flatmate’s for the rest. It was a bit of a joke and I felt like a charity case the whole time, Jensen even gave me a laptop towards the end… I’m very grateful for all the help I received!
Luka Pinto was quite unknown abroad, skates fast with his own unique style and approach… Do you hope the video will make him shine?
I’d love it so much if it did something positive for Luka. I didn’t know him before we started filming together. He moved to London from Jersey, me and Knox had seen an old part of his and we both wanted so badly to try and push him but neither of us knew him. It’s an awkward situation wanting to approach a stranger in that way. I ended up just bumping into him, and when I saw him skate in real life I decided just to ask straight out. He was really down and filming him was so easy: just point him in a direction and follow. He really is one of the best skateboarders I’ve met, I hope it translates –though it never fully can– and allows him to be pushed further.
Luka Pinto, Tom Knox, Kevin Lowry, Chris Jones, Will Harmon, Alex Campbell and Arthur Derrien in Lyon
How much music matters to you, when it comes to making a skateboard edit?
For me it’s at least 50% of the final thing. Music is what grounds the video culturally. It stresses me out having to pick music sometimes because it matters so much. If you’re not careful your decisions place the video too strongly in one era, can be too personal and alienate a lot of people or just be plain bad. I always get second opinions and talk to people about ideas, otherwise it’s too easy to lose perspective and make something too idiosyncratic.
You finished the video a quite while ago now, are you relieved now, and did you find some motivation to start a new project?
There’s definitely a sense of relief. It’s good not to have all your time organised at the mercy of everybody else’s schedule, to be able to do what you want a bit more. This also comes with a sense of loss though, it took me a while to get into a rhythm again after feeling a little sorry for myself for a while. I’m working on a couple of things at the moment, nothing on the same scale though.
The UK scene has always been flourishing, at least in terms of offering brands that support and export their own culture. And it seems, from an outsider point of view that this is great time for skateboarding in London, now, in between Palace, Landscape, Isle, etc. How do you perceive it, from your experience?
It seems to me as if London has always had a healthy output. Growing up I was completely immersed in it and didn’t pay too much attention to things outside of the UK, so it’s a bit difficult for me to judge. Now, I’m much more aware but it seems again like a very exciting time in British and European skateboarding as a whole. Palace shaking things up in the wake of Blueprint’s demise was a very welcome arrival and now with Isle too it’s not such a one-horse race in terms of defining the British scene internationally. I hate to abuse an old cliché but it seems to me as if stereotypical British cynicism is key to the continual original output; the piss-taking and inherently critical approach must be in part what drives the cycle of new ideas and approaches – pedestals are low and nothing can stay on top for too long without being taken apart.
You got much experience and exposure for your age, got some calls from people in the industry, yet?
Well I’ve always filmed things for money for various companies, but no, nothing particularly life-changing. Looks might have deceived you a little too, I’m 22.
Let's put it bluntly, you NEED XIth Hour in your collection, so cope it here!
If you're not convinced, yet, well, Tom Knox earned last part of Xith Hour, and it just went online, so enjoy: