Meeting… Vivien Feil!

Photos: Jean Feil
Interview: Benjamin Deberdt

 Jean Feil

Magenta is amongst those independent companies that, in a really short time, have managed to create an international infatuation, and just keep growing. Most likely because they know the “why” and “how” of what they have to offer. And let’s be frank, even if you are not a fan, you still want to know what the hell they have been doing…
And, precisely, what Magenta is up to, today, is putting out a new video, centered around their recent trip to NYC, in rather particular conditions, and an occasion of a few gatherings some expected, some not. What a better excuse to meet Vivien Feil, and question him about the recent past, and even more about what the future might have to offer, or to be fought for.

You had a precise plan when you left for NYC?
The basic idea was that Soy and I were going there to set-up an exhibition and premiere SF Hill Street Blues 2 at Labor skateshop. We have long time friends there, and Josh Stewart –that runs our US distro– is based there, so it was the occasion to see them, also. We also thought we would skate a lot since the city is quite fantastic for that, but it all turned into something else when Léo Valls decided to join us. He talked about it, it snowballed, in the matter of a week, in a crew of about ten people, some French, like Masaki Ui, Olivier “Tavu” Ente, Aymeric Nocus, some Americans (Zack Lyons came from Washington DC, Ben Gore from S.F…), one Japanese Kenga Lui, friend of Léo… And filmer Colin Read was waiting for us! There, the crew grew even bigger. Maz flew in a couple days after us, he doesn’t speak really good English and got lost in Brooklyn, and ask for direction to a random passer-by: Alex Davis, who ended up bringing him back to us. Alex was about to leave town, but ended up staying, sleeping on Colin’s floor to skate and have fun with us. It was Léo’s first time, and he just went berserk. He was skating and filming all day, all night, motivating everybody. With the crew we had, we realized quickly that in eleven days, we could produce an interesting edit, despite the rather extreme weather conditions, that were not included in our original plan, and that ended up making the whole thing more natural and fun for everybody.

Yep, you ended up being there at the worst time!
We were amongst the first to land when the airports opened again after Sandy. The whole South of Manhattan was in the dark when I arrived, the streets were empty and you would only see the Empire State Building light in the distance. Quite surreal. There was no more gas, the trains started running slowly over the next days, line after line. On paper, it was about the worst time to try to accomplish anything in New York. On the exhibition night, the trains weren’t running yet. We thought nobody would show up, and it ended up being so crowded that the police showed up and shut it down before we could premiere the video! NYC is about five times larger than Paris. With no trains and no car, it could seem unrealistic to try to film with that many people all located miles away from each other. But skateboarding is primarily a mode of transport, and the way we skate really accommodated the situation, as we don’t try to go to known spots or follow any plan. Just like in France, or anywhere we go, we went cruising in the city, stopping by on whatever cool things we would bump into, before carrying on. So, the state of panic in which the city was did not really bother us, and we manage to make the best of it. That said, I want to recognize Léo and Colin’s motivation, they wore off the New-York asphalt like madmen for those eleven days!

 Jean Feil

Frontside nosegrind in New York City.

You do have a good experience of difficult conditions over there, though…
It wasn’t my first time heading to New York at that time of the year. It is on the coast, so it is always risky in November: the weather can be nice or fierce, it’s a gamble. The time we were there at the same time, you and I, I was sleeping on Josh’s couch, in the infamous D-Block that is actually a warehouse illegally turned into apartments spaces, with all the insulation problems that would come with that. It was a bit like sleeping outside. There was no heating, and a couple inches gap between the windowpane and the wall, with outside air just flowing in. I was fully dressed up with every blanket, sleeping bag and sheets available piled up over me to try to survive. After one week, I was quite under the weather! Actually, Colin is supposed to meet us in Bordeaux on Tuesday, and all New-York airports are shut because of a snowstorm. We’re jinxed! A Siberia / New York connection at its best!

Any good “New York minute” from that trip?
I stayed five days only, and had quite a lot on my plate with Josh, so I only got to skate an afternoon and one evening. We met up around Central Park, and skated down all the way to South Manhattan, while gathering people along the way. In the end, during that day, everybody filmed quite a lot, we had a great time, had dinner all together, and when it was time for me to split, I looked at my watch thinking we had been out for ten hours, where in fact, it was only a fraction of that time.

Now that Panic In Manhattan is out, what does Magenta has in store for the rest of the year?
Many things! A Japan tour in March, an Australian one in April, the UK in May, something in Boston also, and we’ll release an about 30 minutes DVD in June. It’ll be called Soleil Levant, and had been shot in France and Japan; we all kept our best footage for that, and our Japanese friends really got involved to represent their scene. Takahiro Morita and the TBPR dudes from Osaka will have parts, along with many other Japanese and French friends, plus other people that came across France. The goal for this one is to get people stoked to skate, and to connect with skateboarders from different cultures.

Sounds promising! What about the young entrepreneur life, how is that treating you?
I am getting used to it, even if it is a world away from the life I lead before, without a worry or responsibility in the world. But, this is all for the best. I feel like I have been progressing a lot, in many fields. I understand more things, have to think a lot more, and be less naïve, also, it’s quite stimulating. A bit stressful sometimes, as I need to get salaries out of all this, fulfill promises, and not let down some expectations, but I dig it. It feel like I give my whole for something that has a meaning, that tries to convey a message, a less normed way to look at skating, more free and artistic; so I forget all the inconvenients.

 Jean Feil

Switch ollie, in Lille, North of France.

And dad life in all this?
Fatherhood is something that makes you very aware of your responsibilities, and not just on a financial level. When you are facing your child, you wonder what you’ll leave him, you see yourself in his eyes later when he’ll have the age, and the right, to judge you. There you realize how much what he perceives of you will be important in his life. It is something really positive, that gives me a lot of motivation to improve in all fields. Kids are the best!

Do you even have time to skate?
I am finishing my parts for Josh Stewart’s Static 4, and our Soleil Levant DVD, while filming for other Magenta projects, so, yep, I’m out there. Plus, I seem to enjoy it more and more as my whole vision evolves. I moved to Bordeaux last year, and there is a big scene here. People like Léo, Maz, Xavier Benavides, Aymeric Nocus and many more are pushing me to skate every day, and that exactly what I need. There are also many crews that visit, and it’s always great to connect with people with a different perception of skateboarding. Recently, we had Croatians, Slovenians, Brits and Americans… There are always a lot of people passing in town, and all those exchanges are another motivation to skate.

Three years later, where do Soy and you see yourselves compared to your first expectations?
Way further than we thought! Honestly, at the beginning, we didn’t think ahead much. We did not think the brand would find such support outside France, and certainly not that quickly. The brand does will in the States, in Japan, in Canada, all around Europe, in Australia, and is reaching out to Central America. We get messages from everywhere, it’s quite unbelievable. Especially since we are still 100% independent. We do everything ourselves, and have no backer. It is quite a surprise for us, as we thought we would be a bit isolated. But people are really receptive. It’s great! Actually, I want to thank everybody that supports us, and understand what we try to do. I give you all a big kiss!

Eleven days in a recovering NYC could produce this, with the right people, off course:

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