PREMIERE / "L'ELDORADO" / "Chronicles of the Past" Nantes / INTERVIEW

Today, on LIVE, we're not introducing you to just one exclusive local video production, but rather two - as an attempt to a general representation of the skate scene in Nantes, France, as nurtured throughout several decades by successive generations of activists working hard at putting not just their practice but also their localization on great display. This strongly historic landmark of French skateboarding has fed the prowess of - amongst others - Thibaud Fradin back when his sponsor at the time, Cliché Skateboards, Jérémie Daclin's iconic company, was literally and figuratively taking off overseas, or also David Couliau's adventures on either side of both the lens and industry. Nowadays, in comparison, some might argue that it's blending into the general landscape a little more - maybe due to the lack of encouraging local policies for skateboarding, but maybe also due to a lack of attention on their own end because indeed, the scene really seems just as vibrant in the year twenty twenty-one looking at the hyperactivity of several shops (NDJBanc PublicMilk) but first and foremost of the ever-so-passionate locals, some of them even running their own skate mag: Ob'Session. "L'ELDORADO" is the name of the new full-length video the latter crew just issued; and we're talking a conceptual enterprise here, supported by the notorious Sony VX-2000 and the local poetry of then - via a constant parallel with Jacques Demy's cinematography - and now - by the means of home-made animations by Rose Moreau, some timeless theatrics and of course excellent skateboarding by the crew. So, just as we were getting excited to share said piece already is also exactly when Franck Pierron contacted us (remember "TRACKED MOVEMENTS" and LIVE's original interview with Franck, here), too, to show us his new vintage gem; an anachronism only more complete upon viewing, "CHRONICLES OF THE PAST: NANTES EDITION" is a true time capsule of the authentic nineties, and quite the four-minute journey into the past of Nantes and some historic kickflips. Obviously, the temptation of federating all these different energies into one major article ended up overcoming; so, here's your occasion to discover or rediscover Nantes through quite the transgenerational prism, including questions to all parties involved - a virtual cultural trip we're inviting you on here and now!



Ob'Session Magazine Nantes / "L'ELDORADO"


LIVE Skateboard Media: Yo Mattéo! First off, fantastic job on this gem of a French indie skate video, getting to share such a craft is always a pleasure. If, quality-wise, the project speaks for itself under many aspects, just that level of spent attention isn't without raising questions by itself: who are you, and Damien, and what are your respective backgrounds in the Nantes scene and in Sony VX camera work? How did you split tasks whilst progressing on this project, how did the organization around its rather original concept come about and, of course, what is Ob’Session, the publication it's being released under?

Mattéo Gaudin: Hello Aymeric! Thanks a lot for the kind words. So, introductions time: I'm twenty, and I've been skating in Nantes for seven years now. Alongside Louis Chopinx, Rose Moreau and Alban Boisselier, we've been trying to run a local skate mag for the past four years: Ob'Session. I graduated film school with optional editing classes last year, these days I've been finding myself working in Paris a lot and, otherwise, I've more or less always filmed skating for fun. For a long time, I've been attracted to the Mini-DV format but I would mostly film with camcorders I would find at my grandparents (as well as the tapes). That was what originally allowed me to give making skate videos a try, notably with "C'EST LA FAIM" - released under Ob'Session already.

I met Damien a few years back and I remember I was fascinated by his mastership (both theoritical and practical) of the Sony VX already. Indeed, even now he already has quite the number of projects under his belt, with plenty of different skaters from most everywhere. Anyway, he taught me a lot on the filming sessions for "L'ELDORADO".

To try and sum it all up about how the project came about, the original idea popped up just a year ago. We were starting to work on the fourth issue of our magazine, and I really felt like dropping a consistent video along with it; a real project, I mean. And coincidentally, I had just finished an internship where I had managed to get my hands on a good thirty Mini-DV tapes (a resource only getting more and more scarce with time), and I also had just managed to fix one of Damien's many broken VX's. So we had the camera, the tapes, the skaters and the motivation. But then March 18th came along, and the first national pandemic-related lockdown with it.

We really tried to cheat it as little as possible (« stay home » being widely encouraged by every skate superstar on social media, y'know), and only got back at it even harder as soon as it was over.

So the summer was going well and the hard drives were progressively getting filled; but we only had a vague idea of what the final product would look like. Our goal so far really was to just make a rather long video, scheduled to drop in sync with the new issue of the magazine, on which we were also working on the side - but we had no set thought about any specific artistic direction or theme yet.

"I thought it could be sweet
to remake scenes from 'LOLA'
with the VX and

But then during that summer of 2020, Rose Moreau, our illustrator, introduced me to Nantes filmmaker Jacques Demy's works, notably via his movie "LOLA". Instantly, I fell in love with the author's universe, and I found it really amusing to see the old Nantes throughout that whole movie.

Upon rewatching it, I thought it could be sweet to remake scenes from "LOLA" with the VX and skateboarders. Then I briefly brought that up to Damien who, without even understanding much at first, said he was down. So, we ended up getting all those shots a few days prior to mask use becoming mandatory in the city, in just one afternoon and with the help of some extras who might have had a hard time grasping the reason why we had asked them to show up.

Alan Sanchez, hardflip. Ph.: Matéo Gauthier

Then fall came along, and brought the start of the editing phase.

Rose backed us up by creating all the motion graphics and Jacques Demy-inspired animations supporting the video.

Artwork: Rose Moreau

We were still missing a name, though. So we watched "LOLA" one billionth time, and the eventual title became obvious: "L'ELDORADO", a reference to the reoccuring, if not omnipresent cabaret in the movie.

"It's true that
Nantes had more
apparent weight
in the late nineties

The post production phase took a while because we kept running into trouble, namely sound-related. Upon capture, we would regularly get sound drops every time the skater would pop or land, so we had to fix every infected clip on the timeline by reusing sounds from other attempts of the same trick.

That didn't matter much, though - we had set ourselves a deadline.

We had just gotten the magazines, printed and mailed to us. So we went ahead and announced a release party scheduled for the last day of October 2020, where a premiere of "L'ELDORADO" was more than anticipated by everyone. A couple of days prior to the event, we had a premiere version of the video ready, the mags were still ready for distribution - we were finally all set up, and that's exactly when the government messed the whole plan up by declaring a second lockdown.

For the whole team, the situation was so frustrating. Everyone's mood was down but we kept going at it nonetheless, first thinking we could just wait it out and postpone the event. Except, to this day today, the situation is still sketchy, so after a while we ended up saying "fuck it" and organized a 'pirate' premiere at the Beaux-Arts.

" I feel like
a city and everything
it radiates
really shapes up
a person

Karma must have been on our side on that December 20th, 2020, as we didn't undergo any technical trouble (also thanks to the help of our friends, Charles Lautru in particular), most of the scene showed up and, reassuringly, absolutely no police.

It was a great and merry time, fueled by rounds of drinks. Then, in order to respect the pandemic-related eight o'clock curfew, eventually we had to cut it short and split towards different parties.

"L'ELDORADO" was an excellent adventure, especially during this sanitary crisis which insists on making taking on and then carrying projects a lot tougher.

LSM: How would you recount the history of your will to document and represent the Nantes scene? How did that even come about, originally, because handling both an independent print publication and a fair share of video production really is no simple task. To which extent would you say you are conscious of the cultural heritage Nantes represents for French skateboarding? Franck's edit bears witness of just that: the local scene dates from way back, the spots have always been brutalized and, literal decades later, some activists such as  Thibaud Fradin are still doing their part. The representation of the place in the media has shifted a bit with time, though, the mainstream's focus right now really being more fixated on Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux in particular than in the nineties; and yet, said place keeps thriving and producing ("NANT’ES SERIEUX"), as well as occasionally attracting those in-the-know ("NANTESLAJOLHY"). And, in this context, here you are, documenting the waves. Where do you stand? Who are some other main actors in the Nantes scene right now, and how do you work with them?

MG: Well, I grew up in Nantes and always skated mostly there, and I feel like a city and everything it radiates really shapes up a person, especially during their teenage years. Plus I was always rather fascinated by that city in particular, both architecture- and culture-wise; maybe because I'm originally from a smaller, more rural village, an hour away from downtown.

"It's really
that I learned about
the Nantes scene
the most

So it's this very fascination that drove us - Louis Chopinx and I - to create our own fanzine, dedicated to the Nantes scene. Originally, we had no idea what exactly we were getting ourselves into, we were seventeen, in hindsight we only knew so much about the scene and its history but the motivation and fun factor were there. And then the initiative was generally well received, with more people joining in to give advice as well, which enabled us to keep going.

It's really doing Ob'Session that I learned about the Nantes scene the most, talking with the O.G.'s, watching older videos, meeting people on the sessions or events, screenings, parties... Some local videos have actually left a deep mark on me, after I checked them out upon reading about them in the Nantes issue of A Propos Skate Mag. For instance, I used to binge watch "BREATHLESS" by Arthur Bourdaud, the 22 Clothing videos (and David Couliau's works in general) and then, more recently, Damien's pieces of course ("NANT’ES SERIEUX" forever), as well as everything Romain Batard has ever done in Nantes and also Nantes SB, Raskals, Loop It, Zes't...

Regarding the local skate heritage, it's true that the city of Nantes had more apparent weight in the late nineties, on both the national and European scale. The golden years of the Cinquante Otages and Med' spots, 22 Clothing, Nolliewood all looked lit (no pun intended), but I'm glad to live in the now still, and play my own part to support its media presence. And as you said, seeing great local projects such as "NANT’ES SERIEUX" coming out, or having HY Skate Bag coming to Nantes to shoot a clip generally is the kind of thing that keeps hopes for the future on life support.

"When all the
local creativity
concentrates on
a skate project,
incredible results

can happen"

It's also true that we're all more or less driven by this will to push Nantes back into its capital place in skateboarding on the national level and beyond, similarly to Bordeaux for instance - and I think we're headed the right way, with several shops present (NDJ, Banc Public, Milk), spots aplenty, tons of cultural projects, D.I.Y. adventures, local brands... I don't think we should rest on the past, although we can indeed be quite proud of it. Right now, many skaters are killing it and, most especially, plenty of girls are starting to skate which is truly a great thing; I really feel like encouraging this kind of flow and so the magazine is a great tool for just that.

Artwork: Rose Moreau

LSM: In addition to being particularly savory due to the constant parallel with Jacques Demy's work, your video is also adorning a fair share of fine home-made animations and various audiovisual contributions in general; which logically leads us to ask, to which extent do the skaters from Nantes create, generally speaking? Given the number of skaters "L'ELDORADO" features and the overall group hype its viewing communicates, I'm guessing - maybe a bit naively - that said the organization of said contributions and who would do what fell in place rather spontaneously? Any particular Nantes-based creatives you feel like mentioning?

MG: Nantes has, I think, always had this reputation of an artistic city, to this day still. And the skate scene reflects just that, featuring several musicians, graffiti writers, tattoo artists, illustrators, photographers, filmmakers... So, when all the local creativity concentrates on a skate project, incredible results can happen. Off the top of my head, I will mention Nancestpasoim (Nicolas Champaux) who also has quite the amount of clips in the video, and a feature article (about his art) in the latest issue of Ob'Session. He makes up full alphabets of symbols that he then draws all over the city, and he even took up tattooing last year - best of luck with that! Alan Sanchez also shoots a lot, both photos and videos, and I like his approach to space and time as represented in his productions; the same goes about Damien, too. But there are so many others, in various fields, too, listing them would take hours [laughs].

LSM: How about describing the current skate scene in Nantes, and introducing the skaters from "L'ELDORADO"? Who are all these individuals you involved - sometimes more recognizable, sometimes more obscure names depending on the viewer's level of knowledge of the local activity? How did the filming sessions come about really, a natural process I reckon? How long did the makings of "L'ELDORADO" take in total, by the way? Also, what's the story behind some of the reoccuring spots in the video such as that D.I.Y. spot you guys set on fire, or that spot with all the blocks? Some funny anecdotes, perhaps?

MG: Presently, I find the scene to be rather homogeneous, which allows for some great transgenerational sessions. Of course, it's split in crews just like in most everywhere and that's not a bad thing as long as there is respect for everyone's works, points of view, styles and ways. Maybe that's something the Nantes scene can occasionally lack, actually: a certain osmosis, perhaps, but generally speaking everyone gets along just fine.

And people doing things for the scene are aplenty indeed! I'm thinking of, notably, Maxime Nicolas who has been running his own skateshop (Banc Public) for two years now, and has been organizing events, crafting original content and supporting creatives and D.I.Y. actions non stop since.

Talking about D.I.Y., I think that's actually bound to become one of the strengths of skateboarding in Nantes, too. Of course, we aren't as furnished as some other cities yet, but there's been some gems built here before (Maison Claude, the Bellevue D.I.Y., Chantenay...) but most importantly there is this new project, called Vincent Plage. We're talking a new plaza that was cemented at the same time as our last skatepark, which the skaters also quickly took over. In the end, we set up an organization in support of the project and, soon enough, a true, 100% D.I.Y. adventure will be able to start there, next to the rest of what's essentially a brand new city block being built - complete with public parks for a stroll - that's already done for the most part. In its current state, the spot is already great enough for a big session or even to chill at, and it's constantly evolving. It's also a nice party spot but, most importantly, a great stake and challenge for the local community now in charge of developing their own space to show the city how positive investing in skateboarding can be, and how they can themselves benefit from embracing the practice - both when it comes to urban space design and mentalities.

Maxime Brondy. Ph.: Mattéo Gaudin

Anyway, getting back to Vincent Plage, the spot is featured in two sections of "L'ELDORADO" - one day time section and one night time section. Setting the spot on fire was a trip indeed but what's good to know is, none of any of those trips were planned, originally. So that shows how much hype there is, spontaneously, around the spot! On some days nothing might happen there, and then something insane the next.

Organizing the sessions was very typical: basic Insta talk, "who's skating today?" and then on it goes - like for most people I guess [laughs]. Almost everything was logged within a period of six months, approximately, with a handful of clips who had been lingering around on Damien's hard drives for a bit longer.

And when it comes to anecdotes, it's always so hard to get enough perspective to submit a good one but here's one, I guess. Originally, the video was supposed to drop with no ender. And then, somehow, during the second lockdown in November, some people went to Graslin and Alan Sanchez did alright with his hardflip I reckon - within seven tries, I think. That was the last trick we logged for the video and so now, it's the last trick of the video - I'm just digging that groove [laughs].

LSM: Now for the mandatory transgenerational question: what did you think of Franck's edit? That had to be your first time ever seeing this footage, so what was your spontaneous reaction?

MG: Well obviously, I was hyped on just the idea of never-before-seen Nantes clips from the nineties already, prior to even watching. And then I ended up binge watching that edit, it's just great. It's crazy seeing some Nantes spots that haven't really changed (like Cinquante Otages) or, to the contrary, some that are long gone, such as the C&A gap. Thibaud Fradin and David Couliau were killing it already, and the vibes from the era can really be felt.

LSM: Thank you for your time, Mattéo! Let's close this with your expectations and hopes for the future of the Nantes scene and its main activists, ideally. And of course, what's next in line for Ob'Session? Some more upcoming video productions, perhaps?

MG: I can only wish our scene the best, that every currently ongoing project eventually materializes and that new ones keep starting. Even more activity from everyone working together and more people coming in to visit as well, both crews and brands would be sick. But mostly, just that everyone keeps having a blast doing their respective things, and that the city keeps dropping crazy spots on us - for the future generations to write the new chapters of Nantes skate history on.

Regarding Ob'Session, a fifth issue is in the works; now, don't get your hopes up, as we currently seem to be used to the pacing of dropping one per year, on average [laughs].

I would also like to thank, for their contribution to the project: Damien Indersie who taught me a lot, especially about fisheye use (and I still have a lot to learn there) and really worked as hard as I did on "L'ELDORADO".

Rose Moreau, who lent us a crucial hand by giving the piece its whole visual touch with her graphics. Charles Lautru, who really enjoyed acting for the camera (together with Ornella Frati) and who really helped out during the premiere.

Finally, we would all like to thank everyone who participated to "L'ELDORADO" from up close or afar; everyone who believed in it.

Banc Public Skatestore, NDJ Skateshop and Curieux Coffee

And, of course, all the Nantes activists, as well as you guys at Live Skateboard Media for this interview and featuring our project - big up!





LIVE Skateboard Media: Yo, Franck! Thanks for trusting us with this gem from another era, namely the nineties, mostly filmed in Nantes - but not just there as some Rennes spots appear on display, too. Can you recount your experience documenting this skating at the time, and then finally putting the clips together literal decades later for, finally, this edit, "CHRONICLES OF THE PAST: NANTES EDITION"?
Franck Pierron: Ah, my experience at the time... [sighs] That was such a long time ago, but I remember going to Nantes for a couple of days, and it was David and Kevin Couliau (well, their mom) kindly hosting me (thanks again).
With David, we were on a roll that week; he was constantly down to skate and film, which to me was a blessing because filming skateboarding was all I wanted to do at the time. I only had a Hi-8 Sony camcorder at that moment (a TR-650, if I recall correctly), with a fisheye that would make any owner of the classic VX-1000 / Century 'death lens' combo cry, but what can you do - these didn't even exist at the time.

"Nantes must have
been developing
a lot since
I last filmed

I was a big fan of David's energy and pop, he was a great skater, always down to try things and yeah, I was super into that, honestly.
I can't even remember why on Earth I was going to Nantes for. I might have met David earlier than that, probably on contests from that time period (in Orleans, Cholet, or at the Glissexpos), or via the late, iconic Nantes-based clothing brand: 22 Clothing, ran by Fabrice Delanous a.k.a Bamak.
Thibaud Fradin and a few others from Nantes were also tagging along, and in general it was a great time to film skating so we got a lot of stuff. Some time later, I had to go to Rennes to get some footage with Jean Le Chauve a.k.a. Geoffroy Leblanc: top-notch style, always wearing fresh gear, it's a shame we didn't film even more because I would have loved using tons of clips.

Franck Pierron. Ph.: Thomas Pierron
My only regret is how these clips never made it anywhere during the era I filmed them, but I think I was going through periods of doubt at that moment and that stuff held me back; anyway, it's great to know they're out now, finally.
It's also funny to me how I used to film fisheye so damn much. Were I redoing it all again now, I would shoot a lot more longlens, landscapes and atmosphere in addition to the ongoing skating.

"It felt almost
stronger than
actual family

LSM: So, what's your impression on the current scene through the prism of the Ob'Session video we're now showing? What did you think of the video "L'ELDORADO" itself, and did it bring back personal memories by chance?
FP: I really liked that video because I love seeing friendship and just fun altogether in skate clips.
If your viewer can feel the 'family'-like bond in between the featured skaters though your video, and it comes off as lighthearted as skating itself can be, then that's a winner in my books.
I remember experiencing skating in Tours with the feeling of being so tight-knit with everyone, it felt almost stronger than actual family, and that's the exact vibe I got from "L'ELDORADO", so bravo, good job regarding that, guys, that's all it should take for people to want to go skate upon viewing.
It's also brimming with great skating, and I can see Nantes must have been developing a lot since I last filmed there, as I really wasn't familiar with many of the spots.
In general, the scene looks on fire and that's a pleasure to see.

"I have a hard time
understanding why
[the Sony VX-1000]
is such a cult classic"

This whole progression when it comes to skate videos in general, though, which is first the VHS then DVD formats and then subsequently YouTube and finally, now, Instagram, I always found it reductive; it's hurtful and a shame to only end up with little skate clips peppered here and there throughout a news feed, and you forget about everything instantly too. As far as I'm concerned, I'm still one for full-length videos, twenty or thirty minutes long if not more because then, at least, you sit down and appreciate. The currently dominant form of video consumption seems to be trending the opposite way, which I regret.
Anyway, editing this really made me feel like digging even further into my crates of tapes, and so I want to come up with this new series called "CHRONICLES OF THE PAST". I'm sitting on a lot of Toulouse clips, as well as footage from plenty of contests throughout France and Europe... I'm going to tackle all that soon and will post it on... Instagram... OK, no kidding.
In a more or less distant future, I admit my dream would be to film some skating in France or in Europe with a killer movie camera, think Red or Arri, to try and come up with something slick. I have nothing against the Sony VX-1000 but I've got to say the footage looks a bit 'dated' to me, and I have a hard time understanding why this camera is such a cult classic; to me, it's emblematic of the years from 1995 to 2000, it was great and practical at the time but now there's so much better. Ah well, I'm probably not going to make any friends on here, now [laughs].
Well now, so long guys!
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