The A - Z of Filming: Words and Photos by Joe Cox
It seems so long ago, nineteen ninety-seven. We had some trails, well, when I say trails I mean a tabletop in a field that we jumped on our mountain bikes. I didn’t even know bmx’s were still being made. An old racing legend from the northeast, Brian Graham came down on a Hoffman flash and made bike riding look ten times more fun than on our big bikes. That was the spark that brought the engulfing pastime that is known as bicycle motocross to our little group of friends. The inferno that made sure we still loved it ten years later was the so cal video Soil. I cant describe the feeling that I got watching that video for the first time, I seriously could not believe what was going on before my very eyes. Dirty Californian kids doing things I didn’t know were even possible on a bike, and made it look like the most fun and cool thing you could ever do, all to a so cal punk soundtrack. Every night after school we’d go round to my mates house, watch that video, get completely psyched and go and ride our trails until dark.
Over the next few years all our video collections grew and grew, with such classics as FBM The Bar is Closed and Live Fast Die, SCUM Lights Out, On The Down Low, and the UK stalwarts Word, Livid and Nails in the Coffin to name but a few. Of course we bought every issue of props the minute it came out. Josh Stricker, The Gonz, Mike Griffin, Ricky Ratt and Luc-E were the coolest people known to man. The song choices were to absolute perfection, ingrained into my sub conscious forever. I can see myself when I’m fifty, cracking a smile when I hear Your So Vain by Carly Simon on the radio, because of a bike video I watched when I was 16.
After that little bit of nostalgia you might have guessed I love bmx videos. Video’s, or DVD’s now, are the ultimate in getting us inspired to go out and ride on a damp, cold winters day. Last month Mike Taylor and I went on a trip to warmer climates to film for the Sunday video, and Mike ended up with a load of photos because he is literally a machine. He wants a world without emotion, for christ’s sake! Instead of boring you with yet another road trip write up, I thought I’d steal Rhys Mcfleece’s A to Z idea, so here it is: The unofficial A to Z of BMX videos, don’t take it too seriously...
I’ve used this amazing video to represent scene videos (as I didn’t write these in order and had already taken up S with Security). There’s something special about scene videos that I don’t think you can always get with team vids. Scene videos always have a really good feel and a lot of character to them, and it’s nice to see what other scenes have to ride and how the unknown shredders put the spots to use.
When it comes to making a decent video, originality is one of the main factors in getting it right. Don’t go biting the latest skate video, thinking no one would notice, they will. Also, song etiquette is important, so if a song's been used, find another one (I had to get a sly dig at Levi’s somewhere in here). Imitation maybe the sincerest form of flattery, but no one likes a biter.
No video is complete without a good credits section. Drunkenness, fighting, hobo’s, rudeboys and scuffles with security all make classic footage. A feel good song is essential. Check “The day is over’ for one of the all time great credits sections. An alternative C is for Comeback. I’m waiting patiently for Steven Hamiltons, it’s coming.
The few weeks before the deadline can turn even the calmest lad into a clip hungry, frenzied mad man. The filmers life can get pretty hectic around this time as everyone wants to do their final clips and will only give up when they can’t walk anymore. Definitely the most productive period of the video making process, yet also the scariest to watch in person, as some people don’t seem to have much of a regard for their own personal safety.
Or Ryanair. Or Jet2. It’s been said a million and one times, but there really is no excuse not to get yourself over to Europe to ride, especially if your filming for a video. Its cheaper to fly to spain than take the train across the country. And I can almost guarantee the spots will be better and the weather nicer. Go book a flight now.
Filming at famous spots can be good and bad. It can get boring to see the same spots in every video, but if everyone knows the spot, they also know how crazy the trick is, even if the footage doesn’t do it justice. Like this ledge manual, everyone knows how high and long it is, even though you maybe can’t tell from the photo.
You’ve just filmed your mate do his final hammer for the video, he narrowly escaped death attempting this, but he pulled it clean and is thankful he survived. You quickly watch the footage back to check you filmed it alright. Oh fuck. The tape’s glitched. And you’re the one whose got to break the news that he has to do it again…good luck.
Your last hammer should be one of the scariest moments of your life, but also the most rewarding. Always nice to have all your mates there when you pull it to high five and hug you. Although if you’re best mates with Nate Wessel, it might be a good idea to do it when he’s out of town. And if your Mike, best to do it somewhere Corey Martinez hasn’t already been, like this truck down the Macba 4.
No need for explanations here. Remember Brian Castillo? Remember Road Fools 2? Remember his manual to 180 on a loading dock? The be all and end all of Indian givers. I personally love it.
Whatever you do as a filmer, don’t ever say ‘one more time’. This is certain to end in tears. The ‘one more time’ jinx has plagued bmxers since time began. One way I get around it is to refer to one as a couple. ‘Could you do it a couple more times’, even though we both know I mean one. Thus bypassing the jinx.
And superstitions. One karma payback I notice when I’m filming is if people are taking it in turns to ride the spot, and someone jumps in front of the queue, or takes two goes, they quite often end up decking it. Other superstitions I’ve seen include; Marv touches a bit of wood held in his spokes. Ben Lewis used to touch his headtube just before he did a trick, sometimes only just getting his hand back on the grip a millisecond before having to bunnyhop! Mike and I have a secret handshake which gives power to the rider who needs it. People definitely do strange things to get themselves in the right frame of mind to try something.
Luc-e grind to 180.
What do you mean, you haven’t got one of these in your section?
The filmers best friend. Go out and film with this guy for a day and you’ll have a full section. He knows what he wants to do and rarely takes more than two run-ups to anything. With that in mind I asked him a few questions on the subject of filming:
Do you like the pressure filming for a video?
It doesn’t really affect me either way. It’s always nice to have a longer time to drop some shit, to let the bruises and sprains heal between each bad crash.
Would you go for things you wouldn’t usually because there’s a camera there?
Definitely, I wouldn’t truck Macba for the crack unless it was some real nice crack (laughter).
Does the Macba truck feel worthless now that you’ve seen Martinez had already done it or is the reward in landing the trick for yourself?
Yes and no. It’s good to get the practice and shit, to know you can do it and for the satisfaction of actually pulling something you wanted to do, but as for hoping it would be a nice end hammer it’s worthless.
Do you approach filming a video as work?
No. It’s just riding. If the filmer wants to film then that’s work for him, but riding bmx is just fun.
Have you ever tried something that you don’t really want to do because there’s a filmer or photographer there?
Not really, if I invite someone to come down to film I‘ve normally got all the stuff I want to do lined up in my head. The only problem is the dreaded line ‘can you do that one more time please?’
Are you proud of the things you’ve accomplished in BMX?
Definitely. Getting hooked up by companies makes you feel like your doing something good, that they’d want you to represent them in some way. It makes you feel that you aren’t just pissing in the wind.
Do you think you’ll look at the video parts and photos you’ve had in twenty years time and be happy with what you did when you were younger?
Yeah, it would be great to do that if Nails hadn’t left all my old videos at his old house!
Non riding footage.
When the camera’s in your hand, make sure you clock footy of the world around you, especially if ‘John, Sheffields friendliest bodypopping tramp’ happens to be nearby. Random goings-on caught on tape is essential for letter C.
On the down low.
This crazy video definitely deserves a letter of its own. I can only compare the music with having a bad acid trip while listening to a self-help tape next to a busy train station. Not that I’ve ever had that experience mind you. On paper this surely should not work, yet in practise it really does, albeit in a very weird way. Oh yeah, the riding was years ahead of its time too. Young guns, make sure you check this staple of street riding out.
You’ve done all the hard work, now’s the time to sit back and relax. Or, shit yourself from nerves as there’s a couple of hundred people turned up to watch your creation. Don’t worry too much though, because you’ll remember this night forever. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction as people shout and cheer while your hard work and effort plays on the big screen. It reminds you how cool BMX and the people involved actually are. Once its finished, go and get royally fucked up, you deserve it!
What with most of the best spots being in the rougher areas, its best to always be prepared to make a quick getaway unless you don’t mind parting ways with your new HD Panasonic. Keep an eye out, don’t be naïve, and you should be fine. This wallride wasn’t in the ghetto, but we did need to make a hasty escape. Check the glass Mike’s wallriding.
You're going to need some of this.
I remember an old skate video where a filmer paid the security guard 100 dollars if they could skate there for 15 more minutes. In contrast, Shad Johnston smashed a security guards digital camera into smithereens. This shows that although BMXers are poorer than skaters, they are infinitely cooler.
I have a little game when I’m watching a video where I try and guess how long it took someone to pull a really tech line. I’ve once stayed at a spot for three hours solidly riding back and forth trying to film one line. Strangely, Mike gave this barspin to smith, to pedal hangfive 30 goes before quitting, and pulled it on the thirtieth go!
No one notified me of this one but apparently it’s an official no-no now. If you do a trick on an object then turn round and come back and do something else on it, you’ve been a very naughty boy.
The classic Sony VX1000. Who needs an LCD screen when you get colours like this? Also, V for Van human needs an honoury mention here. His Criminal Mischief section is the all time greatest part ever made. It will never be beaten, ever.
Whip to frame.
Neck and neck with the Indian giver as the ultimate cardinal sin. If you film a whip to frame don’t expect to live it down in a hurry. If you want to go the extra mile hover your pedal foot in the air for a second or two before placing it on the pedal.
Came and went quicker than the cross footed whip. Also, proof that Edwin can make anything look good.
Over the years the classic ‘yeah’ has been replaced with ‘yo’ and all kinds of weird birdcalls and noises. But nothing can beat the old ‘yeeeaaaahhhh’ cries of the late nineties.
Or lack of them. Be prepared to have a few sleepless nights, especially if you’ve set a date for the premier, and you’re a lazy unorganized mess like myself. Finishing off the video on the same day as the premier, while exciting can cause stress levels to skyrocket.