Neil Chester has been filming and producing skateboard videos in the UK since the late 90's. As team manager at Blueprint and then Adidas, his filming has made up a large part
of Lost and Found, Make Friends with the Colour Blue and Diagonal.
He now over sees things for Converse and still remains very much about the skating that happens in the streets.
TVD talks to him about his influences and how they have shaped his ideas.
TVD - Where did you grow up?
CHES Sheffield. Born and raised in Sheffield. I lived there till I was 28.
TVD - When did you start skating?
CHES - I started skating in 88, around the time of Public Domain. I remember seeing that in a suburb of Sheffield, a place called Chapel Town.
They screened it at a local youth club, at the village town hall. So that premiere was the first skate video I saw. It seemed like so many people skated. Even then there was a cool crew,
a hot crew of kids. They all had the latest powell boards, the hawk, the magill. Because Powell boards were always the shit back then.
TVD - What do you remember about the first videos you saw? It seemed back then videos were coming out alot less frequentily and a release was more defining.
CHES - I bought Public Domain. A friend and I on the road went two's on it. 15 quid each. Shared it. I had it for a month, then he had it for a month.
Then we waited a whole year until Ban This came out. I used to be really into Powell and stick there pictures up on my wall. So when Ban This came out I was into it and it was good
but somewhere along the line I had seen Hocus Pocus and the whole raw aspect of it appealed to me. I saw Hocus Pocus and Shackle Me Not after that. I remember buying
Not the New H-street video that was about 20 minutes and just being 'this is the shit' and not being so into the Powell videos anymore. Moving on from there Useless Wooden Toys came out.
As all these videos influenced and grew on me you could make a parallel between video cameras becoming mandatory in the home. For example with Useless Wooden Toys it was the first example of mates filming mates.
The H-street videos were pieced together by Dave Schlossbach, Dan Harold Sturt and Mike Ternasky but Useless Wooden Toys and then 1281 were the first examples of homie cam.
TVD - What were the first videos you saw coming out of the UK?
CHES - Im not sure. You know thats kind of funny, no one has ever asked me what the first British video I saw was? I guess there was the Panic video and then Anthems which was Panic/Blueprint which was right around the time
when I was filming stuff. I'd just started filming with Mark Baines, Louis Slater and Scott Palmer.
TVD - When did you first pick up a video camera?
CHES - I borrowed my brothers. That must of been around '92. It was a Hitachi hi-8. I remember I first went to SF in 94. I went to E.M.B. and skated all the hot spots. Skating was a massive part of what I was doing then and it was just a natural progression to think ' oh I want to make a video.' I was still a skater, it was not like I got fat or anything. It was not so much that I wanted to make a video but more that we were filming each other and you put together an edit.
I didnt really make a video till 98.
TVD - what sort of videos were you into at this stage?
CHES - I liked what Ty Evans was doing with the Transworld videos. I was also into this movie Turn the other cheek that Dave Schlossbach made. It was just footage from the Powell warehouse of like Henry Sanchez fucking around on flat. It was all random footage, it was what I would consider the first left overs video.
TVD - With the advent of the web how do you see skate videos happening now?
CHES - I guess its a tricky one because it comes down to budgets. Maybe in a weird way we will go back to the way things were, only worthwhile releases, and it will filter out alot of weaker productions. Where as before an average company may have released a video now they cant afford to so they will put there stuff online. So DVD releases become the preserve of large companies like Girl, Alien or Emerica. Im not against the web. I just think skateboard videos are saturated and alot of stuff goes over your head. The web is the future though. I just think we need to figure out a way to make it work. Look at the music industry. They were so slow to adopt to the web. Everybody was complainig about piracy, like the Napster case, because they never enhanced it. The movie industry is doing the same thing. Its taken Apple to tell these companies we can put your movies in an environment where you can make money from them. Still the movie companies are reluctant to get onboard because they feel they have such a premium product that has to be released at the cinema. I just feel thats an old fashioned way of looking at things, Im all for looking ahead.
TVD - Because you just released that little edit on the web?
CHES - Yeah that was some footage I'd had on my computer for a year. I literally had the edit done and its been sitting on my computer for 6/7 months. It was just some random footage from a bunch of Adidas trips when I worked for them. Some of the footage got used in Diagonal. Its just a bit of random stuff, bits and pieces Blueprint didn't use for the video. I usually just post photos on my blog but I thought why not post a video. Right now Im playing with HDSLR. Like in the film industry your seeing that coming into skating. Everythings so much cheaper and you can get this ridiculous quality out of it. There's something amazing about the idea that I could go out tonight film some skating put together an edit and a person in Australia could be checking it out 20 minutes later. Its correct that the web has become the place for videos.
TVD - So how do you think we should documenting skating?
CHES - Im all about accessibilty. Im a massive believer in accessability. The nature of skating is on the streets and sometimes in sketchy neighbourhoods. Taking big camera bags and expensive gear can be an absolute nightmare and misrepresentation. Im pretty sure in 5 years time youll be able to film it on the phone. I remember joking 3-4 years ago about Final Cut Lite on your phone. Just film it, drop it into Final Cut Lite. You can get iMovie for the latest iPhone. Maybe that's how it will go. The quality of the new iPhone is really good.
TVD - The early 90's was a time in skateboarding when there was a reaction to the big companies that had become too stiff and corporate. There is an avenue within skateboarding where young skaters and companies can take back a certain amount of authority within skateboarding.
CHES - Exactily. Right now you have this huge corporate involvement. More so in the US but with companies like Nike, Adidas and Converse. And then you've got who ever sponsoring the mega ramp and the X-games. It makes it seem impossible for a small company to break in because its a controlled arena. But in actual fact they can because that small company could do something different, post it online, immediately get a world wide audience and that company could grow and change things. Just like in the 80's the big companies controlled everything and it was difficult for a small company to start anything. I think thats why I mentioned I was really into Useless Wooden Toys
the name of the company The New Deal - skaters running it, essentially saying we're going to do things differentily. Then with video cameras becoming house hold items they were able to put a video together. Before you needed this really expensive editting equipment, Im sure they just did it on two vcrs. All of sudden you could do it yourself. Thats only got more and more possible/accessable in terms of what you can do yourself. Potentially some body with there phone could make a really good quality edit.
Thanks . TVD