Henry Edwards-Wood . By Will Harmon . All Photos Lex Kemberly
Henry Edwards-Wood has been a workhorse lately. With Nick Jensen’s Lakai commercial, the Emerica/Heroin shoe release ad, and a Slam City Skates Rat Signal all dropping in a span of three days one can see why he has been dubbed: “the busiest filmer in Britain.” We caught up with ‘Hold Tight Henry’ and he told us about filming in London, his early influences and why he thinks DV is dead.
So when did you first pick up the camera and film skateboarding?
I don’t know really, when I was growing up skating someone would always have a shitty little video camera, and just we’d film each other. I guess I was more stoked on it and kinda got more into it. When I was sixteen I bought a VX pretty cheap and started to take it more seriously, got really into editing the videos as well. I was lucky that I grew up with a generation of London skateboarders that didn’t really have someone to film with, so I got the chance to film a lot of fresh good skating.
How did the Hold Tight London edits come about?
Well, I was in the process of finishing my first full-length scene video “Writer’s Block” which was kinda like just our crew – Concrete Poets. The video had a pretty solid friends section with loads of London heads; Towards the end of making it I was filming everyday with loads more people, the likes of Shaun Witherup, Lucien Clarke, Rory Milanes, Steph Morgan as well as the og CP crew. I was already good friends with Morph, another London filmer from the east side of town, and he had his sort of gang of heads he would film with and the two crews would sort of overlap.
Anyways, I was sorting out DVD duplication and all of that crap and got kinda fed up with long windedness of it all. I already had a load of footage filmed since finishing the video and so did Morph. We wanted people to see what was happening with this new generation of London rippers so we just decided to make an edit every month, something that represented us, the London scene and got people hyped to go skate. The first one got really good feedback so we just got on it and managed to bang em out every month for a year.
What’s up with all the UK hip-hop, do listen to it regularly? Do you think it is essential for grimey London skateboard footage?
Ha ha. What do you mean what’s up with it? Yes I do listen to it regularly but it’s not all I listen to by far. I don’t use it all the time it depends on the skating and the vibe of the month.
Hip Hop itself has gone hand in hand with skate videos since the early nineties. But, the sound of Hip Hop music is very much driven by the MC’s roots, where they’re from, so I think its silly for English people to have some American gangster rapping about Cadillac’s and Crystale and shit over the top of their skating. All the Hip Hop and Grime I have used as soundtracks are from London based artists influenced by London. I felt this was essential to capture the feel of our generation, who grew up listening to a lot of that music.
Don’t get me wrong UK hip hop is pretty shit on the wider scale, there’s a very small handful of artists who I would say are Legit; Roots Manuva, Blak Twang, Wiley and a few others…and even then the tunes I use are three or four years old at least. UK Hip Hop is fucking terrible at the moment, too much RnB and Pop influence.
What was it like making the transition from the VX to HD? More advantages or disadvantages?
For me it worked out pretty well, I got an HVX200 whilst still using a VX1, I couldn’t afford the Lens at the time so I used the HVX as a secondary camera but obviously had to crop the sides of the image to fit it to a 4:3 DV project. Then my VX broke and lens got smashed so I only had the HD camera. I went half a year not being able to film lines but when I eventually got the big Ultra Fish eye for it, I was so used to using the HVX it was just natural.
Only disadvantages are the size and weight, It’s a bit bulkier than a VX and with the fish eye on ways at least 5 times as much I reckon. I basically just had to get on the chin up bar and bulk up a bit, now it seems normal and I can film lines all day, but at first I was fucked after 10 minutes.
The advantages are obvious I would have thought; much crisper, larger image, it records straight to solid-state memory so no glitched or lost footy. The biggest advantage, however, is that because it’s progressive and each frame contains so much more information, you can do so much with the image in post. Colour Grading HD footage is a joy because it’s so responsive. Also in the next few years everyone is going to have an HD television and eventually HD will just be normal, so I think it’s important to keep up to date. DV is dead! Haha – know a lot of people will probably hate on me for saying that.
So you think HD is the only way forward?
Yeah man for sure… and that’s not even an opinion that’s fact, that’s how the world and technology works - constantly upgrading. I don’t see how it’s even a big deal; all HD is a bigger image, who doesn’t wanna be able to watch stuff bigger, crisper, clearer? I think what seems to be clouding people’s judgment is this new breed of “film maker” who gets an HD camera then feels he must get a dolly and then all they do is film everything on that and try and make it all this “arty cinematic” thing. I haven’t changed the way I film skating since going HD; sure the lens is a slightly different shape so I had to check myself when filming lines for a while, but now I just go out and film in the same way I did when I was 16. More Skateboarding Videos.
What kind of equipment are you filming with now?
Still got the Panasonic HVX-200 with a Century Xtreme fish. Got a basic tripod and LED camera light and most importantly cruiser board and my hands. Fuck all this dolly and jib shit!
Would you ever consider switching to the lighter Canon 550D, 5D, or 7D?
I have thought about it quite a lot, all this DSLR stuff kinda went off not too long after I got my Fish eye which was quite a shock to the bank account. I’d certainly like to get one in the future as a B angle camera, but I would primarily use it for incidental shots. The trouble with those cameras in my eyes is they’re not built to fly around in your hand as you wing it over cobblestones after someone like Chewy. Most footage I see filmed on them stands out as it’s super shakey; even these guys with the fancy bespoke handles and rigs, it all seems really shakey to me. The one thing I want the 5D for is the low light capabilities and all the beautiful lenses you can put on it. But again that’s mainly for incidental stuff, skating itself is so fast and unpredictable that the lesser depth of field on the HVX is perfect for it.
I know you were filming the next Full-length Landscape Am video, but with Rory Milanes (The supposed star of that video) now switching to Palace, is that video still on? What will happen to Rory’s footage?
That’s something we’re still pondering over right now, Rory leaving was a massive blow to Landscape and to the video as he had pretty much already finished a 4 minute part that was going to be the last part. The world will see it soon though I promise, I can’t really say too much as nothing is definite, but look out for some serious London bangers in your eyepiece soon! As for the Landscape video, we are gonna have to have a rethink and push the deadline back at least another year as it was originally meant to be an am video with a joint Snowy and Joey section. The whole team has to change and move into its next phase before we can get back on track, but that’s all gonna happen soon.
What else have you been working on lately?
Mainly freelance stuff, the thing I’m most proud of right now is Nick’s Lakai commercial, that went live a few days ago and the response was phenomenal. I sent it over to Lakai Thursday evening, went out partying, came home at like 4 in the morning and checked to see if they had put it up, and the shit was all over the internet. I’m really pleased for Nick as he put a lot of time and effort into his spot choice and his skating. Working with him was so much fun, I think between me and him we worked out we probably new more obscure spots around London than anyone else. He really came through and I was pleased with how I put it together.
Also just finished a commercial for Emerica’s new collaboration shoe with Heroin Skateboards, it feature Casper Brooker and Chris Ault who are like the next generation Howard Cooke’s and are absolutely killing it right now.
What were some of your influences growing up?
Well, I grew up in Lewisham, south London. There wasn’t really much going on there apart from football and hanging around on the road. I’d say my family were the biggest influence until I found skateboarding. I have a very musical family, my mother is a dance teacher, but can also play piano, my dad was a drummer in a lot of bands when he was younger and has always been really into music. It was through him that I got into a lot of the music I listen to on a regular basis; all mainly stuff from the late-sixties to early seventies when he was my age. My mum and dad always encouraged being creative and it shows in our family. I have a younger brother who is a musical genius; best pianist I have ever heard. My younger sister is an amazing dancer and singer and I’m a filmmaker. Damn its hard I can’t think of any non skate influence’s, its hard to remember what I did before I skated, life must have been so boring!
What about skate videos, which did you watch over and over again, and was there a certain video that made you want to film or make videos of your own?
Flip Sorry really affected me It was one of the first videos I actually bought myself. I still remember how I felt and where I was the first time I watched it, it made me know I would never stop skating. I guess it was the rawness and recklessness of it. Static 2 was probably the one I watched the most, that and the Blueprint videos. Static 2 and First Broadcast were probably the ones that made me wanna film videos properly myself. I had always dabbled with filming and had been into the editing for a while, but never seriously. Watching those videos that weren’t being shot on clean white plazas and ditches shit in LA, which to me seemed so foreign and made my skating seem pointless. It was Static that made me realize skating and filming is about making the best of what you have, conquering what shitty little spots you have to skate as best you can. I remember being overwhelmed by the feel of the skating in Static and First Broadcast, like it just had this grimey, underground feel that I could relate to and just got me so hyped to skate and film.
Who are some of your favorite skate filmmakers?
Josh Stewart is the ultimate I would say, you know from the videos how much he is into what he is doing. Putting out three amazing independent videos like the Static trilogy is a near impossible task; I have so much respect for that guy.
Joey Castrucci in terms of editing and production values, all the Habitat stuff if amazing.
Dan Magee as well, he literally put the UK on the map in terms of skate videos, although I prefer his grimier stuff, WTFTW can never be bested I think.
Top five video parts?
Danny Renaud – Mosaic
Lucien Clarke – This Time Tomorrow (not available, see Offcuts)
Nick Jensen – Make Friends With The Colour Blue (see trailer)
Poppalardo – Transworld’s ie
Silas Baxter-Neal – Inhabitants
Favorite London skater’s part?
Lucien or Jensen I can’t decide, they have both done some prolific stuff.
I’d have to go with Jensen just cos he’s got more parts under his belt - either Lost and Found or MFWTCB.
Who do you usually go filming with?
Haha, everyone man, whoever calls me in the morning! Nah but on the daily I the crew would be any combination of the likes of John Tanner (who I live with), Jensen, Lucien, Rory Milanes, Karim, Snowy, Joey Pressey, Jin Shimizu, Casper Brooker, Smithy, the list goes on and the roster changes all the time, whoever is up for shredding that day really, but they’re the main culprits.
Would you like to make another full-length video again? Any plans to?
You mean an independent one? One day man, right now I’m just trying to pay rent and get my name out a bit, of course I will. I’m not finished with Hold Tight London either, that shits just on a hiatus while everyone is taking care of their business, everyone’s kind of on the come up right now which is amazing. In terms of stuff for companies, I’m still making the Landscape Video, but there is no release date for that near as I said before. Also its Slam City Skate’s 25 year silver jubilee next year so I think we’re gonna try and bust out a full video for that which I will be taking full control over.
We’ll be on the lookout for sure, thanks Henry! Check out Henry’s work at www.holdtighthenry.com