Baghead Flats – The Interview

When the teasers for Baghead Flats hit the internet no one could have predicted that the movie itself was going to be so imaginitive, well thought out, filmed and edited.

Now that the movie has hit Skater Owned Shops all over the UK and people have started adding the title to their collections, the wow factor has started and seems to be on continuous applause due to the magical filming of Yorkshire’s finest rippers. Zac threw the questions to the the 2 people behind camera and mouse, Ben Powell and Ryan Gray to find out more about how this little beauty was put together. Uncredited shots by BP and RG.

Baghead Flats is one of the best scene videos to drop in years, how did it all come about?

Ben: Cheers! I’m glad you liked it. Well, as we all know filming for skate videos is a good laugh, as is repping your ‘endz’ so to speak, plus as your knees start to crumble (speaking for myself here – Geggs is only 24) filming is a way to extend your time on the board without failing to land tricks that you could’ve done ten years ago with your eyes shut. Rye and I had talked about doing a Yorkshire video for a while as at the time he was working at The Works in Leeds and spending most of his time off work filming and I film all the time as a matter of course. On a biased tip – it seemed to me that there were a whole group of local skaters killing it with nothing specific to film for. The plan was laid, I gave my house keys to Rye and a box of 200 DV tapes and fucked off on holiday – when I came back he’d logged it all and we started filming seriously. Plus, despite being involved in various skate videos over the last 15 years I’d never actually made ‘a scene video’, nor one that concentrated on my local area that I grew up skating in – so it was a no-brainer really.

Ryan: The line up came about through filming whoever we were out skating with. Lynskey had a full part already filmed before me and Ben went in on this thing, and Doug had only ever had one section when he was a kid so we set out to purposefully document his skating as an adult before he turned into the full time musician he is already becoming. As we went on, I’d been skating loads with Beall and was excited by what we’d managed to get without even trying, Manhead grew up over the course of this video, with most of his section coming together over the final few months, Grove couldn’t stop producing footage if he wanted to, and Jase has such an interesting view on things that we couldn’t not include him. Scotty came on a load of missions with us here and there so getting his footage together was fairly effortless. Then there were Liam and Lois who we wanted to be involved, but due to their uni commitments, it was impossible to get full sections from them. They really went out of their way to get what they could for the DVD, so we gave them short interlude sections, so to speak.

Ben, you have been filming for years and must have a cupboard full of footage, how come you decided to focus on a scene video rather than spending time on another Sidewalk production?

Lack of time/resources really. We didn’t have the time or the inclination to do a Sidewalk vid proper so rather than let all the footage go to waste we pooled our resources. When we started filming Baghead Flats I did all the editing/writing for the mag plus all the online content on my own – when ‘In Motion‘ was made Chez was working for Sidewalk too so it was feasible to make a mag video. Since then Ryan has joined the staff at the mag so the next Sidewalk video should start in earnest soon. Plus, like I said there were a bunch of skaters in West Yorks killing it who weren’t getting the attention they deserved so I felt that giving them the exposure I thought they should have was more important than a Sidewalk video for the short term.

Has the Yorkshire scene been documented before in such a unique way?

Ben: Not really – the nearest thing previously was probably the Wisdom video ‘Pulling Teeth‘ or any of the various Leeds videos ‘Yorkshire Puddings‘, ‘Things I Don’t Remember‘ etc or even Wayne Rataj’s classic Barnsley vid ‘Brain Damage‘. All of these vids were sick but kind of concentrated on one city or a shop team whereas we wanted to concentrate on the whole county. Plus, none of them had enough Wakey footage in ’em…

Ryan: I wouldn’t say we’ve documented the Yorkshire scene in a unique way at all, to be honest. All we’ve done is make a video with our mates, though it’s worth noting Grove and Andy probably wouldn’t like been put under the ‘Yorkshire‘ banner! Rory McKenzie has put out a few Leeds releases over the years, from ‘Memowrex‘ back around 2002 to ‘Yorkshire Puddings‘ last year. He’s currently working on a project called ‘Friday the 13th‘ which is due out any time now, keep an eye out for that, it’s going to be banging!

Rye, you have been working with Ben on various edits for the last couple of years, did you ever think this would come out as good as it did?

Not sure to be honest. I didn’t really think about what I was agreeing to at the time, we just hatched this plan and got on with it. As for the end product, I think I’ve been around it too much to have a valid opinion on it at the moment. The week after it premiered, I did the master copy of the DVD with Magee, sent it to the duplicators then flew out to Barcelona for a week to start on the next thing. There are always bits you’re unhappy with, bits you’d do differently, tricks you wish you had chance to film, things you wish you’d filmed differently and so on. Ask me again after the next project is done and I’ll let you know!

You also seem to have a reputation for being the fastest editor in the West for online skateboarding, do you have time to wash, eat and do basic things?

Washings not an issue, the eating part is somewhat of a work in progress. I’ve got good people looking out for me, though. Nordberg always checks up on me to make sure I’m coping and Ben feeds me from time to time so I’m doing good.

Do you get recognized when you leave the house now that Baghead-mania has set in?

Ben: Dude, I already get recognized in Wakefield on the regular – “Hey aren’t you that guy who wrote ‘Danger Wank‘ on the wall at Carpetworld?” Ha ha…. In fact, my face was used on a local Bigot’s Party leaflet recently as an example of a ‘local resident stealing your taxes to fund a skateboarding park”. They had my face with a red line through it – claiming I was bringing crime and drug use into the city. Haha!. How’s that for infamy?

Ryan: Yeah, all the time. The neighbours say hello from time to time, the women at the post office up the road recognize our faces, always have a smile for us! And we’re on friendly terms with the TNT guy. So long as the Wakefield Express doesn’t get hold of a copy of the DVD cover I reckon we’ll be alright.

Does ‘Baghead Flats’ really exist?

Ben: Of course – the flats on the cover are in the centre of Wakefield, about 5 minutes from where Ryan and I live. And yes, they are full of smackheads.

What was the fascination/history of this place?

Ryan: One of the main draws to the title was imagining how people unfamiliar with local slang terms would deal with the name. Ian Reid got it straight away though ‘I guess that’s Junkie Apartments, then?’

Ben: Ha, this is where we get poncey. We were trying to come up with a title that related to the local area and also one that shied away from all the Emo titles everyone seems so fond of these days – fucking ‘dark flowers in the canal’ and all that pseudo-poetic crap. We considered calling it ‘Tek rod outta yer arse’ (local expression) until one night after two bottles of Miguel and one too many funny fags I had an epiphany and came up with the title. We wanted it to sound grim, because Wakefield is pretty grim really. Also – if you want to get ‘clever’ about it – the title is kind of a parody of all the inner-city developments popping up round here at the moment – you know, build all these swanky flats that nobody can afford to live in, in an attempt to jazz up the area only for them to sit empty for 10 years and then end up full of smackheads again. Postmodernism bitch!

What other names for the video did you have in mind at the beginning?

Ben: ‘Tek rod outta yer arse”. “Go fuck yersen”. “Ay up” and “Triumph of the Will”.

Ryan: An early joke me and Manhead had was calling it ‘fuck nose’ and having a picture of Manhead on the cover with a dildo for a nose, ala A Clockwork Orange. I don’t think that was ever a serious contender, though, it just gave us an amusing answer to the question ‘what’s your video called?’ when we genuinely didn’t have a clue. I wanted to stay out of the naming process as much as possible, I’m fucking terrible at naming videos. ‘Things I Don’t Remember’ anyone?

Whose section was the hardest to film and why?

Ben: To be perfectly honest – none of the sections were hard to film as we are all really good friends and hang out/skate together the whole time so it was a pretty natural process. Dougy was hard at times as he’s always away on tour with his band Gentleman’s Pistols. Mike wasn’t even supposed to have a part as when we started filming properly for it he was still ill but he came round and is so talented it’s just a case of turn the camera on and stand there. Lynskey went on a few benders, which curtailed filming his part for a while but he got back on track and came through. It was pretty easy to tell you the truth. They all rip – it’s not hard to get good footage with people that good.

Ryan: I know Doug had a few things he wanted to do to finish his part off that he never got round to, but he’s got nothing to prove to anyone, has he? We went through a period of about six months where all Manhead would do is replace tricks he wasn’t happy with, leaving the same length gap in his part, but we bullied him into filming some new stuff right before the deadline, so that worked out fine.

Which skater had the most consistent skating on lock when it came to filming?

Ben: Probably Mike I guess – just because he’s always on, regardless of what you’re skating and will get three or four mental things in a day usually. Manhead was easy too because he was young and had never really filmed before and he’s naive and easy to manipulate, ha ha…

Ryan: All of them are consistent in their own ways, really. Obviously Mike has some shockers that stick out in my mind, such as the flip back lip on the Tech rail and switch frontside flip down the Playhouse 10 in Leeds. Both second try, both perfect. Take any of them to the right sort of spots and you’re generally laughing, though, epecially with Manhead, because you can talk him into trying anything. Literally. I’ve almost had him in hospital a couple of times due to unreasonable demands that he couldn’t refuse. Sorry Manhead!

What was the worst day of filming for this video?

Ben: Mmmm, hard one that. Maybe the day that we went to Welshside – I’d passed my test the day before and instantly drove from Wakey to Colwyn Bay after never really being on a motorway before. Also I had Doug, Man and Silent in the car on bad Jason Dill comedowns from the night before so they spent the entire day drinking and skating then all fell asleep leaving me to drive home in silence. That said, it was still a laugh…

Ryan: None were really that bad. There were a couple of days where stuff wasn’t working out, people were hungover, tired, it was bad weather etc, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.

…and the best?

Ben: All of em really – we had some pretty epic days out in Harrogate last summer. I can’t really pick one ‘best’ time because this is how Ryan and I spend most of our time – skating with the peeps off the DVD and cruising around God’s county.

Half-cab blunt, full cab in by Manhead shot by Silent Will

Ryan: There are a couple of specific things stick out in my mind. Liams kickflip into the main road outside Matalan was done at 6:30am one Tuesday morning after me, him and Beall had been out in Wakey all night on the vodka red bulls. So pissed, so tired, but knowing that that was going to be the only time we were ever going to be awake early enough to get the trick. Getting a 7am flight to Paris with Beall and skating all day after been out on the piss in Sheffield and having no sleep is one to remember, as was Lynskey filming his opening line at the Playhouse in Leeds on his 19th birthday. Funny how they’re all kind of alcohol related…

What kit did you guys use to film?

VX2000, Century PD150 fisheye, glucosamine sulphate tablets and humour.

Ryan: Same as Ben, except with a vx2100 instead of a vx2000 and no glucosamine sulphate just yet. James Gardner filmed the lion’s share of the Super8 shots, couldn’t tell you what camera he had though.

How long does the full process take to get a skate video to this standard?

Ben: Depends really – we probably could’ve kept on filming but if you do that then there’s no end product is there? I’d say all told it probably took about a year and a half to do.

Ryan: I’d say we first sat down and started shaping the project about a year and half before the premiere, though that was when we’d first pooled our footage together and were trying to figure out what to do with the most part of it. Most of the footage in the actual video was filmed after that point, with a lot of the older footage ending up in the extras. The more random stuff is still sat on my hard drive waiting to be dusted off and thrust into the internet.

What are the steps needed to plan the project ahead of editing and the final result?

Ben: Again, this was easy for us as we were representing a ‘scene’ – not throwing random dudes together in order of ‘hero-ness’. Once we’d worked out who started and who finished, it all fell into place.

Ryan: The editing was a very gradual process really. Through the winter I’d spend pretty much every evening toying about with footage, then show Ben and bounce ideas around. When summer came round and we were out filming all the time, then winter came round again and the video was starting to take shape. We could see where we were with certain peoples section, see what needed taking out and what was missing then aim to fill those gaps. Myself and James went out and filmed all the Super8 stuff around September time, which was a great weight off my mind as I really wanted to get that stuff filmed and integrated into the video early on.

How much did the weather play its part in making the film more difficult to put together?

Ben: Didn’t have too much of an effect really as we’re totally into filming park stuff too – I never understood the censoring of park footage from UK videos, (except from an aesthetic point of view). If it rained, we just went to a park and filmed. The weather’s shitty up here I suppose but you get used to it – it’s part of being a skateboarder isn’t it? You improvise… Funny thing is loads of people seemed to really dig the park montage anyhow so we had the best of both worlds.

Ryan: As Ben said, you work around it. We decided that we were going to go out and specifically film a park section, so whenever it rained we’d go to a different park and see what happened. Parks are important to our scene due to the inevitable shite weather we experience, and park montages on videos like ‘Thru The Eyes of Ruby’ and ‘This N That’ really get across how good park skating can be. We just wanted to carry on that tradition I guess.

Andy Scott has a banging section, not many people have managed to document his skateboarding lifestyle so uniquely…was it hard to get the hits from the bong?

Ben: You know what? Andy isn’t even that bad of a stoner – well not like that track kind of suggested. Filming with Scotty is simple as long as you follow this basic rule – never tell him you’re filming. As far as I’m concerned Andy Scott is a bona fide legend – you can never see too much of Scotty. He reckons that he wants to film a full street part next – watch out!

Ryan: I think Bingo put it best when he said ‘Gino’s put out more footage in the last decade than Andy Scott’. He wasn’t joking, either. Ben had filmed a load of banging stuff of Andy at the Blackpool vert, and I think the original plan was to use that and the Portugal footage and give him a short interlude, similar to Liam’s or Lois’s, but as time went on we’d be on trips or whatever, he’d get into it and we just kept gathering more and more footage.

There’s some banging music on there, a real mixed bag – who chose the tracks?

Ben: Even split between me and Geggs (Ryan) to be honest.

Ryan: Some people wanted more involvement in their music than others, Grove is always amazing to work with because he’s passionate about every aspect of making a section, but he’ll be the first to admit he changes his mind every two seconds, so in that case you have to reach a compromise. The final edit of his section was put together the week before the premiere whilst he was away, and I don’t think we had time to check with him beforehand that it was all good, so hopefully he was into it! Jase and Doug suggested one song each, both of which worked, Beall had a couple of songs in mind but they came in too short, and everyone else put faith in me and Ben.

How has the movie changed Yorkshire? Ha!

Ben: Well everyone on it now drives a Bentley, swims in their indoor pool every night and gets happy-ending massages off all the fit MILFS from Emmerdale. Nah, that’s just me. I guess people’s eyes have maybe been opened a bit as to how good some of the locals up here are – who knows?

Ryan: I didn’t realise that it had, haha! As Ben said, so long as it raised some people’s awareness of the talent currently housed up here then all is well.

Looking forward – Bagheads pt2 or future Sidewalk production for you guys?

Ben: Next thing will be another Sidewalk video. Probably not till 2009. No claims yet though – you’ll know when we do.

Ryan: Sidewalk video for sure. Not 100% on what it will entail at this stage though. Keep you posted!

Baghead Flats is out now on DVD and available at your local SOS, distributed by Power Distribution. Read a review here.