Portrait by Davy Van Laere
Yves Marchon is one of Europe’s hardest working skateboarders. Last year he managed to finish and release the Element Europe video after months of filming and editing which showed the World that European teams can produce the goods when it matters.
Stanley asks the questions in this interview with Yves covering filming techniques, the Element team and much more.
Good to have you here Yves, how are you and what have you been up to since you completed your work on Element’s Get Busy Living?
Hi! First off I wanna apologies for my poor English skills, I hope it will not sound too simplistic. I am doing very well, thank you. After finishing Get Busy Living I moved back from Barcelona to Switzerland. I lived there for a year, it was a great experience. For now I live in my good old hometown in Fribourg. It is very small and boring comparing to a big city like Barcelona but I enjoy doing stuff here with my buddies; it is mellow. I am renting this studio to work and I opened up a little skateshop there. I am trying to help the scene as much as I can, as it is very much needed over here.
Let’s talk about the film. Now, what immediately struck me as unique in Get Busy Living was that not only was the entire film shot in HD, but it was the first not to be filled with slow motion clips and over-the-top music. For something so rich, it maintained that raw vibe that skate videos thrive on. As a skateboarding filmmaker in an increasingly strange climate, what decisions did you find most challenging when deciding how you were going to present the film to people?
Well thank you. So I thought about this quite a lot and I came up to conclusion that what I wanna do as far as making skateboarding videos is that I wanna make skateboarding videos with skateboarding in there. That might sounds a bit silly but my idea of a good skateboard film is a film featuring good skateboarding that is well documented. Actually, I have been trying for a while to make a video using strictly action footage, no intro’s, no portraits, no lifestyle shots. This being said, I am really happy with the Intro of Get Busy Living- it is straight into action. It is funny how the riders were asking me about how the intro of the video was going to be and would was telling them there was not any intro, there were looking at me all weird thinking I was shitting them or just plain stupid. “What do you mean no intro?!” It is my job to keep the video balanced to make the best effect possible at the end, trying to make it feel natural.
Nassim Guammaz hucks a perfect bs tail. Photo: Marcel Veldman
Was it an intentional director’s decision not to fill the film with slo-mo?
Absolutely. I wanted to get away from the cliché of high definition video productions filled with run-up shots, birds flying by in slow motion, time lapses and stuff like that. Slow motion is great when it is used at the right moment, when it is over-used it gets really boring and cheesy. It’s the same with time lapses.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, were you personally pleased with the final result?
I am not fully satisfied with it; I wanted some parts to look different. The first edits I did, I made longer parts. Element was very specific with what they wanted and made me cut a whole bunch of stuff, which is fine; I had to stick with their directions, it is my job. So I am not totally satisfied with the video, but I am very proud that I achieved it; it was hard to film it all on HD. I had a lot of doubt throughout the project. I shot it all with the HVX200 which is a hard camera to operate for skateboarding I think: it is bulky and heavy and not well balanced with the fisheye.
It was a real challenge to make the footage look dynamic, especially when filming lines… I am proud I achieved to make a full length skate video on HD by that time and that it does not look so bad. Anybody who once filmed a line with an HVX200 and the Schneider Extreme fisheye knows what I am talking about…By now HDSLRs are here and you can get ridiculous high quality picture out of these small cameras.
Madars Apse cranks out a huge ollie. Photo: Marcel Veldman
Notable was the good feedback from those on message boards who normally aren’t so keen on Element as a brand. Were you aware of some of the opinions and did this influence your direction in any way?
I don’t care much about what people are writing on message boards; it is full of crap. I don’t bother too much what people think about Element. They got really big and of course skateboarders are hating because of that but they are great people. As far as making videos for them, I always saw it as a great opportunity to document some of the best European skateboarders and show it to a wider audience. Element has been taking good care of their riders and the people around them. They are supporting me as a skater and a filmer and have done so for a long time now and I am really grateful for that. Element does indeed probably have the most recognised (and well looked after) European team.
Do you think that maybe after the success of GBL that other US brands will do better to represent their European comrades rather than just stick their footage on as a DVD bonus feature?
I was very please to see an international section in the Habitat video. Then again, we can not blame them to run their companies the way they want. There is no convention stating that every American skate company needs to support European riders and make European segments in all their videos. If I would make my own company I would probably not care too much about them either.
Element Europe has proven to be a strong part of maintaining Element’s image and reputation with the ‘purer’ skaters – why do you think this is?
I honestly think because they (Element Europe) have been focusing on the right thing: get some good skaters together with a filmer and a photographer, send them on the road. By doing this you get some “real” stuff. Does that make sense? Now they have been doing more contests, demos and stuff like that but they are putting all the effort on that.
A lot of skaters featured in GBL that were previously under the radar (internationally at least) have become huge names…. how many skaters involved in the project were you filming for the first time and did anyone take you by surprise at all?
Altogether, I was probably filming with 10 riders or something. Some people had to go and new guys came in so it was more work for me for sure. Maybe Guillaume surprised me the most. He is so gnarly and pulled it off at the very last minute. Madars’ part came together last minute too, couple funky solo missions around Barcelona with him. Ross had a short section but it was super sick and he’s winning comps left right and centre.
Ross McGouran leads the way. Ollie in to bank. Photo: Marcel Veldman.
Great bloke too, did you enjoy your time with him? Does he land stuff as quickly as he does during comps?
Ross is tight. He landed his stuff pretty quickly yes. I wish we had more time to film together. He was pretty much on point every time, knowing quite exactly what he wanted to do.
Was that powerslide he does on the way to boardslide up bigspin out planned or did it just happen on the land? The amount of control he has is incredible… it’s stunning how underrated he is over here.
The spot is a bit downhill and he had to speed check bit to get to the ledge right. I let the skaters do what they feel right. I am no dictator filmer. It is actually one of my favourite clips.
What other UK skateboarders impress you right now, anyone you would like to get involved with filming?
Well the only UK skater I know is Lucien Clarke really. I am happy to see him where he is at now with Palace and stuff. Other that him, I have always liked Jensen, Danny Brady, Mark Baines, all the Blueprint heads really but that’s really all I know about the British skate scene… shame on me. I love the country though. There is something fascinating about the UK.
Michael Mackrodt frontside rock’s the hardest line. Photo: Marcel Veldman
Where else did filming for Get Busy Living take you? Any particular filming trip highlight?
Maybe that one trip with Michael Mackrodt in Southern China, that was memorable. We flew to Hong Kong skated around there and Macao, then took the train to the western cities looking for virgin spots, it was just great time, exploring new land and experiencing a totally different culture.
What trick took the longest to film?
Easy one. The manual combo Janne Saario does in the beginning of his section: frontside noseslide 270 to manual to frontside noseslide 270 to manual frontside noseslide 270… It took two afternoons, something like 300 to 400 tries if I remember right.
Increasingly heavy filming equipment and creative direction from filmmakers seems necessary to create something unique enough compete in a world where many videos end up online for free. But then some could argue that the spontaneity that made videos like Video Days so special is lost. Get Busy Living does not at all seem like every trick was planned. How do you find a balance?
This is very interesting. I have been skateboarding almost every day for more than 20 years, and filming and trying to put videos together for a good 15 years. I always wanted to follow the skaters and document it the best I can rather than direct them. I wanna be spontaneous, this is what I wanna do. I wish I could be invisible sometimes.
Now that both filmers and photographers are carrying more and more equipment with them on trips does this affect the notoriously edgy relationship between filmers and photographers during a shoot?
Depending on the person really. You can be cool with having to deal with a filmer next to you or not. I don’t care about it at all, I always let the photographed deals with his flashes and I get out of the way, maybe times it is a good opportunity to take an interesting angle.
You used to work with Eric Antoine who’s told us that you got on great together but the expected question still was brought up, who has priority for first choice angle dibbs, the filmer or the photographer?
Eric of course! At the time I was working with him (for Sole Tech EU), I was beginning, I had never filmed on the road with professionals in other terms. Eric was well experienced already and taught me a lot. He was rude at times but it is just how you would be to a buddy really. He was telling me how bad my angles were, telling to get off the way when I was too close (still quite far…) and stuff like that. There was no compromising possible with him. We were arguing at times but I must say he was right most the time. Personally, to me, I think the person (the skater) is more important, not for him, he thinks the picture is more important than anything. He is a perfectionist and I respect that. He is the hands down one of the best European photographer. I learned a lot travelling with him and Oli Buergin. I owe them a lot.
How much van room do you collectively take up?
Not much really. I don’t know about him these days but for only a camera bag, my board and my fat butt. Definitely take less room in the van that Michi Mackrodt does, he has stuff all over the place, it’s insane! He is German.
Phil Zwijsen slides a fs noseblunt in Torremolinos. Photo: Marcel Veldman
Now that cameras are becoming easier to get hold of and in some ways make it easier for amateurs to produce work of an almost ‘professional’ standard and are able to host their work online for free what do you think this will mean to the already complicated skate video industry?
More video content to produce I guess. The demand is huge. Since everybody can put a video online, companies need to do more than that and are now producing shows, webclips, documentaries, video parts, etc. It is never ending these days, there is definitely space for that. Then again I think skate videos as we know them are getting more rare just because the world is moving to fast for them, Nobody wants to film for a video for 5 years anymore, things have to come out fast. I try to keep up but it eats me as well: the more I film, the more I put out, it is a vicious circle. Would be cool to put out a video every year, that is kind of what I have been trying to do for the last few years.
Will there be a wake-up call to some professionals? In some ways the online distribution method means that only the truly original, creative and talented filmmakers will earn a living from it. There are certainly pros and cons about it… have you given it much thought? Are you adapting your approach to work as a result?
In the industry, I think the ones that can film skateboarding well are still the ones getting the job. Maybe I am wrong. They are loads of people who can film well but very few good editors in the industry.
What do you make of the reverse effect; now that audiences are becoming accustomed to crappy i-phone footage and half-arsed edits (though that is not to suggest that they don’t have their own charm) will the quality and amount of effort put into skate videos decrease? GBL was an example of an accomplished piece of hard work… how can we make these things last?
Good question. Skateboard videos were never really made to last. Almost 100% of them are made to advertise brands. Then of course there are the gems, the statics, the eastern exposure, the independent videos. Then, sometimes, a video gets better with the years, like wine and get classic, but mostly not.
Actually I think the younger audience is more critic than most of us, older dude, we are still trying to figure it out. I think the younger digested it already and they don’t need us to educate them. They can still dig a good skate video, there are fed up with webclips and crap on the internet.
Yves takes 5 mins out for a quick smithgrind. Photo: Marcel Veldman.
I’ve read in an interview online that you’ve developed a little interest in the videos that are coming out of the Japanese skate scene. Would you fancy making a film inspired by the editing/filming style of the Far East Skate Network?
I don’t necessarily like the editing of these videos but I like how they approach street skating. They have developed their own type of skateboarding sort of. They are not trying to emulate what American’s do I think unless like us who are constantly trying to get up with them; most of us. These Japanese videos just makes me wanna go out and skate more than any others. I recommend you to watch “Night Prowler” and of course “Overground Broadcasting” if you have seen it yet, it’s amazing.
You’ve established a relationship with many of the skaters on Element Europe since filming Rise Up – who are your favourite people to film with and what is the best filming story from the making of Get Busy Living?
I always liked to go out skate and film with Phil Zwijsen. He has a real team spirit and is really generous person, more than anyone I got to film with.
What projects are you working on now and what can we expect to see from you in 2011?
I am working on a documentary film about Janne Saario for Element. The art of storytelling is a new challenge for me and I am really exited to work on this. It should be done by the end of 2011. Other than that there is always lot of work for Element: trips, edits, etc. On the side I am trying to figure out an independent video project, based on travels with friends and interesting skateboarders. Hopefully it will become a reality soon.
What are your three fondest memories from 2010, who were your three favourite skaters, three filmers that influenced you the most and the most important lesson you learnt that you will take on board for 2011?
Three fondest memories:
1) Living in Barcelona
2) Great trips with the Element Europe family
3) Moving back to homebase/ opening up a skateshop in Switerland called Chez Chonmar.
Three skaters (of 2010):
1) Madars Apse
2) Phil Zwijsen
3) Nassim Guammaz
Three filmers (of 2010):
Greg Hunt’s work is my favorite, not the best filming and editing but the final pieces are always amazing. Just good overall feeling about his videos. Jason Hernandez is obviously a good filmer/editor and is really progessive and I have to mention French Fred of course. Not that I am a huge fan of his work but he is one of the very few that has his own style and you can’t copy it, he is the only one who can master it… genius stuff. Mad respect to them…
Enjoy some local off cut footage released this week from the locals of Chez Chonmar skate shop.