2 Aug 2011

Philip Evans' Format Perspective Interview

Ambition can be a terrible thing.  It can force people to do horrible things to those around them while attempting to scale the greasy pole of corporate success, or make people do awful, degrading things that they will always be ashamed of, just to get that break in the entertainment industry.

But sometimes it's inspiring.  Philip Evans' ambition to produce a documentary exploring the workings of the lives of six international skate photographers has given rise to my own ambition to do the first ever interview on the Lizard In A Lab Coat blog.

Following his last project "The Scrum Tilly Lush" that visited skaters in their home towns to see how thay really skated "Format Perspective" shifts that focus.

Ahead of Thursday's London screening of "Format Perspective", the afore mentioned documentary, Philip was kind enough to give some time answering some of my surgically probing almost forensic questioning. 

Here's what he had to say:

[LIALC]    What Does the "Format Perspective" title actually Mean?

PE.    Its a bit ambiguous, it refers to the opinions of the photographers on their work, but also to format an opinion, like you format a drive, to wipe it out.

[LIALC]    You shot the Scrum Tilly Lush on Super 8, was there ever a decision whether to shoot FP on Super 8 too or was it inevitable?

PE.    I was conscious that I was doing "another super 8" video, but it was the right format for me from the very start. I have HD gear, but if I shot this project on a digital SLR then the footage would have been too similar to the photos as I would have been essentially using the same or similar equipment, except without flashes. So I went with super 8 as its the smallest film guage you can use, its very coarse, grainy and basically when you see the footage of the tricks and then the photo of the trick on screen, the photo becomes the showcase, which was important as the photos are the centre piece of the entire project.  I also rarely used tri-pods, and sometimes further messed with the footage by using different projectors and filters in order to make the footage look as messy as I could get away with, almost like the opposite to a super-clean HD skate edit with dolly shots!

[LIALC]    What equipment do you pack for a weekend of filming?

PE.    Two super 8 cameras - a Canon 1014 and Canon 310.  A variety of film, mainly ektachrome for sunny outdoors stuff and tri-x for crap light, and sometimes some Vision 2 colour neg 500T stuff for shooting at night. I'd also carry a couple of wide angle lenses and shutter releases, and sometimes a tripod.  I had a Zoom H4 recorder for sound which ended up being very time consuming, especially when it came to syncing the sound during the editing process as I shot and projected at many frame rates and we never used clapper boards!

[LIALC]    How long did it take from the light bulb going on to making the final edit of FP a reality?

PE.    2 years, almost exactly so.

[LIALC]    Did you spend the same amount of time with each photographer?

PE.    No, when the project was in its infancy I was shooting with three guys on and off, namely Stu Robinson, Rich Gilligan and Alex Irvine. After Carhartt came on board and provided the budget I was able to go full on and was shooting every available day with every guy who was available until we had what we needed. Bertrand and Sergej's sections were shot on designated filming trips which makes shooting a lot more straight forward in terms of productivity and getting lots of photos and footage, however, it was also important to show the reality that things don't always go to plan for skate photographers and we experienced that while shooting Alex's section.

[LIALC]    What sort of reaction did you get from the photographer's when you approached them, were there any you approached who didn't want be involved?

PE.    The first three dudes, Stu, Alex & Rich were down from the start which really made me stoked as I had no budget then and needed all the enthusiasm I could get!  After that I tried to get Nils involved but our schedules did not match at first, but when they did we got stuff done really quickly! I approached some more guys, but they were not down or couldn't get the time, but then when I eventually had all six guys I was really stoked as each guy had a completely different story behind their photography and a different approach, I didn't want two guys to be the same and I think that was achieved.

[LIALC]    Did you know each photographer or were you getting to know them as you shot them?

PE.    I only really knew Rich and Stu. I had met Nils but didn't know him that well, but I got to know him and he's one of the soundest mellowest cats you could meet! I got to know Alex and his culinary skills over several trips to London, Bert and Sergej I both met on the road which was a nice way to do things.

[LIALC]    How many of the photographers still skate and of those, do any suffer from the pain of deciding whether to skate or shoot at the spot?

PE.    They all skate! That was important, I think its lame when people shoot skating and don't skate.  The only guy who was not able to skate in his section was Stu Robinson, but its because he just had a kidney transplant so I think that's allowed! The rest of the guys skate in their sections.

[LIALC]    What was the "Special Moment" of the whole FP project for you?

PE.    I think just getting the initial idea, its really nice having a new idea and feeling very inspired to pursue it will all you have, just sparking off the energy of something new.

[LIALC]    What would you say to someone who was still undecided about coming to the screening of FP this coming Thursday?

PE. Beer?

Yes, I  am aware that I didn't really do any of the biography type questions, the How old, where do you live, what's your favourite colour , have you ever pushed mongo questions. For that sort of stuff you can go take a look at the Format Perspect website HERE.

And if you want to get hold of the DVD and accompanying book you can do so with a Paypal account over at the Format Perspective SHOP.

I'd like to say a big thank-you to Philip for giving his time to this interview and doing it in record time too.

"Format Perspective" is screening at the Wayward Gallery, E2 9HE, Thursday 4th August at 8 P.M. See you there.


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