To those of you who frequent UK skateboarding websites and forums, the name Concrete Poets should already be familiar to you. With their website already established, countless mentions on The Story Store and Slam City sites, and a world of hype built up on the Sidewalk forum, you'd have to be visually impaired to not know that The Concrete Poets are about to unleash their first full length effort. With "Writers Block" finally been released through the Story Film Makers Guild in mid October, we thought we'd give the man responsible for the Concrete Poets empire, Henry Edwards-Wood, chance to fill us in on the background to the project. Read on...
Could you break down for us exactly how much time you put into the making of Writers Block? Including filming, editing, motion graphics etc...
Damn, there's no actual way to be accurate on this as i've been working on the vid for about 2 years its pretty much engulfed my life, Filming wise it was mainly done at weekends and occasionally evenings and holidays and that we'd meet at SB skate for abit then jump in the car and go from spot to spot. Pretty usual stuff I guess except we had to do it all around college / work / personal life and all that. We'd just film all day till the skaters were to tired or my arm felt like it was about to drop off. Towards the end it got harder as everyone tried to wrap up the sections and also because i was doing a lot of filming for other people as well. I remember the day I'd decided we were done filming it was the maddest feeling, I then spent literally 2 weeks glued to my Mac for about 14 hours a day minimum, I had been working on rough section edits for months in my spare time at work and stuff so I had the basic skeleton of the vid already their but it was a matter of tweaking every little thing rearranging stuff, grading the clips and adjusting levels and that. The motion graphics kind of take a lot of time but are sometimes more fun cos i could get creative and mess around in photoshop then animate it in After Effects but for the complicated ones where i literally had to adjust keyframes and settings on each frame they took literally hours. I edited the credits in one day, woke up at 9 started it, from scratch, finished at like 4 in the morning.
The level of filming and editing displayed on Writers Block seems to be up there with any competant company based video thats been released recently, did you purposefully strive to create a scene video that matched the production standards of "professional" releases? If so, what are your inspirations?
I love (as most people do) all the Blueprint Videos as well as vids like Mosaic and Yeah Right, they were the first vids I watch where I actually took note of the effort that went into them, I would literally rinse them over and over studying the camera angles and editing techniques, working out what was good for which trick and spot. It was those high end videos that made me wanna film in the first place, cos after watching them if I was watching a video I would instantly see a dodgy angle or budget effect or what ever and it would take away from the companie's integrety. I knew that scene videos come dime a dozen so I just decided that if I was gonna make a video, Id have to try and use the same quality control as any professional outfit, so I would look at each bit of footage and think would I accept that if i was watching it in a professional release?
A lot of people seem eager to compare the look and feel of Writers Block to that of Static 2, would you class Josh Stewart as a direct influence on your work? Where else do you draw influence from?
I'm not gonna lie, Josh Stewart is probably one of my favourite editors at this time. Static 2 is also one of my favourite videos, I like it cos it's independent but also the way he edits is so grimey and hip hop-esque whilst still being elegant and steezy. I draw a lot of influence from the old Transworld videos like Modus Operandi, and I love the editing in Photosynthesis. Its probably from watching all those vids that I love playing around with digital film to make it look like its cellulite, film burns, stutters, flickers etc but tried to make it more grimey and less glossy to show the darker side of London / Britain.
For those who have yet to watch Writers Block, could you clarify how a London scene video came to be released through a shop in Sheffield?
Well basically Shaun Currie has a lot to do with it, and I'm sure we'll go into Shaun abit later, but basically he moved to Sheffield about a year ago and instantly embedded himself in the scene and has become a bit of a local celebrity. Anyways so he kinda got us abit of hype up there and he said he walked into story one day to find Baines looking at his page on the Concrete Poets website. Next thing I know, Baines myspaces me and says hes interested in releasing the video through the Filmers Guild Label. This was like a dream to me as up to that point the vid was purely under our own steam and we weren't sure many people outside of London would get to see it. We went up to Sheff soon after to see Shaun and to talk with Mark about the vid, we showed him what we had so far and he was really into it and it went from there really.
How much time did the Concrete Poets spend in Sheffield whilst filming this video? Any amusing northern encounters to report?
Man, Sheffield is so heavy, its probably my favourite place in the UK besides London Its got such a tight scene and everyone there rips. Not all of us went up there at the same times i've been up there to film 4 or 5 times just for the weekend. I would have liked to have been up there more. Lots of mad shit happened when we were up, one of the best was when Shaun made a security guard cry, thats quite a banging achievement you'll admit and was bloody hilarious at the time. I ain't gonna go into detail, but Shaun loves to be in the thick of conflict, and the Guard got to close to his personal space, he reckons, so he shouts "Get of me you Paedophile" the guards so shocked by this he instantly goes over to his landrover where he could be seen sobbing. Im sure there's something in his past history that we don't know which must have been a factor and its pretty raw really but still, funny as hell to say.
How would you describe Shaun Curries personality?
Big and Loud I think. He's definitely a character. Basically just wants all Eyes on him at all times and absolutely loves the camera. He's just lucky he's good at skating and a steezy mo fo as well. I guess the steez is part of his personality too, except he has his own idea of steez. Check the green wooly hat he's wearing when he bigspin heels that road gap. i'll tell you now he's so stoked on that hat being in the shot. Its those kind of things really, he's just different, full of energy and everybody loves him but at the same time too much of him can drive you crazy. Lucky for us he moved to Sheff cos at the time he was driving us nuts. Going to sheffield is actually the best thing that could have happened to him though as he's upped his game so much and it shaped his personality and his skating so much.
Could you fill us in on a bit of the history behind the Concrete Poets?
We'll we come from humble beginnings, its started out as Kyle, Faris, Greg, Myself and a few other skaters from Lewisham which is in South East London. This was like while Shell Center was still there in all its glory and wed go about filming on a shitty little camera there, all round London and alot at our local Comet car park. Eventualy alot of guys kinda fazed out cos of work, girlfriends or other stuff and we started spending all of our time in Central London. I was lucky enough to inherit some money from my Grandma's will which i spent on getting a vx2 and a powerbook to edit on thats when it all kicked off, we started skating with Howsey, Jin and Shaun, then later on Yappa, and we all get on so well it works so perfectly. Im stoked on all those guys cos their all mad steezy in different ways and I think it shows in the video.
Who are the Swedish Poets and how did they come be involved in the project?
Well basically its not some mad next crew but litteraly just these 2 guys we met when we went to Malaga. The are both Swedish and live in Stockholm. We got some footy of them in Malaga then the next year me and Faris went to stay with them for a week and just filmed some stuff to go in the video. Its cool cos we get on so well with them and they were so down with what we're doing so its just like their the swedish embassadors of concrete poets. We're taking over the world too, Brett, whos got some banging footy in the group section, is actually from Boston. We met him at SB one day, he'd come over for one semester of uni in London and instantly he just became one of us and we were hanging with him everyday. Were going to Boston to stay with him next summer to film and skate and he reps CP hard over the other side of the pond.
Being a skateboard filmer around inner-city London must get a bit unnerving at times, have you ever found yourself in any sketchy situations?
Yeh man, theres always sketchy moments when im holding my breath waiting for dudes to pass or thinking shit why'd i get it out here. My camera actually got stolen at Shoreditch park when the blocks were first dumped there. I was filming with Jin and some other younger little dudes and 4 yutes just walk straight up to me in broad daylight, try and take the cam, I don't let go so they start decking me in the face throw me to the ground and start kicking me in, I still don't let go so they end up breaking the mic off the cam to get hold off it. They breeze off and i run to my car and follow em and call the police, I find them and kinda hide in my car watching them but, get this, Police put me on hold for 5 mins before i can even report it, by the time police arrived the boys had climbed down onto the path that runs along the hackney canal and were gone. Fucking Police! if they'd have answered straight away I would have had them caught.
To be honest though that was a blessing in disguise as I had an NTSC camera which at the time of buying I was told wouldn't make any difference. But it really did and I had a lot of trouble converting the old NTSC footage I had already filmed to Pal for the DVD. My camera was insured for £2500 even though I bought it for 400 quid and so basically when they paid out i was able to buy a VX1 and a VX2 along with a Genny and lights so it really worked out well for me. Nowadays I don't film anywhere sketchy unless I'm with Kyle if you've seen the video you know he's blench as fuck and was in the marines for abit. He's my body guard, I'm not scared of anyone when he's about, he's gnarly. Someone pulled a gun out on him in Catford but he managed to get away, so he goes out looking for him with his brothers, finds the guy and fucks the dude up till he's reduced to grovelling.
For a city as rinsed skateboard-wise as London, you seem to have uncovered some pretty amazing unseen spots. Is exploring your surroundings still an important part of day to day skateboarding in London?
Mate, finding a new spot in London is like discovering a gold mine. First rule is don't tell anyone, cos in London if you let a spot slip, it will be rinsed within a week. New spots are exciting purely cos there's no ABD list and it just hypes people up to skate. I'm always looking for new spots, although I tend to find all the best ones completely by accident, usually when I'm stuck in traffic and I try take a shortcut, i'll get lost but i'll stumble across a banger of a spot. Im sure there's still tons of unknown spots in London, its just about looking around outside of central.
When you think back to the time you were working on Writers Block, what one story or event sticks in your mind above all others?
Malaga for definite, was one of the best times of my life, and everyone else said the same. Just pure skating heaven, everyone was on a hype and went off but we also just had good times as mates there. The most memorable event can be seen at the end of the Malaga edit on the website, when we all got mad drunk for free in this Irish pub when england got knocked out of the world cup. Just all the antics and shit that happened that night is the funniest stuff ever, Howsey and Greg messing with Kyle on the floor of the bathroom when hes out off it, and bits you dont see in the vid where Faris was so fucked he filled up the entire bide and a sink with vomit and was just sitting on the toilet naked looking like a fragile mr Burns. Man it probably doesnt even sound funny, but its the funniest shit ever to remember.
What is your personal favourite piece of footage in Writers Block?
Man its hard to pin it down, I love all off Yappa's footage and just wish there could have been more of it, I think I like his half cab heel into the bank best for 3 reasons, firstly, its textbook Yappa - pure control and steez, secondly it was the first piece of footage I filmed when first got a VX1 after having my 2 stolen and the video got back on track, lastly it was filmed at sunset so the colours are just the sexiest thing I have ever seen, all golden brown and beautiful. I love it when you get that perfect mix of good skating and perfect setting.
Is there anybody you would have liked to have had a section with on Writers Block but didn't have chance to?
Well really, it would have been great if everyone in the group section could have had a full part, specially Faris and Yappa. Faris has been so unlucky in that his ankle has been fucked for literally the whole time we made the vid, every time they got better he'd fuck it up completely again. Faris is such a sick skater, mad tech and good style but his footage doesn't really reflect that and its all really old. Yapski as well, he kinda got involved abit later so he always had less footage but he's also been plagued with ankle injuries, a full Yap section would seriously blow minds, were working on a full one now that were done with this, honestly though I don't think the world was ready for one yet, wait till it happens, the world ain't ready.
I take it that now this is out of the way you're not going to chill out on the whole video making tip, what upcoming projects have you got in the pipeline?
Loads of stuff really, most of my effort is gonna be going towards the Slam video, Magee has got me, Morph, Dominguez and himself all working on it, its gonna be pretty epic man like a massive London video to show the whole world what's up. Magee wants to turn Slam into a global brand and the videos gonna be a big tool in doing that. He's talking about filming the whole thing on High8 and is getting together a fleet of High8 VX1e's, He's going for the whole easter exposure gritty style so its pretty exciting seeing how that pans out. Other than that I'm gonna be filming a lot with Rory and Jin for the Landscape vid and with Steph and Lucien and Shaun Witherup for their prospective companies as well as Slam. Concrete Poets ain't dead either though, it may be along way off but expect a new full length video in about 3 years or so which will probably be a collaboration with Morph and 3L.
Anybody you'd like to thank?
Yeh man, all off CP, Baines, Magee, Marshall, everyone at Story. Henry and everyone at Slam for their support, Morph, 3L, Chris @ Science Skateboards, All the South Bank faithful, Alec, Felix, Fraser, Finn, Fos, Ches, Shaun Witherup, Steph, Lucien and Rory and anyone else I've forgotten. Safe, Hold Tight London.
Click the image below to view an exclusive collection of extras courtesy of Mr Edwards-Wood