This Sunday past saw the premiere of Bristol based videographer James Harris’ ‘Little Paradise’ DVD.
Filmed over the past two and a half years predominantly around Bristol, South Wales and the Midlands, the project feature full section by Jess Young, Andy Coleman, Ryan Price, Nicky Howells, Josh ‘Manhead’ Young and Dave Snaddon.
CJ caught up with James following the premiere to find out more about the process and vision behind the production, and to share some of the photos he’s captured on various missions around the areas. Enjoy.
Let's start from the beginning - where did the name for the video come from, and is there any kind of hidden meaning behind it?
The name for the video was a happy accident, thanks to Andy Coleman. I had been having a lot of trouble coming up with something to call the project for a while; it needed to reflect the gritty and rough textures of the footage and the places we were filming in. Andy was walking through Little Paradise, a street in Bristol, and sent me photographs of the area and the street sign; I fell in love with it straight away. The look of the place is so shitty, but it's beautifully shitty.
When did you decide that you were going to following up Perfect Blues with a second full-length project? And was everyone involved keen from the get go, or did it build stage by stage?
I wanted to immediately correct the issues I had with Perfect Blues - I think it had too many people involved, and it ended up being something that I wasn't that stoked on. However, I learnt a lot from it, so I'm glad it happened.
I needed to make a video that reflects what I want to see and something that I could be proud of. I hit up Andy, Jess and Nicky first, and as word got around, everyone else was keen. I explained the direction and feel I wanted, and it made sense to keep it small and focus on what we all wanted to see in a video.
Manhead was filming for the National Skateboard Co. video for a good proportion of the process; I'm so pleased that he managed to get a full part together for us as well. Ryan Price was a late addition, he was very persistent and demanded that he should have a part in the video, too. The nutcase filmed his part in 9 months!
Watching it in the Cinema last night it almost felt like a video for an extended scene. It seems like Get Lesta offer a similar sort of deal for their crew, with the days of UK board brand full lengths being few and far between.
I completely agree. My main focus was always Jess, Andy, Nicky, Ryan, Manhead and Snadz, but I made a conscious effort to include people who are really good friends that I felt should be featured in the video. It's really something when you watch two and a half years’ worth of footage condensed into 26 minutes of really good and really shit memories!
I'm not going to say that it was an easy ride, I can't even begin to imagine the total time spent filming and the money that was spent on petrol, plane tickets, train tickets and food by everyone. Not to mention the various health issues! We didn't set out to make any money from the video, we did it purely to create something physical that people could hold and keep on their shelves, rather than an online video that could be potentially forgotten within a week.
Injury is something that can play a massive part in the success or failure to meet a deadline. Ryan seems to have a cast on his arm every other time see him, I know Nicky had some hospital time, and Coleman’s ankle is held together with parcel tape. But, you had some heath issues yourself during the filming process - what effect did that have on the production process?
Oh mate, Ryan's always breaking himself. Makes sense, he's a gnarly guy! We all were so worried for Nicky, discovering that his lung had collapsed can't have been an easy thing to deal with. He got better really quickly, which is something that I was so pleased about because I admire Nicky a hell of a lot. He's done so much for me throughout the years, and I wouldn't wish anything bad to happen to him.
I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid cancer in December 2015 and then had surgery in March this year. I had no symptoms, I just so happened to notice a two-centimeter lump on the right-hand side of my thyroid. Luckily it's very treatable with surgery and radioactive iodine, I just have to take Thyroxine every day for the rest of my days. It was a massive worry for myself and my wife at first, but we got the facts and figures checked and quickly realised that I would be ok by June after all the treatment.
Check your neck, kids!
The video is predominantly Bristol based with smatterings of South Wales, the Midlands and even Copenhagen in there. With Bristol having such a rich history of skateboarding and so much footage coming out by heavyweights such as Wainwright and Korahn, you guys were on a mission to explore the back alleys and outskirts with this one, and it definitely paid off; I hardly reconginsed half of the spots. What lengths did everyone go to in order to find new places to skate?
It's such a nice feeling to discover and make new spots in a city that has featured so heavily in the mag and in videos over the years. Keeping tabs on an ABD list wasn't something that concerned us much because we were so focused on finding or creating new spots that matched the feel of the video.
The Little Paradise group chat is filled with countless photos of drains, out of town locations and utterly crusty "spots"! I'd say the majority of the time we would find spots on location scouting missions in areas that we didn't visit very often/if at all, and scouring Google Maps.
When I arrived at the cinema on Sunday the first thing I saw was one of the Little Paradise boards that you’ve had done through A Third Foot. I guess the relationship was already there as the video features three of their riders. What are the plans for this board? Is it just hype for the project and given to everyone involved as a wall hanger, or is this a ‘for sale’ collaboration with ATF?
I can't thank Ken and Joel (owners of A Third Foot) enough for all of the support they've given us, and we're all so stoked that the board idea became a reality.
To backtrack a bit, when I was asking around for sponsors of the video, A Third Foot was an obvious choice. Ken pitched the idea of producing the boards rather than just financially backing the DVD production. The boards will be on sale very soon; hopefully the DVD release and boards should be available at the same time.
Whilst on the subject of sponsorship, the video was supported by DC and Venture, right?
The DC sponsorship was hooked up by Snaddon. Having Nicky and Snadz in the video was something that DC just couldn't say no to, (laughs). Venture was hooked up by Alan Glass at Shiner. Alan is like a father figure to me in terms of skateboard filming and he managed to convince Shiner/Venture to back the project.
Given that Nicky, Andy, Jess and Snadz all ride Venture, it made sense I guess.
Like most things in 2016, the video is filmed in HD. Does format matter to you? Do you care? Or is it all about the skating and getting a nice clean final production?
For me personally, I love the 16:9 frame size and the compositions you can achieve with it. I've never thought that one format is better than the other. VX footage is sick but HD just works better for me.
Although my main style in this video was handheld to give a rougher feel, I did want the video to have production values. The colour grade on the video is very gritty and quite desaturated to give even more emphasis on the textures and look of the spots. I don't have the patience to capture tapes anymore!
So, when’s the DVD out and how widely are you hoping to distribute it?
The DVD has just been sent to the replicators, so I'm guessing that it will be available in a couple of week’s time. The awesome humans at Rock Solid are going to be handling all of the distribution, I guess the best bet for anyone looking to buy a copy is to keep an eye on social media or contact Rock Solid direct.
After a project spanning several years, there’s always a sense of being at a bit of a loss once all of the work is done. Are you ready to fill that void and start on the next project, or are you going to have a nice chilled out winter?
The plan is to most definitely chill out. I'm not planning on filming again until the new year. I need to spend some quality time with the wife and my family, as I've been absent for a lot of things whilst filming for this video.
I'd like to thank everyone who came to the premiere and everyone that has supported the video along the way. Extra special thanks to everyone in the video, Wes Morgan, Alan Glass, Chris Johnson, Ken and Joel at A Third Foot, Jimmy Tatts, Kenny Selway, Ben Powell, Ryan Gray and Bex Harris.