Reel Talk: Jacob Harris

We held our breaths for this one. Would Isle’s first full-length live up to the Blueprint video legacy? We were familiar with Jacob Harris’ work on Eleventh Hour, proving he was fully capable to fill the massive shoes of former Blueprint video guru Dan Magee. At the premiere in LA last month, our jaws were dropped and it was obvious. Paul Shier had circled the wagons and done it again. Vase is a timeless masterpiece.
In an age where mediums are changing in the blink of an eye, and artistic signatures are compromised for marketing schedules, a full-length VX video, on DVD makes us all stop for a minute and realize maybe the way things are going aren’t the right way. There’s still value in the way Isle did it. Whether or not you agree that Vase is the best video of 2015, it is the most important.—Blair Alley

Tom Knox and Nick Jensen in the studio.
Tom Knox and Nick Jensen in the studio.

First of all, how old are you?
I'm 24 years and 11 months old.

What was the first skate video you saw?
I'm pretty sure some old 411, but the first video I paid attention to would have been Flip Sorry.

Was there one video that made you want to pick up the camera and start making videos of your own?
I think I always wanted to do it just because it seemed like so much fun, I got a camera when I was 12 and would copy whatever I happened to see but the first video to make a real impression on me was Blueprint's Lost and Found in 2005. That was the first time I thought that a skateboard video could actually be really powerful and set out to try to do that ever since.

Standard def footy check.
Standard def footy check.

How'd you come up with the title, Vase, and what does it mean?
I don't like to talk about it too precisely because I think often the power of things are in half-meaning. But Jensen and myself would talk a lot in quite a vague way about the way the gaze of a camera invests anything with significance, even objects, a vase is similar in such a way that it decorates its contents and a fullness grows out from it. The camera is of course a vase in this case. I don't know how important that idea actually is to us but more than anything we felt it'd be a good center for an aesthetic web for the video, which is obviously way more important than ideas.

How long was the filming for Vase?
About two years, a little less.

What filmers have been your biggest influences?
In terms of filmers probably the largest one would have to be Josh Stewart.

What's the significance of the shots of the guys walking away from the camera throughout and especially in the end credits?
Take from the walking what you will! I just like that these are people and I'm pretty sick of showing people's faces too much. I think it holds a bit of mystery just to show somebody from behind. Representing whole people in skateboard videos is a funny business and I think it's good not to be too oblique about it.

Multiple Roy Orbison and Neil Young songs in this one. Was that your choice or the skaters?
My choice. I love Roy Orbison and find that sound really interesting in 2015 sat next to more electronic sounds.

How important is music selection to you in skate videos?
For me it's at least 50-percent. The whole thing for me is about the creation of an atmosphere, music or the absence of music is always going to be the strongest ingredient in that mix.

How did you and Nick Jensen split up the directing responsibilities on this?
We'd collaborate mostly on shooting and when it came to editing I'd play around a lot and he'd generally be happy with results, though we'd change bits. We'd just manipulate objects in his studio a lot, one of us would have an idea and go to do it then we'd both say like “Hey, maybe we should just chuck this at the wall or slide it across a surface,” and end up with something.

Nick Jensen in Eleventh Hour (2013)

How'd you come up with the idea of going into the dryer and the underground lines in Chris Jones' part?
Well once Chris had filmed one tunnel line I realized I knew another tunnel and he found another and it was obvious that these lines had to be together. With the dryer, well again I don't like to talk about the process of an idea too much because people might just be disappointed with how stupid something is or annoyed by how pretentious it could be [laughs], so I'll leave that to itself.

Favorite person to film:
Knox. Best friend and we go through the process together so it's always quite a personal experience.

Tom Knox in Eleventh Hour (2013)

Favorite clip in Vase:
Jensen's switch flip manual. It was just such a nice moment; Dan Magee was out for some reason and it just felt really cool for him to be there to see Nick, years on, still pushing himself. It's also really hard to describe how difficult that trick is.

How do you feel about Vase now that it's done?
I'd say I'm happy with it and how it memorializes a specific couple of years of being with these people. There's a lot that I criticize in it but that's natural.

How were the crowd reactions and receptions at the various premieres? (London, NYC, LA).
London was great because it's just all our mates so always going to be so warm. It's always fun seeing what parts get the biggest cheers in different places; you always know an audience is paying attention when they cheer at Nick's switch varial flip on flat. All in all the reception was really warm though, it stoked me out, people have been really generous.

In your Grey interview, you said after you shipped off the DVD, you wished you'd have done some things differently. What were they?
I don't really know anymore but very mundanely there's a spelling mistake in there that Magee spotted first that will haunt me forever. Otherwise there are just really small bits I feel I could have given more time to.

Do you have another skateboarding project you're going straight into?
Hopefully making something with Casper, but it's not been fully decided yet. Casper has come into his own so strongly now and I think he's ready to do something really defining for himself.

If you could make a skate video with any five skaters out there, who would you want to film?
Tom Knox, Nick Jensen, Chris Jones, Paul Shier, Jon Nguyen, Sylvain Tognelli, Casper Brooker…
It wouldn't make much sense for me to work with many other people. I'd like to make something with Suciu but he's a busy boy and there's not really much of a reason to either.
Also my good friend Daniel Clarke is maybe my favourite skateboarder but he's not that interested and I don't blame him.

Isle: LA
Isle: LA

Buy Vase on DVD. Digital download now available.

Follow Jacob Harris on instagram: @jacobelliottharris

Vote for Vase for Best Video, Isle for Best Team, Tom Knox for Best Rookie and more: #TWSAwards