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Spirit Quest, Colin Read Interview

Going On A Vision Quest With Film Maker Colin Read

Photo above: Carlos Young, evolving a new way to noseslide. PHOTO / Heikkila (click to enlarge)

Colin Read's latest film and swan song is an absolute mind bend of raw street skateboarding with wild animalistic overlays that takes you on a trippy Spirit Quest for epic skateboarding. Premiering around the globe this fall, make sure to catch it if you can and look out for parts coming to twskate.com soon after. Then go out and buy the DVD. Until then, here's a little insight into Colin's vision quest to make a video that was made with heart and soul.

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Chris Jones, tunnel-dweller backside 50-50. PHOTO / Kim (click to enlarge)

So you just got off of work. Where do you work?
Yeah, I work at an advertising agency.

How long have you been there?
About a year, and before that I was just freelancing a bunch.

You're based in New York City?
Yeah, but originally I'm from the Philippines. I grew up there until I was about four. Just a military brat, so I moved around a bunch, but I mostly grew up in Florida.

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Tortoises have nerve endings in their shells; it could feel the urethane. Jimmy Lannon, shell ride. PHOTO / Hart (click to enlarge)

How long have you been into filming and making videos?
Well, I never deliberately wanted to be the filmer [laughs]. When we were kids, my dad had a Handycam that I would bring out to film each other. Then in high school, my friend Charlie got a VX and we would trade off filming each other. Then he quit skating and I quit filming and just skated. When I was around 20 years old I broke my pelvis, on a manual pad. I couldn't skate for a long time because of the long recovery period. So I bought another camera to film my friends just as a way to get out with the homies.

Was that a VX camera you got after the injury? Have you always stuck with that camera?
Well, yeah, all of my actual video projects have been all VX.

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Many animals, like chimps and octopuses, can use rudimentary tools; Leo Gutman uses them here to help kickflip this chasm. PHOTO / Heikkila (click to enlarge)

Okay, give me your views on the VX versus HD debate. Lay it all out there. Go.
My argument has always been that for skaters of my generation is that's what skateboarding looks like to us just because growing up and watching videos, that's how it was presented. It just sort of looks right. Other than that, as far as technically, I still think that the screen format of the 4:3 ratio is the best for skateboarding because skateboarding is vertical—people are vertical. With the 16×9 HD, the skater takes up only a small portion of the frame. Also, the VX has a real sense of speed when you film with the death lens and you can show as much of the spot as you want or don't want. With HD, you're forced to take the wide view usually. But really, just filming with a VX feels fun. The balance is right. The weight is right. It's fun to poke in and out. I just really hate filming with DSLRs. And the HPXs are just really heavy and that sucks in a different way. But to tell you the truth, I'm officially retired from filming. This is it for me.

So Spirit Quest is your last video? Is this your swan song?
Yeah, yeah. It's curtains for me. At least for now. A big factor is that my body can't do it anymore. Making Spirit Quest was actually really, really hard for me because of health issues I've been going through. I just have a really fucked-up back, partly from filming. It's been a really painful and frustrating trail to try and finish this video. It was still one of the best times of my life and really rewarding, but I was suffering through a lot of it. I actually had a back procedure done a few weeks ago. I can't step on a board for the next four to six months. I still have a lot of ideas I'd like to do in skating, but for the foreseeable future, I'll have to not be as hands on.

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Hippos kill more people each year in Africa than any other animal. Alex Fogt wallies over the jaws of death. PHOTO / McDonald (click to enlarge)

How long did you film for Spirit Quest?
Three years.

That's a long time for an independent video. And the run time is about an hour and a half but has a part one and two, right?
Yeah, it's designed to be watched either way, as one big long video or you can break it up into two videos. Choose your own adventure, you know?

I loved it. You did a great job. You followed through on a vision, and I could tell you put a lot of hard work into it.
Thanks. Yeah, I think it's important to have a vision. We've all seen enough skate edits of city skating set to '90s hip-hop.

nikon f100, ektar 100. shot 8/24/2015. imacon scanned 7/26/2016.

Taylor Nawrocki, gorilla-strength switch step hop. PHOTO / Ying (click to enlarge)

[Laughs] This is very true. What about the length of the video? This day and age seems to be about quick, short attention span edits.
Well, it's just a reaction to those trends. Skateboarding's getting more and more instant gratification friendly, which is understandable because that's just the way media is these days. Guys are putting out solo parts, brands are putting out shorter videos seemingly edited more quickly. And I just miss the time of skating when there was so much work and craft put into making videos. They were something you would watch hundreds of times. I just wanted to give myself room to put in all my ideas. And another reason is that I never intended it to be that long [laughs]. Even when I was editing it along the way while still filming, I knew it might be long, like 50 minutes or something, but soon realized that it was going to be two full-length videos, two 40-minute videos—I was shocked. But I just had so many ideas that I could only get out in a longer format. So I hope it will be rewarding to watch from start to finish because it's packed pretty densely with different approaches to things.

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Chameleons can look in two directions at once, but Quim's got both eyes on the landing. Quim Cardona, wallride the gap. PHOTO / McDonald (click to enlarge)

I was amazed by how much thought and creative ideas were behind so many of the shots. Did you do a lot of the animation and drawings in it?
Most of the character animation, like the chameleon drawing on the wall and Taylor Nawrocki becoming a gorilla, were done by Cosme Studio from Spain. He's super incredible and graceful enough to bless the video with his art. And beyond that, all the animations, textures, and motion graphics I made myself.

What are some techniques or effects you're most proud of in the video?
Fuck, I don't even remember what's in the video [laughs]. Well, okay, the ones I'm most proud of are the ones not done on a computer, the stuff we did in real life.

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Connor Kammerer staring down his prey on a front board pop-out. PHOTO / Gonzalez (click to enlarge)

Yeah, like the opening sequence is amazing.
Thanks. Yeah, the chameleon vision? That was filmed two ways. Me filming with two cameras, then filming identical lines and splitting off into an alternate dimension for one, then merging back together. And I'm sure that whole section was pretty hard for the skaters to understand what I was doing with them because they couldn't see in my head and the vision I had for it. Luckily enough, they all trust me enough to follow my crazy ideas and do imaginary tricks for me. Another one would be the camera drop in Connor Kammerer's part. The one where it descends from the building. I'm real happy with that one. The VX kickflip and the underwater shots I was real happy with.

Who are some influential filmers for you?
Some of the biggest for me would be first Josh Stewart of course. Static II is the Bible. Then Dan Wolfe. I still kind of think that the IPath promo from 2005 is maybe the best video ever [laughs]. Joe Perrin is overlooked but is incredible. He's inspired me to kind of push the boundaries of how parts can flow into each other. Takahiro Morita—his video On The Broad is much longer than Spirit Quest but is fully enjoyable, but everything about it from the filming, concepts to the editing is amazing. Recently, I really like Zach Chamberlin, who just did Bright Moments. He's probably the best VX filmer today. He's fun to watch.

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Zach Lyons front boards to fakie while the rest of his pack watches. PHOTO / Iseki (click to enlarge)

All you VX guys gotta stick together, right?
Yeah, for the most part we're all friends. There's not many of us left. We gotta stick together [laughs].

You guys are like the Channel 9 News Team from Anchorman beefing with the HDers.
[Laughs] Yep. We're dying out for sure. I guess I have died out. I'm done.

The soundtrack is pretty unique and not your typical skate-video tunes.
There is definitely some worldwide psychedelic- type music, mainly African. I just got super lost in African music and just delved into that. I just wanted to find cool music. One of my biggest pet peeves is when you hear a song in a skate video that is currently on the radio or something. You know what I mean? Not because I'm saying, "Oh, I liked it before it was cool" type of thing. It's because you don't learn anything. When I was a kid, pretty much all of the music I liked I found out about in skate videos. I never heard it anywhere else. You'd watch a skate video and then look up all the music in it and go on a path from there. That's something I kind of miss about skate videos these days. I hope this video makes some kids get into African music. That would be awesome. Other than that music, I had some childhood friends of mine make original music for it. Connor Kammerer made his own song. And actually, a couple of skaters' parents made their songs, which I thought was really special. Taylor Nawrocki made one of his songs, and Daniel Kim's mom made his song. They used old music the parents made when they were younger in bands and stuff.

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Bats leave their nests at dusk to hunt all night. Matt Town soars this gap to front wall. PHOTO / Heikkila (click to enlarge)

There's a bunch of different locations in this video. Did you pay your own way?
Yeah, I went to SF, Japan, France, UK as well. Yeah, trips were done on my own dime. I work a job outside of skating. I just made it work around my schedule. While in New York, I was filming every day after work and on weekends.

So your job is a full Monday-through-Friday nine- to- fiver?
Yes, sir. But I'm actually about to take two months of unpaid leave off to do premieres for the videos. So yeah, I'll see you out there soon.

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Hiroki Muraoka sneaks a kickflip under the bar to hide from the predators above. PHOTO / Ohyam (click to enlarge)

You must have crammed it in during your time off, because filming skating normally is hard enough and time consuming, but finding those unique spots must have been hard.
Searching for animal-themed spots for the rest of the video was a restraint too. Filming skateboarding normally is difficult, and to throw that on top was crazy, for sure. But it was worth it.

That must have been insane to try and find those kinds of spots and all of the actual animal footage that you cut to.
It basically took me losing my mind. It kind of worked both ways as far as finding spots and filming tricks a certain way to reflect existing animal footage I already had or just searching obsessively through animal documentaries to find animal mimicry of skaters' moments. Like Jimmy Lannon is an ostrich, when he gets drunk he likes to bury his head in the sand. Just like Zach Lyons is obviously a frog. It just made it fun to make a video like this. We were always thinking of the theme of the video while we were out. We'd be more psyched to find a frog sculpture than a perfect marble ledge or something. It was a very rewarding and frustrating experience.

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Like a crocodile locking its jaws around its meal, Eby locks in and doesn't let go. Eby Ghafarian, windmill ride. PHOTO / Heikkila (click to enlage)

Will the DVD come with a hit of acid to take you deeper into the Spirit Quest? Or do you recommend any hallucinogens while watching?
Any hallucinogens should suffice. Take a spiritual journey while watching it.

What's your spirit animal?
Oh, well, I guess people have always shoehorned me into the crustacean type. I don't know, I feel like a blob fish or something, like a sack of gelatin contained by skin that can't survive if brought up to the surface [laughs]. Hopefully my body cooperates with me again one day and I can film and skate again. Like I said, I never wanted to be a filmer; I just want to skate, man [laughs].

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Geckos have thousands of tiny hairlike setae on their toes, which let them cling to walls with ease. Bobby Worrest takes it frontside. PHOTO / Hart (click to enlarge)