Reel Talk: Johnny Wilson

Amid all the filmers and crews in NYC, Johnny Wilson has risen to the top, giving us frequent installments of skating from Max Palmer, Cyrus Bennett, and the rest of the new NYC generation. With four videos already out in 2015 alone (Horny, Sure, Core, and Rack), it’s no wonder Quartersnacks bestowed the nickname NYC’s Most Productive Crew on Johnny and his cohorts. To clear a few things up: Andrew Wilson is his older brother by a year (Johnny’s 22, Andrew’s 23), Josh Wilson is of no relation, just another NYC ripper, Alltimers isn’t Johnny’s brand, it’s Pryce Holmes’, but Andrew skates for them. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s get to the meat and potatoes. Nice to meet you, Johnny, I’m an artist.—Blair Alley

Johnny on the CORE trip upstate. Photo / @zalfa
Johnny on the CORE trip upstate. Photo / @zalfa

With the drop of Rack and a new HD blog, how do you decide what footage goes where?
The blog footage is just people kidding around doing random stuff. Or if there’s warm up tricks.

What are some of your motivational tactics for the Most Productive Crew in NYC?
Everyone is always down to skate unless they’re all hungover. They all skate all the time. This whole summer I haven’t had a day job, I’ve just been skating a lot. Everyone is just hyped to skate, the weather’s been great, summer here is so fun.

People always complain that it’s hard to get tricks in New York, but you’re putting out more footage than most filmers in Cali.
I always skate with a lot of people, and I know everyone always says that about me. Which I don’t really like that, recently it’s been kind of annoying. Like someone will be trying something and some random kid will get in the way. I skate with so many people, that there are so many people to get footage. Very rarely will someone hit me up and it’s just me and them going out.

Rack (2015)

How’s Puerto Rico for skating?
So fun, now a lot of people have been going. Andrew (Wilson) used to live there, his girlfriend is from there. We were staying with her, Andrew was there for six months so he knew a bunch of spots. He rented a car. I’m trying to do more South American trips like that.

Now Cuba’s open.
I’m trying to do that too.

You haven’t had a job this summer, so are you making a living filming full time now?
I used to work for a catering company, doing freelance catering. Two days before a Converse trip earlier this summer, I overslept and I was the chef on the job. I woke up so bummed and they told me I didn’t work for them anymore. But I would freelance a couple days a week and I could accept or decline any job. So if I was free, I would just skate. Recently, I’ve just been making money off filming. This summer it’s been my only income, but I wouldn’t say that’s my job.

How far did you get with the culinary arts?
I went to school for 11 months. Ben Kadow also went to culinary school. Now he’s just skating too. There’s always work. Working in a restaurant is really gnarly. I’ve done it but I’d rather freelance, it gives you more time to skate.

What’s up with the Chinatown apartment living situation you and other NYC filmers have?
We used to live in Brooklyn, in a crazy house with Andrew, Max Palmer, Cyrus—we had carbon monoxide in our house, we had to get out of there. I was looking for rooms on Craigslist in Chinatown and I found this lady who speaks English and Chinese and she knows all these families. I got a room with a 72-year old Chinese woman. It was very crazy at first, but she keeps to herself, I keep to myself. I live right by Labor.

Does she trip on you working on your computer and coming and going with your filmer bag?
Yeah, at first, they just didn’t get it. Plus she doesn’t speak any English. I just left the house right now and she was cooking up some crazy shit. All this fish.

“I’ve just been making money off filming. This summer it’s been my only income, but I wouldn’t say that’s my job.”

How does the NYC filmer community work together so well? Peter (Sidlauskas), Richard (Quintero), Cooper (Winterson)—seems way more communal than other cities where filmers are competing.
There’s a lot of kids who film here. Also there are so many kids who skate here so it’s easy to not step on other people’s toes I guess. We all see each other and hang out at the same places. I never thought about that.

Nike SB & Quartersnacks: CORE (2015)

Those are good points, everyone out here kind of has their own crews and are separated by cars. How did you get in the position to be doing these edits for Nike and Quartersnacks?
I’ve always been checking Quartersnacks and I’ve always been hyped on Quartersnacks, (Kosta) was coming around and I met him, and a year or two ago he posted one of my videos and I was super hyped on that. Then he asked me to do an interview one day. Since then we’ve been pretty tight. Kosta’s the man. Quartersnacks and Nike do a lot of stuff together, that shoe last year, he’s got Nike ads on his website. My friend Dom Travis is the North American brand marketing specialist or something for Nike, so he tried to incorporate Quartersnacks and us into a bunch of stuff which has been super sick. Like that trip we went on upstate, the CORE one, was so fun. It was everyone I skate with plus Hjalte, he’s the man, and I met Bobby Worrest, he’s sick. One of the team managers, Ryan Bobier, he’s awesome. There’s gonna be more Nike x QS coming in the future.

Johnny and Bobby on the CORE trip upstate. Photo / @zalfa
Johnny and Bobby on the CORE trip upstate. Photo / @zalfa

How good is Antonio Durao?
Dude, Antonio man, that kid’s the best. He’s so crazy. He’s so funny. That was like his first real skate trip. He’s a pool boy in Long Island that just skates. He’s super sick.

Johnny chases Antonio Durao with a switch backside tailslide as seen in CORE. Photo / @zalfa
Johnny chases Antonio Durao with a switch backside tailslide as seen in CORE. Photo / @zalfa

What advice would you give to filmers trying to get their work seen and work for companies right now?
You need a really good group of kids you skate with all the time. For me, I was just trying to film as much as I can and put out a bunch of stuff. Even the HD blogs, just try and get all that footage out to people. Skate as much as you can. Do whatever you want, film shit however you want, put out whatever you want, and eventually I think it will work. I’m pretty lucky with the kids I skate with, my brother and friends and stuff. They’re all really good at skating.

Is that your theory with your footage? Just put it out as soon as you can?
Yeah, unless people want to save it for something. I’ll make clips all the time and just send it to them. I’ve made a bunch that no one’s ever seen. They’re always like, “Put it out.” I always mess around with different songs and put them on Vimeo on private and send it to everyone and they’ll tell me what they think.

Where do you usually look for music choices in your videos? Do you pick or let the skaters?
A little bit of both, I’ll ask everyone about music stuff. Andrew will always send me songs. Max Palmer listens to some pretty crazy music that he’ll show me sometimes. Alex Olson sent me that song I used in Rack. Roctakon, Andrew Brown, he knows some pretty sick music. Crazy stuff I’ve never heard of, I asked him to work on some song and he changed it around for me. That’s always the hardest thing, I’ll trip out forever about music. It’s so hard to choose something everyone will like, but then you’ll get stressed out trying to please everyone.

“Do whatever you want, film shit however you want, put out whatever you want, and eventually I think it will work.”

It’s impossible. Someone is always going to talk shit about the music. What videos of your own did you sell on DVD? When did you stop and why?
I put Paych and Beef Patty on DVD. After that I made Horny and people in Japan asked for DVDs. But it was only a ten-minute video so I didn’t wanna do a DVD. I was gonna put Sure on DVDs too, but I didn’t. Maybe the next thing I make, I’ll put all the HD videos on a DVD.

Fuckin’ Johnny Wilson box set.
I feel weird promoting myself, trying to sell DVDs. But then it is sick because people like that, it’s good money, it’s fun to see people getting hyped on having a DVD. But I probably won’t do it again.

Since you switched to HD, what do you think of VX footage nowadays?
Someone the other day was saying how most VX footage looks sick and it’s hard to make HD footage look sick. Hjalte was saying he loves HD footage and he used to love VX. It’s hard to make HD footage look sick, like if the skater’s slow, the fisheye crops weird. I still like watching VX footage for sure. My original plan was to buy a HD camera because I had the money and I wasn’t gonna put the VX down. The last time I used my VX, I helped film that Palace x Bronze video. I filmed a trick of Lucien. It’s still fun to use. I was thinking about bringing it out and making a little montage with it. For now I love the HVX. I’ll probably never get a new camera. The Red cameras are cool, but not for me. I like the HVX, it’s so heavy though, my bag’s so heavy.

NY skate scene, healthiest it’s ever been? What’s the near future of NY skateboarding?
The whole scene here is kids my age or younger. Kids moving here for school and staying. It’s gonna keep going. More and more independent movies. Videos and little clips. It’s definitely on the rise. Only good things to come.

All time favorite dude to go filming with?
Oh, I don’t have one. Probably Max or Andrew my brother. Cyrus obviously. Probably Max, he’s really sick.

He reminds me of Wes Kremer in the way you can’t really grasp how good he is until you skate with him. His footage in Sure reminded me of Wes.
That trick he did in Horny, the last trick when he shot his board through that bump to bar, my camera wouldn’t fit through that, that hole is so small. Max is the best, he also knows nothing about skating. Like current internet stuff? He doesn’t know, he has a flip phone. I saw the other day there’s a Max Palmer hashtag we were looking at.

Max Palmer defying logic in Horny.
Max Palmer defying logic in Horny.

That’s funny because Wes has a flip phone and Wes doesn’t have an Instagram and there’s a Wes Kremer hashtag. Max did that wheel-well grind on the table (8:28) and Wes did one in his TransWorld part (1:41). These guys are even doing the same tricks.
Maybe Max low-key loves Wes Kremer, I don’t know.

I’m sure you’re already off and running on a new project. What is it and when can we expect it?
Andrew is gonna have a little Alltimers part and then we’re working on something else for Max and Cyrus.

Why do so many people make a big deal about the way you wear your hat?
Oh my God! I don’t know! Other people do it not just me.

On the cover of CORE, Hjalte is doing it.
Pryce Holmes is who I got it from. The craziest thing is the beanie. He gets the beanie going too. I haven’t been doing it much recently.

“Nice to meet you, Ima artist!” Catch phrase of 2015?
Oh man I meant to but that in Rack and I didn’t. I want to put that in every video. That guy is an old graffiti guy too. You know where Max Palmer in Horny shot his board through that bump to bar? It’s right on the corner on his street, on Avenue C in the Lower East Side. Dude’s shop is right there. He was like, “Nice to meet you, I’m an artist.” Max was pro for Coda at the time and he really wanted to get a photo of Max and his board because the guy draws on boards. Max was like, “Yo, I’m trying to land this trick, wait a minute.” I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know, he could be crazy. So funny, though. The clip is longer, but I was watching it and just stopped it right here and we all started laughing so hard.

Stay up with Johnny on his Vimeo, tumblr, and Instagram: @john1sure

Puerto Rico: Modern Day Rum Diary video coming tomorrow.

Johnny chilling in Puerto Rico. Photo / @zalfa
Johnny chilling in Puerto Rico. Photo / @zalfa

Sound off in the comments below!

Join the conversation