Black Sheep / Interviews / Sidewalk Magazine

Isaac Wilkinson: the O-ONE FUCKIN’ SIX-ONE interview

(Published: Sidewalk Magazine, 26th December 2016. Photography by Chris Johnson.)

Isaac Wilkinson O-ONE FUCKIN' SIX-ONE Manchester skateboarding video interview Sidewalk Magazine.png

Despite the constant battle against the grim north west elements, Manchester’s back catalogue of scene videos is pretty much unrivalled by any other city in the UK. Stu Bentley, Sean Lomax, Joe Gavin, Mark Kendrick…those are just a handful of names that spring to mind when thinking about the people who have dedicated years of their time to document the ever prolific skate Manchester scene.

Isaac Wilkinson is the latest Manchester resident who’s stepped to the production plate, working closely with the crew at The Black Sheep to bring you ‘O-ONE FUCKIN’ SIX-ONE’, featuring the likes of Jiri Bulin, Rikk Fields, Lucien Costello, Seb Batty and Ricky Davidson, alongside the rest of the Black Sheep family and assorted friends from all over the place.

Farran Golding caught up with Isaac after the video premiere to get some insight into the making of the video, the full conversation is waiting for you to read below, then scroll to the very end for an exclusive online premiere of Jiri Bulin’s full section from the video! DVDs are due to be available from December 28th, so be sure to pick up a copy and support Isaac and his hard work with your wallets.

Big up all involved! Now, read on…

Let’s start with the obvious – what made you want to film people do tricks on a skateboard instead of just riding one yourself?

I started filming before I started skating. I was into filming on my shitty DV camera and went to Bones in Stockport with my mates because skateboarding interested me. After I started skating I eventually got a better camera and met Jiri Bulin at Stockport Gardens one day. He told me how terrible I was at filming, (laughs).

It was the first time we met and he was used to filming with Phil Harvey and Sean Lomax. I think I was 15 and just got told by this dude who I looked up to that I sucked at filming. Thanks Jiri, (laughs). But I didn’t leave Jiri alone for about two months. I finally got a fisheye for my camera and we ended up filming a little carpark edit over winter, called Curbs and Rainy Days, which was one of the first skateboarding clips I made. Then The Black Sheep asked if I wanted to do a few things, so I started filming for them.

Growing up around Manchester with an interest in video production, is Joe Gavin somebody you have been inspired by?

Fully. Joe Gavin is a huge influence. One of the first videos I saw was Snake Eyes Die [2013] and I thought, “I want to do that, I want to make proper skate videos.”

It was cool to film a part with him this year for Thunder (Trucks). I’d never actually filmed with Joe before but I’ve looked up to him as a filmmaker and skateboarder over the years. He will know how he wants something filmed and I’ll know how I want to film it. Then it’s constructive criticism, pointing out things I didn’t think of. Joe looks at everything with a different perspective to any other skateboarder in Manchester so we tried to stay clear of the generic spots and went missioning.

You’re also captain of a rugby team. How long have you been playing for and why did you ending up sticking with it after you started skating?

I’ve played rugby since I was 9. Originally I did karate and, just before I got to black belt, wanted to play rugby so I sacked karate off. You know when you get to 16, that’s when most people quit sports like that? That year we did incredibly well and won everything. I was training three times and in the gym, five or six times a week, just to play rugby. I’m sure I skated twice over that summer and remember Jiri telling me, “You don’t even film anymore, man!”

After that, which was my last year of college, I went to university and skated more because I was in town every day. I still play rugby; this year I decided to take up captaincy because I wanted to have that charge over everyone. It’s nice but it’s a lot of fucking hard work and I send about three hundred texts in a week just to get everyone in check if they want to play. It’s a fucking slug. I had a game yesterday morning, after the video premiere, and I was dying, man. We won though and then I went on a night out with all my rugby mates and got steaming. Then you dragged me out of bed to do this interview, (laughs).

You’re currently studying a degree related to video production at Manchester Metropolitan University, but you have also been involved with filming music videos too; did that come about through skateboarding?

Yes and no. My mate is a producer and one of his songs blew up. I loved that track and he posted on Twitter for anybody into action sports and filmmaking to hit him up because he wanted to make a video around Manchester. His management had to clear the funding because we shot the whole video on a RED camera. It’s gnarly skating around with a RED camera; I don’t know how Russell Houghten does it all the time but I couldn’t. I got producers credits but it was predominantly camera work. I also helped with the editing by saying “That looks pretty whack,” because it was non-skateboarders editing a skateboarding thing.

I’m studying filmmaking at university which ties in. My tutors are into the skateboarding side of it. I told them that I was holding a premiere, they were all invited and stoked I was doing my own thing outside of university. They’re interested because they’re practitioners themselves. Obviously, they’re tutors but that’s because they’ve done other stuff outside of their current job. All they’re doing is passing on the knowledge they have learnt over the years to you. When you are doing something outside of uni it makes them want to interact because you’re doing what you want to do. A lot of people on my course don’t, they just work outside of it.

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How have you time managed being in your third year of university, writing a dissertation and filming a full length skateboarding video?

I took the first two years seriously but at the same time kind of decided to be your typical student. I was still living at home, going out three times a week and hungover all the time. Then this year I’ve decided to do everything all at fucking once.

“Yeah, I’ll be a rugby captain!”

“Fuck it, I’ll film a video!”

“I’ll have it out before Christmas!”

Let’s just say I’m yet to write my dissertation, (laughs). By the time this will be out I should have done most of it because I’ve got three weeks… Oh, fucking hell! I’ve got three weeks to write my dissertation. I haven’t even written the title yet but I guess I should have done.

I’m studying what impact the ‘long take’ has on cinema. Two films I’m looking at are Russian Arcand Victoria which is a bank heist film set in Berlin. Watch it. Honestly, it’s insane; a two and half hour masterpiece in one take. Sebastian Schipper, who wrote and directed it, said, “It’s not a film about a bank heist, it is a bank heist.” You’re immersed in it because there are no cuts which is what, in cinema, affects your perception of time. But because Victoria is one long take, it’s real time and it’s like you’re in the film.

So, ‘O-ONE FUCKIN’ SIX-ONE’ – the guys at Black Sheep encouraged you to finish this video a lot quicker than you originally intended to, right?

Basically, Seb (Batty) and I wanted to go filming in Leeds. I was skint and asked Harry [Paul Harrison, Black Sheep co-owner] if he could pay for our coach over. He said, “I’ll give you twenty quid if the video is done by Christmas,” and it happened. I didn’t expect it to.

Harry and Tez [Robinson – the other half of Black Sheep] were on my case on all the time. Fucking hell, when Tez wants Instagram posts, you’ve got to do them: “I want two teasers for everybody! I want photos! I want the whole works!” (Laughing) I was constantly on my computer. No time to spend with my girlfriend as every time I was with her I’m either editing or texting people for rugby. There was a point where I was on the train home; my phone was dead, my laptop was dead and I wasn’t connected to anything thinking, “Fuck, I’m on my own. I don’t have to worry about anything for twenty minutes.”

I’m so happy Harry and Tez were constantly saying, “Get the video done before Christmas!” because it would have just got pushed back. Then it’s one year later and a bunch of the footage is old as fuck. We had a nice September and it seemed like I could film enough. I thought everyone would be done by November and I would have December to edit. Then it just rained for the whole of November…

(We had) one or two dry days, and we managed to get out at night, but other than that it has been dreadful weather. If you go on a day mission in Manchester you might as well just go to CIS straight away because, at this time of year, you will get kicked off of all the spots, or there’s a Christmas market there.

For those that might not have guessed it, explain what the title is a reference to.

O-ONE FUCKIN’ SIX-ONE comes from a graphic Harry made for Black Sheep playing on that 101 Skateboards logo and Manchester’s area code. I was in the shop with Seb, trying to come up with a name for the video, he had his hoodie one and it just clicked. Harry was well stoked, because obviously he made the graphic, but I can’t believe we were wearing the name to the video for months beforehand.

How did the crew come together?

George, Seb, Rikk Fields and I went to Hong Kong last year and we had been talking about a video for ages. I wanted those three to be in it alongside Armarni Rochford. Marni started getting Venture Trucks through Shiner and needed a minute of footage. By the time it got to giving it to Alan (Glass) we ended up logging three minutes. It is good footage but for a minute-long edit you have to bring out the best. We ended up smashing it out by the end of June and because we had so much footage Marni has a part in O-ONE FUCKIN’ SIX-ONE.

It’s funny; Josh Bentley, who is in my video and skates for Black Sheep, showed up on the first day of uni and I didn’t even realise he was on the course until we sat down in the same room.

Lucien Costello was supposed to have a ‘Welcome to Black Sheep’ video but he’s a lazy shit and was always skating the PumpCage instead of coming out filming. He did a good job considering he filmed most of it in the past month. Leo Turner and little Yallie Garbe were going to have a shared section but we didn’t have time to get more so I stuck Leo in Lucien’s section. He hasn’t even seen it yet, he couldn’t come to the premiere because he was too young, I hope he’s stoked.

Ricky Davidson moved over from Australia last year and we started skating together. Every time I went out with Ricky he logged about six or seven clips. The morning that me, you and him went to Salford he probably filmed a good thirty or forty seconds that’s actually in there. He’s pretty much wearing the same clothes for the whole video because he smashed the part out so quickly.

jiri-bulin-josh-bentley-armarni-rochford-ricky-davidson-leo-turner-lucien-costello-seb-batty-o-one-fuckin-six-one-manchester-skateboarding-video-by-isaac-wilkinson-sidewalk-magazine-interview

Jiri Bulin, Josh Bentley, Armani Rochford, Ricky Davidson, Leo Tuner (up top), Lucien Costello & Seb Batty. Photo: Isaac

Was it because of O-ONE FUCKIN’ SIX-ONE that Ricky ended up riding for Black Sheep?

When we talked about finishing before Christmas, Harry asked who is in it. I said everyone’s name then Ricky, showed Harry his footage and he just went, “Get him on!” Nick (Stansfield) asked him and he wanted to ride for Black Sheep. I don’t think people knew that he was going to ride for the shop but his introduction to Black Sheep was his ender in the video. Originally the ‘Welcome To The Family’ animation wasn’t in there but I said it would be cool to have it to Marcus (Craven) who made the animations.

Those animations, amongst other things, make it seem you went a little above what would be expected for the production aspects of a scene video.

I wasn’t sure what to do for people’s names and stuff so Josh suggested asking Marcus to animate them. He was super keen to do it and has done an amazing job with all the titles. Because I’m a film student I wanted to make it more than ‘just a scene video.’ I wanted people to think, “Fucking hell, that’s a good video.” It helps that everyone in O-ONE FUCKIN’ SIX-ONE is sponsored to different extents.

The Tuesday before last I went to see Jiri at work. I plugged my hard drive in, he leant on it, disconnected and corrupted the fucking project file. I hadn’t backed it up in about two weeks. My fucking god, literally a week before the premiere I had to re-edit the video. I was so bummed out. I sat in uni for two days straight, about twelve hours each, editing on lockdown and nipping out for a fag every so often. Then coming out at 10:30pm with tunnel vision, (laughs).

Do you feel that having to essentially start from scratch was a benefit in the end?

Yeah, because when you make something you become so attached to it. Harry watched one of the drafts and he went, “Change this, change that…” You think, “Fuck, I’ve spent so much time editing this.” You want to hold on to it but if someone else looks at it they can see what doesn’t look right. You make those changes and realise that it’s way better because of it. I think the video has turned out better than what it would have been from having to re-edit it too.

Whether it’s a big production or something smaller, the people behind videos always seem to end up filming and editing until the last minute. What was the last trick you captured and how close to the premiere was it?

Reiss Johnson’s 540. He was saying for weeks that he was going to do it. We ended up going to film vert about two weeks ago but he was going to Paris the next day and didn’t want to hurt himself doing a 540, so we left it. We went on Sunday before the premiere and he couldn’t do it. We went on Monday and it was shut because the floor had condensed. Then we went Monday night and he got it. We had finished filming and that was it. I thought it was super rad to have the 540 in the ‘Black Sheep Family’ section because there’s a big vert session going on with Reiss and Scotty (Andy Scott). That’s one of my favourite parts of the video because it breaks up from all street footage, which you don’t really get anymore.

isaac-wilkson-o-one-fuckin-six-one-premiere-manchester-photo-chris-johnson-sidewalk-magazine-interview

What are your overall thoughts on skateboarding media currently?

Everything is so fucking instant and in your face these days. If you’re into something then you ‘like’ it on Instagram or Facebook and that’s it. People’s attention spans are like fifteen seconds. Maybe sixty seconds now there are longer Instagram videos. But that’s all it is, your phone dictates your fucking attention span.

Making my video, I thought it needs to be in your face and quick, it feels like you can’t have long lines or other stuff going on because people get bored. I knew how I wanted it to be, you just to have to take that into consideration in terms of how you structure it, not really when editing the sections, and not let it dictate your ideas.

There are filmers out there who do their own thing but there are a lot of people who don’t. Once something is cool everyone will start doing it and then it will just die. It has been the same story over and over again and keeps happening but that’s skateboarding. With both skating and as a filmer it feels like a lot has been done already and you’ve got to find your own way. GX1000 was what inspired me to shoot 4:3 and I feel like I jumped on a bandwagon with that anyway.

That’s a point. You film in HD, but why choose a 4:3 format rather than 16:9?

You can get way closer and skating was always filmed 4:3 from when it was VXs back in the day. It just looks better than 16:9. It got to the point where I started watched the video and not the skating anymore, but the background and how the fisheye distorts the buildings. I think that might be a cool idea, to film from that angle like you’re filming a line but the skater isn’t there. Maybe someone has done it…

It’s no secret the act of putting together a full-length video and creating a hard copy is becoming a lost art. Were you always set on making something tangible before The Black Sheep even said they would help out with the DVD?

Yeah, I’ve made edits that go online and you’re stoked for a few days, but then they’re lost. You may as well have just played it to someone and deleted it. People will go back and watch them but it seems like they have two or three days max, maybe a week if it’s getting pushed on Sidewalk, but it gets lost in the internet. Having a physical DVD makes it way better because you think, “This is mine, I made this,” and you’re super stoked about it.

It’s impressive you managed this in less than a year and the video definitely doesn’t seem like you should have given it a few more months either. How does it feel to have contributed another entry into Manchester’s amazing video archive?

I’m just happy that I’m part of the scene because everyone within it is so cool and is involved in some way. Being able to contribute myself to, and make something for, the skate scene leaves me stoked to be a part of it.

I remember sitting in the Shads [2013] premiere thinking, “I want to be Mark Kendrick right now,” because he would put these videos out and everyone is stoked and cheering and giving him respect. I just thought, “I want to be like that; I want to be really stoked for one night and everyone else stoked with you.”

That was Friday night. About a hundred people turned up to this little bar in the Northern Quarter. The feeling you get is incredible. People cheering and you’re like “I filmed that!” It’s such a nice feeling to have. Although as soon as I hit play I walked away and went and stood at the bar and thought, “I’m not watching it.” Then when I realised everyone liked it I was super happy, (laughs).

black-sheep-store-presents-o-one-fuckin-six-one-01fuckin61-by-isaac-wilkinson-jimmys-northern-quarter-manchester-photo-chris-johnson-sidewalk-magazine-interview

Any thanks that you want to end this on?

Harry and Tez – I couldn’t, and probably wouldn’t, have done it without them. My girlfriend for putting up with me as for the past two months as I’ve been the shittest boyfriend in the world. My mum and dad, I owe them a lot for the last few months.

Jiri, Rikk, Lucien, Leo, Josh, Armani, Seb and Ricky – you absolutely smashed it.

LKIG. The Goon Squad. Everyone that has contributed to the vid, especially Max (Dos Santos).

CJ for making me look sexy in the photo at the start of this, which looks like a fucking Zoo York advert, and Ben Powell for being my spiritual mentor, (laughs).

Go fuck yourself, Armarni.

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