With the news that Josh Hallett’s second video for Welcome Skate Store is inbound, it seemed fitting to breathe life back into this interview about his first longform video for the shop, Paul, originally published by Sidewalk Magazine in 2018.
Words by Ryan Gray, photography by Reece Leung.
Originally hailing from nearby Harrogate but relocating to Leeds a good few years ago, Josh Hallett has been thrusting his camera in the direction of skateboarders for as far back as anyone can care to remember. Over recent times he has been working closely with the guys at Welcome Skate Store to ensure their team is kept on its collective toes, coming through with solid edits for Store Wars and Core Store Challenge, and embarking on missions for standalone edits such as ‘RWTBarcelona’. Ryan Gray caught up with Josh the week after the premiere of ‘Paul,’ to find out more about the making of the DVD.
From the first clip logged to sitting down in the cinema [Hyde Park Picture House] last Saturday night for the premiere, how much of your life has Paul, consumed?
That’s a tough one to figure out, really. I might have to check Instagram for that. I think the oldest clip in there is a line of Dale [Starkie] that was probably filmed at the beginning of 2014 so around three years all together.
Was it always your intention to end up with a “Welcome video” or did Paul, start life as a scene production that became tied in with the shop over time, possibly due to the people that you were filming with?
We didn’t really have any idea what we were filming at the beginning. I was just filming with my friends, a few of which were riding for Welcome, then it just grew from there.
Tom Brown and I originally talked about doing a little online promo featuring the riders and friends, but then we kept filming and filming until it was pretty obvious a full-length would be the end result.
For those who don’t know, can you explain how the title Paul, came about? And at what point did you realise that it could also relate to one of Yorkshire’s finest skateboarding exports, Paul Silvester?
A lot of people have been asking about the name [laughs]. About a month before the premiere we were still without one. People would always refer to it as “The Welcome Video” but I really didn’t like that. It needed a one word title. The idea of calling the video an actual person’s name was all Sam Barratt. I can’t remember it being done before and it seemed like the type of thing that people would remember. A few names were thrown into the mix, but we settled on ‘Paul’ because Man [Paul Silvester[ was that dude who really put Leeds on the map. It seemed pretty fitting.
During the filming for this video then two of Leeds most iconic street spots, the Pig and Whistle Banks and the Man Bank, were both demolished – alongside both Needleside and now the Dustbowl. Did you find yourself travelling further into the outskirts as ‘traditional’ Leeds spots went under the hammer?
Fortunately, it wasn’t until quite recently that the Man Bank was taken away from us, so we had quite a bit of footage at that spot. There isn’t one clip in the video at Pig and Whistle or Needleside, which is disappointing, but we managed to get a few things at the Dustbowl before it was needlessly and brutally destroyed. I’m really gutted for all of the boys who put so much time and effort into that DIY spot, but as Blinky says, there will always be another one.
I’m sure it’s the same deal for everyone else out there. If you skate the same place with the same people every day then you can get relatively bored of the spots. It doesn’t seem fresh to you anymore, so it’s natural to venture outside of the city centre. Unless there is a specific trick that somebody wants to film in the city, then it’s nice just to get away from it for a while. It’s easy to hop into the car and drive 10-15 minutes, and although spots can be scarce, you can find some pretty good ones if you’re lucky.
Outside of Leeds itself, and beyond the “RWTBarcelona” trip, did you make many trips to other cities and towns?
We didn’t want to use any of the footage from the “RWTBarcelona” trip in the video as it would have looked out of place, so 95% of the video was filmed in Yorkshire. Obviously most of it around Leeds, but there is also plenty of footage from surrounding towns and cities like Barnsley, Wakefield, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Sheffield and more.
We also did a couple of trips down to Bristol to see Mike [Arnold] and the Fifty Fifty boys. I really love going down there. If I was to move away from Leeds, I’d go to Bristol for sure. We definitely wanted to keep the video as relevant to our scene as possible though, hence why the majority of it is filmed within an hour’s drive of Leeds.
Tom Zealand, frontside wallride in Sheffield & Dale Starkie, kickflip in Barnsley, both within an hour’s drive of Leeds. ph: Reece
Everyone in the video smashed it, but it seems like the most “where did that come from?” topic of discussion came courtesy of George Smith. For those yet to find out, when did you first meet the pop machine and how has it been seeing him throw down some of the stuff he did for the video? It must have been tough keeping some of it under wraps…
George really is one of the nicest people I have ever met. I probably met him at Hyde Park a few years ago. I think he had just gotten back into skating again after a bit of a hiatus. He was pretty quiet, but his skateboarding was pretty loud, that’s for sure.
He’s a builder by trade and I think the hours he spends on sites at work definitely helps his skateboarding. He’s the hardest guy I know and I don’t ever remember seeing him stay down after taking a bail. He is also a guy who knows his strengths and also takes on advice really well. Often I’ll suggest he tries a trick and within a few tries he’s done it. He’s so unbelievably calm when he’s skating and I have never seen him celebrate a make. On that rare occasion that he isn’t committing to something though, the offer of a few cans of Stella will do the trick.
It wasn’t particularly difficult to keep his footage under wraps to be honest because he’s so modest. If he had done something particularly fucked up, he wouldn’t mention it to anyone and is way more hyped to hear if anyone else had got a clip.
“He’s so unbelievably calm when he’s skating and I have never seen him celebrate a make.”
— Josh Hallett on George Smith, seen here going over the back to 5050.
Carrying on with keeping footage under wraps, how has Instagram helped or hindered you in the video making process? Did any tricks you would have rather saved get “Insta-blown out” and what’s your take on this happening?
I don’t think Instagram hindered the video making process at all. We aren’t those guys that keep tricks a secret, but at the same the boys aren’t filming shit on their phones ready to post on Insta the day after the premiere. I also don’t show the footage to anyone until the video is out. I might let the rider see it once or twice when they make it, but then I don’t really watch it myself until I get to the editing process. I log it, back it up and then just hide it away until I need it.
As a tool though, I really do like Instagram. I’m on it lurking every day of course. We didn’t bother making a proper video teaser, instead we made three short Insta teasers. Is there a better tool than Instagram to advertise your skateboarding these days?
Yorkshire has produced countless hours of skateboarding footage over the years – do you have a top three favourite White Rose-centric scene or shop videos?
My favourite is definitely Snyde Park and The Curse of Brudenell Road by Alex Appleby. It’s got such a great scene vibe about it and it’s definitely the video I watch the most. I love the soundtrack, all the dudes in it are my friends and it just has such a great feel about it. It’s the video I’ll put on when I get home a bit drunk from a night of beers. Blinky’s part is so sick!
Obviously Baghead Flats is right up there. You and Ben did such a great job on that video. Nine years or so after it came out, it’s so good that you could easily release it today and everyone would be stoked on it. Everyone in the UK rinsed that Mike Wright part and rightly so, but I always loved Lynners’ skating [Joe Lynsky]. That’s the section I’d have on repeat. The line at Playhouse at the start with the nollie frontside 180 down the ten will always be one of the best things done there. I also loved that he could straight nollie massive shit as well.
A third one would be Reprobates by Sore Skateboards. Vince [Orr] put a lot of time, love and effort into that video and it definitely showed. There are some really great parts in it and it was such a strong local video. Brenna’s part stands out so much to me. The song, the editing, effortless style and varial flips…so good! Vince premiered it at Hyde Park Picture House, then we had a session at Hyde and made our way down into town and got really drunk. I remember [Ben] Grove being on top form that night!
Obviously there are many more, but I’d say these are the three Yorkshire vids that I get most hyped on watching.
So this was your first major video production I guess, in so far as you had a seated cinema premiere, people had travelled from all over the country to be there and it was hyped on a national scale. In the weeks leading up to the premiere, did you feel under any pressure at all? Any comedy meltdowns to report or were you fairly relaxed? Also, on a scale of 1 to ‘shitting it’, how nervous were you at the cinema? Haha.
I was actually pretty cool about it all in the weeks leading up to it. I knew that I was going away with my family and girlfriend at the beginning of March, so I always planned to have it completed way in advance of the premiere. Tom, Sam and I watched it a few times and after each viewing I made some changes until we were completely happy with the final version. The morning of the premiere I was actually pretty chilled. I didn’t really need to think about it as everything was already arranged with the guys at Hyde Park Picture House. It wasn’t until about an hour before the video started that I started bricking it a bit. The idea that we had ‘sold out’ a cinema just for our little skate video was kind of ridiculous. All I wanted was for my friends to like it and be stoked on their own parts. If any of those guys hated it, then I would have been gutted for them. As it turns out, after the video everyone had some really nice things to say and people seemed to be stoked on it. Darren Pearcy said that it felt like a bunch of friends having fun together. That was good to hear.
Out of everyone that you worked with, who surprised you the most? Was there any one person who shocked you more than the rest throughout filming?
I’d say that Dale really surprised at times due to his level of his commitment. The one trick that got away was the wallie blunt flip fakie at the Waitrose bank in Sheffield. He spent hours and hours trying that trick and landed on it so many times. At least three of the sessions finished with him not being able to walk properly, never mind push on his board. He knew he could do it and wanted to land it so badly that he refused to stop until his body gave up.
People have this misconception of Dale and believe he just wants to be the guy that ‘makes it’. He’s not like that at all. Yes, he does a bit of shouting and has the odd scream now and again, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously and is always having fun. He takes a hell of a lot of shit from us on a daily basis, but he handles it all so well.
Kind of on the flipside, is there anyone on the team or tied to the shop that you wish you could have filmed with more, or had a larger part in the video?
Oh man, the answer to that question is always Will Sheerin. He is my favourite skateboarder. I have known him since he was about 12 and I’ve still not managed to get a full part out of him. We will do it one day I swear. [Mark] Baines and the Fabric dudes need clips. You hear that Shez?!
The music in the video may surprise some people as it is, for the most part, light-hearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously, whilst not detracting from the skating in the slightest. Whose idea was it to take a less po-faced approach to the music?
I chose the majority of the music myself, however Sam helped out with a couple of the tunes as well. There is a lot of 80s music in it, but that’s just because I love it and think it goes well with skateboarding. I think it would have been difficult for the riders to pick their own songs and often when that happens, the video doesn’t flow as well as it could. The flow of the video is really important and although I don’t particularly think I nailed it all that well, I’d like to think people will watch it as a whole and not skip to particular sections. Whenever I came across a song that I liked, I would just add it to an iTunes playlist. Then when it came to editing, I tried to pick a song that I thought would work the best for each person. Dale was the only guy that I had a set song for months before. I just couldn’t imagine him skating to anything else.
How much freedom did you have with ‘Paul’? Did Tom Brown and Sam Barratt have much of a hand in terms of the look, feel, running order etc, or was the project mainly left in your hands?
I had complete freedom to do what I wanted. Sam and Tom helped with the camera costs and petrol money if I ever asked for it, but apart from that I feel like they trusted me to do whatever I thought was best. Towards the end of the process, they became more involved and I obviously wanted their feedback, good or bad. Welcome is theirs, so I would have changed anything they wanted to, but they were quite happy to leave me to my own devices. Both of them were a huge help in planning the advertisements, the DVD release and the premiere. They put a lot of time, money and energy into hyping it up and making sure everything went well on the night. I couldn’t have done something by myself and I’m grateful to be involved in something as dope as Welcome Skate Store.
So ‘Paul’ is filmed entirely in HD whereas your other shop edits such as ‘RWTBarcelona’ have been filmed VX. What are your perceived pros and cons of each format, and which one would you claim you prefer?
Well it is all filmed in the 16:9 format, but it’s not completely HD. Ten years ago when I first bought a camera and knew nothing about filming, I ended up getting a Sony FX7. It films in 16:9, but records onto tape. It’s a strange one and I’ve had loads of issues with it. Broken tape deck, shutter speed, focus, eyepiece, not to mention the numerous issues I’ve had with bits of random dirt inside the fisheye lens. The screws on the fisheye are so worn down now and that you can’t take it apart anymore. When it was working perfectly, I really enjoyed using it, but I think it has had it’s day now and should probably be retired.
Personally I think skateboarding looks best on the VX. It looks so natural with a MK1 lens and to me, nothing can beat it. I love filming with that camera and everything about the way it looks. The 4:3 format is ideal for skateboarding as you have the subject directly in the middle of the shot, and there isn’t too much on either side that can steal away your attention. The HD 4:3 version is pretty cool, but it’s just not the same. I know that it’s not meant to be the same, but if I was given the choice I’d always go with the VX. However, my missus has just bought me a GH4, so I’ll probably be eating my words in about six months time.
Give us a comedy anecdote that took place throughout the filming of ‘Paul’ that the average person reading this wouldn’t know. What one funny/sketchy/surreal experience instantly springs to mind when thinking back to the years spent filming?
We were once at that church in Sheffield where David Stenstrom does the front rock during the Polar UK tour a couple of years ago. Dale blunt fakie’d the same thing a couple of times and then we decided to pack up and head back to Leeds. Everyone chucked their stuff into boot, piled into the car and we pulled out into the main road. It was rush hour on a Friday so I was immediately regretting the drive. Just as we pulled out, we all heard some faint banging from the back of the car and when I checked my mirror I realised that some fool had left the boot wide open. There were boards, shoes, jackets and a bag or two all over the main road. Dale and Reece flew out of the passenger seats in a panic, but managed retrieved everything pretty rapidly. Understandably Reece was shitting it because of his camera bag, but thankfully that had kept its safe place in the boot. Since that day when George Worthington left the boot wide open, our crew haven’t learned a thing and there have been many more occasions like it. It happens all too often and we really need to kick this habit, lads.
What is your own personal favourite piece of footage in the video? Is there any line or single trick that you are particularly fond of?
I think there are a couple……
First up is the clip of Dale at the Casino rail spot that Lintell shut down a few years back. ‘Chunky Wee Man Fat Bastard Boo Boo’ claimed he was going to ollie the rail, then backside flip the stairs and I honestly think I said to him “You won’t be able to do that”. I didn’t think he had the fast feet for that sort of shit. Sure enough, he made it within a few tries and I love the way he rolls away from that backside flip. I was really hyped on that!
The other is Mike’s hippie jump kickflip at Leeds Art Gallery. Anyone that knows Marnold is fully aware that he isn’t one for hucking himself down a big set of stairs. However, there was one week when he jumped down the nine stair quite a few times (see the nollie heel in credits). The hippie jump is pretty massive and after landing that and without adjusting his feet, as Tom Brown drunkenly claimed the other night, he then did “not just a kickflip, the greatest kickflip ever done” down the set.
So the standard ‘post-video’ question to put to a filmer – are you planning on having a rest from filming now, or is it straight onto the next project?
Skate flat at Subvert every day after work? Actually, as much as I’d love to do that, I’ve already started a couple of new VX projects. I’m working on an online clip with the dudes from Etnies featuring the UK riders. I skate with Dale all the time as it is and it means I get to hang out with Ben Rowles a whole lot more. The other is just a local edit featuring everyone in our Whatsapp chat group, the ‘LSC’. Then I think I might do another Welcome related shop promo in HD. Maybe just a couple of clips from each time rider. Something like that.