There is roughly 8 million people in New York City. Probably 100,000 skateboarders at least, and 1,000 filmers in the city. But there is only one Colin Read. He’s the only one to invent the VX kickflip or been asked to do a Radiohead video clip. There is no surprise that he’s been chosen by Spike Jonze himself to win the last Crailtap video contest. Colin is a creative genius.
Hey Colin, how old are you and where do you live?
I’m 29 years old. I live in New York City.
How is retirement from filming?
A lot more boring. Unfortunately, I have severe back problems that prevent me from filming skating now.
What is your first skateboard memory?
My very first memory of skating is of my uncle Barry doing tic tacs around his cul de sac on a twenty-year-old board. He had made it in the seventies, with a piece of wood and roller skate trucks.
Your first skate video?
I don’t honestly remember what the very first video I watched was, but the first video that I remember buying and watching over and over was Real to Reel, in 2001.
How did you start to do skate videos?
I would just take out my dad’s handicam, and my friends and I would film each other.
What were your influences in your videos?
I think the skate filmmaker that influenced me the most was Joe Perrin. His videos had a flow to them that nobody else really came close to. Otherwise, I was influenced by Josh Stewart of course, Takahiro Morita, TBPR… Outside of skating, I drew from a lot films, music, art, and nature.
How did you end up working for Slap?
I made a homie video called “561 to NYC” that got seen a lot, and after that the editor of Slap reached out to me about working for them. It was a lot of fun.
Participating in that Slap – One in a million awkward season, did it change your perspective on the skate industry?
I think that was a special case and wasn’t very indicative of the skate industry as a whole. However, it was quite an insight into what could happen to skating if we let outsiders interfere.
By that time, I was already friends with all the guys who served at the “Judges” and hosts—Billy Rohan, Rodney Torres, Lurker Lou, Steve Rodriguez, etc. so it was immediately apparent how awkward and strange it was for everyone. The guy in charge, Alex, was trying to push the show in a certain direction so that it could be marketed and sold to a non-skating crowd. At first, everyone played along, play-acting as reality show judges, but pretty soon it got old and the façade dropped away. Obviously, it all fell apart by the end, but we still had a great time.
One of the main problems was that Alex hired a bunch of non-skaters as the video crew. They were mostly pretty arrogant and didn’t really care about the kids. We ended up having to wait for them all the time as they walked form spot to spot, since they didn’t have boards.
Is that right that you were the first dude to say « it’s bullshit » to these challenges?
Well, everyone was bummed, not just me. The kids most of all. Someone had to try to salvage the fun.
The kids were all there to skate, and despite constant threats of rain and bad weather, everyone was kept quarantined inside the indoor skate park all day until the pointless interviews and reality-show challenges were completed. The kids were all disappointed, and the life and the energy of the situation was turning sour.
I ended up leading a mutiny of sorts; after one kid left the interview room and Alex and the video crew were waiting for the next one to go in, I snuck away with all the skaters to go street skate. We skated all day and all night and filmed a ton of amazing footage. The challenges and ill-timed interviews fell apart after that, as from that day on Alex gave up as we just hit the streets.
Sadly, they edited the original version of the show so that it seemed like the kids just didn’t want to skate and were lazy, and that’s why the show failed. They left out all footage from the final few days of skating, when most of the heaviest skating went down, because it didn’t fit their narrative. That’s why I ended up making my own re-edits, “One in a Mandible,” to show all of the amazing skating the kids did in that week.
Where did the name « Mandible Claws » come from?
Just one of those nonsense names that stuck.
I grew up in Florida; in the summers it rains almost every day in the afternoon for a couple hours. My friends and I would skate all day until it rained, then go inside and mess around or play video games until the rain stopped and it dried up, then we’d go skate again.
Whenever we would play video games, for some reason my friend Fogt and I would always be on a team that we called “Mandible Claw”, after the wrestling move. The other team was always Team “Kill Mandible Claw”.
Who knows. Just a random joke. And here we are.
All your videos are filmed with a VX, do you plan on switching to HD at one point?
I haven’t touched a VX in a year and a half.
What are the pros and cons to film with a VX for you?
The pros are that it feels fun. The cons are that filming fisheye with it destroyed my back.
Your « Tengu » video is amazing, how did you come up with the concept for it??
I took many trips to Japan and was inspired by the legends of Tengu, a mythical creature.
Did you come up with the idea to skate the roof?
One night we climbed onto a roof to chill and found an amazing skate spot. We skated it, and the idea was born there.
Was it hard to find the roof spots?
Sometimes it involved riding around on subways to find cool-looking roofs. Then we’d get off and try to find the building and get on top of it somehow. Other times we’d just randomly get up on any roofs we thought we could get access to. It was a process over several years.
And the ollie over the train station, how sketchy was that?
No one died or was injured so it was all good. Koki is the man.
How did the « Spirit Quest » concept come about; with the mix match of wild animals and skaters?
It was an idea I’d had for a very long time, that each person has some reflections of animal styles in their skating. Finally, I was ready to make the video.
The lion with Quim was obvious to find, but did you try to find an animal for each personality?
In general, yes, each person has an animal spirit.
How many tries and broken cameras for the VX kickflip?
None broken. It took ten minutes or so to get the line right.
Where did the thought of the double VX filming come from?
Honestly these are hard questions for me to answer. It’s like asking a clock how it works. I’m not always sure where ideas come from, I don’t have some formula or specific process for coming up with ideas or concepts, they just arise naturally while thinking about things.
But to try to answer… Ultimately, I wanted to try to do several things with the split-screen sections: I wanted to explore how it might feel to have independent control of your eyes like a chameleon; and I wanted to explore how skate lines have different possibilities, and find a way to inspect multiple options at the same time.
You are one of the last to still put together full lengths on DVDs, how do you approach the skateboarding noise on Instagram, and people selling online digital video via iTunes, or single parts online?
Just speaking for myself, I think that my days of making full-length videos are over. But I think it’s important to try to filter out the noise and seek out work that people have put love and sweat into. It’s easy to miss a lot, so it’s up to the viewer to make sure he doesn’t get sucked into just watched Instagram loops all day. The cool independent projects are out there, you just have to look for them.
How did you end up directing the video clip of Radiohead?
I segued into directing more commercial and music video stuff after Spirit Quest came out. Somehow, non-skater people in the film industry saw it, and contacted me to pitch ideas on various projects. It grew from there.
You weren’t holding the camera this time; did you find it difficult to tell people what to do?
It’s helpful to be able to use your full attention to direct the action, without also having to think about moving the camera. But you do lose that specific, hands-on control. So generally, when I’m working with a DoP, I let them do their job, but if there’s something really specific I know I want, I’ll operate the camera myself for a shot (if I know I can do it more easily myself).
What are your plans for 2018?
Skate-wise, I’m planning a small project with State Footwear, another small project with my friend Taylor, and who knows what else.
Otherwise, I have a fun little project coming out soon with Falcon Bowse. I have a few more music videos and commercial projects on the horizon, and am working on a feature film as well.
Thanks Colin, want to give some thanks, and give some information on where to order your DVDs?
DVDs have been sold out for a long time, but you can find a link to buy or rent a digital version at mandibleclaw.com. Thanks!
Interview made for our Issue #3 summer 2018
Interview by Babas Levrai
Pictures by Cole Giordano
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