We caught up with Paul McConnach to chat about his amazing new Scottish video DALRIADA.
It's a great representation of the scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh and everywhere in between. Put the kettle on and enjoy.
Congratulations on the video, it came out really sick. You must be hyped, right?
Thanks! Yeah, very hyped and very relieved. It was quite a lot of last minute work in the run up to the premiere.
I know the project was originally only supposed to be a year long. How long did it take in the end?
So when it started out it was going to be a shared part of Ross Zajac and Tom Shimmin. It was taking a while to get enough variation in the footage between them so I asked Daniel Nicholas if he wanted to step in as well. After a year passed it was essentially already on its way to becoming another full length video and we all just decided to go with it. All in all it took around three years to film.
So you didn’t set out to make a full length video?
Not at all. I finished Overcast and wanted to do something different. I had a DSLR and thought it would be fun to put down the old VX for a bit and experiment with HD for a while. So myself, Ross and Tom came up with this shared section idea. That's how it started really.
Is this your first digital project?
Besides a couple of music videos, yeah. Actually, I had made a couple of edits using that camera before but I hated them. I really didn't like using it at first. It took a while to actually enjoy using it. I think as soon as I stopped imagining, "This would look so much better on a VX" and started to realise it's like a whole other discipline of filming I started to see things differently.
There’s been a resurgence of filmers using the VX again. Are you into it?
I don't mind it. The way it's being used is totally different to the way it was when I was watching videos growing up which is cool. Sometimes it gets a little wearing that the title of all the videos need to say it was filmed on a VX. Surely if a video's good you can just appreciate it for whatever it is not what it was filmed on? You really need to learn how to use that camera/fisheye well and it does sometimes seem like people can use the fact that it's a VX as a cop-out to film things badly. Whatever though, there's no rules to this stuff; it's all down to personal preference. I'm probably going to start using mine again for personal projects after this video's out. It really is fun to use and you can make most things look good with the MK1, big or small.
I've noticed that people are using them differently, especially with that last couple of Transworld video. Are filmers getting in closer?
Some are but it makes sense in a lot of ways. It reflects the way a lot of people are skating now. A lot more creative tricks on obstacles that you would never think possible to skate. Try filming something along those lines with one of those 8mm lenses on a crop sensor camera and it can be quite difficult. With the MK1 fisheye you can move fast and close and make it look interesting. However sometimes it's too much for my taste. I do like to actually see the spot people are skating and if it's too close I think it can detract from the trick that's being done.
Yeah for sure. Too close and it hurts my eyes. Haha! How did you get into filming?
I grew up in a small village just outside of Glasgow called Milton of Campsie. After the initial Tony Hawk boom the majority of people from there stopped skating. By majority I mean about six people! Haha! I had one friend left that actually skated so I would tape all these videos off of the Extreme channel on Sky. This weird clubbing channel would sometimes put on skate videos too and we would watch them on repeat. It was the usual Logics, One Step Beyond etc. They sometimes put some UK videos on, like Hating Life, actually. Anyway both of us had no idea about filming at the time and after spending most afternoons watching these we would go out and skate. One day I picked up my Mum's video camera. It was like this brick shaped Hi-8. It had a huge LCD screen on it and you would like turn it with both hands to move it. It was kind of cool actually but really not good for filming skating. Anyway we would skate around the front of my house with this and play Wu Tang CDs with plug-in speakers taped to the microphone part of the camera for the music. Neither of us could work out why it didn't look like the videos. Didn't even know what a fisheye was.
After a while I started venturing in to Glasgow more and more and met Tom Shimmin and Andy White when the skatepark had just been built in Kelvingrove. I got a basic Mini DV camera you saw everyone with at the time and a screw-on fisheye and started filming all those guys. When H'min Bam came out that just blew my mind to see Scotland looking so much like all these videos I had spent watching growing up. Between that all the Blueprint videos I had to get a better camera so I convinced my parents to buy me a VX and the rest was history. That camera went everywhere with me from then on.
What influenced you more do you think, the American videos that you saw first or the UK ones that you discovered later?
To actually film? The UK ones. The spots/weather etc were all more relatable. Made it seem possible. It's why it's so important that people keep making videos from where they are from. It might not seem like a lot to a guy living on the other side of the planet but to someone who's just getting into skating and has no idea about the local history or spots it's a real exciting moment discovering that stuff. It makes me laugh thinking about it now but I remember how excited I got after watching the MBC videos from Local and you know that rail John Rattray boardslides? [the church rail, RIP] I passed it in the car and flipped out seeing that in real life when I was a kid! Haha! Same with the Mitchell rails. It gets you really hyped. It might not be like that so much any more I suppose with everything being so accessible online but yeah, I'm sure there's something in that still.
What or who inspires you now?
It's almost impossible to keep up with it all now. I mean you could lose a whole day on YouTube looking for videos and end up finding some complete gems you would never have heard about. As far as regular stuff pretty much anything Ben Chadourne makes. I really liked those two Source videos he made, Atoms and Daydream. I watched them a lot. Same for Jacob Harris. Almost goes without saying how amazing Eleventh Hour and Vase were not to mention the Atlantic Drift series. Patrick Wallner too, I really enjoyed the Visual Traveling films and seeing spots from places you normally wouldn't think about.
Jacob Harris has been mixing a lot of 16mm film in with his Atlantic Drift series. Have you ever thought about using film?
Every time I start something. I got a really good Super 8mm off eBay a couple of years ago. Probably like my third one. I just can't afford to get it all processed at the moment. This one was well good though, mint condition. It had a bit of mould behind the lens so I took it to the shop and they cleaned it out no problem. I'll definitely look into shooting some real film next time.
It's hard to justify especially when you don't know how the footage is going to turn out!
All part of the fun I guess. Haha! I can imagine it would feel pretty good getting that back and seeing your footage turned out perfect.
The line up was now sitting at Tom, Ross, and Daniel. How did the other guys get added to the project?
Some of the guys weren't filming a lot. I was losing loads of sunny days, which, as you know, here in Scotland is a hard thing to come by so I started to reach out to other people so I wasn't wasting time. Graham [Anderson] was always out skating with Ross. I think they knew each other before moving to Glasgow so that was a bit of a no-brainer. I was always filming with Charles [Myatt] when I'd go through to Edinburgh to film with Daniel and he moved to Glasgow as well near the end of the filming so we got out a lot more. Aaron [Wilmot] and I had already filmed a part for Lovenskate a couple of years ago but I had always thought it would be good to have him, Adam [Paris] and Ruari [Britee-Steer] share a section seeing as they all go way back. I saw the opportunity there to re-edit his footage, add a few more lines/tricks and get the other two involved and make something new with it. Kieran Menzies just kills it and we tend to rack up lots of clips really easily and Saul [Crumlish] is basically the future. Unbelievable style and talent and he's still so young. That was quite funny actually - we filmed his part with a years break in between, you'll notice he grows a fair amount in between some clips.
I remember you mentioned that it was getting harder towards the end to get everyone to finish their parts.
Daniel was always producing a lot of footage. Always enjoy filming with him he knows what he wants to do and usually ends up getting it. Even if he isn't up to it he pushes himself to get something. I think they were just getting burnt out, maybe. It can be hard to see the bigger picture when you aren't getting any immediate results I think. Especially today when you only need to upload a quick video to Instagram to get some sense of accomplishment. The irony is if the initial push for filming at the beginning was more lucrative it wouldn't have taken so long to film, however it wouldn't have become a scene video like it is now so it's all good in the end.
That makes sense. It's the whole social media thing again, instant gratification over thinking long-term.
Exactly. In itself I think it's cool being able to access all this content at the touch of a button but at the same time it's destroyed attention spans. Lots of pros and cons. It's helpful how easy it is to market your films/products etc., but you're not the only person doing that either so it ends up being so over-saturated. It's definitely killed a little bit of the magic in my opinion but it's the way things are. Need to accept it and make the most of it.
Who was the hardest person to chase down to film their last tricks?
Almost everyone apart from Dan. The last trick for Tom's part was supposed to be totally different but he never got it. Funny story about Ross's though... We'd filmed that wallride BS 180 a while ago but the landing and filming were a bit off. After a few months I talked him into doing it again. I had to get some supplies from the shop while he went ahead. As I was skating down he just had this huge grin on his face. The wall had been taken down, it was just a temporary wooden thing. I think he thought he was off the hook until you said you wanted to get a photo of it. As soon as we heard it had been put back up we went there again. Then we went back and that life coach guy showed up and poached the footage. Haha!
Haha! Oh man. I remember he thought his chat with Ross was what made him land it. When in actual fact it was just timing. Then your panic the next day when you saw that he'd filmed it and uploaded it!
Haha! Yeah, so he took Ross's Instagram details down. Ross texts me in the morning to say that the guy's filmed it on his phone and put it up online. I looked at his profile on Instagram and saw a bunch of skaters from here followed him. Managed to get him to take it down before anyone saw it, but yeah, I was calling the guys numbers on his website, emails, DMs, everything. That was some short-lived relief after finally getting the last trick. What did he call it again? 'Wallride ala Tony Hawk'?
I honestly can't remember, something lame like that. There's something about having a camera in your hand that people think it's OK to approach you in the street.
Definitely, it can certainly diffuse some situations when you're getting kicked out. I know whenever I'm out filming while you're shooting photos they tend to see all the lights etc. and more often than not they just want to ask questions. Sometimes not so much though. The shots in the video of the Subway were a nightmare to get. I had to ask my girlfriend to come down with me and distract the guards or like let me hide behind her to film. You're not supposed to be able to use cameras down there. It's stupid because they don't bat an eyelid with all the tourists taking photos and videos on their phones but if they see someone with a real camera out they will kick you off the train.
What was your decision for putting this online and not making DVDs? I know you were going back and forth with it.
I really just want to get it out there for people to see. I've been holding on to it for so long that the thought of waiting another six months or whatever to put it online would drive me crazy. You'll get to watch it in HD online anyway. I'm 100% behind still making DVDs, just this time round it's going online.
You've filmed a lot of bams when you've been on the streets, and most seem willing. Any that weren't?
Not really! Haha! Most of the guys in Overcast were only too happy to perform for the camera. I don't think I've ever needed to ask them. Strangely enough a lot less of that happened with this video. Not sure if they know it's a camera or not... Another VX plus point perhaps, the bams love it.
Is Glasgow still the knife capital of Europe?
I'm not sure if it still is of Europe, maybe Britain. Glasgow really gets this reputation of being dangerous but in reality most of the places you're going to visit/skate/hang about in are more or less fine. Growing up I remember seeing way more violence, gang fights etc. There was no question, if you went to skate in the city centre on a Saturday, you would encounter some kind of violence. Sometime around 2007 it seemed that things gradually began to calm down. You can skate the entire city now with little to no trouble. Obviously as with most places there are certain areas that you really would want to avoid but in general it's fine. It's actually really skate friendly.
Do you have any good stories from filming, good memories from people that are in it?
Honestly I think it might have to be that time we were shooting Andy White do that Switch BS flip, that was bizarre.
Oh man, that was too much for me. Care to explain what he was doing?
I've filmed with him for years and he certainly has his own unique way of getting hyped up for a trick. So we were down on Great Western Road at this road gap. It's a really busy street, cars and people everywhere. After about half an hour it was getting worse and worse with traffic so he starts talking to this girl and convinces her to stand in front of the gap and block people from getting past, which to be fair she did a good job of. Next thing he's kissing the ground in front of the gap and convincing you to shout someone's name out each attempt, I think. By this point it's fully rush hour and the board's going under cars, one guy is already threatening to call the police and then at this moment he does a trademark high pitched scream before rolling up to do this trick. The scream scares the shit out of this man walking two dogs. Both dogs run on to the road and off into the distance with the owner sprinting after them causing complete chaos and essentially a traffic jam but of course he landed it that go, cigarette hanging out his mouth. Was a banger of a trick though. Stressful stuff but the footage/photo turned out really well.
He got his balls out at one point too and rubbed them on the ground. I couldn't handle it man, we were there for two hours! Were you there at the Riverside Museum when he convinced that guy in the wheelchair to let him ollie him?
Haha! I forgot about that. Yeah I was, I got it on film. It'll be in the extras when they come out. That was crazy. He was going for a BS flip I think right? He just disappeared and came back with a guy in an electric wheelchair and set him up on the grass and ollied over him. A whole new level of resourcefulness.
It was rad to see Morgan Campbell in there, he's had Scottish ties for a long time.
Yeah, that was really cool! I used to see him all the time at Kelvingrove when I was a kid and he still lived in Glasgow. We met up like ten years later in the same place when Leo Sharp was up here taking photos. Spent the week with them travelling around Scotland filming and shooting photos. Some of the best sessions happened that week. Especially the one on that stand alone quarter pipe in Partick. The thing got shut down.
Oh man, Grant's slam from that quarter is one of the funniest slams I’ve ever seen!
He takes the harshest slams and gets right back up. You know he landed the blunt fakie on that while the skate stoppers were still there a couple weeks before he got that one in the video. It’s not in the final cut but me him and Aaron went to Queens Park vert ramp one day. He fell from the top of the ramp straight to flat bottom. Literally bounced in the air it was that bad. Completely knocked himself out. An hour later he was skating around Kelvingrove. Did you not narrowly avoid one of his slams when we were shooting that Smith on the handrail?
I took a truck to the knee cap! Properly fucked me for a week or so, but I’d rather that than a truck to the fisheye! I got off lightly compared to him, I think that slam changed the way he skates, no more rails for him.
That's right. He had to have surgery, I think. Crazy
Where did the name Iron Giraffe come from?
So I wanted a production name to put out Overcast and my archive of footage that never went anywhere. I was trying to think of something to do with Glasgow that wasn't too obvious. The city has a long history with shipbuilding down by the River Clyde which runs through the centre of the city. You can see rows of cranes along side the water. They looked like big iron giraffes. I sketched a logo out and it all looked good so I just went with it from there.
What are you plans for 2018? Do you think you have another full length video in you?
I'd like to work on some shorter projects. I could definitely do another full length. I feel like after doing Overcast and Dalriada I know a bit more about how to organise my work flow and deadlines so that making something of that magnitude doesn't become a complete nightmare at times. Saying that, I'd like to just get out there and make some edits and enjoy film-making again. It was great making Dalriada but it was a real hefty amount of work for one person.
I'd like to thank my folks, Sheherazed, Kashif, Nikki, Graham Tait and everyone else who helped make the film what it was.