What is your name and what do you do?
Hola! My name’s Max, and I’m a freelance video artist, skateboarder, and general nutjob.
Where are you from and how has being there affected your creativity?
I’m from South England and I guess I’ve never thought about how that influenced my creativity before! But when I think about it, and if I’m being truly honest (which I usually am) then being in that part of the country and having the friends that I had, meant that I went to a lot of festivals, and took a lot of psychedelic drugs. And I can honestly say that that has definitely shaped the way I look at and perceive the world around me.
I guess it’s made me realise that everything is soley how you want perceive it, nothing is a certain way, and everything is perceived differently by everyone – we might not even see the colour blue the same! I guess also seeing all this mind blowing art at festivals, and opening doors in my mind that for most people remain firmly shut, has made me realise and truly appreciate the awesome power of the mind and imagination. You can create alternate universes up their in that head of yours, and I guess realising that has made me see the act of creativity in a whole different light.
Explain what initially got you into shooting?
Skateboarding! Well, as a kid I always had an interest in cameras, and I would often play with my toy cars and go real close to them with 1 eye closed as if I was filming some super hectic car chase. I also played around with the old family VHS camera, fascinated by the zoom, filming people on the street from my bedroom window. Then when I was about 10 I got a skateboard and that changed everything. I would film me and my mates skating and doing stupid shit on my grandad’s Hi-8 camcorder, until I got it confiscated for mimicking some stunts we saw on Jackass. Then I saved up for my own Hi-8, (with night vision!) and the jackass stunts slowly subsided as I became more seriously interested in filming and making videos look good, and as my friends got better and better at skating. That all went on for several years and I ran quite a successful blog, way before the days of facebook and camera-phones, where I uploaded almost daily skate videos. Since then I’ve been involved a lot with the music scene in the UK, making heaps of music videos for independent labels and artists. I got bored of the UK after over 2 decades living there, so I started exploring the world and I’ve ended up making a load of travel videos too. My latest is a 6 part USA roadtrip series called ‘6 Months of Summer’ – go check it out!
Explain what does an average day look like for you?
Get up late. Depending on what I was doing the night before I’ll either jump straight back onto the laptop and continue what I was doing, in which case it will probably be several hours before I get out of my pyjamas and have breakfast, or if not, I’ll go straight to the kitchen for breakfast. Avocado, hummus and mushrooms on toast, or some variation of that (no bacon or eggs – I’m vegetarian, trying to be as vegan as possible!) cuppa tea (black, no sugar, bag left in) and some fruit. I don’t really like being on my laptop in the afternoon if I can help it (especially if it’s sunny), so I’ll get out the flat. Usually I’ll meet some homies and go for a skate somewhere around the city, or just get some food or go to some shops if I need some bits, or go and shoot some stuff, or just go for a good old fashioned walk. Normally I’ll get back and will either have new footage to play with or will have had an idea for something, and will mess around doing that until I’m hungry again. After evening food I’m usually a bit dreggy and will chill for a bit, maybe read but more likely listen to some tunes and fall asleep. Or maybe watch an episode of Peep Show. It’s when it’s dark I’m most in the zone creatively. It’s like the night is infinite, no evidence of any time passing, no distractions, no hunger, no beautiful sunshine, no urge to need to leave the flat. This is normally when I’m most creative and will usually continue with whatever project I’ve got on, play around with stuff I’ve shot, start a new video, try network with new people etc. I get bored if I’m not doing any of that I can’t just sit there watching TV or scrolling Facebook – it’s my entertainment. Tonight I played around with some photos I shot out the flat window of the city, discovered how rad Black & White could look and went off on one and now suddenly it’s 2.45AM and I’m writing this! Bed normally by 3-4, unless I’ve got a big project on then sometimes I’ll see the sun rise again. I can’t stand lying in bed not being able to sleep – it’s such a waste of time, so I stay up right until the bitter end. I have tried going to bed early and waking up early dozens of times throughout my life, but it doesn’t work, so I just embrace it. Once or twice a week I’ll chill with some homies in the evening and have some drinks or whatever, or watch a film or something. And that’s me!
What things do you look at or watch for inspiration?
I always look out the window. That’s my main source of inspiration I reckon. On trains, in cars, in the flat. I don’t understand how people can read on trains and not stare out the window – outside is just so interesting! And also it lets your mind drift and that’s normally when ideas come. To be honest I don’t watch an awful lot of clips online. Maybe only a handful or music videos/skate montages a week, or some arty experimental thing someone has recommended me. I probably only watch a film once a week, but good films inspire me for sure. Children of Men is one of my favourite films, and every time it gets to that bit when the baby is crying and it silences the war and stops all the soldiers in their tracks, and my hairs are standing on end and I’m almost crying, I think “Damn, I need to make something this powerful! I wanna be the person making people feel like this!”. I prefer watching one film several times rather than watching loads of films. Really get to know the director and DP’s style. Look up all the trivia for the film, watch all the behind the scenes, figure out how they did key bits, read about the director’s past, how did he end up there directing such a sick movie? That’s what inspires me I guess, the story behind the director and how the film came to be, just as much as the film itself. When you read about the people behind it you realise everyone’s just a normal person like you and I, they’re not superheroes, and most of the time stuff in films has happened by accident, and when you realise that you realise there’s no reason why it can’t be you in those end credits! That’s another thing, I always watch the end credits right till the end. I hate when people stop the film as soon as the credits start rolling!
What is a quote or motto that you live by?
“Big beats are the best get high all the time”
Haha, I’m joking, if you know where that quotes from then you know 😉 In all seriousness though –
“Sometimes you gotta leap and grow your wings on the way down”
– Not sure who said that but it was on the stickie note on my laptop where i keep all the quotes I like.
Oh here’s another – “You can fail at what you don’t want to do, so you might as take a chance at doing what you love”
I’ve got loads saved on that stickie note!
What camera setup do you currently use (camera, lens, other accessories, etc)?
I’ve had my Canon 550d for over 5 years now, and I still keep finding new ways to use it! I’m running Magic Lantern on it (highly recommended for those who haven’t heard of it!) and I keep finding heaps of new features on that, I’m still experimenting with different picture styles, lens filters, colour grading techniques etc. and even after 5 years I still don’t feel like I’ve used that camera to it’s full potential! I’ve got several lenses for it, my newest is a 50mm 1.4 from the 70s which has the old Canon mount and needs an adapter to attach it to this body. I found it 2nd hand in NZ for $100! I’ve only just started playing around with it but it’s super soft and super shallow, looks real dreamy. My go-to is a Sigma 18-200 which I got cheap because the autofocus doesn’t work (which I don’t use anyway), I’ve got a 8mm fisheye for when I’m feeling funky and also a 30mm 1.4 (I love shallow depth of field!) but the focus on that thing has got unusably sticky. I always shoot with an ND filter too so I can keep the shutter at 180 degrees and so I can open the lens right up if I want to, and a polariser too, to get them clouds popping, and always in a super-flat picture style so I have full creative control in post. I think all of the above helps my footage stray away from the standard HDSLR look, which is the plan. I film skating on a Panasonic GS400 with a Baby Death (that’s the nickname for the fisheyes made by Century Optics a while ago, incase you’re wondering!) which is a 3CCD mini-DV cam, which I love! The fisheye is just so wide and distorted and the footage seems so raw and gritty. And I’ve got a broken GoPro 3 which I took travelling and pretty much used every day for 3 years, which I will replace with the new 5 when the opportunity presents itself. My charity-shop find tripod (which was a fluid head tripod for $8!) got blown over and is now also broken and driving me crazy. I’m keeping my eye out for a new one…
What do you specialize in or what do you enjoy shooting the most and why?
My favourite thing to shoot and edit is skateboarding. It’s just so fast and action packed, you can get all these extreme and abstract angles, the shapes of the obstacle and the shapes the skater makes is always so rad, the tricks are so amazing to watch, you always end up in these strange, gritty and photogenic locations, you’re always travelling to dope new places so you’ve got all this priceless and natural b-roll of homies chilling and laughing, timelapses, cool architecture, cityscapes, and if the ground’s smooth you can get some super pro looking tracking shots while rolling along on a skateboard! It’s so fun to shoot and you just end up with a mountain of sick footage to go through and edit however you want, there’s no rules or formula, and the skating content means it will always be interesting. You never get bored watching a well made skate section, whereas even the most well made travel videos (for example) can get boring and samey. Although saying that I haven’t actually shot much skating recently as I’ve been travelling and making travel videos! Aha. I’ve just moved to Barcelona though and am super stoked to be getting back into skateboarding and shooting skate clips again, now I’m settling down here. I think I’d like to move on from travel-themed videos for now, film more skateboarding, and I wanna get into some noble documentary work too. Spreading positive messages and good vibes through the medium of video is probably my overall aim.
Since we believe that music is the center around all things creative, what are your top 3 music albums, and what about those albums that gets you in a creative zone?
Yes I completely agree! It’s gonna be hard though to pin down a top 3 though! It depends what I’m doing and what mood I’m in really. If I’m on a long journey I like staring out the window with some UK Hip-Hop as the soundtrack, as I find it tells a story and you have to really listen to it to squeeze out all the deeper meaning from all the metaphors. You can proper zone out to it and I usually have some sort of mini-revelation or idea or something. I like Hip-Hop with positive messages and the last long journey I had Fliptrix’s ‘Polyhymnia’ on repeat.
If I’ve got a long repetitive task, like colour grading, I tend to get coffeed up to my eyeballs and blast some psytrance to get me through it. When I was colour grading 6 Months of Summer, Vini Vici’s ‘Future Classics’ was on repeat, and very loud.
If I’m doing something that requires me to concentrate and think logically, like writing, then just some quiet background beats do the job. Recently I’ve been listening to ‘Mushroom Jazz’ by DJ Mark Farina. I’m not sure how many volumes there are but I think about 8. I’ve gotta listen to each one on repeat for about a week before I can move on. At the moment, writing this, I’m listening to volume 3.
Who are some shooters that you follow and what do you admire about their work?
Philip Bloom! It’s like he never sleeps, or there’s 2 of him. I just admire how much one man can do! If you look at his online presence he’s just a multitasking extraordinaire nutjob. Editing a video in a taxi on the way to a shoot while also writing a camera review for his blog and posting test shots of that on Instagram while also writing about his last shoot for a magazine and posting up pictures of different ways he can colour grade that on his other photo sharing account while simultaneously flying a drone overhead filming the taxi for another video and live streaming all of that off of his phone to YouTube and live Tweeting how that’s going from his iPad while answering emails on his other iPad and doing all that even though he’s got a buggered back from lifting too many massive cameras. The man’s a nut! I haven’t even got enough hours in the day to do a third of the things I want to, I dunno how he does it all! Fair play to him.
What is one tangible piece of advice that you would give somebody who has just started shooting? (besides shooting more)
Everyone who’s ever made anything great is just an everyday person just like you. If you love it, just keep doing it. And if you wanna break the mould stop shooting on your phone. Everyone can shoot good looking photos or videos on their phones these days, so you gotta do something new and different. Find something you like the look of and run with it. Get a weird lens no one has seen before. Shoot on a camera you found in a charity shop. Make all your shots upside down. Only shoot in red and blue. Create a collection of photos of different kinds of tiles you see on the street. Macro shots of doorknobs. Anything. Always look where no one else is looking.
Random Question: If you could create a new species out of two animals, what two animals would it be and why?
Haha! It’s funny you should mention that because me and my friend were thinking of making a film starring a snakeorpion (half snake, half scorpion) and a bear-gull (half bear, half seagull) and they have to fight it out in an octo-nado (a tornado with 8 smaller tornadoes coming off of it, like octopus tentacles). Although I probably wouldn’t ever want to create any of those animals, fuck that, imagine a full sized bear-gull coming to nick your chips!
What is next for you?
Well I’ve just moved to Barcelona, which I love, so I’m gonna focus on sustaining myself here, make as many videos as possible, skate a lot, and finally learn Spanish!
Where can people find you?
Skating around the city, in odd supermarkets trying to find vegetarian sausages, or on Instagram @MaxPVisuals!