When the long awaited Vans video Propeller premiered in London we managed to get some time set aside to speak with Greg Hunt. He spent five years realising this massive project. It was a real treat watching it on the big screen at the Prince Charles cinema and not huddled around an apple device. Dan Magee gladly joined us and added some insightful questions to this interview…
How does it feel to be here in London for the premiere?
It feels awesome. I wish I was here for longer. Every time I come to London I’m here for like 48 hours. It feels great that the video is done, it’s like a huge weight off my shoulders so this is just the fun part.
DM: You didn’t come to London to film did you? Didn’t you go to Liverpool?
We came to London a couple of times, I don’t think we got anything. I came here with Geoff to film once, it was Geoff and Van Engelen on that trip. We were in London for the House Of Vans opening but we didn’t really street skate. We were going to but we didn’t have time. I don’t think there’s any London footage in the video unfortunately. There is a ton of Paris and there’s some Liverpool but no London.
How close to the wire were you still making changes before the first premiere?
Until the day before. The premiere was on a Tuesday and I was supposed to have it done the Friday before. I was up for like three days. I had it done but I had to have so many mastered versions delivered. It’s not like it used to be. where you just put it on a tape and give it to someone. I had to have a version for the guys at iTunes, a version for the guys doing the DVD and one for the guys making the copies that went to all the world premieres and it was too much. I was so tired I had to go and see a friend at a studio to make all the masters for me. We got the premiere versions done, the premiere version is actually a little bit different to the final version because little changes were made afterwards.
DM: How involved were Vans with signing off on things?
Vans were super involved with the marketing, the name, the packaging and design, the book. Anything as far as marketing or print related they took care of a lot of that and I wasn’t as involved. As far as the video is concerned they were totally hands off. They saw it a couple of times and they were stoked on it.
DM: Who came up with the name?
A guy at Vans did. We spent probably about six months trying to think of a name. It was the hardest I’ve ever had it trying to find a name. We had a group of about five names at the very beginning which we thought were okay. We’d get one we liked and realise we didn’t later on or a name we couldn’t use because someone else had copyright on it. It ended up being the name that no matter what was still top of the list. It was really hard to find the name for this video.
DM: The artwork and the name remind me of a DC Hardcore album or a zine or something like that…
I always wanted the aesthetic of the video to be really raw and straight forward. We ended up with the name really late so the art came late too and it all happened pretty fast. One of the names that was at the top of the list was one you have heard a lot which is very much Vans heritage and tied in with Vans. We went with Propeller kind of at the last minute because it is it’s own thing and doesn’t sound like something regurgitated.
DM: It sounds like an album title…
Yeah, I wasn’t crazy about it but it’s a simple name and it sounds cool and looks good when you see it. If the video is great it will be what it is going to be. It adds something to the Vans vocabulary rather than re-using something they have many times before.
Did you have a vision of how the video was going to be before you even started filming?
Not really before I set out filming but about a year into it maybe. Once I had got to know all the guys, I started seeing how it was going to be. I decided I wanted it to be really straight forward and raw. I don’t want it to be polished, i didn’t want there to be any skits or acting. You know with Van Engelen and Trujillo and Geoff and the way these guys skate made me think it should just be a straight up raw, gnarly skate video.
Was there a specific point when you knew how it was going to be?
Probably about half way through, a year or two into it. At the time I was really into watching old rock documentaries like Stones In Exile and David Bowie Five Years. I was watching those a lot and I really liked a lot of the candid moments they had in those films. I had also been getting really sick of seeing forced B-roll in skate videos . At the same time I realised that I had been shooting a lot on my phone. This would go on Instagram, stuff which would be really cool to have on film. For the last year I made a point of shooting everything like that and having a 16mm camera on me at all times to document these guys. Almost like these rock documentaries where they are in a restaurant or hanging out with their kids or whatever. I love candid clips like that but on film it has a really cool aesthetic. The video is pretty much all skating and there isn’t a lot of room for anything else but if there was anything I added to it, it was that old style documentary look.
Was it hard juggling making the video with new family responsibilities?
Yeah, it was really hard. It wasn’t hard like we were fighting at home or anything like that. It was just hard because I want to hang out with my kid. You have a kid and it’s like your best friend. It’s like when you first meet a girl, all you want to do is hang out with her. It’s such an intense feeling and to not be able to hang out with your kid is really challenging. Even editing, I edited it at home and it took four months, for a lot of that time my kid would be in the next room but I would hardly see him.It was fine, my girlfriend was super supportive and it wasn’t a bad experience but it was definitely challenging for me personally.
DM: Was this harder than Mindfield or was Mindfield a harder slog?
This one was harder, there are more people. It’s funny because with Mindfield I did more, I did the colour, I did the sound and all the bonus features. On this video i had someone help me with all of that. I didn’t do any of the bonus features but there are so many people in this video. I think there are thirteen or fourteen full parts. If you have ever edited, there is nothing really like editing a skate part, it’s like a crazy puzzle, it just takes time. You are trying to find the right place for the right thing and when you are doing fourteen of them and the credits and everything in between. It was three full months of really stressing over whether I can get it done.
Would you say the process of making a video has got harder or easier?
For me I don’t think it has really changed. It’s a little bit easier maybe because there is less digitising but there is just more to do now. Everything has three angles, there is more shit to go through.
DM: How about post stuff, using RED cameras and stuff like that, does that make it harder you think?
It doesn’t make it much harder, I’m stoked on how I did it. I transcoded everything and captured everything and organised everything and set up the project really early. Then when I started really editing it, I did the whole video in pieces. So guys who were done early like Pfanner and Gilbert I had mastered their parts two months before the video was even done, I had colour corrected it and everything except the sound just so I could have it out of my brain to focus on everything else. This ended up really helping, it still was really intense up until the end, a couple of the parts I did in the last week but at least I had ninety percent of the video colour corrected. I couldn’t even go back and change it. Do you know what I mean? I think if I had a video this big with this much in it and I had to finish it all in the same week I would have probably lost my fucking mind.
DM: Say you wanted someone to be in one part of the video and you had finished their part could you still juggle it about or was it kind of locked in to where it was?
It was pretty locked in, I was careful though. Pfanner for example was in Germany, it was Winter, he was about to have a baby so I knew I could finish his part. I got his song, got his song cleared, finished it, sent him a rough edit, he okayed it, I colour corrected it and it was done. That really helped me psychologically manage a project this big.
How has it felt seeing the reaction to five years of hard work?
It feels pretty good. It’s funny, it’s totally different to any video I have ever made. Just a really straight forward skate video. I guess maybe it’s like an old Transworld video I made a long time ago and it ended up being like that just because of what we were talking about with so many parts to edit. It ended up just being parts so it’s a very traditional skate video, no fancy skits or special effects just a skate video. It feels good because I think people really like that. For Vans especially it’s a big thing to make something so simple. It’s really good, to make something that is a straight skate video that isn’t really for a mainstream audience is a cool statement.
DM: You were using some of the older HD cameras alongside RED epics which are top of the line. Was that a conscious decision or you needed those Panasonics out on the streets?
I think it’s just out of necessity. There are so many people that I couldn’t film everyone and those Panasonics are a staple camera all the younger guys are comfortable with. I actually really like the old Panasonic HVX and HPX CCD’s because they almost have a grittier look. I like the older HD cameras, it doesn’t look so perfect and that actually works really well with the RED and the 16mm. They all work well together I think.
What was your travel agenda like, were the places you didn’t want to go?
We did a lot of international trips. There is a lot of Paris in the video, we went to Croatia and we travelled a lot. I didn’t want to go to China or Spain, I didn’t want perfect marble plaza type of thing. Everyone on the team really likes a grittier spot that maybe you don’t see as much or people know is really hard to skate. There is a lot of LA and a lot of sidewalks, it’s pretty crusty, a lot of real street skating. That’s one of the coolest things about it, it’s real skateboarding, I think kids are going to be able to relate to it.
Straight on to the next project?
I don’t know if I will do another video like this. I want to take a month or so and just hang out with my kid.
Thanks to Greg Hunt for speaking with us and to Vans for making this interview possible.