Many rollerbladers seem to gravitate towards working in the film and video world. A few stand outs like Vinny Minton, Ivan Narez, Connor O’Brien, John Lyke, Jp Primiano, and Jonas Hansson come to mind. I can’t speak to if skating influenced their career paths, though I can say it gave them an outlet to experiment and express it through a passion (my personal experience). Besides capturing clips, rollerblading provided them the space to document sessions, plan travels, dream up and execute narratives they wanted to convey in their videos. They learned to tell the stories most important to them to an audience. In the film world, that’s everything.
Earlier this year, I was scrolling through Instagram and caught some videos of Joseph Harvey skating around LA. I reached out, hoping he hadn’t flown back to London. As luck would have it, Joseph was in town for the week for some film work for a luxury brand. We locked in a date and a first spot. He wanted to check off the legendary rails at Hollywood High from his bucket list. It sets the tone for the day when spot one is a proper down rail (with a long history at that.) The subsequent spots that day in Frogtown and Ktown were daunting in their own right. It was a solid outing — No one was seriously hurt, spots weren’t a bust, shots snapped successfully. For Joseph, he was living that ‘Cali-life’ on his work-cation.
A quick summary about Joseph: He’s a filmmaker, director and DOP based out of London. Joseph co-owned and ran a production company called Raygun London for several years, having branched off to start a new creative agency, MONCK. His previous clients includes work for Nike, i-D, Calvin Klein, Hot Futures, Wonderland, ITV, Virgin media, Sony, Public Health England, and the National Health Service (NHS.)
We got more into his work in the interview below.
Savannah | Hollywood
Thanks for taking the time to talk Joseph! You were out in California working on a video shoot for the week. Can you tell us what you were working on?
Of course! Most recently out in the city of angels [Los Angeles], California, for the second time. I loved being back in the mix. I had the pleasure of being in Cali to shoot a global campaign for a soon-to-be-released fragrance brand. I worked with a good friend and creative director of the brand, Richard Saint-Ford, on crafting a personality for each of fragrances in the line (4-5 in total).
It was my first time producing and shooting in the USA. Man, that LA light is something magical, it hits different. It’s distinct. In London we get a different vibe. That type of overcast, consistent light that appears so well on camera. Cinematographers love it.
It’s a very different city to shoot in [Los Angeles] in so many ways, and a wholly different love affair.
Like a lot of rollerbladers in the film industry, it usually started because of filming skating. How did you get into filming? How did that transition into working in the film industry?
Having been born in East London and growing up around there, then the South East of England, I was part of a strong scene. Mostly guys 3-6 years older than me at the time. Notably Harry Reavley, Dan Ives, Tim Parker, Lee Mainland, and Ross Polley.
I had a DV camera from a really young age. I would take it everywhere with me. I documented skating, my friends, my travels, and anything in-between. I remember the huge scuffed yellow Billys skate shop sticker on the side, a clear archetype of the 90’s skater kid. Tim Parker used to work at Billys in Cambridge (a legendary skate shop back in the day) sold me my first pair of Salomon skates when I was super young. Tim was doing Rolling Revival at the time (a forward thinker) and I swear one of the first to ever introduce me to what a podcast was. You’re so right. It never ceases to amaze me the bladers I find in all walks of life in the creative scene.
Over the years I became more involved with that crew. Before that, I was taking trains, sometimes completely on my own to meet up with skaters. I can’t recall if I either no or a basic mobile phone. I struggle to imagine how we even met up. Normally it was meet at Mayors ledges for midday or something. From the tender age of 12 or 13, we would travel all over from Cambridge, Harlow, London and all the other smaller towns in between hunting for spots, skate parks, and filming.
Soyale | Hollywood
During those long summers and dreamy periods of skating, as a crew started to produce some of our best street skating around that time culminating in ‘This Is Our Scene’ video by Harry [Reavley]. In the mid 2000’s we were at the height of our creative output, which is how I think of it. At the heart of that, and the artist behind those films, was Harry Reavley. Later down the line when he was making Cult Leaders DVD; Dan Ives and I used to sit over his shoulder watching clips as they started to build, getting hyped for the next time we’d go out and hit spots. Harry would show us little pieces of the film as it was shaping up. There was something so satisfying about capturing tapes and see what the haul was. This was in Great Sampford where Dan [Ives’s] parents ran a pub called The Red Lion at the time. Those were good times!
After a few years at school, I did film at college level and then I did a film production module in Leeds in 2nd year of University whilst doing Anthropology modules. The whole time I never stopped skating, traveling to competitions, skating street, and generally involved in the scene. I used to skate for Skates.co.uk, slaptap. They were pretty casual sponsors, yet still gave me a little travel budget or helped where they could. It felt alien at the time and couldn’t believe my luck!
The camera was always in hand. Myself and Ives (who moved in with me in 2nd year), Rob Dalton, Joe Atkinson, Sammy Optiks, Josh Morrison and a bunch of other Leeds rollerbladers that made it an unreal scene. I felt blessed to be a part of it.
Backside Royale | Koreatown, Los Angeles
When I finished at Leeds and moved back to London, I hit up my old dawg Harry Reavley. He got me on my first wedding gig which was great experience in a professional setting. That’s where I met my future boss, Geraint John, who later hired me full time as an in-house filmmaker. From there I would take any clients I could get my hands on and to take some of them on freelance and go it alone as a sole trader (with Geraint’s blessing).
After a bit more experience under my belt, Harry got me onto some huge fashion sets at Spring Studios, working alongside some amazing professionals (even if I was assisting or running.) I took whatever opportunities I could get. Those were the days when there would be a big crew briefing before the shoot.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’d bought a Sony A7S MKI. I was shooting small low budget music videos, fashion promos, and branded content.
I have to give a shout out to Harry again, I owe a huge amount to you bro in those first few years. it helped me get a sense of what it was like working in the industry and find my feet. What’s interesting about that, it all spanned from those early experimental years and the creativity that sparked from skating. The approach of both finding spots to skate and how to document them creatively.
270 Backside Savannah | Frogtown, Los Angeles
What are some of the bigger projects you’ve worked on? What are some projects you’re particularly proud of?
Fast forward some 12 years plus now. I’d been freelancing in the film industry, gaining experience and gradually leveling up. To date, I’ve worked for some incredible production companies, brands, artists, other DOP’s [Directors of Photography] and co-created an agency, Raygun London (which I was a part of for four years.)
I’ve just started the journey down another fork in the road in this tantalizingly fast-paced industry with my new creative agency, MONCK. It’s cathartic looking back at all the gigs I’ve done, and how they’ve consistently grown – from small corporate, fashion and music videos to being booked on huge TV and advertising sets and exec producing, Dp’ing and managing post through our agency Raygun. All the while, I’m being booked as a DOP, and rollerblading MOVI operator, which I’ve come to be known for in the London scene.
In this year alone, I’ve been involved in numerous advertising/music video sets, ranging from being a rollerblading MOVI operator for a major Range Rover commercial in London to handling Director of Photography responsibilities for the NHS. All of my creativity and journey stems from that early education in skating. I refer to it as an education because of the way I approached it. Constantly growing within it. It’s partly why my new agency is called Monck. I’m in my Dojo and a disciple to the craft.
The fact that rollerblading (and ice Skating) alone got me on to sets with Calvin Klein, Range Rover, Clarks, Island records, Disney On Ice always keeps me hungry, humbled and excited for the future. What I offer is an in-demand skillset that I picked up skating in the streets, with my homies, is something I practice gratitude for. I worked on an EE Commercial with directors I really respect, Daniel Wolfe and Elliot Power. I’ve DP’d big Public Health of England Jobs + a Clarks shoes commercial with D Double E/ Director Robbie Kilgour. The Clarks gig was sent my way by Matthew Stewart who is still out there in the streets of London with the BANK homies. I still skate with them regularly, another creatively groundbreaking crew I’m proud to call friends. I’m also proud of the breadth of work I’ve created over the last 10 years. It feels like its raced by whilst time has moved slow simultaneously.
What’s a dream project you want to work on?
From a rollerblading DOP perspective, the list of dream jobs is endless. I want to be DP’ing / directing for some of the biggest artists, fashion houses, musicians, other directors and agencies in the world. I don’t think you start this career without that in mind—to be working on the best.
I’m hungry for projects with the type of budgets that allow big teams to choreograph movement that is happening around the camera where I think rollerblading operating really shines. Being able to execute long take stuff like with continuous camera movement, like Birdman or Athena. Been loving seeing the homie John Lyke doing bits for AppleTV’s film, Showtime. They built a ramp for him on set. That stuff excites me a lot and whenever I see another fellow skater doing it, I salute them!
Do you have any advice for skaters trying to break into film? What were some important lessons you learned on your journey?
I realise what sensibilities and skillsets you picked up from skating. That tenacity, drive, and DIY approach / aesthetic was what brands were looking for. We created something ourselves from nothing. The film industry in the UK looks out for people that are creating culture and saying something, that’s what it’s all about. Without that, what is there to point a camera at.
Find a way to use your skates as a tool. A lot of other DP’s do it, even ones that stopped skating years ago. Find your team and stay loyal to people that helped you along the way.
Tell us about who you skate with these days.
I have my longtime homies in London! We’re lucky to have a strong scene here!
Who and what motivates you to keep on rolling?
Whether it’s an aesthetic appreciation for shapes, architecture, movement or form something about being on wheels for years, falling persevering, getting back up and making happen, made something click inside me.
I think being able to channel my energy into something has always been and will continue to be why I skate. The creative expression it allows. The way it makes you look at and experience your surroundings in a completely independent way, is something unique in my eyes. It’s rare and special.