WOLFPACK: an interview with Valentin Tuil & Mourad Leuchi

Introduction by Kevin Chow
Video stills provided by Valentin Tuil

Interview by Kevin Chow & Freddy White

How long did it take to film and produce the video?

Val: We started filming in Paris, under the sun back in August 2011, and the last big shooting session took place in January 2013, under the snow! So it was around a year and a half of filming, and then another 4 months of editing and post production work. It became increasingly complicated for me as the last sessions and the whole post production process took place simultaneously with my final year at the “ARTFX” school, which was the busiest one, as it was fully dedicated to my final film project. So I would be at school from 8AM until 8PM, then I’d be working on the DVD from 9PM until 1 in the morning…

What cameras & equipment were used in the filming process?

Val: In terms of equipment, nothing too extraordinary. ARCENA purchased a GlidecamHD-1000 for the project, and I would use my old tripod the rest of the time, which I can’t seem to ever replace. Light equipment, which makes it easier as we’d spend most of the sessions getting around on blades. As for the camera, most of the video was filmed with a Canon 600d (T3i), and I’d also use a 550d (T2i) for second angles. I also shot a few things with a 5DmkII & 5DmkIII. I have only used 2 lenses, one is a Canon 50mm f/1.8 and the other is a Sigma fisheye 10mm f/2.8.

Any advice or valuable knowledge you would share with rookie filmmakers?

Val: If I had to give any advice to someone who would want to start filming stuff, I’d say this kind of camera definitely has the best quality/price ratio you can find today. I would even say it’s best to buy a cheaper camera and invest the money you’ve saved in a few different lenses, many SD cards and other accessories. Honestly, in terms of video equipment for this type of project, if the lighting is good enough there’s no significant upgrade if you’re using a 5DmkIII, although it costs about 4 times the price of a 600d. I would even go as far as to buy a beer to anyone who’d be able to tell me what specific clips were filmed using the mkII and III in the video.

Where did you get the inspiration from to start this project?

Mo: It came quite naturally as we wanted to share our lifestyle through the WOLFPACK video. “Different lifestyles, one passion that brings us together”, I think it says it all.

Val: I think this really was the main guideline through the filming of the DVD. Mourad and myself really wanted to showcase this connection that is created between several people with totally different lives, often residing in many far away cities, but all united through this passion for rollerblading. As for the video itself, there wasn’t one source of inspiration in particular. Visually, Mourad left me free to do whatever I wanted to, which I did. As I work in the Special Effects business, both feature films and commercials, through the years and experiences I acquired a specific vision and culture that inspired me.

The challenge was to create a video that would appeal to everybody. For instance, a brand like SSM has developed a rock’n’roll image through their team and videos, while on the other hand, Razors has stuck to a certain hip hop image lately, especially since their Game Theory video. For WOLFPACK, I didn’t want to adopt one theme in particular, but showcase each rider’s individuality instead. I wanted the video to really show who they are. So this goes through the music, of course, but the editing also plays an important part.

How is this video different from other blade flicks then?

Mo: In addition to what Valentin said above, aside from the skaters themselves we also featured our support team, with street artists AL & Tim Marsch, graffiti artist Salamech and infamous DJ Everydayz. It backs up the skating of the team nicely, both through the music we used and the short segments added in between the main sections, and this helps balance the whole viewing experience.

What were some of the funniest/scariest/most dangerous moments while filming this video?

Mo: Barcelona was just the BEST! We rented an apartment for a week, nice weather and warm temperatures, which kept us all going strong. We’d either catch some more sleep in the morning, skate a bit or take time for some touristic views, then eat some tapas and other local specialties in the Barri Gotic. After that, it was all fun and games on la playa as it was too damn hot to skate before 6PM. Then we’d go on a raid, blading around in a hunt for spots, and filming the action… And once we’d get done with it, around 10 or 11PM, we would then share drinks, either on the beach, in the city streets or at the apartment… Every trip should be like this!

As for the scary moments, we encountered la Guardia Civil while driving on La Rambla, the sliding door of the van wide open, everybody with a beer in their hand… The whole group was just too juiced upon arriving, seeing people, sun and life in the streets of Barcelona! Also, I wasn’t there but there was another little quarrel between the cops and AL…

Val: Indeed. We decided to wander through the streets at night, along with AL, Nico, Louis and Lagoutte. AL couldn’t help but put up posters on every wall he’d see. So he starts killing this dark little street, only there is CCTV filming it all. We thought we’d have enough time before the police got there, but less than 2 minutes later, a dozen cops are here, with their cars and screaming sirens. God knows how, but AL eventually talked his way out of any trouble. Quite a stressful moment anyway.

On a brighter side, another funny moment was when we arrived at the apartment on the first day. We realized the place was connected to the room of another apartment, shared by girls only. And one of them, not realizing we had arrived, started stripping… Entirely. Something you’d think would only happen in “The girl next door” movie, some kind of teenager fantasy.

Besides the stories you’ve told above, how often did the authorities get involved (security, the general public, the police)?

Val: We quite successfully stayed out of trouble, for the most part. To be honest, we only had a couple arguments, mostly with neighbors who weren’t too happy seeing us skate their handrails (which I can easily understand). While in Paris, however, Allan had to deal with two cops in La Défense, although we were just rolling from a spot to another… They were quite pissed, for some reason. But in the end, I think that’s about it.

What spots were the most difficult to get to? Which one were the most interesting?

Val: As for the hardest one to get to, I would say that one ditch in Lyon. Our friend Guillaume Ducreux brought us there, and I wouldn’t even be able to go back, since the place is so secret and lost in the middle of nowhere… It was so original though, and interesting to shoot, back in autumn all tree leaves were painted orange, it was a beautiful spot to get clips at.

As for the most interesting… There were too many of them! In the end, I would say that every spot can be interesting to shoot, but it all depends on the skater you’re filming with too. I have seen Allan lace unbelievable tricks on spots I wouldn’t even look at normally, Nico also wanted to put together a section a little more creative than his previous ones. He skates everything, big stuff and smaller obstacles, with a style you can’t touch. And when it comes to spots, I would say Dadou (David Aubert) has the most original section, as he truly has his own way of skating. He’s one of the people that can create something out of just a little curb, or find a line no one else had seen on a well known spot.

What countries did you travel to for the video?

Mo: Mostly France and the surrounding countries: Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Spent some time in Barcelona and London, but we also deliberately focused on our own country, because we have many spots here: some famous, some secret, some shitty and some others are just perfect… It allowed us to showcase each skater’s individuality, their technical skills just as much as their creative side, which was one of the main goals of the video.

Who are the main skaters in the video, and where are they from?

Mo: As for the main skaters, Louis Vilar is originally from Lyon. He skates for SSM, and has some of the most powerful back royales I have ever seen. Clément Boucau comes from Lille, although he just spent a year in Montreal. He seems to be made out of rubber, and has a pretty mean fishbrain. Allan Beaulieu (Clermont Ferrand) was just on the cover of the last Wheelscene magazine. Technical, creative, and more professional than most pros. Finally, Nicolas Auroux, from Narbonne: he’s a little ball of style, he skates for Razors and was already featured in our first video.

Also featured in the video, is the whole support team. Besides the segments dedicated to the street artists and musicians, Dadou also has a full part, which is kind of his introduction section to the scene. Once again, I think that’s the main specificity of the video, bringing together both the skaters and artists (which can all be seen skating hard in the collective section, by the way). We all live spread apart in the country, and this video is yet another way to bring us all together, too.

Did anyone get seriously injured during the filming of the video?

Val: Clément took the most unlikely falls without a doubt, I had never seen anything like this! But there’s a reason why people think he’s made out of chewing-gum, to my surprise he never got hurt badly enough to stop skating afterward. Dadou hurt his heel trying to gap from a side of a ditch to the other, as seen in the DVD. He’s still aching from this today. Louis & Nico got hurt several times, to the point we had to cancel shooting sessions, but nothing too serious either fortunately. Allan doesn’t really fall, or if he does, it’s always with style at least! He’s really impressive in the sense that sometimes he won’t skate at all on a given day, but as soon as he sees a spot that inspires him you can be sure he will lace something crazy within 3 tries, at the most. I’m still shocked by his ender trick in the DVD… Even more so that it looks so natural and simple to him.

Are you guys happy with the reactions and feedback you’ve gotten since the release of both trailers online?

Val: Really happy! The feedback we got was really a wonderful surprise, as we didn’t expect people to show such a keen interest in the video, especially in foreign countries. Everything we’ve heard was very positive. In general, and it’s sad to say, if you take a look at a website like Rollernews, there’s kind of a pointless war against French skaters going on, so it made this unanimously positive reception even more of a surprise.

Mo: Indeed, we’re very pleased with the feedback we got on the trailers, as well as the premieres we’ve held. After the screenings, the skaters/spectators were really enthusiastic. The only criticism we’ve heard was that the video is much too short, which leaves people even more surprised once we tell them it’s actually just over 40 minutes long. Good things always feel like they end too soon, don’t they?

Val: I think we won our bet, successfully creating a video that actually reflects the French scene and that will get the viewer juiced to go blade. “Different lifestyles, one passion that brings us together”, I think we truly portrayed this through the video. And the premiere in Montpellier was simply a great time and an awesome party!

Was it intentional to use this song for the second trailer? What’s your reaction when people try to compare this to Vine Street, both in negative & positive ways?

Val: It really wasn’t intentional, not at all. Actually you’re the one who taught me it was used for the intro of Vine Street. I only saw the video once, when it came out, and that was a while ago. I don’t know what to think about such a comparison… In a way, it’s really flattering, because I really like Dom West’s work, but I must say I never wanted to replicate any of it, nor did I want this video to look like Vine Street. I’d actually like people to watch the whole thing, because to me, it’s precisely anything but Vine Street. And if you happen to read these lines, I’m sorry Dom, I am really looking forward to your next video!

So, what’s next? When are you guys going to start working on the next video?

Val: Another video will happen one day, for sure, I just can’t say when. Producing a whole blade video from A to Z is a really long process, which takes a lot of time in one’s life. As for now, I must focus entirely on my personal work, far from the blading world. However you can be sure I’ll be putting out edits here and there, when the timing is right!

Mo: We have been constantly evolving since we started the brand back in 2007. WOLFPACK is kind of a second step, we’re now entering a new phase, with many projects and good things to come. We are currently building/working on our new office in Montpellier, which will be open to all the ARCENA affiliates. It will also host a showroom, and serve as a spot for parties and special events. As Valentin already stated, of course there’s going to be a third video eventually, it’s part of our passion and desire to release another one. There’s been less video projects over the course of the past ten years, and many brands we supported then have now taken a step back. To keep a brand going is not an easy task, especially in this little blading world, however thanks to the crew that surrounds us, and the excitement around the brand, we can assure you there will be many new projects in the future!