An Interview with Jack Johnston – Board Sport Filmer and Editor

Jack Johnston has been making board sport videos since he was a young teenager. Starting out filming mountainboard videos in his mate’s field, Jack went on to film, edit, direct and produce the two largest mountainboard DVDs ever made. Nowadays, you’ll find him filming some of the top snowboarders in the world at various events when he’s not working for a professional production company.

Jack has recently been travelling to various snowboarding events in Europe and has filmed with the likes of international pro riders such as Hampus Moesson, Tyler Chorlton, Tobi Straus and Peter Konig. He’s also filmed some of the best UK riders like Jamie Nicholls, Billy Morgan, Nelson Pratt and Angus Leith. Rumour also has it that his footage of up and coming rail destroyer Denis Leontyev might find its way onto the next Forum video. Board-Mag.com caught up with him to find out what it takes for filmmakers to kick start a career in the world of board sport filmmaking!

Hey Jack, how’s tricks?
Hang on, Let me get a hob-nob.

What flavour?
Chocolate obviously! Anyway, I’m not bad thanks, apart from my front door key snapping off in the lock this morning….fun day!

Nightmare! Did you make it to work on time?
Nope! I had to call in late and fork out my last £70 on getting it half fixed.

That sucks. At least you can afford it now you have a sweet job! But before we get into that, let’s talk about how you got into film making. How old were you when you made your first film?
Lets see, I must have been around 13 or 14 when I was first getting into mountainboarding, I was lucky to have a good group of friends and we all started riding together. I had a really old camera that was my Grandads and I started to film us building ramps out of old doors and stacking all over the place!

Ah cool, so when did you start to take it seriously and think about making a career out of it?
I suppose it was when I was applying for University that I realised that the only thing I really enjoyed doing was filming and editing things. The media industry seemed like the best way for me to do that, and I thought you might as well do something you love! But I guess it was when I started doing the BFC films I really started to realise how much I enjoyed doing it.

Yeah, so the BFC (mountainboard media and events crew) came about in 2006. What were your goals with that?
My goal was to try and show people, mostly people getting into the sport how fun mountainboarding can be. Mountainboarding is often seen as a hardcore sport that’s far too dangerous for most people. I don’t agree with this and it annoys me how some people portray the sport and it’s probably put off a lot of people over the years. I hoped that with the BFC DVDs people would be able to see how much fun you can have with the sport. When you first buy a board it takes a bit of getting used to, but if that board comes with a DVD showing a higher level of riding it might spur that person on to stick at the sport.

All three DVDs seemed to go down well, but with the rise of the internet and cheaper, better video cameras, board sport movie making has become more accessible and there seems to be fewer DVDs and more youtube videos. Do you think that the future of board sport films is with feature length projects like DVDs or is it all about 3 minute go-pro edits online?
I honestly don’t know. If you look at snowboard films this year, more proper length films are being released on Itunes as well as DVDs. A lot of sites like Mpora, youtube, vimeo etc offer a fast easy way for people to access vast quantities of action sports films. And with the DSLR revolution we are seeing more and more amateur videos with really good quality images. However, I really like having a collection of DVDs, I have a pretty nice collection of snowboard DVDs, it’s nice to have something solid.

Yeah it’s good to hold something proper in your hands and get excited about putting a DVD on and watching it with friends.
For sure, and while we are seeing more small edits from lots of different people who might not have been able to make videos before, there are a couple of bad points to it. More people have a voice but maybe it’s getting harder to find the good stuff?

Yeah, I guess that’s one of the points of Board-Mag.com, to get all the good stuff together in one place. Speaking of web edits, you recently did some work for Method Mag, what exactly did you get up to?
I spent 2 weeks in Austria with the Method guys going to a variety of events to film content for their web videos. I was based in Innsbruck but headed off to Garmisch in Germany after day 1 to film the Ride Shakedown which was pretty awesome. It was my first proper snowboard event to film so it was exciting. I then followed Flo Achrainer and  Denis Leontyev up to Serfhaus just outside Innsbruck to film at the awesome park there. Denis has exploded onto the scene this year and his rail skills makes most people want to hang up their boots and just quit, it’s not worth trying to compete when it comes to tech tricks. I then went with Denis to the Sane! Rail jam in the small village of Rinn outside Innsbruck. I went to Wangl Tangl after the Sane! rail jam and it was an amazing week filming some of the best know snowboarders on the planet.

Sounds awesome, how did you get the gig filming some of the biggest snowboard events in Europe?
I started speaking to the guys at method after an advert on the website looking for interns. After speaking to them for a bit and showing them some of my work they offered me the chance to join them out at Wangl Tangl in Mayrhoffen and then the trip grew from there.

You also filmed the British Universities Ski and Snowboard Championship out in Tignes right?
Yeah! That was a cracking two weeks filled with, sun, slush, beers and slashing! It was actually a really heavy schedule. The first week was a bit more laid back but once the events started it was lots of early mornings to get up to the event locations like the X Games slopestyle park and set up. Then we had to film the night events till 2-3am as well, so I was pretty tired!

I bet, I guess all your experience paid off! Got any tips for people wanting to get into the board sports filming industry?
Don’t expect to get paid! I’m still to make a penny out of filming board sports! Do it because you love it not because you want to make money from it. Keep shooting as much stuff as you can and practice different styles of editing to different styles of music. Watch lots of other content and look at how different people film things. Keep at it and you will develop your own style and try and keep your shots steady! Oh, and always make sure you have enough batteries / tape etc!

Tape? What do you film with? Betamax?
I wish! I currently film on the Canon 550d (as with everyone else) and gopro at the moment. I think for shooting board sports, tapes are dead. It’s much easier and practical to get out and film with something like a DSLR.  However, learning how to use them is very important rather than just sticking them on the auto settings. Change it to shooting at 50fps so you can get some decent slow mo and change your settings to best match the light conditions. Also the right lens is important. They cost a small fortune but I was lucky enough to use some really nice ones out in Tignes and it makes such a difference!

Wise words! So what exactly are you doing work wise at the moment?
I just started working at TwoFour Productions down in Plymouth as an Edit Runner. It’s an entry level position but it’s good as I’m learning a lot about the television industry.

Are you still going to be making board sport videos?
Let’s hope so!

Did you mention that the company you work for made deal or no deal? Have you met Noel Edmunds?
Haha…nah we don’t make deal or no deal unfortunately. They made “Are you Smarter than a 10 year old?” which  Noel presented!

oh well, fingers crossed you’ll meet him one day! Anything else you want to add?
If you’re just getting into filming….keep at it!

Cheers jack, looking forward to seeing some more board sport stuff from you!

Interview by Rhys Crilley.

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