An Interview with Jack Johnston – Board Sport Filmer and Editor

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. 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, 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.

An Interview with James Boulding

An Interview with James Boulding

James Boulding - professional kitesurferHey James – Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Sure, my names James Boulding and i’m a professional kitesurfer as well as running my own little video production company Steez Productions

How long have you been kiting and how did you get into it?
I’ve been riding for 8 years now and got into it after receiving a little land powerkite for my birthday off my parents. As soon as I started I wanted more and more power and wanted to jump bigger and bigger. As soon as I saw the guys on the water riding I was completely hooked and knew it was the sport I wanted to learn so got stuck into it.

You are in Western Australia right now – it seems more and more UK kiteboarders are going down under for winter as opposed to spending it in Cape Town, any idea why?
It’s all swings and roundabouts, 2 years ago I spent the winter in CT with what seemed like the whole UK kiting population, now all the same people are out here. It’s nice to vary things up and see different places, not get too hung up on the same. I loved CT and will probably head back next year as this is my 2nd winter down under. On another level I think Oz offers conditions that are a bit easier and better for honing new tricks. CT gets pretty wild and most days you’ll be holding onto a 7m, whereas out here it’s more like 10m weather most days and there’s 2 insane flat water locations that are close and easy to get too. I think it’s advantageous to do both, CT taught me a lot about dong tricks in hard conditions, I almost had to re-learn a lot of things so that I had them down on small kites in testing water conditions but when you have done that, come to a place like here and it’s a doddle. Take Aaron for instance, it’s where he learnt it all over the years, do it out there and the rest of the world is kids play.

James Boulding - Liquid Force Internation Team RiderWhat are your favourite spots in WA?
I live in Freemantle so I tend to ride Woodies most days as it’s easy to get to and you know what you’re going to get there. Safety Bay is a good spot and way better for shooting at but since a few years ago it’s got packed with riders so I tend to stay away now, I like my space! My favourite spot unquestionably is Augusta about 4 hours south of Perth. I’ve just arrived back from a trip there this weekend and when the conditions are right there’s no place more picturesque to kite.

When will you be heading back to Europe?
Still not sure of my plans, they’re a bit up in the air, but I should be back in March sometime, hopefully spring will be gripping the nation and the water warming a little!

Will you be focusing on competing or the media side of the business?
I’m hoping to do a few of the invitational events like I did last year, such as the Triple S and Wind or No Wind Jam with a few new ones thrown in but no PKRA/freestyle type events, I’m not really into that side of things, seems a bit pointless getting only 8 minutes to show a bunch of judges a handful of freestyle tricks knowing it could be your only riding of the competition. I’d rather put my energies into the media side of things and work hard on publishing content via videos and magazines etc…

James Boulding in AustraliaYou rose to fame very quickly over the last couple of years both as a talented kitesurfer – earning yourself a place on the Liquid Force International Team, but also as a film maker. Have you been editing much recently?
Yes, it seems at the moment i’m doing more and more editing. I’m pretty stoked people seem to like my videos and style of editing. It’s amazing get paid to shoot and is something I don’t take for granted so i’ve been working hard on that part of my game lately to keep ahead in my little niche.

What would you say has been your best video production so far?
It’s a tricky one, some vids I like the shots and others more the edits. Last year my Australia video Directions cruised past 20,000 hits so I was really happy with that, people always bring that one up when they talk stock with me. I’ve just shot some pretty cool stuff out here with the Naish International team which is going to be dropping this spring on Naish TV which for sure is my favourite so far. I shot it in 4 days at a variety of spots and used some pretty cool film techniques so I think it’s definately going to be one that stands out for people as a benchmark for videos to come. No crazy effects but just a crisp and clean edit using cranes, dollies, heli etc to film. I think that will be my strongest piece of filming and editing to date

Do you think being a great rider is enough nowadays or do the riders need to offer more – for example photo/video skills?
They definately need to offer something not just solely as a good rider, unless you’re going up against the top boys and beating them consistently. Producing decent content like videos and magazine articles makes you easier to sponsor and takes more pressure off the sponsor.

What is your favourite photo or photos you have taken?
Tricky one, I don’t really have a favourite photo, I tend to appreciate photos that tell more of a story than just what’s in front of the lens. For me top shots are a joint venture between rider and photographer. For example, surf photography. Some of the craziest barrel shots are produced whilst the photographer is putting his life at risk getting it, often going over the falls with a high probability of being cut to shreds on reef and drowning. Swimming out with camera setup and getting in tight to get a shot that’s both high risk for rider and photographer is something I admire greatly. Photos need to tell stories like videos do for me so anything with a bit more to it than the obvious ticks a few boxes for me.

Who are the people you look up to and admire?
Few guys I used to look up to in the sport when I began are now good mates so I don’t like blowing their trumpets, but they probably know who they are! Production wise I have many, and admire lots of professional videographers out there. I try and bring the things I like out there into shooting kitesurfing if at all possible. The guys at Poorboyz productions in the ski filming world are the guys I look up to in the sports filming world and I love it each November when their yearly DVD drops.

James Boulding riding a boxThere has been a massive move from top UK riders towards riding in boots and hitting features. Loads of slider based informal comps have started up too – how do you feel about this?
I’m 100% behind it. For me boots is just what i’m comfortable in, I love how you can ride juiced up and edge and land harder with less kite positioning. I’d be so paranoid of falling out of 1 of my straps and doing an ankle if I went back now. I also think everything looks way more stylish if done right in boots compared to straps. Plus I love not ever losing my board and having to bodydrag to it, looking back now I can’t believe I didn’t convert sooner! I’m riding lots of cable nowadays and hitting rails there, so it goes hand in hand and helps whilst hitting them on a kite. I love the challenge and often risk factor involved in hitting obstacles and the time it takes to be able to hit them well and with some style.

Are the British competitions still important to you?
I see them as a great social event and if i’m around in the UK I definately try and get to the events to judge and catch up with mates and other kitesurfers but riding wise I’m not that bothered. I don’t see the reward in it and it’s a huge undertaking to do the whole tour, missing one event puts you in a position that you can’t really win overall and now I’m travelling a lot more in the summer it doesn’t really work to do it. It definately helped me in joining LF’s international team when I placed 2nd overall in the Pro section 2 years ago so I’m very grateful of the opportunity and see it as a good way for new young riders to get their name out.

James Boulding riding in bootsWhat are your plans for 2011?
I’m looking forward to heading back home for some time back in the UK amidst some trips abroad for a few of the slider events. The schedule is already filling up with trips to Morocco, Fuerteventura, USA, Philippines so should be a busy year.

Thanks for your time – is there any shout outs or advice you would like to give to our readers?
My sponsors: Liquid Force, Sutsu, Silte, Bawbags for their help and support. Keep an eye out on for some forthcoming videos from my time in Oz, we’ve been filming pretty intensively and collecting some pretty amazing footage so when the vids drop they’re going to be pretty special.
Also keep an eye out on for news, videos and photos documenting what I’m up to at the moment.