After more than three years in production, making it almost as expected as the Fiction team video, Vine St’s Chapter II is finally available to the masses, yet again showcasing the world of rollerblading what Australia has to offer. Australia was always a hotbed of rollerblading talent, from it’s infancy up to today. Starting with first generation bladers such as Jon Pollard and the inventor of the fishbrain Tom Fry, going to the first official Australian superblader Tim Ward, one of the most well-rounded bladers ever, to the people who dominated the competition circuit, such as Scott Crawford, Matt Salerno or Blake Dennis, Dion Anthony or Tom Sampson, just to name a few, the Aussies were always a blading force to be reckoned with. They even had the brands: Cozmo is still revered by most older bladers as the best wheel company ever, and Fourinarow, the only nineties rollerblading magazine that could stand next to Daily Bread.
Text: Josip Jagić
Photography: Adam Kola
From a more European perspective, then came the dark ages, when the Aussies fell off the face of the Earth. Almost none of them appeared in the videos of the time, and it wasn’t until Richie Eisler and Matthias Ogger went to live down under that we got to see the Australian blading scene again. And it was alive and well, not as big in numbers as a decade earlier, but still home to some of the best bladers in the world.
We’ve seen CJ Wellsmore as a nine year old child wonder in Daily Bread, we’ve seen Gavin Drumm in the classic INRI section with the Nick Cave track, but it was actually Englishman Dom West who really put Australia back on the map with his classic Vine St.
The film showed the budding talents of a new generation of Australian rollerbladers, the prodigal son returned to blading CJ Wellsmore, the rugged Craig Brocklehurst, rollerblading ninja and streetwear connoisseur Rian Arnold, Simon Dorabialski, the talented Tien Nguyen, and a slew of other skilled Aussie bladers, not to mention Richie Eisler, who reinvented himself and his blading through Vine St. It was what the Australian rollerblading scene needed at the time, and it was what the rollerblading world needed in 2010.
Dom West brought a fresh perspective on blading, showed it in all it’s glory, be it elegant and precise as Eisler and Rian Arnold, or reckless and urgent as CJ Wellsmore. The visual language of Vine St. was also something new, and it created almost a paradigm shift as it set new standards in rollerblading camera work and editing.
And the decision to call his next film Vine St: Chapter II could have been tricky for Dom West.
So, was it the right decision? In short: Yes.
Dominic says that the biggest challenge during the project was simply time. When they made Vine St six years ago,they were all either students or just working casually and so they had all the time in the world to skate and film. Now everyone has different commitments and schedules and so it was a constant struggle to get time with everyone to finish their sections. That’s why a lot of the film was shot on late-night weekday sessions in the city, Dom explains.
For him, the other main challenge was maintaining motivation over such a long period. It’s easy to lose sight of the project as a whole when you work on it for so long. Having the whole crew involved though meant there was always someone who was keen and could drive the session: „The film means a hell of a lot to everyone involved and we’re all really proud of it. In reality the project is a culmination of everyone’s years of experience on the blades and thousands of hours of work in order to present people our take on blading“.
This year we’ve seen our fair share of single skater VOD’s that gave you a feeling of money well spent, starting from Eugen Enin’s Zoo Revolution, going to Erik Bailey’s section filmed and edited by Erik Bill, to Bolino’s section done by Chris Dafick, or Seis de Bastos, another great rollerblading film. Numerous free videos could have been sold and should be making money, but they’re not.
Chapter II is worth your money. The visual esthetic is as bold and crisp as in Vine St, but a bit more mature now, as if Dom commands it better, making it work more for the film, less as a vignette of the Australian cities it was shot in. There was never really a conscious decision to make Chapter II like Vine St, Dominic objects, but in hindsight it would have been impossible not to. Despite the days of the Vine St House being long behind them now, the crew is unchanged and so is the Sydney-backdrop, so the project was always going to have a similar aesthetic to the first film. Filming-wise, he wanted to stay true to the classic skate video feel with fisheye and zoom as it’s what he grew up on and loves it, but he says he also wanted to explore other techniques that he’s learnt.
For me as a blader, it was the feel of the film that got me hooked.
From the opening credits till the end of the film, Chapter II manages to emit an atmosphere of comradery that is one of the basic things that keeps rollerblading crews together, and keeping rollerblading alive. The clips that show other skaters cheer on the person doing the trick have a bit of magic in them, they make you wish you were there, sharing the experience. They show how exciting rollerblading is, and how youthful does it make the persons doing it.
The film packs more than a few surprises, but not with the opener, CJ Welsmore. You get exactly what you expect. Every single section seems to capture the personality of the featured blader, which became a bit of a rarity these days, as there’s a certain number of editors inclined to let their artistic and production vision overshadow the skater, which can misfire.
However, I need to emphasize the section that got me feeling really old. Australian blading legends Scott Crawford, Josh Pinkus, Blake Dennis and Matt Salerno show that they can still hang with the best. The only people missing were Tim Ward and Dion Anthony.
As Dom says, it was really special for him to make – it’s probably his favourite section in the film: „My first skate video was VG6, at a time when the Australian scene had a huge presence, so to become good friend with these guys 20 years later was a gromm’s dream! I had big ideas to begin with and I did talk to Dion, Tim, Josh and others, who were all keen to be involved in some way, but unfortunately time was against me and I wasn’t able to make it to Melbourne to film and so it only ended up being a small taster of the Sydney OGs. For me that section is just the beginning of something bigger I want to work on in the future”, he concluded with a teaser.
There are two profile sections that stood out the most. Alan Dick’s and Gavin Drumm’s. Dom says that he had the best time working with Alan, who was really active in the UK in the early 2000s, during the Enigma period, but kind of faded afterwards. This section is his big comeback. And then there’s Drumm.
Gavin Drumm’s only problem is that he’s not featured in enough videos or magazines. From his start on USD, he was destined to become THE new Australian super pro. He can skate anything, and he can go as big as he wants to, while always looking in complete control. His style, trick selection and execution are almost impeccable. I hope to see him at the 2017 Winterclash in Holland. His section will surely be many people’s favourite.
The closer goes to Rian Arnold, and it’s deserved.
In the end, every rollerblading film is judged by one criteria and that is: Does this make me want to go out and blade? Yes, yes, fucking hell yes it does. It made me hate myself for getting up too late this Sunday, so instead of making the best of one of the last sunny days this year before the snow falls, I had to spend time writing this review. Ironic, isn’t it?
Now go and buy Chapter II here. While you’re at it, you should also order Adam Kola’s Chapter II photo book. We’ll cover it in the next couple of days, it deserves it’s own feature.