A look inside "Vanish" with Zach Sayles and Neil Herrick

With the constant, relentless onslaught of new video pieces, collab edits, new team rider video parts and full lengths, it seems harder and harder for anything to have staying power these days. But it’s especially difficult for underground indie videos to get the shine they deserve. So we want to slow things down a little bit and help bring more recognition to the hard work and creativity that goes into a rad independent project. And the new “Vanish” video is a solid example of good work with rad skating and an awesome cast of characters. So TOA family member Jovi Bathemess caught up with Vanish videomaker Zach Sayles and 5Boro & Dial Tone rider Neil Herrick to get a little deeper into the making of the new video and the boys gave us the honor of being able to host Neil’s full part on the TOA Youtube channel. So let’s put our blinders on for a few minutes to block out the barrage of social media distractions and give Vanish, Zach and Neil the attention the deserve and then enjoy the fruits of their labor with Neil’s part at the end. Thanks for these guys for working with us and to Jovi for making it all happen.

Neil Herrick: Backside 5050. Photo: Zach Sayles

What’s up guys? What are you up to right now?

Zach: Whats up Jovi! Not much. Just trying to plan out what i'm gonna do for the day.

Neil: I’m on the train to work instead of skating haha. It’s so nice out too.

So how did you two first link up? Did it stem from skating at the Radnor Park?

Zach: Before I skated with Neil, I always knew of him through Youtube. At the time (about 13 or 14 years old) I wasn't watching too many skate videos. Him and his friends were my first introduction to skate videos and I watched their videos all the time.

Neil: Well basically, I remember Zack from the park and also because he lived in the same town as my friend Tim, not too far from his house. They both went to the same high school. Plus I had seen some edits of his on YouTube and noticed there was something there that stood out.

So Neil, you hit Zach up on Facebook Messenger about being the primary filmer for Fairman’s. What drew you to Zach’s filming? And Zach what were your initial thoughts when Neil hit you up?

Zach: I was in shock. I wasn't filming too much at the time, so I was really hyped to meet and skate with more people.

Neil: I probably didn’t have his number at that point, before DM. I saw a lot of potential in Zach, especially when he switched to VX1000. I filmed a lot with Matt Steindl & Jake Todd, working on the Standard Definition video. Zach’s footage reminded me of Cooper Winterson’s videos, who I had filmed a lot with in New York over the last few years. We started going to spots and a few clips made into my SD part. After, we started working on filming for what would become Fairman’s 4. When Zach moved to Philly for school, he began working on his own project (Vanish). So we split up footage for each video. Shannon Hoffman moved to West Chester for college and became the primary filmer for the shop since he lived down the street from Fairman’s where I was working. He had put out a full length video already (Minutemen) and I saw just as much potential in Shannon as I did Zach.

Neil Herrick. Photo: Sam Mckenna

Zach, in your Skate Jawn interview you mentioned that the first time you filmed Neil that you totally botched the clip and cut his feet off entirely. Do you remember what the clip was? And Neil, how pissed were you? Did you intentionally not hit Zach back up for a month after that?

Zach: I could never forget the clip. It was a two trick line at this ledge spot in Manayunk/East Falls area. He did a switch tail slide to regular on one ledge and then a back lip front 270 on the other. I was pointing the camera way too high and completely cut his feet on the back lip. I remember us capturing and watching it. I can't remember what Neil said, but I'm sure he was bummed. Not sure what I did with that footage haha.

Neil: Hahaha I remember picking Zach up at his job one day. I was with Henry Jones and we went to a spot to try and see what filming with Zach would be like. We got that clip and it was totally botched. I don’t think I was pissed off, but maybe at the time I wasn’t stoked, maybe we didn’t skate for a little bit but I still wanted to film with Zach because I knew he was only going to get better at it. That’s the only clip he ever botched and it was a line I could live without anyway.

What project were you guys working on at this point?

Zach: Nothing at the time. Neil had hit me up to film more after that, but most of his footage was going to Standard Definition or other videos. I had just started freshman year of college so I was mainly preoccupied with that.

Neil: We got some final clips for my SD part, and from there we just kept filming together and once he moved to Philly it was a game changer. We were working on the Fairman’s video when I would bring Fairman’s dudes to Philly with me and eventually Shannon and I took over organizing the video since we were both living in West Chester and Zach didn’t have the time since he was already busy perusing film on a scholarly level.

Did you guys have a particular local skater that you guys looked up to back then? Was it Bam?

Zach: Neil Herrick, Brett Ross, & Brandon Westgate

Neil: We all knew Bam but didn’t grow up during his era so the influence wasn’t quite the same since most of what we saw was CKY, Jackass, Viva la Bam. Less Bam the skater, more Bam the TV star. I knew about Toy Machine and Maldonado and Kerry Getz but it took a few years until I could appreciate it. Maldonado was and will forever be the best out of West Chester. I looked up to dudes who rode for Fairman’s like Steve & Tyler Oakey, who were so good even when they were in high school. The “Frank and Teds” video introduced me to Kevin Mcgovern and his brother Brian. They made that video in 2003 when there weren’t many indie videos coming out. Years later I lived with Kevin in West Chester while making the Fairmans video and still skate with him. That crew inspired me to keep the Fairman’s culture alive and take filming more seriously. Matt Steindl as well with anyone he was filming with. Chris Mathis, Anthony Tomasseti, Abe Howell to name a few

Neil Herrick 360 Flip. Photo: Graham Tait

I was really stoked on the Fairman’s 4 video. How much did you guys work together on that?

Zach: I didn't have too much of a hand in that. I filmed some clips here and there, but it was mainly Neil and Shannon Hoffman who put it together.

Neil: Thanks man, I’m proud of how it turned out. We worked on that video for about 2 years or so 2015-2017. Between Zach, Shannon, myself, and the other contributing filmers it took a little over two years start to finish.

How important has Fairman’s been for the scene in West Chester?

Zach: Extremely. Without it I probably would have never met Neil or most of the people I skate with now.

Neil: Fairmans holds so much history in east coast skating that you could probably write a book on it. It’s something that is very important to me. Established in ‘77, so Fairmans 4 was a 40 year anniversary of the shops existence and influence. Dan Wolfe worked there while making Eastern Exposure, which is basically the first Fairmans video but slightly different. Zach reminds me of Wolfe, moving to Philly and filming in the city like Dan did with the SubZero dudes for Real Life. Fairmans was the first shop in the area and probably the east coast. Before the city had shops there was Fairman’s. I could go on and on about this topic since I find it so interesting that a small town had such a big influence on east coast skating and the videos to come. 

Who’s holding it down in West Chester these days?

Zach: I'm not too familiar with the scene now, but I know Shane Reuther and Darby Kiefer are ripping.

Neil: Shane Reuther and Darby Keifer both kill it. I’ve watched them both get better over the past few years. Shane just had some clips in the newest skate jawn video Fiddy. His brother Carson films and also rips, they’re from West Chester.

Zach I’ve heard you have quite the VX graveyard at your place. What made you decide to start fixing and repairing your own cameras?

Zach: I couldn't keep up with the cost of repairs. My VX would break so often that I just decided to solve the problems myself. I had about 3-4 spare VXs for parts and just started taking from those. 

Zach Sayles repairing his VX. Photo: George Rose

The new Vanish video turned out really sick. I love the mix of quality skating with 16mm footage. Did your art school background help much with this? And Neil how involved were you with this project?

Zach: Thanks man! Appreciate it. I was able to get access to a Bolex from my school, so I would just take that out and shoot with it.  

Neil: My involvement in the project as far as filming and editing was minimal, but we took trips and skated Philly as much as we could. Taking turns driving everyone around, this is Zach’s project I can’t take much credit except filming a few things and my own skating haha

Was it hard for you guys to link up since Zach is in Philadelphia and Neil is in NYC these days?

Zach: It was actually pretty easy. The chinatown bus is pretty cheap and quick. Neil would hit me up and let me know he was coming to Philly for a day or two. We'd skate. Get a clip. Do it the next week.

Neil: Every time I came back to Philly to visit I would link up with Zach and skate with everyone like Matt Militano, Josh Feist and the rest of the crew. Luckily getting to Philly is pretty easy from New York so we made it work. Sometimes I’d try a trick, not get it and have to come back next time and try it since I have a job in New York to return to.

Do you guys have any plans on working together on another video project?

Zach: Definitely. I'm trying to branch more out of Philadelphia for this next project. Looking to make more trips to New York, as well as some other cities on the East Coast.

Neil: I’m always down to film with Zach and would enjoy working on another project with him, it’s a great thing to have friends who are so dedicated.

Neil how did you first get linked up with Nardelli and 5Boro?

Neil: I sent a tape to Tombo back in 2011 after meeting Chris Blake in Philly. The crew watched my tape and were down, they’ve been taking care of me ever since and I’m grateful for that. Even though Tombo is no longer filmer or team manager, Nardelli has been running things and so far so good we’re working on a new video. 

Zach what is your role with Municipal Skateboards? I’ve noticed they really like to showcase your dance moves.

Zach: Haha. Most of the people I skate with ride for Municipal, so a lot of the team riders have parts in Vanish. My friend Sean Spellissy owns and runs the company. We're all just a big group of friends, skating and hanging out together.

What’s next for you both?

Zach: Onto the next video. 

Neil: There will be a Puerto Rico trip edit coming out this summer and a new 5boro video this year. I’d like to take a few trips to skate and film with my homie Giorgio Villone and whoever else is on board, hopefully to Europe or out of the country. 

Any last words?

Neil: Thanks everyone who supported Zach while making this video. It took a long time but the results are outstanding. Very Proud of this guy.

Copies of the DVD are available at the TOA store or from Zach directly on his site here.

Interview by Jovi Bathemess