Dan Magee is one of the last remaining true craftsmen left in the skate video industry. A literal “jack of all trades” Dan designs the boards, graphics, packaging and web design of the Blueprint board company as well as filming, editing, handling all motion graphics and design and authoring the dvds. There may be a few others in skateboarding wearing the same amount of hats, but a very select few that are doing it at all close to as well as Dan does. This interview is long overdue so let’s get to it, shall we.
Welcome to Theories Dan…..where are we finding you right now?
Well, I probably shouldn’t tell the readers of Theories this, but seeing though you just did Maloof with Boba Fett’s jetpack on, I guess it’s ok. I’m on a big Nike SB trip round Europe putting together an edit for the website for them. We’re driving through to Germany via Holland and France.
Oh rad, thanks for bringing that up again.
Well, “Make Friends With The Colour Blue” just started hitting store shelves in the US recently, but how long has the video actually been done?
Pretty much since the end of 2008 filming-wise. Blueprint was out of action for a few months, during Dec 2008 thru to May 2009. During which time, I worked out what options we had, until we were back and running. As soon as things were heading in the right direction I skipped out to Boston for a month and abit to put in an intensive stint finishing off Coakley’s stuff.
I don’t really wanna be the one to have to tell you this man, but you misspelled “Color” on the box cover. Might wanna do something about that.
It’s called Queen’s English for a reason.
What’s the story behind the title of the video? How are we going to be “Making Friends” with the colour blue?
First it was going to be a promo with just ams, so it was Make Friends in that sense. However as it became clear it was gonna be another full length and more international, it became more about being introduced to Blueprint for those who are unfamiliar with the company. There’s also another tangent with the rain imagery in the movie, sometimes you got to learn to love rain days, but at the same time love those sunny days. So in that sense Blue can mean both rain water and clear blue skies.
You’ve been in the game for a long time now. How many videos does this make for you and what was your first one?
-On DV format for: 4 full length videos, 1 tour video, 2 promos (Marty and Build & Destroy)
-On Hi-8, two crummy Blueprint Vids
-Then a bunch of edits and all the ‘Big Push’ Entries. Oh and a weird promo for Red Bull shot in 7 days on 16mm and DV.
-And the first video I did was probably the one I made with some friens when I was 15.
At the time you first started you could probably count the amount of skate videomakers in the world on your fingers and still have a couple digits free to stir your tea. What gave you the push to believe you could make a living at this?
Realistically, being shit at skateboarding. I was still riding for Blueprint when the first video was made, I should never have been sponsored and because of this reason I took a great interest in running the company. When we edited ‘a Mixed media’ I went along to sit in on the edit, which was Linear a/b roll, back then. Somehow I ended up at the console editing the whole thing and that was the first thing I ever edited.
Oh wow, so you originally were sponsored by Blueprint? Amazing. How’d you end up running the show over there then?
I was riding for this company called Panic that someone else started. When it started we all just wanted to ride for something, so we took whatever came. Eventually we knew that Panic was a shit name, had no image etc, so I came up with the name Blueprint and basically had to learn how to do graphics and video stuff as I went along.
It seems like you guys have always had your work cut out for you. Considering that you’ve always been a specifically British company, it must’ve been a serious challenge to get support beyond the British Isles.
Mate, you have no idea. When we started, 95% of skateboarding in the U.K were literally laughing at us. We were a complete joke. Even now it’s still a struggle to get people to recognize. I guess you have to do what you do.
It was an interesting move for you guys once you decided to put on an American rider. I remember the days, not so long ago, that you were up in arms for an American filmer being in London. Next thing you know you’ve got two Yanks on the team. It all started with a little known kid from Boston named Kevin Coakley. DId you just pick him because of his handsome well-trimmed beard?
CN can take the glory for that. He hooked me up with his sponsor me tape which turned into Kevin’s One in a million, which at least gave us a starting point in terms of coverage. Coakley is actually banned from shaving that beard. Have you seen how weird he looks without it? The thing is, the U.K is so over-saturated with pros and companies now, it’s impossible for us just to be a British company. We have to be just ‘a’ skateboard company.
As for being up in arms, I think you are tripping. I’m not about spot rape or any of that shit at all. That is all on you and your little friend! What you are probably confusing it with is that (moreso in that era) when the big American filmer and American pros come over, certain people fan out…all of a sudden people don’t want to make British Videos, they want to be in American videos. Filmers…(Massey!) Suddenly want to sell the PAL camera and want NTSC cameras! By the way, your NTSC cam for Static iv has been sitting in Slam for about 5-6 Months now in an unopened box. Ha Haaaa…..
Rad…....well, it’s pretty amazing how devoted you guys have stayed to British skateboarding all these years. I know you are a serious purist. What motivated the decision to add an American?
British skateboarding has changed a lot. I’m not such a purist anymore, because of this reason. I’ve mentioned already that we had to make Blueprint an international company in order to survive, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. Blueprint is at a stage now where it should be an international company. However, I think there were other reasons than this that motivated the decision to add Americans. Firstly, despite the jokey banter, we love Americans, many of Shier’s and my good friends are of the Yank persuasion. Secondly, the right guys came along at the right time…Marty and Coakley both fit the style and aesthetic of Blueprint and had the nicest personalities to match. Lastly, I think we had to prove that an originally British company could work with Americans on the team, without being random adds that never get to meet most of the team.
Seems like you guys have still got a real bang-up team though. Do you feel lucky to have ended up with the crew you still have?
In a weird way, through various twists of fate, it kind of ended up that way. Some of the guys have obviously worked on their style and trick selection from being on the team with older skaters. That’s why I think it’s important to have older people on a team and not have a team full of young kids. It’s also another reason MFWTCB follows the format it does. The first 3 skaters have a combined age of 105. Skateboard video law dictates that you have to have a banging young am first. I definitely wanted to steer away from that convention.
Sick. How would you describe the British skate scene these days?
The British scene is alive and buzzing. It’s just not how I think you picture it. I imagine you picture the whole of the U.K like a part from First Broadcast, everyone into skating gritty nuggets of spots. When in fact the reality is that a lot of kids here are really into prefabricated parks and the skate media here reflects this. There’s a few people and cities where the style of skating that you love is kept alive, but in reality there’s not much to skate in most of the U.K. All the spots you see from the videos are either in London and a few other cities, or spread in little villages throughout the U.K. You can drive for hours through the whole country without finding something good to skate. There might be one good spot, in one random location with a radius of 50-70 miles. Which if you look at it in a certain way, is kind of cool. However, this does not make for an enjoyable day to day skate, kids needed spots they could skate everyday and these happened to be the skateparks which are popping up throughout the U.K these days. It’s definitely taking kids skills levels up a a good few notches, but also taking away the art of spot seeking.
That’s interesting. I never really thought about it like that.
Well, let’s talk some video nerd talk….Seems like there are very few video guys out there who are the whole package. Most of us outsource our motion graphics, box cover designs, etc. What the hell motivated you to try to take on everything? Do you have nothing else better to do?
Sheer necessity. No-one else could do it in the beginning so I had to learn it. It’s also financial, we can’t afford to pay for all that stuff, so I have to do it myself.
And then to top it off you decided to run the board company and design all the graphics, shirts, website, etc? Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you?
You also can’t really make a living from being a skateboard filmer here in the U.K. You have to be a jack of all trades. Master of None. I don’t do the website coding, only dress it up and update it with Shier. Gorm@bulletclip.com did the new one. Outstanding human being.
When I watch a Blueprint video it’s one of the few experiences in skateboarding where I’m pulled into the screen. You have a real knack for creating an environment that immerses the viewer in a full experience. Similar to watching a good narrative film in a movie theater. What would you say you find the most inspiration from?
I think it’s because I did an English Degree at University and a lot of that course was textual analysis, discussing contextuality and intertextuality etc. That’s how I see a lot of things, like everything has to relate. In a video it’s music, skater, tricks, spot, lyrics, even down to what’s in the shot like road signs or the city it’s filmed in. Even the texture on the ground. There’s a lot of stuff in the videos that some people may spot and other stuff no one will have a clue about. The shot with Mackey coming out of a Sayers shop cutting to Brady above a Greggs is a real cultural thing that most of the U.K won’t even get. Only a couple of cities will get that link.
A couple of the skaters are also good at linking thoughts and ideas these days. Coakley is pretty good, but Jensen is the one who does it the most. Everything has to make sense. If you look at his part and break it down, even a lot of the surfaces he skates have to be linked, for example there is one part where it is all red brick estates, which his intro shot hints at, another is all based around wooden benches.
Would you say that since you’re completely in control of everything, design, motion, music, editing and most of the filming that it keeps everything cohesive? That it helps make your original vision stay more on track?
For the most part, yes. That’s why I only like working with certain filmers. I like everything to tie together as perfectly as it can. Then again, I’ve been doing stuff for other companies and non skate stuff and there still seems to be away of putting your stamp on those edits too.
What were some of your favorite skate videos growing up?
All the classics. I am sure you have heard them a million times: Mad Cicle Videos, FTC video, EE3, Mixtape, Peep This all the original World Vids.
How about over the past 10 years? What would you say were the top 5 that changed the way you approached making a video?
In the last 10 years? Fuck, Photosynthesis and Mosaic. Bon Appetit. Sight Unseen and either Sixth Sense or the Reason. I’m not sure which video, but one of Ty’s TWS videos definitely drove me to up production values.
I shouldn’t really say this as it’s probably adding more fuel to the fire, but of course all Puleo’s parts have played an important role in shaping Blueprint videos and skate parts. Although conversely I read in the epic Theories 400 comments thread that he says he has allegedly never watched any of them, nor gives a fuck about them, so there you go.
Interestingly enough, it’s probably Mindfield which defined the way MFWTCB looks. I just watched that video and thought, what’s the point in trying to do stuff with cutaways and other visuals, when Mindfield just destroys anything else that is out there in terms of that aesthetic. It was then that I decided to go for a very fast paced looked which was 95% skateboarding.
I’m not sure how many people saw “First Broadcast” outside of the United States, but it was pretty influential to me. I was lucky enough to see it because I happened to be in London at the time it came out….what exactly was that video about? Was it a Blueprint video or a sort of indy video with Blueprint riders included?
Pretty much a ‘scene’ video but on an industry level. Trying to represent the legitimate British companies. We’re trying to do Second Broadcast right now, with Jacob Harris and some other guys at the helm. Maybe it will get off the ground, maybe it won’t, it’s all going to be down to the new filmers and the skaters, but it could be a good thing if it happened.
WATCH THE “FIRST BROADCAST” VIDEO AT THIS LINK FOR FREE
Damn, I’d really be stoked to see that. Do you have any aspirations to move your work into music videos, film or something like that?
Well I’ve been trying to do that recently a bit more, I’ve done a few bits and bobs. It’s hard though when skateboarding is still meant to be a priority. I was meant to be shooting 2 back to back Charlatans promos last week, but it got pushed back to when I am on this Nike tour, so now my friend Stu is doing it. Hopefully I will get into that more as Stu Bentley is becoming a really successful D.O.P and Massey is a freelancer producer now and they have been helping me out a lot. Having a good 5D mkii kit has also helped a lot.
Oh you stepped it up to the 5D? How’s that working for you? Do you have one of those rollerblade filmer rigs that look like you’re going out to mow your lawn? Or are you just using it to shoot non skate material?
Just started using it for static skate shots and cutaway stuff and a lot of non-skate work and interview things. I think i will looking into adapting it to use for with a fisheye this month though. It’s really growing on me using it a lot.
How have you been dealing with sound for that camera? The on-camera mic is shit and the little shotgun mic, although really cute, ain’t really cuttin it either.
Since I use a lot of it for not actual skateboarding, I have been recording to a seperate sound recording device. I got a little Sennheiser on there now and its sweet. Thing is, nothing beats the VX1000 for skate sound. I wonder if there’s a way of taking a capusle mic off the vx1000 and making it into an XLR connectionn or mini jack you could plug into the HVX200 or 5dmkii. Maybe 1 of your 4 regular readers would know.
What do you see in the future for yourself? Moving to America soon?
Still not ruling it out, if the right opportunity arose. I love it out there now. Trying to go East and West coasts at least once or twice a year. But at the moment, I’m trying to do the adult thing and buy some property in West London and do some more freelancing within and outside skateboarding.
Is there anything out there you’re looking forward to in skate video land these days?
Well Mindfield ticked a lot of boxes for me and I just saw ‘In Search Of The Miraculous’, which is Pontus Alv’s new film. That thing is crazy on a level that no one else can really touch, it’s the most intense personal project that follows through on the editing and visuals like you would not believe. I know I said Mindfield raised the bar for skate visuals, but ‘Miraculous’ is unbelievable. I think there’s even a corpse in the intro. The skating is so gnarly too and I think you are missing a trick by not missing people like Pontus, Mackey and Wainwright out of the Static series so far. I’d like to see another British video that actually does step up and produce something interesting and original on an international level, if I’m honest.
Now that you’ve wrapped up this video, what do you have planned next?
Right now, I’m gonna concentrate on learning HD workflow by doing a lot of shorter web delivered edits for various skate related companies. I’m also trying to do more work for music and production companies in the form of virals, EPKs and Promos. That way I can make a crust and also see if I can work in the world outside skateboarding. Blueprint-wise, I’m giving everyone a breather, but we will be doing both HD and DV stuff in future. I’m working with Jacob Harris and Alex Pelletier, who might just be the right guys to pick up the Blueprint video mantle.
Oh shit….well, I know Alex is a sick Boston filmer who films with Coakley a bunch. But who is Jacob Harris? Brit or Yank?
He’s a scrawny kid from London, with a good head on his shoulders and a lot of spirit. This other kid called Morph is pretty sick at wielding the Vx1000 too. Dominguez got real good for a while also, but kind of gave up filming. That’s the thing about British Filmers, there are not that many good ones and a lot of them get bored and give up. Everyone who contributed towards MFWTCB held it down though. Especially Ryan Gray, who’s name i left off the credits. Thanks Rye.