Devil's Pocket with Jake Todd
The full length skate video has been the subject of skate-shop banter and chat board debates for nearly 20 years now. With a fate that has bounced up and down the charts more than the value of BitCoin, it seems like everyone had written off the full length format as deader-than-a-doornail in the early 2010's, only to see their popularity roar back in the twenty-teens like 90's skate fashion. But there's one thing that's for sure.....no matter how "dead" the full length video may get at any point, true skate-video makers will continue to keep the art alive no matter how much of a hole it burns in their pockets or how difficult the process of making a DVD has gotten in 2023. But that's just the thing about a true art form. It will continue to live and breathe no matter how destitute and under-appreciated it leaves the artist behind it's creation.
Enter Jake Todd....Philadelphia-based filmer who, until only recently, made his living testing cats for feline aids and checking your dog's cholesterol levels. But, as of 1 year ago, Jake has been part of the TOA family. And over the last year of settling into his new job, one thing has been eating at Jake....his latest full length video had been JUST about done before he got dropped into the chaos of TOA. Sitting there in his computer, taunting him every time he logged on to edit another TOA project. But, somehow, he finally pulled it off. And here we are with "Devil's Pocket" finally out in the wild. So we got him to step away from his TOA duties for a few minutes to answer some questions about the process. Below is what ensued:
Giorgio Villone, Shamus McDonough & Jake Todd | Photo: Weglicki
So, here we are...Devil's Pocket is on dvd and in people's hands. A couple parts are out on Free Mag and now on TOA. How does it feel?
Feels relieving. I'm just glad people are seeing what my friends have been working on for the last few years. So many speed bumps along the way, working on TOA projects, Super 8 getting lost at labs haha, you name it. I'm sure my friends in the video are happier than I am.
Brian O'Malley SS BS 180 Nosegrind | Photo: Weglicki
How long did it take to film and finish 'Devil's Pocket' from start to finish? And why do you think it took as long as it did?
Man there are some clips that have 2017-2018 dates on them. So maybe I can safely say 5 years, but there were so many little things that would put my focus onto other things. The pandemic for one kinda put a pause on the project, that is a classic answer these days. Apart from that just getting a job at Theories would throw a wrench into things because I would have to switch focus on filming or editing for our projects, and I handled most of those the past year or so, priorities ya know? Luckily mostly everyone involved was patient.
Shamus McDonough Long FS Crook | Photo: Weglicki
"Mostly everyone"?....interesting...What do you think were your original motivations for starting on a new full length video back when you did?
The original motivation was just sitting on footage of a few people like Shamus (McDonough), (Brian) O'Malley, Giorgio (Villone) and Josh Feist. I had just come off doing some work for other brands and just wanted to do something of my own to switch up the pace, but I think that was the core original line up. Feist's footage ended up getting used in Traffic's 'Third Shift'. Mathis is always on sessions and ended up accumulating a part pretty easily.
Oh, then how did the other guys get added to the line-up?
Well, I got my hands on Nick Wnorowski's tapes in 2020, he had years of uncataloged footage from Walt Wolfe, Ricky Geiger & Pat Heid. When I got to digging I realized there was a whole Geiger part the world needed to see. Out of those tapes there was a good chunk of Walt footage too, so I hit up Walt showing him what he had, and it sparked him to film more with me and see where it went, Walt ended up filming an entirely new part with me minus a few clips from Nick's tapes.
Chris Mathis Wallie Bs Noseblunt | Photo: Weglicki
As much attention that Philadelphia has gotten since the 1990's, do you think there's still a lot of talent that is under-appreciated or unknown?
I don't know with instagram are anyone's talents "unknown"? But maybe less seen. Walter and O'Malley have put out parts in the past and have been doing their thing for years, but since they don't post on Instragram much maybe fewer people think of them immediately? I dunno that is a tough question, but yes I think Philly has and always will have under-appreciated talent. In my opinion Shamus' name should hold the same weight as Jahmir, Bileyu, Joey O'Brien in current Philadelphia skate conversations.
Chris Mathis Wallride | Photo: Weglicki
Was there one part that was the most fulfilling to see people cheering for at the premiere? Like one skater you were most stoked for people to finally see a part of?
The whole thing really, you always have an idea of what people are going to react to, but you never know so I was quite interested to see what people liked. It was also the first time in 8 years I've done a theater style premiere for a project of mine. But I was quite happy to hear and see Shamus getting his love from the crowd.
Shamus McDonough Bump BS Flip | Photo: Weglicki
Yeah, honestly the theater premiere makes the years of struggles worth it. Well, I can certainly identify with the anxiety of having an unfinished video burning a hole in your computer. What was one of the main things holding this project back from completion? And how much did it stress you out knowing it was ALMOST finished but not there yet?
Oh man, Shamus' last trick. I was really happy with his part overall, but we just didn't have that last trick feel we were looking for. For about a year on and off he tried this one trick, and then we left it alone for some months, one day I drive by it and the whole sidewalk is being completely torn up and re done so we chalked that one because you kinda needed this natural bump on the sidewalk for it.
Then the final month of filming I was very adamant about figuring out a last trick, already having the premiere date set. We spent hours at this one spot trying this specific trick up until the night before the premiere. I'm telling you hours and hours, and it was so cold this past December. On the night before the premiere with a "final timeline" already rendered, we gave this trick he'd been trying one last go. About 30 minutes into trying it, we mutually suggested a different trick at the spot and it worked out. I couldn't believe it. We were so happy, I went home captured the clip, plugged it into the timeline and hit export. I also got so lucky I was out of tapes and my re-up from eBay got delayed in the mail, I had 6 minutes of tape left which is scary enough, and Mark (Del Negro) pulled up with a fresh one for me. Worked out perfectly.
Brian O'Malley No Comply | Photo: Weglicki
Damn, Mark D to the rescue!.....You've been quite involved in the process of short-form web edits over the last 2 years with TOA. People may not know, but you're responsible for the Dial Tone "Landline" project, the Theories "Pyramid Park" project, the Dial Tone "215" project and more. What're your thoughts on the benefits or drawbacks of the short projects versus a full length in 2023?
Short projects are great because it's super attainable, usually one main theme and a few people to focus on. Don't get it twisted it's still heavily involved and takes a lot of time to complete. But the benefit is you can get your work or brand in people's faces multiple times a year. Downside is you're lucky to have anything last on the internet more than 1 week max, I swear. There is some new project coming out every other day, it is so insane. I have noticed full lengths recently have been living a little bit longer on the internet though, so we'll see in 2023. I've heard a lot of outlets are pulling back on the hosting a project every day vibe this year.
Chris Mathis | Photo: Todd
That would be.....refreshing. Haha.
It may seem cliche' at this point, but what've some of the pitfalls been filming a full length on VX in 2022/23? How many cameras did you go through to finish this thing?
I think I've gone through maybe 2 vx's in the course of the past 6 years? One of them was on a bad spill, couldn't Frankenstein is back together, she was too far gone. The second one is just me being fried. I'd rather not talk about that one haha, it was so minty.....
Downtown Philly Alleyway | Photo: Todd
Dangit, well I WAS trying to go there...we all know how precious a well-working VX and clean lens are these days. C'mon, the people want to know! What happened to the other VX?
Ahhhhh. I hate this. I got done filming a clip of Nyle Lovett at this spot in old city, there is like a little nook/ledge above the spot and I placed the camera down, fisheye and all, to phone cap the clip. I took down my lights, packed the car, and we headed to the other side of downtown for one more spot. We get to the next spot and Randy Benko is sticking a trick, I set back up the lights and go to grab my vx out of my bag and it was not there.....I forgot to put my vx back in the fucking bag. I had hope cause the spot we were previously at is a quiet alleyway and the camera was kinda tucked up in a high corner. I floored it through the city back to the spot and it was not there. Walked around for 30 minutes in every direction trying to find someone that maybe grabbed it. Scoured ebay, craiglists, pawn shops, called the surrounding builds the next day for lost and found. She was just gone and I had to eat my forgetfulness. Sucks.
Walt Wolfe Nosemanual | Photo: Todd
Do you think you'll ever do another full length independent video again?
Honestly, maybe not a full length, but some of my friends have already asked me what's next cause we've stacked some footage. I think I would go the way most brands are going, and try to focus on one or two people with a montage and make shorter form edits. Just a lot more manageable. Especially between all my responsibilities and projects at TOA.
If you DID do another full length, and you could get any skaters you wanted, what would that line-up look like?
Ahhh that is tough. No explanations, Mark Del Negro, Nick Matthews, Kris Brown, Davide Holznecht, and Danny Brady.
Walt Wolfe | Photo: Todd
Yeah, true, a full length just becomes such a high mountain to climb. Your initial ambition sort of becomes your worst enemy down the road.
You've been doing a lot of traveling around the US to work on TOA projects...where would you rank Philly in comparison as a skate city? Devil's Pocket has some of the sickest spots I've seen in a full length in a long time.
I think Philly is up there, it's so big and has so many cuts and zones. You obviously have everything downtown which is iconic, but West Philly and North Philly are so big and mostly unexplored. Every time I'm in a spot drought, I just go digging on google earth or drive around in an area I haven't been to in a while and always end up finding something new, its crazy for how long this city has been skated. A lot of TOA dudes come and stay with me for periods of time to film and they trip on how many spots I can show them or take them to in a small period of time, its great.
Giorgio Villone | Photo: Todd
Ok....last question....(and I already know the answer) but what's your next full length project in the works?
Traffic full length! It's been fun to film and chip away at. Traffic has put out some of my favorite videos ever since Via so I'm honored to work on a new one, but also nervous to uphold their project legacy in a way haha.
I think you'll do just fine :)
Jake has gifted us with a dope nugget from 'Devil's Pocket'. Brian O'Malley's part (which was one of our favorites) is live now on the TOA Youtube channel. Click below to check it out!