Photo: George Marshall / Red Bull
The other week, after over a year of waiting, Red Bull had released the “WALLS” video featuring Sebastian Keep doing some of the gnarliest wallrides ever done in BMX. Not too many people can say they have literally jumped off a bridge on a bike, let alone jumped off one to do a wallride down a 30 foot drop. This project was one of a kind and, believe it or not, it took over two years between the initial idea until the final project wrapped up and premiered for the world to see. We figured it would be rad to catch up with the filmer behind the project, Mike King to talk about what went into making this project happen, and give us a little insight from a perspective you might not have had watching the video! Let’s get into it!
Alright! Let’s start this out from the beginning. When did Bas originally hit you up about working on this Walls project?
I knew Bas a bit from working at Seventies a few years back, but it was early 2014, right before Brighton Ain’t Ready that he hit me up to work on a video together; He wanted to do something ‘different’ but neither of us knew what that was yet. We shot a couple of things at some concrete parks and just kind of coasted along with it. The footage was great but I don’t think Bas’ heart was quite in it, I could tell he wanted something really standout but of course where do you begin? I know he and Joe had some early inspiration from the Fly Bikes guys, I was also pretty into watching snowboard videos and had showed him some clips of those guys building transitions out of snow to sit flush with walls. I don’t remember quite how it sparked but I think it was a mutual thing of like ‘woah, these guys can turn almost anything into something ridable…’
Following that, Bas was the one to actually put the idea into motion.
Was a full edit that was planned or did it kind of just fall into place?
The first spot was essentially a pilot shoot, Bas needed the reassurance himself that it would actually work and we needed to get something in the bag to show the guys at Red Bull.
I remember just being blown away, looking at the footage afterwards not really knowing whether it would go online as this one crazy clip or whether we were about to embark on a mission to have an entire video part full of clips like it! That was a little un-comprehendible!
Each spot was such an overwhelming process with so much footage that I don’t think I ever stopped to think about how it would look as a finished piece, not until we’d shot the first two/three spots at least. I don’t think we ever discussed the time we anticipated to work on this, there was no deadline or anything, just kind of an unspoken understanding that this would take as long as it took.
Over the years you have seen a lot of wild things done on BMX Bikes. What went through your head when Bas originally told you that he wanted to jump off a bridge? Did you take it serious?
For sure, like every BMX filmer out there, there’s been times when I’m all set up and it’s in the back of my mind that if things go wrong, we’re going to the hospital, but never like this. With this project it was really daunting to think that if things went a bit squiggly, he wasn’t going to just dab a foot or casually slide out, he was going to be in a lot of trouble. With that said, I had a lot of trust and faith in Bas, he knew the risks and respected the danger, he wanted to take the time to try and understand how the spots would work, which in my eyes is one of the coolest things about the project. Sure, we could’ve gone to NASA, explained what we were doing and they would’ve given an educated answer to all our questions, but Bas, even aware of the potential consequences, wanted to discover it himself, that’s legend status in my eyes.
This was one of those long term projects that took a long time from start to it eventually launching online. How long did it take from the first clip you filmed to the final video premiering?
From the first clip to the first premier was two years and two months.
Sometimes as the filmer, you have to kind of be the voice of reason for a rider when it comes to doing some of these gnarlier things to either hype up the rider or say “maybe this isn’t the best idea”. Did you ever have any moments like that working on this with Bas?
Like I said, I trusted Bas, I saw the time and energy he put into getting ready, not just mentally but physically too. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced working on a video, I suppose that gave me a foundation of confidence.
I worried about getting caught and the kind of trouble we might get in, but other than that I don’t remember actually being nervous about Bas for any of the shoots, Croydon on the other hand, was a different story.
I felt sick all morning, I was utterly terrified but again, I’d seen Bas practising for weeks in the warehouse beforehand.
He’d been back and forth declaring whether the spot was doable or not for so long and I just had to stand behind his decision, he needed to be fit and focussed to do it on the day and that wouldn’t of been possible with everyone putting doubt in his mind, he would’ve done it regardless of what we all thought, so I think we all felt like being positive was the only way we could better the chances of him coming away from this in one piece!
On that morning he asked Greg Illingworth whether he would do it himself if there were a million pounds on the line, Greg, without hesitation said ‘no’.
It looks like this whole project took a ton of prep to setup the spots and everything. What went into the prep and what were some of the hardest parts about filming for this project?
The hardest thing about filming this project is actually having a shot that shows everything. The spots were so vast and 90% of them you couldn’t see him either land or take off, I also was constantly trying to film for the documentary, so it was a bit of a juggle to film what was unfolding in the moment but also getting enough cameras up and ready so that when Bas is good to go, so am I. Joe or somebody else would always be free to man one camera but I was usually juggling between 3 or 4 cameras myself. With so much tension in the air I didn’t want to have to shake Bas’ concentration at any point and be like ‘yeah just give me a minute, I still need to put another camera up’. If I noticed a camera went below full battery I’d put a fresh one straight in, I just had to pray they were all still recording when he rode away…
I would assume when a couple guys start setting up kickers and big transitioned landings, people take notice pretty quick. Was there any sort of altercations or crazy situations that came up? Anything not make the final cut of the documentary or edit at all?
There’s a security guard that works below the Hastings spot. Bas was scoping it out one day and he came out and asked what he was doing, I think Bas was having a bad day and he just straight up told him ‘I’m going to jump off there on my BMX’, kinda like the ‘altercation’ in the intro of the riding video. Bas went back a few months later to check it out again and the same security guard turned up but didn’t recognise him, he went on to tell Bas how a ‘BMX rider is going to come and jump off the roof’. Pretty funny, I wonder if he ever saw the video… Other than that, I think the documentary is a very honest representation. Thinking back, it’s so insane that a crowd never formed, nobody ever stopped to watch us, not once.
Photo: George Marshall / Red Bull
What kind of a setup were you working with to film for this project? Was it hard to have certain gear with the almost hit and run style setups that were used for this one?
Two years is a long time, my work and filming style has changed a lot in that time so naturally so has my gear, if you include Matty’s kit it totals to 12 cameras which we used for this. I think the only ‘challenge’ in that sense is trying to remain consistent but I think it all blends together fairly well when I look back on it.
A few people have been talking about how he didn’t ride away from the bigger wallride. From a filmers perspective, what were some of the reasons this one didn’t quite pan out as expected?
Haha! We knew there would be a ‘backlash’ of sorts from the last clip. I don’t think this constitutes as a ’filmers’ perspective specifically; but it’s no secret that in BMX it’s hugely frowned upon to have not pulled your last clip. It’s not as black and white as that, some people really need to see the bigger picture! Maybe I’m biased because I witnessed these things, but the crash doesn’t take anything away from what the film represents in my eyes. It’s a totally unchartered way of riding a bike with absolutely enormous risk involved. Those people that see the video as just a sequence of wall rides really need to open their eyes. I mean it with respect, but I have no shame in comparing it to Mat Hoffman doing the world’s highest air and not riding away from it, it doesn’t change anything. It’s that same concept of taking something that nobody has even attempted before and just sending it! Sounds cliched but both really are examples of breaking new boundaries. There are people that will be too stubborn to agree with that, they can just get fucked.
Have you guys talked about going back again to get it done, or is it something that just isn’t safe enough for another round?
Truthfully, I think part of not riding away from it was down to timing. If Croydon had been the last spot we hit after two years of experimenting, then we would’ve known the ramp would need to be at least twice as big, but with that said, if we’d gone to Luton with a ramp that small then the same thing would’ve happened there, so it depends how you look at it. I guess sometimes you succeed and other times you learn. It was a miracle to walk away from Croydon after crashing twice into such a small ramp, but it taught us a lot. To have left Croydon not in the back of an ambulance is quite a miracle. We’re not in a hurry to go back, sure it would be amazing, but I think in the grand scheme of things it’s actually kind of pointless.
There were two videos for this project, the documentary and then the edit that Red Bull released that was short and was just all of the actual riding clips. If you had to pick, which video are you more stoked on?
It’s a mix really, I like making documentaries but they just take up so much time and work, plus not every body is going to sit through 30 minutes of us openly talking about how we broke the law! I didn’t really make footage compiles during the filming for this project because I just never knew when it would end! It was over 18 hours worth of footage which I had to sieve down for the doc in the end. I like seeing the response and traction a short, choppy riding video has, but storytelling is more of a passion of mine.
Now that this project is wrapped up. What’s next for you? Any new videos in the works you can tell us about?
I guess we’ll have to wait and see, I still love BMX but I’m not so into spending a week cruising around a new city and churning out a quick web edit anymore. This project taught us all some real patience, and as a result it’s been so much more fulfilling to get this out in the open after keeping it to ourselves for so long. I’d like to work on some bigger projects, tell some stories and try to push the ‘cinematography’ aspect a bit more for myself, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and I think it’s hard to find a place for that sort of thing right now, as long as I still love riding my own bike at the end of the day I don’t really care what I’m making videos about, I just fucking hate vlogs!
Anything I missed you want to say?
I definitely want to thank the guys behind closed doors that made this project work, aside from the obvious, Bas, Joe, Bakos, Oli, Jordan etc there was so much support from all the guys at Seventies and Red Bull. Thanks to Ride UK for the cover, Matty Lambert for his great work and George for such a fantastic job documenting the process in photos. A final thanks to Bas for not killing me (or himself..) and anyone that watched/shared/liked/commented or even hated the video(s)!
Check out more photos and behind the scenes from “Walls” on the Red Bull Website.