Playground Rules – A new approach

Last year saw a break with tradition as a second British snowboard movie, Hungerpain, was released to compete with Gendle and Warwood’s annual Lockdown production. The film was produced by Jon Weaver – once the editor of our ‘Made in Britain’ section – and directed by the modest northerner Damien Doyle. Showcasing the talents of a bunch of fresh riders, many of whom were graduates of the dryslope circuit, Hungerpain boasted some slick titles, good tunes and tight editing – basically giving the UK scene a much needed shot in the arm.

We caught up with Jon Weaver and his new right hand man Chris Chatt to get the lowdown on 3D titles, broken necks, and driving a special needs minibus…

How did the whole Hungerpain project start?

Jon Weaver: It started in September 2004, when I was putting my shots together to use in Tim [Warwood] and Adam Gendle’s new film Proper. I saw that I had some good shots – and lots of other people like Stu Edwards, Josh Wolf and Dom Harington had good shots – but with so many other riders there wasn’t really enough room to showcase them properly in the final edit. And then there were other people like Chris here, and Mark Ruperalia, who hadn’t even been in movies before who needed an introduction into it. So I set about writing an email to everyone, outlining a plan to make our own movie, which would be completely different. We’d film it, edit it and promote it ourselves, and basically be in control from start to finish.

So it didn’t come directly out of Standing Sideways [the dryslope documentary which had been released the season before]?

JW: Well Damo [Doyle] did Standing Sideways, but that was kind of a separate project. He’d contacted me the year before, when I worked for White Lines doing the dryslope stuff, to say he was working on this film – and when I saw a copy I was really impressed. So when it came to the new Hungerpain project he was the first guy I got in touch with. He had much more experience in filmmaking and because he works at Castleford he had better contacts with all the riders based up North.

Were there aspects of the UK films already out there that you weren’t happy with, or were you purely trying to bring in fresh faces?

JW: It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like Tim and Gendle’s films – they’re loads and loads of fun – but they seemed to be going in the same direction every year. They’re funny blokes and that’s just their style, but I knew that there were lots of other people whose riding was getting ridiculously good and who weren’t getting where they needed to be. I mean by the time you’ve been through the so-called big riders – Johnno Verity, Scott [McMorris], Danny, Tim, Gend… you’ve got twenty riders before it even gets to us. So it started out of necessity for another avenue, and it’s grown from there.

What’s different about the new film compared to Hungerpain?

Chris Chatt: Instead of being separated into rider sections, with all their best footage and their favourite song strung together, the film is gonna be split into the different areas that we all love to ride: park, powder and street rails. And we’re gonna be asking the riders why they like to ride the things they do, and about where they’ve come from. There’s more to it than just tricks and a song.

So it’s more documentary style?

JW: Yeah… If we’d tried to make this film last year everyone would’ve raised their eyebrows a bit. We needed to demonstrate we could put together some banging riding in the first year, whereas now we’re more free to tell a bit more about who these people are. We’ve also been trying to push a bit more indoor and dryslope stuff into it. Not much, but so that people back home can relate to it, and see where the riders are coming from.

Would you say you’re trying to look at what it means to be a UK rider? Coming from the snowdomes or the dryslope and moving to the mountains?

JW: Exactly. This is what we’ve really been trying to push. When you see Thorne’s section for instance – cos he’s got by far and away the best footage – it’s amazing. But if you showed it to some Finnish kid from Talma, or a rider from Garmisch, they’d be quite shocked because there’s some dryslope in there, and they’d realize what we have to ride here in the UK. Then they’ll see the progression – that you can go from dryslope or indoor to doing a few seasons with your mates, then taking things a bit more professionally until you reach the international level James is at. A lot of foreigners might not think UK riding is that good but they probably don’t realize what it’s like riding indoors or on snowflex every weekend.

How far do you think UK riding can progress?

CC: Pretty far I’d say. I ride at Milton Keynes quite a lot, and I’ve seen kids people have never heard of doing the most up-to-date rail tricks, just the same as the kids in America. I remember when we first started we didn’t even think tech tricks like that would be possible, but now they’re being done indoors. It’s at the same level as the stuff you see in the latest trailers – all it needs is to be taken outside for people to realize it.

Do you think rails is where our riding is strongest? Because it’s more accessible to British snowboarders?

JW: Definitely. I remember when I was at university we’d go to ride at Calshot for three hours every week. There were these three rails next to each other, and you could learn one trick after another: frontside boardslide, backlip, then a rotation in or out. It was such quick progression , but with the exception of Halifax there aren’t many places about with decent kickers to learn that side of things. But then again Danny Wheeler made it on the international scene, and the likes of Scott McMorris, Tyler Chorlton and James Thorne are good enough now to be on international teams. They’ve got all the tricks, and the professionalism you need to take it further.

How did you choose which riders got into the new film?

(Joint laughter) JW: Whoever sends a tape in!

CW: It’s more about who’s down with the cause, and who’ll stick with it all season.

JW: For instance this year Sam Nelson sent some stuff in from Japan, and no one’s really heard of him. But as soon as we met him we got on so well –

CC: He’s into all the same stuff and has all the same banter, he’d come riding with us all the time…The kid’s classic. It’s as much about their personality as their riding.

Which other new riders are gonna be in it?

CC: Ed Gunn. He got off to an amazing start but he’s been injured – a lot!

JW: But when he does ride it’s ridiculous to watch. He’s got the potential to be as good as anyone.

And he’s still at uni isn’t he?

CC: That’s the crazy thing. He just turns up, one change of outfit and then he has it. I don’t understand it!

Who’s part should we be looking out for?

In unison: Thorney!

JW: He’s been killing it. Tom West too. He’s really stepped up. Oh and Damo!

CC: Yeah, Damo. He’s been less involved with the film making side this year because he’s so busy working at Xscape, but he’s got some amazing riding footage. His first ever street rail is honestly the best front boardslide I’ve ever seen anyone do in real life – and it’s the gnarliest spot! So steep…

And what’s been happening on the freeriding side?

CC: Mark Ruperalia has joined Henry Jackson filming in the backcountry. Mark’s powder kickers really impressed me too. He goes massive and just stomps everything.

JW: Plus Sam’s got some good powder footage from Japan.

CC: There’s not so many lines as last year though. It’s more hopping around in trees, hitting stuff and having fun. The mates sides of it. That’s what riding powder is really about for most people – giggling and falling over!

It sounds like the movie’s been inspired a lot by the RobotFood films, and 91 Words?

JW: Kind of. The big thing is we want people to relate to it. If you take the Absinthe movies, they’re amazing aesthetically and they might make you think “Wow, I can’t wait to go riding”, but you’re never gonna look at Gigi Rüf doing a frontside 7 over a crevasse and think “I might try that at the snowdome tonight”. With films like RobotFood and Neoproto it’s more about the whole atmosphere amongst the crew than just the riding. It’s more accessible.

CC: The Neoproto stuff is definitely an inspiration. Those Tahoe kids have got a good style.

Are the riders choosing the tunes themselves?

CC: (laughs) Everyone’s always saying they’ve got brilliant ideas for music and I say, “Sweet, stick it on a CD and send it to me,” but nothing ever happens.

JW: There’s a lot of people with an opinion but they’re less active when it comes to it! I find listening to tunes in the car is the best way to find stuff.

CC: Yeah. I can be listening to a tune and suddenly I’m like,”Fuck! I can feel an edit coming on!” That’s what happened with the latest teaser. But I could really do with people sending me some more stuff cos at the moment all I’ve got on my computer are rock tunes!

What’s the ‘Hungerpain Hotel’ all about?

CC: It’s a brothel, basically (laughs). It’s the best place in the world.

Where is it?

JW: It’s a house just outside Mayerhofen, about 3km away. Me and Henry rented it from this bloke for the whole year. It’s got about nine bedrooms, a big cupboard thing where Thorney stayed for the season, a bathroom which Roland Morley-Brown slept in for the whole winter…

CC: He had the en suite.

JW: And then Chatt stayed in the ‘kinder room’ which was the old kids bedroom, only the owners had been using it to store rubbish!

It sounds like student living.

JW: It’s exactly like that. There’s gonna be a feature on it in the film. But the best thing about it is the sun comes up on one side of the garden and sets on the other, so we had a little jib set up going on. And it has this amazing view over the mountains. It was the perfect place to base ourselves really.

Where have you filmed?

CC: All the spots in Mayerhofen, obviously. We also did some street rails in Innsbruck. And we’ve been to Germany, then Laax for the Brits – we had good powder there this year actually – Iceland, Sam’s stuff in Japan… We’ve don’t have anything coming from Mammoth this year though.

What was your most memorable day’s shooting this year?

JW: For me it was when I went to Gerlos with Henry, ‘adventure riding’ as he calls it. You’ll see it in the film, but basically you come down this waterfall thing, hanging on round this massive traverse, then you come out into a field of cut-off trees about 500 m long. They’re all snowed-in pillows, the snow was so good, and you can just bounce and bounce and bounce…

And the most disastrous?

(JW and CC think for a while) CC: The Shred Bus! (laughs). At the start of the season me, Ryan and Olly each chipped in a couple of hundred quid each and bought a 17-seater Leyland, which was used for a special needs school so we got it cheap. We ripped all the seats out, got TSA to put massive stickers up the sides… It was the rattiest piece of crap but it looked amazing! We weren’t sure if it was going to go but it moved, and it took us 27 hours to get from Kent to Mayerhofen in one push. Ryan drove the whole way without sleeping! Once we were there it was so good, we could chuck everyone in the back, and all the gear – lights, generator, boards – and get to any rail we liked. So anyway, one day in January we went on this rail mission. It was getting pretty late and it had started snowing so we thought we’d better head back (this thing couldn’t drive in the snow). But it broke down on the side of the road in the middle of the night, and everyone had to sleep in it. We woke up at six in the morning and trekked across these fields to a farm to get oil. Five hours later we got back to find it wasn’t an oil problem, it was something else. So we went back in the other direction, and another five hours later we come back with water to find it’s still not the problem, so we slept in it again. Plumley thought he was gonna die – he said he feared for his life!

How cold was it?

JW: It was fucking cold. It was the middle of January!

CC: Finally, after two nights camping in this thing with no heating, they got the van taken away, and two weeks later we went to pick it up. It cost 900 euros for whatever it was they’d done to it, but when we got in to drive away the mechanic said, “Er… you’re not going to drive it are you? I wouldn’t do that.” Five minutes later it clonked out again and we had to push it back. They just said “It cannot be fixed.” And that was it, the Shred Bus had died.

Shit. And how about injuries? Were there any bad ones this year?

JW: I broke my neck. I’d been working the whole of December and January for Forum, so I was itching to go. It was a powder day in Mayerhofen and when it brightened up we went to the park. All the tricks were coming back, so the next day – Valentine’s Day – we went up again. After a couple of hits I went for a backside 7 on the kicker, but I hit a rut on the transition which kind of spun me off to the side when I took off. I landed in the rubble on my heel edge, and as I whipped round all the weight went onto my neck. I thought there was something wrong with my shoulder or my arm at first. I managed to stand up OK, but when I got to the hospital the doctor figured out it was a joint in my neck. Three days later I had an operation where he cut my throat open, moved my windpipe and filled the injured joint with bone from my hip.

Woah! Does it feel better?

JW: It feels amazing! I’ve been in the gym and played tennis, trying to build it back up. If I hadn’t been wearing a back protector at the time it would’ve been way worse.

How many other broken bones went into the filming of The Playground?

CC: Ed Gunn dislocated his shoulder. Mark did his ankle in twice. And his shoulder.

JW: Oh and Evo [Ryan Evans]. He got Bell’s Palsy! His mouth was all twisted for two weeks! (laughs)

How did he manage that?!

JW: The girls say it was what he got up to at Snowbombing…

Are there any girls in the video?

JW: Yeah, Posy and Laura. I’ve been super impressed with how motivated they are.

CC: Laura Hill’s amazing!

JW: We went to do this super steep rail with 22 stairs – it’s well gnarly – and she did a front lip on it the first time we went there.

CC: And I got sent some shots of her recently back-lipping the infamous concrete ledge in Tignes. Proper stylie too, hands down…

What movie equipment have you invested in this year?

CC: We’ve got one Sony VX 2000 – plus the two Canon XM2s we were using last year.

JW: And 25 XXL basketball shirts! (laughs).

What have you been editing on?

CC: Adobe Premiere Pro, on a PC.

A snowboarder using a PC?!

CC: Yeah, well it’s what I learned on in college so I thought I’d stick with it.

What did you do at college?

CC: Film and video.

Are you trying to do anything original in terms of camera angles or editing?

CC: Not really, but the first thing everyone’s said when they’ve seen the footage is that the shot quality is much higher than before. We’ve learned a lot since last year, all the riders know each other better and plus I’ve been there nearly the whole time to keep an eye on filming, so the whole thing should be more coherent.

JW: Ellis’s stuff is pretty original.


JW: Pete Ellis is the guy that does the titles.

CC: We’re working on this idea where the titles are more 3D. So instead of the logos being a flat image, it looks like they’re right there on a mountain – like a polystyrene cut-out. You could have a rider stood next to one, or Jon could be sat on the Forum ‘f’ for instance.

JW: Or you could have Chatt sliding across the Ride logo. We’re keeping it all quiet at the moment though.

Wow, that sounds pretty tech! What’s Ellis’s background?

CC: He’s just finished a degree in computer game design in Birmingham. He uses about 6 programs to do everything, it’s mad.

JW: He went for a job interview the other day at some top graphics firm or other, and he took a copy of Hungerpain along to show them. They loved it, he got the job! I was stoked because one of my ideas in the beginning was that hopefully people would be able to use the Hungerpain thing to get into other areas. For instance I know that producing the film last year showed I could organize things and helped me land my job at Forum, and Mark’s been getting a lot of work filming for other vids recently. Hopefully the new film is gonna help Chris too.

How long’s the final film gonna be, before extras?

CC: 30 minutes, if that.

And how many hours of film have you discarded?

CC: I’ve been through about 50 tapes already, with anything up to 60 minutes footage per tape. A lot of that’s just banter though!

JW: We want to keep it tight, like Hungerpain was last year. Anything longer than 30 minutes and it starts to drag on. Even last year there were a few tricks that people realized afterwards didn’t need to be in, so we’re really working on that this year.

CC: Because most people don’t have their own parts there’s no need for any filler. It’s just bangers in the park, bangers in the powder and bangers on rails. There’s gonna be sooo many bonus features though. I’ve got a lot of funny stuff that needs to be stuck in there somehow, and there’s a lot of skate footage so we’re gonna have a bonus skate section.

Where did the name ‘Hungerpain’ come from?

JW: That’s easy. I was working in a care home and I was taking them on a trip down to Ashford. It was September I was sat in the car thinking about snowboarding, and the lengths you go to to get out there. Y’know, when you’re saving a few grand, winter seems ages away and you’re almost sick of everything in England. You’re so hungry for it, but it’s painful at the same time.

It kinda sums up life as a British snowboarder!

JW: Yeah, especially the ones who don’t get everything handed to them on a plate. Naming no names! (laughs)

So you’re the underdogs?

JW: Very much so, and I think we’ll remain it. Everyone in our film still has to work for six months a year to do it, none of us have much travel budget or anything – but they’re all really hungry. There are various UK riders who’ve been sponsored and who keep getting their faces in magazines and videos year after year – even though they don’t really push it ever. But I think that now a lot of team managers and brands are getting annoyed with that kind of rider; they’re seeing these kids that are actually trying to do something for themselves and they’re thinking that maybe they should get involved with them instead.

Would you say there’s a new wave of British riders coming through? Like Nate Kern coming from nowhere to win the Brits?

JW: There’s always been people that have turned up to the Brits and done well. But now it seems like there are a lot more British snowboarders who can ride really well. Plus with our video getting fresh faces out there, and all the other films, there’s less room for people to rest on their laurels.

Last word on the new movie then. Why should the readers check it out?

JW: It shows what’s possible if you and your crew decide to get up and do something.

CC: If you stub out those joints and go shredding! (laughs)


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