Right here, right now, with Riley Blakeway
When you spend your life focused on capturing perfect moments, you learn when to drop everything and do what’s most important. Luckily for us, Sydney export, and more importantly, super talented filmmaker Riley Blakeway understands this. He hadn’t been in his new LA digs even an hour before sitting down to answer some pressing questions for BYO. He talks growing up around the world, documenting teenage debauchery and the art of capturing creative people.
Hey Riley, how’s it going? How’s life in LA treating you?
Hey, good, just got back from a shoot in NY/Utah and moved into my new spot in West Hollywood about 45 minutes ago.
You grew up between Sydney and California, and have recently headed stateside once again. How long since you last lived in Cali?
I spent most of my holidays in Sothern California growing up and shared my time between here and Aus in more recent years but I haven’t technically lived here since I was 14.
How do you think growing up between the two places has influenced you artistically?
I travelled my entire childhood and was fortunate enough to be exposed to a lot of things at a younger age then most. I think if anything it just made me more aware of my surroundings and life outside of the Australian town that I grew up in.
In the La Casa series that you shot for Corona, Natas Kaupas says that he got into typography because he had terrible handwriting as a child so his father taught him new forms; he went from one extreme to the other. What was your introduction to film like?
My Dad was a photo enthusiast when I was younger and had some decent equipment: A Panasonic video camera that took massive tapes and a canon AE-1. I was using them from as early as I can remember. Taking them out on the weekends and shooting my friends cause trouble. Jumping out of a otto bin and scaring people by the beach, toilet papering cars. Real childish shit that you do when your growing up but it’s my earliest memory of documenting.
You do a bit of photography, but your main focus is on film. What do you prefer about creating motion pictures?
Taking photos is a nice change of pace for me at times. Cinematography has been a bit of a Burdon with the current equipment I use so sometimes it’s nice to leave the house with nothing but a point and shoot. It will never prioritise over filmmaking though. There’s something about bringing sound and vision together that just makes sense. I feel as though it makes a lot of sense to my being but at the same time there’s endless possibilities with film. It’s a progressive learning curve.
Have you or will you ever consider making a feature length film?
Baby steps! I’m learning more and more with every project and having a lot of fun. I can’t even imagine how gratifying making something that substantial would be. Feature film directors are those I admire most.
In the past you have focused a lot on surfing, and more recently on skateboarding. Do you do either sport yourself? What interests you about capturing them on film?
I grew up surfing and skateboarding. My preference has shifted a little in past years but I still do both as much as possible. I relate to those worlds and I have a lot of respect for the dedication the people I document have for their life’s work.
I’ve noticed that the subjects of your work are mostly very creative people. What do you like about portraying their art through your own?
I think it comes down to understanding. As a creative I admire these people and I have a lot of fun creating work that best expresses their talents. We’re alike in the fact that we’re all very dedicated to our creative outlet and I think that common ground comes with a lot of trust.
In your film Team Average 2.0, you mention the different cultures of surfing and skating. Do you find the people you shoot vary greatly between places and across sports? Why did you enjoy shooting both skaters and surfers together in this project?
As Dylan mentions in the film, it’s a unique trip with characters from completely different worlds. The genres are different but again the understanding is there. They all share a connection as creatives in their own right. Monster Children came up with the idea two years ago and I think it’s a rad premise for a camping trip. It was a really good time.
If you could shoot any subject without limitations, what or who would you choose?
That question made my head spin. I don’t even know where to start.
Tell us a little bit about your most recent skate short, Dolphin Days which was shot in Redfern and surrounding areas.
It was a lot of fun! I called Josh and told him I had a weekend stopover in Sydney before heading out on a trip and that I wanted to film an entire clip. We went out all Saturday/Sunday and shot as much as we possibly could. It was a real simple premise but Josh is such an amazing skateboarder and he works really hard. His feet were destroyed by Sunday afternoon. Glad it paid off! He told me his mum loved it and I thought that was pretty awesome.
Finally, can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment? Or what’s up next?
I just finished up filming some stuff with Nixon over here in Utah and New York, I’ve got a 5 minute documentary shot on film about to come out, a 3 minute mini-doco on my friend Warren, a 10 minute red bull skate film and a few other shorts already finished. I’m directing a short film project for Monster Children/Corona later this month that I’m damn excited about. The plan is to just keep creating and stay busy!
You can check out some of Riley's stuff at www.rileyblakeway.com
By Vicki Fletcher