Interview Series: Riley Blakeway

Twenty-four year-old Riley Blakeway has already made a name for himself, impacting the the current surf industry with his influential directing style – those of you who are already familiar with his work are probably nodding in agreement as you read this. The Australian master lensman recently moved to Los Angeles and was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Read on as we chat with the somewhat elusive yet easy to converse with Riley about what he’s been getting into, what he plans on jumping into next as well as his current inspirations and perspectives.

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LF: Hey Riley! How are you? Can you give Live FAST Mag a quick update on your current projects, musings and day-dreams?

RB: I’m good! I had a crazy past six months working on commercial projects and I just finished up my 12 minute short film for Corona out in Australia. I’ve been keeping it more mellow then usual since I’ve been home in LA. Developing some short film ideas and working on a smaller scale project for Monster Children. I’ve got a little skate clip in the works too.  The post production on the Corona film took over a month so it’s been a nice change of pace this past couple weeks. I’m trying to get my head together before I take on another project that involved.

LF: Let’s talk about Team Average, where did the idea come from and are we gonna see a 3.0 this year?

RB: Team Average is Monster Children’s baby. I wasn’t involved with the first one but headed up the second trip. The premise is pretty simple – Put a bunch of talented and like-minded dudes on a bus and hit the road surfing, skateboarding and camping. It was fun as fuck and I’m glad I got to go along for the ride and document everything. Solid crew. I don’t know the details (about Team Average round three) but I hear it’s taking place in Sri Lanka and Mike Piscitelli is directing the film. I’m sure it’s going to be awesome.

LF: Can you describe the last adventure you went on?

RB: It feels like it’s been too long! I haven’t been exploring as much as usual this year because of the big move. I had 10 days in Mexico back in March but even that was pretty structured. My idea of an adventure is going somewhere unknown and being a little out of my comfort zone. I spent some time out in Detroit late last year and I think that was the most interesting place I’ve ever visited. I spent two weeks skating around the city and documenting an artist friend whilst he painted murals. It’s basically a big, lawless, abandoned playground but it can definitely be pretty sketchy too. I kinda like it for that reason but you don’t want to get caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time over there.

LF: If you could give the ladies one solid piece of dating advice, what would it be?

RB: Shit, that’s tough. I think it’s nice to meet a girl with a plan. I’m always attracted to girls that know what they want to get for dinner or what they want to see at the movies. It keeps me on my toes.

LF: Skateboarders or surfers, who’s harder to deal with? Why?

RB: I think the mindset is totally different between the two from a filming perspective. If you’re going out filming surfing, most of the time the surfer is going to be having a lot of fun and it’s pretty easy to get them motivated.  Skateboarding has a lot of variables and a lot of the time it’s painful trying to get everything to fall into place. Everything needs to come together at the right time. No injuries… shoes, board, wheels, trucks all need to be broken in but not worn out. Depending on the spot there’s traffic, security guards, pedestrians, bad weather… It goes on and on and it’s really temperamental in that way.  I’ve learned that sometimes you just can’t force things into place when shooting skateboarding and that you shouldn’t try to.  Skateboarders can get angry or whatever but it can be a total mind fuck at times and I can respect that.

LF: You’re definitely known for your surf films and cinematography but lately it looks like you’ve been rolling around on the skateboard. Hows that coming along, anything in the works for our fellow skateboarders?

RB: In a way, surfing brought me to film-making and I dreamed of being paid to make those films when I was younger.  Unfortunately I don’t get to surf too much these days but I had the opportunity to work on some surf stuff again recently in Mexico on the Corona project I just finished up.  I never really made a conscious decision to start making more film work with skateboarding, it just fell into place because most of my friends in Sydney are skateboarders and they always encouraged me to come out and film on the weekends and put clips together.  I just make films surrounding the things that I’m inspired by at that particular time in my life and naturally these things shift depending on my surroundings.  Anyways, in answer to your question – I’ve been shooting skateboarding as much as possible in my free time this year and I plan to put together another Dolphin Days when I have enough footage on ice.

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LF: What’s the most recent creative piece of inspiration you’ve encountered?

RB: There’s so much amazing and inspiring work released every day on the web, it’s impossible to keep up with trying to watch it all but there is so much brilliant film-making going on around the world.  I spend a lot of time trawling through Vimeo staff picks and probably way too much time watching movies but I find reading has been more thought provoking/inspiring for me recently. I read a lot of Brett Easton Ellis – I’ve almost read all of his books but I’ve been trying to space it out so I have something to look forward to! I enjoy the social commentary.

LF: You seem like a pretty busy person, what’s your down time like? Do you get any?

RB: Things are only getting busier but I’m good with that. My work is a lot more involved these days and the bigger the projects get it seems like the more time I have to spend on the computer. The time indoors can get me down but that’s the reality of working commercially for me. It’s more challenging in a lot of ways and I enjoy that as long as it funds my personal projects. I don’t think there is ever any downtime when your career is your life though.  Even if I take the day off I’m still thinking about an email I need to write or work that needs finishing.  The other side of that is that work is never work either and I make a living doing the thing I love most.

LF: We see a lot of people who are inspired by your film making, where do your inspirations come from?

RB: That’s cool to hear. Film is my passion and watching movies is what takes up most of my free time but I think more then anything I get inspired most by my friends. I’m most comfortable working with my close friends and a lot of them are very talented and interesting individuals. A lot of the time this is probably the reason why we become friends in the first place but my point is that for me, it takes a certain level of comfort and understanding between me and my subject to create what I consider to be good work that I’m proud of. The best example I can think of is the piece I made in one weekend recently with Josh Pall. Josh is a good friend and an amazing skateboarder but he’s also a very hard worker and we respect each other so it’s gratifying to dedicate my time to work with him. We are both there for the same reasons and I think it shows with the final product. This kind of collaboration is really important to me and my work.

LF: Who’s on your top 5 list of people to someday work with? (behind the lens or in front of it)

RB: That’s way too tough to answer. I’m just going to list 5 of my favourite living film Director’s: Spike Jonze, Mike Mills, Coen Brothers, P.T Anderson and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

LF: If you can only use one camera for the rest of your life (photo or video), what would you go with?

RB: Right now I gotta say the canon scoopic 16mm. My RED has been getting no love compared to that thing lately. So much fun and so simple. One fixed lens, no grips or external batteries or bells and whistles. Just good times.

LF: How fast do you live?

RB: Pretty slow as I haven’t been car shopping yet. My housemate let me borrow his bike so I’ve been zipping around West Hollywood on that but I wouldn’t call it fast.

It’s All Gucci…