Interview: Greg Hunt on his Video Retrospective X House of Vans Detroit
In celebration of the Ten-Year Anniversary of Alien Workshop’s Mind Field film, directed by Greg Hunt, House of Vans will present a Video Retrospective on Saturday, January 26th. RSVP here, attendance is free, and capacity is limited.
Over the years, Greg Hunt has proved his strengths in many different aspects of the skateboarding industry be it skater, videographer, photographer, or director. Hunt is the man behind the camera for some of skateboarding’s most iconic companies, even the household name of Vans tapped him for their first ever full-length video. His creativity shines brightly through his work, which stands out as some of the most personal and intimate representations of the people and places he documents.
Hunt grew up in Ann Arbor, MI, and is coming back to his home state to showcase some of his work with fellow midwestern skate company, Alien Workshop.
After moving to California and becoming a professional skateboarder in 1996, Hunt soon shifted his main focus from being in front of the camera to holding the camera. He assisted with filming and editing for his first professional sponsor, Stereo Skateboards, and built his reputation working with other companies such as Transworld Skateboarding magazine, DC Shoes, and Alien Workshop. Hunt went on to direct the first and only full length skate video for Vans, Propeller (2015), perhaps the oldest company synonymous with skateboarding.
Read our interview with Hunt about his upcoming showcase at the House of Vans Detroit, which will highlight his work from 2005-2008 focusing on the influence of documentary photography and his process of capturing people as they are during the creation of Mind Field, a skateboarding film for Alien Workshop. Hunt will also have photos on display as well as a light table with 16mm film to view and the film itself playing on an NTSC TV from the original master.
Do you have any previous experiences in Detroit, skating or otherwise?
Greg Hunt: I grew up in Ann Arbor, but I never skated Detroit proper much to be honest. I had a bunch of friends from there but we only went into the city a couple of times. Funny because it’s only 45 min away, but when you’re 16 that’s pretty far.
What are you favorite memories growing up skating in Ann Arbor?
GH: I feel lucky to have grown up in Ann Arbor. There was such a good skate scene there, really amazing older guys who were cool and just ripped and also lots of skaters my age that skated all the time. The U of M campus was so good, the business school especially. I sort of grew up at the business school, I probably spent more time there than anywhere else.
Do you have any favorite Midwest or even Michigan native skaters?
GH: There are so many from when I was a kid. The Dirty Boys, Martin and Trevor, were legendary! Local Ann Arbor skaters. Also Dave Tuck, R.I.P. Dirty Dave Campbell, he could do a hospital into a vert ramp. If you don’t know what that trick is, look it up. He really could do that. All the Toledo guys were incredible back in the day. The Aldrich brothers and this kid Dana, they would come up and just blow my mind also.
As a midwesterner, it’s really cool to see such an iconic company, Alien Workshop, come out of the Midwest when the entire industry was located on one of the coasts. Were you conscious of that midwestern connection when you started working with Alien?
GH: Yeah of course. I’d already struck a friendship with Chris Carter, one of the founders of Workshop, before I worked there. Ohio and Michigan were a bit more separated when I was a kid, but I always felt a connection with the Workshop.
What was it like coming into the Alien camp from TWS and when did you really feel you fit in?
GH: I actually came to Alien from DC Shoes. I’d just made a big video for them but was looking to make something more personal. It felt natural to transition over, I had clicked with a lot of the team guys already.
Can you elaborate on how you learned to work with aesthetics of various companies while maintaining your original artistic vision?
GH: People have asked me that before and I don’t really know how to answer. I never took brand aesthetic into much consideration. Maybe with the Workshop I did, but a lot of that was work that Mike Hill and Chad Bowers did while I was editing. I just like to shoot things I’m excited about and use my instincts when I’m cutting it together.
I heard that you met J Mascis during the making of Mind Field. Did you personally meet him to ask for the rights to his songs for the video?
GH: Yeah, he already had a connection with Alien so that made it a lot easier. We mostly dealt with his manager, but J was down to be in the video so we went out to his home in Amherst. I was so intimidated but he was so cool. It was the day after Obama’s won the 2008 election so everyone was happy. I showed him the rough cut of Omar Salazar’s part with his song in it on my phone and he said “whooo!” really quietly. That was epic.
When you were filming for Mind Field, where do you think you envisioned yourself in ten years?
GH: I don’t know. Maybe not where I am now. I don’t think I thought about it much.
Do you think Mind Field captures the time and skaters as they were and still are?
GH: I hope it completely captures both of those things. That was my intention from the beginning, to capture the guys as they are. So I carried either a still camera or super 8 or 16mm camera with me at all times, even when I was driving. I wanted to document everything and have it all feel very candid.
What was the craziest/favorite experience while filming Mind Field?
GH: Probably nearly every time I filmed Heath Kirchart. There are too many stories but he was the best to film with, totally unlike anyone else. Also the last year of that video, 2008 was all really intense and memorable, right down to the editing at the end.
Do you view creating skate videos as documentary work?
GH: Yeah, I do see them as documentaries. But unlike documentaries I give the skaters almost full say on what goes in and how their segment is edited. It’s about them, not me. So that’s a lot different from the typical documentary. When you’re choosing to shoot photos vs. shooting video for skating, do you know ahead of time if you would rather capture certain tricks or moments on video or as a picture? Or is it for the most part spur of the moment?
What are you favorite documentary works outside of skateboarding?
GH: I am a big Errol Morris fan, I love most of his films. War Photographer is incredible. There’s an old documentary called 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s that is amazing. I love the 70’s/80’s docs. Streetwise, that film is special.
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