"Mixed Media" by Grey Skatemag

Carhartt WIP invited Grey Skate Mag to Italy in February to cover the second filming mission for its upcoming full-length video. Soon after we left our friends in Milan and Turin in late February, coronavirus hit Italy hard. Hopefully by the time you read this, things have improved there, but at the time of writing the country is under a strictly enforced lockdown, many people are dying and the national health service is overwhelmed. We asked Milan-based photographer Federico Casella – who showed us around in February – to document the city under lockdown and also asked him some questions about life over there. You can check out this article at greyskatemag.com. We wanted to focus here on some positives: Carhartt’s full-length video project, our time visiting Pepe Tirelli in his beautiful hometown of Turin, and our trip to one of Europe’s rising skate destinations, Milan.

Pepe, who is currently struggling with social distancing in his apartment in Turin – “I wish I could say I’m painting and producing a lot, but these boring lockdown days look pretty similar to each other” – was stoked to be asked to host his teammates in his hometown: “I love how being with guys that never lived and skated your own city makes you see it from a different point of view.” Turin, less popular with visiting teams and skate tourists than Milan and Naples because it’s “way colder and darker,” according to Pepe, has a strong, tight-knit skate scene and lots of really cool spots. “We even found some new ones,” added Pepe. Like the Wembley gap we made at Porta Palazzo (check Tolia’s ollie elsewhere in this Feature): “I pass by that square really often and I’d never thought about lifting that barrier to create that gap! That’s why it’s the best to have foreign skaters at yours, they see what you were never able to see.” Of all the visiting teammates, Max Palmer, who Pepe had never met before, was his favorite: “ His way of seeing spots is different to most skaters and his style is really aesthetically pleasing. Plus he has so much energy, battling for hours and always acting pretty calm.” Pepe's tips for visitors include: “Go to the Egyptian Museum, curse on The Shroud of Turin and get drunk at Murazzi” (del Po, a riverside area with bars and clubs). And skate spots? The plaza (Valdo Fusi) is central and a good place to meet for beers. Otherwise, Pepe loves to cruise the Porta Palazzo market area and deeper in the downtown Barriera.

Pepe’s crew – people like photographer and filmmaker Alberto Della Beffa in Turin and photographer Federico Casella in Milan – were an important part of our visit and the wider project. As Joseph Biais (Carhartt WIP), who is producing the video, was keen to point out: “I want to focus on… the crew vibe, everybody skating the same spots together, connecting with the local crew, and getting deeper into each skater’s hometown… Like for instance for Italy and Pepe, we visited him in Turin where he has been living his whole life, we skated with his crew every day, they showed us around, skated the classic spots but also the other ones where you’d usually not stop, went to his friend’s restaurant, etc… Those are the things that we want to translate somehow, the things that make skateboarding and being part of a scene so special.”

We used public transport and our boards to get around Turin and Milan rather than a van. Not ideal for media types with heavy equipment (more on that later) but as Joseph explained, there are many benefits: “It gives you the chance to hang with the locals at the spot or somewhere at the end of the day if you feel like staying out vs everybody having to get in the van to go back to the Airbnb / hotel… everybody is a bit independent, which can be nice…” In addition to the social aspect, using public transport allows for more spontaneous spot hunting: “You get to find and skate way more spots when you... take the bus or tram, it is easier to do a quick stop or to explore deeper,” Joseph added.

The project will focus on a few key riders and their hometowns: Felipe Bartolomé in Madrid (check the recent Free article for a summary of that mission), Max Palmer and Andrew Wilson in NYC, Matlok Bennett-Jones in London, a mix of skaters living in Paris and Pepe in Turin. Milan was added to our Italian itinerary because: “It's just two hours from Turin... Every scene in Italy is somehow connected and everyone is close and a friend to each other," explained Pepe. Aside from those featured skaters, Joseph will be inviting people like Jack O’Grady, Josh Pall, Ibu Sanyang, Michal Juras, and Jonas Skroder along on these trips too.

I asked Joseph about the economic viability of producing a full-length video in 2020 (Carhartt’s first since Spektra in 2008). “If you compare the number of views for an Insta clip filmed at the local spot... vs spending a decent amount of money to really produce a skate movie, it makes more sense to just post Insta clips.” But the investment is worthwhile on many other levels, according to Joseph. Through this project he gets to work more closely with skaters, filmers, photographers, and magazines, share experiences and struggles, which is positive on a human level and also beneficial within the industry. The full-length format lets you really show how a skater skates: style, environment, trick selection, soundtrack… explained Joseph, and: “gives enough space for creativity, to develop a concept and a style.”

Which brings us neatly on to the filmmakers. While Joseph asked us to keep the wider concept under wraps for obvious reasons, we can let you know that Joaquim Bayle – a commercial and music video director who used to shoot skateboarding (you may have seen his Öctagon edits) – is directing the project and working with filmmaker Romain Batard and DP Angelo Marques. “We are working well as a team... we trust each other and the three of us are all bringing something different to the table,” said Joaquim. “I get to do what I wanna do, with a few directions from them,” added Romain. When I posted a photo of Felipe holding Angelo’s camera on Grey’s Instagram story, I got lots of DMs from filmmaker friends asking about the project and who owned the camera. “One of our main set-ups is shooting video on S16mm format using an old French Aaton camera and a few Zeiss MKI fast lenses from the mid-’70s…”, explained Joaquim. Footage from this set up will be combined with analog stills in a mixed media approach:

“We wanted to have a texture that brings a timeless look to the film. Using film in both still and motion picture formats was the ideal technique...The mixed-media approach is just another visual concept, which I think portrays skateboarding so well. It has a random and messy feeling to it, which I find pretty much similar to a skate session...”

Coronavirus has of course postponed the project. "The pandemic made me cancel a Paris trip so far and has also put on hold every other mission that has been planned but not booked yet," explained Joseph. "Now it is a matter of how long this is gonna be and how much it could delay the production." We hope not too long.

We'd like to end by sending our best wishes to all our friends in Italy. Stay strong. Hopefully things will get better soon.