Trav Wardle is a skater, filmmaker and illustrator who produces documentaries, animations and music videos.
He’s got a solid perspective as a filmer and a unique set of opinions on creative production, skating and video making
So we caught up with him over Lockdown to find out how he got his first camera, making music videos for D Double E, short films with Sex Skateboards, Tim and Barry and Toddla T, animations for Long Live Southbank, influences and inspirations, his current setup, making videos for artists and brands, his favourite filmmakers, projects, skate videos and sections of all-time and much more.
Read Trav’s In Focus Interview below to find out for yourself
How did you first start filmmaking?
I was just completely obsessed about filmmaking from a very young age.I used to pour over images of cameras I’d see in catalogues as a kid in the mid 90s.
I saved all my pocket money in the hope I could afford one in the future. They were those absolutely terrible camcorders with the lens cap on a string and terrible built in fades, but they were wholly beautiful to me at the time. So when my family would borrow cameras off friends for holidays I loved using them.
I had books on video making techniques, like the ‘Making of Jurassic Park’ which I was really captivated by. It had all the film’s storyboards, behind the scenes shots, and full page features of all of the big camera set ups that they had used in the movie, which I didn’t understand at all the time and still don’t.
But I also had the same appetite to make comics and zines too. I just wanted to create visual things I could redefine as my own and give or sell to other people.
My fascination with all of these things refined itself and evolved as I got older and more heavily get into skateboarding. They both became a huge part of my life to the point skateboarding, filming and drawing was all I did. But skateboarding gave me an avenue to direct the appetite I had.
What was inspiring you at the time?
I spent a long amount of time spent watching skate videos and realised it was essentially the evolution of what I was doing anyway. You saw those guys didn’t have expensive unaffordable kit, they weren’t classically trained filmmakers, they were just using whatever cameras they had and filming people around them.
What was your first ever proper camera set up?
The first proper set up I got was a Sony VX2000. After that I got a PD 150, which is basically a more robust version of the VX2000.
Those were all ancient set ups, even at the time. This was a little bit before the DSLR boom when cameras suddenly became super high quality in tiny bodys, and everything stepped up a gear. For the first 4 or 5 years I shot a lot of events, music videos and brand stuff on those set ups.
It doesn’t look that bad now, has that kind of romantic 2000’s quality to it mixed with some motion graphics. I enjoy looking back at it.
But at the time though you had the heads who took it to the next level making the most amazing videos that stuck out in your head.
This really sparked a drive in me to just film absolutely everything that all of our crew was doing at the time.
What’s your favourite skate video from the UK and why?
What’s your favourite thing about Waiting for the World?
WFTW changed my life. I don’t say this lightly at all. I have never had anything that resonated with me as strongly as the first time I saw this video.
I am talking about a time in my life where I was first getting into skateboarding. If I saw skate videos it was always heavily USA driven skating.
Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but as a 11 year old seeing those perfect sunny skate spots, smooth concrete pavements and then trying to emulate this on skate spots in the UK all just felt really alien. Like very detached. We had bad tarmac paths, cracked roads and rugged spots that were wet half the time.
I loved skating but I just couldn’t fully attach myself to that skating. It wasn’t the world I was trying to navigate. Then when I saw WFTW everything changed.
There was acutely British architecture, streets, towns and cities. Broken benches, phone boxes and betting shops. Grey skies, wet run ups and council estates. Something clicked. I recognised what it was and felt an identity of being ‘British’ skater. Before that I didn’t realise that there was this whole scene out there.
I idolised that video. Everything it represented was everything I wanted to be. The soundtrack was perfect, bleak, dreary but poignant. It was a masterpiece.
What about First Broadcast?
First Broadcast was actually released in the era I was skating the most and again that video carried on doing perfectly what WFTW had started.
Blueprint was so important to me growing up. I am sure most UK skaters will say the same thing. That company encapsulated everything I love about British skating.
Something about Blueprint though really put an identity into my head and it’s stuck with me ever since
What were you filming at the time?
Mostly skateboarding but also documenting my whole adolescent life. I have a stack of about 150 DV tapes filled with footage of my life from age 12 onwards.
My first ever camera was an 8MM so I had about a year of that before getting my first DV Handycam.
That camera got absolutely rinsed for the next 5 years or so. It then came time after I finished school to decide the next direction I was going into. Skate videos had showed me that you could make a career from filming and documenting.So, I decided to go and study that.
In some ways that stripped away a lot of the magic behind it but it set me up to understand how to navigate that world and make money and a life from it.
I always had the energy to want to make things. add animations, odd titles and cuts.
I just didn’t know how the technology worked at that stage and was doing everything as naively and clandestine as my capabilities allowed.
So, I would be filming short films with friends, not really related to skating at all.
We would edit the whole film in camera just because I had no editing knowledge or any software, that came later on.
Who were your filmmaking inspirations growing up?
I was deeply inspired by the work of Terry Gilliam as my sister and I, we used to get shown a lot of Monty Python when we were young. Yellow Submarine, for example has definitely had an overwhelming effect on my illustration and animation work to this day.
What about making skate videos?
I pieced together skate videos using horrific VCR editing that you can do with the TV.
Even though it was the most laborious way of putting a video together we did that for our early skate videos.
What British skate brands inspired you growing up?
Unabomber Skateboards absolutely blew me away.
Headcleaner was such a brilliant video. Unabomber had such a banging team back then.
Death have consistently been keeping it real and doing as a proper skate company could for so many years now.
I was also equally mesmerised by the first Day In The City, as it was a great encapsulation of what it was to be a skateboarder in the UK.
It was a really fun and enjoyable documentation of UK skate culture at the time I still love watching Scott Palmer’s ender.
What do you like the most about creating animations?
I like to combine animation with live action and enjoy mixing it together.
I love the act of making animations. As I am an illustrator it makes sense to bring drawings to life and I literally find animation one of the most pure and beautiful forms of art, it feels like magic a lot of the times when you finally bring a bunch of drawings together to make it move, like giving life to still images.
It’s a pain staking process and its hard to try and pitch it out for projects because of the time scale that even the most simplest animations take,
I love to be able to create dynamic, interesting animations when the project allows and really enjoy the process behind it.
I would say the most amount of work I have ever put into anything would be a music video I created for the hip hop group Son Of Sam for their tune Flying Fist. I wanted to nod at old 60’s and 70’s psychedelic animation, particularly the work of an artist called Norman Mclaren
I created the whole video with hand drawn animation, it took absolutely endless amounts of time but the end result is something I am super happy with.
I would love to replicate the style with a new project. It culminates everything I have loved about the animation process and finishing in one short film.
What camera set up do you shoot on now and why?
Right now, I have a Sony RX 10 II. It’s perfect for things I shoot, like fly on the wall documentary style pieces, like the stuff for Sex Skateboards I shot recently.
This camera is fixed lens so I don’t need to worry about swapping lenses, I can pull it out and instantly start filming. The footage is absolutely beautiful. It shoots really lovely colours and grades beautifully. It’s light and easy. Shoots high frame rate too for really beautiful slow motion.
I have always been less about the technology and more about just shooting stuff with whatever is available and bringing it into post and really working on it.
What do you think makes a good skate filmer?
I admire dedicated skate filmers and have such respect for the countless hours they put into sitting in awkward positions to support a skater having a personal and physical battle.
The absolute pressure of capturing a perfect make is often preceded by hours of intense aggravation. Making sure not to fuck up the only one that matters. I love that. A good filmer is truly a golden thing. I’ve made a bunch of skate films and short edits. I also film for a skate shop and park down here in Devon.
My skate edits are way more advert and film style than the classic formula of a skate video. I don’t really shoot fisheye, usually shoot everything long lens and slow mo, it captures a vibe I really enjoy way more.
What have been some of the most memorable films to make?
That’s a hard question. There a few that have happened in different stages.
I would definitely say the stuff I shot for Sex Skateboards I’m really stoked on.
I got to film with one of my close friends Louis Slater who owns the brand, so that alone is obviously brilliant. It’s also nice to try and create something that isn’t just a standard skate film or isn’t just a standard lookbook.
I really like how those films came out.
I shot a really fun sort of day in the life with Timmy Garbett for Death a while back too, I was really happy how that came out, again a more documentary filmic piece revolving around skating but more about the person.
I worked for a long time with Tim and Barry and created a lot of films in the grime music scene. The most popular one is probably the D Double E ‘s Streetfighter video which I created all the animation for.
The Streetfighter video still seems to be the video in my archives people get stoked on the most. It was a heavy amount of work and many days and nights sat on a sofa at Tim’s house, literally 14 hour days, drinking lots of beer and intense use of Adobe After Effects.
We all knew it was going to be something heavy as the tune was so big, it ended up going absolutely mental when it dropped.
I’m really stoked to have had a major role in that video and still stoked on the work I did for it in terms of animation
We also worked on the advert for the Nike Grid campaign. Heads might remember that was a thing plastered all over London about 10 years ago, to try and get people running. The video was shot with Tempa T and again I created the animations and effects for it, working closely with Tim and Barry.
It was an education for me definitely as it was the first piece I had worked on that was being commissioned by a proper agency.
Loads of my personal favourite graphical bits were cut out due to length of the cut. it’s a good lesson to learn early on, how to navigate that world of working for larger clients and how to not get too emotionally attached to the work you do, as something you adore may just be cut straight out of it for something you hate.
Creative work always comes with this dichotomy of infinite freedom versus insane stress and anxiety, its a tight rope, I wouldn’t change it though.
Another favourite project would be the documentary I worked on with Dan Joyce ‘You Can Make History’.
I assisted him on shooting it and then created all the titles and some effects and grading. I just enjoyed that shoot so much.
The theme is extremely close to my heart and it was amazing to be a part of something that captures the history of such an iconic campaign as the LLSB one as well as such being part of the history of such an iconic place as Southbank.
It was also incredibly interesting to interview so many people from both sides, the skaters who ran and supported LLSB and the Southbank Centre themselves.
Learnt so much about the history of that place and it was a real pleasure to see it played on the big screen at at the premier and see it resonating. Also stoked to see the future looking positive for everyone working together now instead of the previous 6 years of battle.
I shot a day in the life with Toddla T years ago with my friend Callum. I’m still stoked on that one, although its super dated now in terms of production level and cameras, it was a proper fun shoot as anything with Toddla is.
He’s blown up so much since and I am stoked to see it, he has always been on of the humblest and friendly people I have ever met and definitely doesn’t have that huge ego attached that you mat find with a lot of famous DJs and producers.
There is so much work I have been lucky enough to have worked on, so much I am stoked on for various reasons so it is a really hard one to try and put down.
Do you have any other favourite skate videos by Dan Magee?
Lost and Found. Same again, soundtrack, editing, the way it flows and of course the groundbreaking skating.
Why’s Dan Wolfe one of your favourite skate filmmakers?
I love Dan Wolfe‘s videos. Got so much love for Eastern Exposure.
Closure is one of the best skate videos put together just purely because it captures so many eras in one film.
He has been about for so long filming with all of the most OG dudes out there.
Love the rawness of it all. Love east coast street skating and Dan obviously has captured that for so long so perfectly.
What’s your favourite American skate video?
The video showed this pinnacle of sort of skate celebrity, skate icons. Look at that video, it’s that crew at the peak of them being basically rock stars.
Skating so hard and so good but looking so fucking good doing it. Soundtrack, team and skating. Loved Baker growing up.
Also Flip’s Sorry, that video was just fucking gnarly.
What was your favourite thing about Flip’s Sorry video?
The Flip team at the time were so tight. There were those first glimpses of Penny’s skating when he put something new out again.
I wanted to skate like so many people on that video.
I ran home to watch it and go skate. Watched it 100 times that week. Rewound the tape so much it barely worked after a few months.
Who has your favourite skate video section and why?
I love Ali Boulala‘s 411 section and his Baker Bootleg bit,
Tom Penny in Menikmati
Drake Jones. I had mad love for when I first started seeing the early SF stuff.
Gonz in Video Days, Gonz in anything
Steve Olson in the Shortys video ‘Fu’lfill the Dream
Scott Palmer in WFTW
Harry Bastard in Headcleaner
Heath Kirchart in Sight Unseen
It could be the last section anyone ever put out ever in the history of the world and it would make sense..Just makes me happy to be a skateboarder so much.
Who are your favourite filmmakers outside of skateboarding?
To name a few –
Spike Jonze, for music videos and films.
The Coen Brothers
How have you been passing the time over lockdown?
My life is just a big juggling act between so many types of creative work, being a father, skateboarding and swimming as much as I can.
Cool. Anybody out there you want to give shoutouts to?
Mad love to anyone who enjoyed this I hope it resonates with. To everyone out there trying to find what they want in life, go for what you love and do it with full tenacity and commitment. It will happen. The universe provides. Love to you all.
Any last words Trav?
Learn early on that passion and energy will get you further than technique and education. Be humble, take any opportunity that comes up. Be stoked on what other people are doing but also be stoked on everything you do yourself.
Don’t be afraid to be proud of work you do, it isn’t being arrogant to be happy with something you have done.Take critique well. Try to avoid ever having a 9-5 that you don’t enjoy.
The saddest thing is to walk in a door one day and then walk out the same door like 40 years later. I hope that makes sense.