New Talent: Riley Blakeway
“It’s alive and it feels like watching a memory,” says Riley Blakeway of shooting with film. It’s refreshing to hear the director, who has recently signed with Kiwi production company Robber’s Dog, say such a thing because it’s a notion that evoked within us at LBB when watching his films, both film and digital. His love of surfing and skateboarding have fed into Riley’s penchant for building authentic stories with beautiful natural light, and his films have racked up over half a dozen Vimeo staff picks. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with him to find out more.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?
RB> I was born in Sydney and went to high school in Aus but I spent a lot of time visiting my mother in California as a kid. I had an interesting childhood. I was never really grounded, I moved around a lot between countries and schools. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and I’ve always been active and creating.
LBB> How do Australia and the US/California differ creatively? And how are they similar?
RB> Creatively, I think the biggest difference is the mentality. In Australia, generally you grow up with an innate humility. This is probably due to small poppy syndrome. In America, or California specifically, I think there’s a lot more confidence and openness in the way people work. Australians are generally more the quiet achievers.
LBB> You live in LA now – why the move?
RB> I was working with a lot of US clients and talent before the move and I still had a lot of relationships with some of the people I grew up with out here. The timing just felt right and it was always a goal of mine to live and work out here. Hard to believe it’s almost been two years. The summer was harsh living in the city but it really suits me out here.
LBB> Skating’s a big part of your life - how did you first get into it? What was it about the sport that appealed to you?
RB> It’s honestly probably a bit too much of a distraction at times! But I love it and it keeps me sane. I actually started skating kind of late. I came out filming with some friends in Sydney a couple of times and I was hooked. I like the mental challenge. Working over and over at something until you get it can be really therapeutic. I go crazy if I’m not outdoors a few hours a day.
LBB> How does it influence your work as a director? Not just in the kind of content that you produce, but also your approach to it…
RB> Apart from the obvious, I think it definitely influences my style and approach. I try to keep things authentic and honest and I think a lot of that is influenced by skateboarding culture. My taste in music has definitely been influenced by skate videos.
LBB> When did you first realise you wanted to be a director?
RB> I’ve always used image making to express myself creatively. I’ve shot stills and video since the age of nine or 10 and in high school I discovered more about creating moving images and putting together edits. Back then I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to create or say but I was hooked. I’ve always loved time-based art and wanted to create films.
LBB> I love the lighting and cinematography in all of your films – what is your approach like to that side of filmmaking?
RB> I feel as though my surf/skate background has influenced me to work mostly with available light and that now transcends across all of my work. I’ve shot most of my own work to date, composing photos and framing shots has always been fun for me. It’s taken a backseat to directing now but I’m proud of my background.
LBB> I really dig the use of Super 8 and 16MM in ‘Nothing Stops Detroit’ too. Why did you decide to shoot it that way? How does experimenting with different cameras and techniques guide your work?
RB> I love shooting film. Especially 16mm. It’s a look that cannot be emulated in my opinion. It’s alive and it feels like watching a memory. There are a lot of camera movements that are forgivable with film that just don’t look the same on digital. I try to shoot at least one or two film projects a year. The decision to shoot film in Detroit was partly because it was too risky to be carrying expensive camera gear and getting robbed.
LBB> A lot of your commercial work is longer format content – are you looking to dive into more traditional ads? What are you most looking forward to about that?
RB> Definitely. I’d love to work on some more concise commercial work. I think it’s going to be a fun challenge to tell a compelling story in that space of time.
LBB> You’ve just signed with Robber’s Dog – how’s it going? Why were they a good fit for you?
RB> It’s great! Everyone has been awesome to get to know. We go back and forth on ideas and things that I’m working on and they’re always down to help me on my personal projects and talk through ideas. They make great work and I think it’s the perfect home for me to branch out into more traditional commercial work.
LBB> Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
RB> That’s tough but I have to say ‘Light Therapy’. It was a really meaningful project for me to go back to my roots and make a surf film after a three-year hiatus. My girlfriend composed a beautiful score for the film and we worked so hard on it together. It just won ‘Best Short Film’ and ‘Best cinematography’ at a festival in Brazil last week.
LBB> What’s up next for you?
RB> I’m currently editing a music video for a band I really like called Night Beats. It will be released next week.
LBB> Corny question alert… where do you see yourself in 10 years?
RB> I have a hard time planning a month in advance. Let alone 10 years!
Genre: Documentary , Photography