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How an Iconic Bootmaker Welcomed Football to Venice (Beach)



Superprime Films director Ben Quinn and his son Billy discuss the Venice Beach FC x Pantofola D’Oro collaboration that captures the beauty of the beautiful game

How an Iconic Bootmaker Welcomed Football to Venice (Beach)

“It’s called the beautiful game, but I think that beauty is more ephemeral. To bottle it, you have to look outside the pitch as well as on.” Ben Quinn’s spot for ‘Venice Beach FC x Pantofola D’Oro’ distils the emotion and characters behind the world’s most popular sport, through a Californian lens that features lowriders, tough street-ballers and, of course, a passionate Italian man waxing lyrical about the magic of football.

A true family effort, Superprime Films' Ben Quinn created, directed and shot the ‘Welcome to Venice’ film with his son Billy - and it even features his daughter too. Made for Venice Beach Football Club’s collaboration with legendary bootmaker Pantofola D’Oro, the film explores the dynamic culture around Venice Beach, California, and draws comparisons between the palm tree-laden, skateboarding paradise with Italy’s own Venice.

Ben describes it as a “cathartic and liberating process” to work with his son - an aspiring footballer at VBFC himself - and treated the process as an opportunity to show him the filmmaking ropes… joking that it’s not just a summer activity to get him out of the house and “away from bloody FIFA.”

Speaking with LBB’s Ben Conway, the director and his son share their favourite moments from the filmmaking process and discuss building a DIY smoke machine, capturing the diversity of Venice Beach’s many communities and juxtaposing this all with an iconic Italian brand.

LBB> How and when did you get involved with this project? Did VBFC reach out after seeing your ‘Quarantine Football’ film?

Ben> The guys from VBFC reached out to me after seeing Quarantine Football, saying that a lot of people were touched by what Billy had to say and that that little film spoke to many at the time, which was really sweet. After meeting them, it was evident that VBFC has a much more sensitive and artistic core than most clubs. They want to approach things in a different way, be it the way they play, teach or communicate. Their emphasis on youth and community resonated with me.

LBB> What are your first footballing memories? 

Ben> I sat under my dad's arms at matches a lot when I was a kid, but my most treasured memory is actually taking Billy to see Arsenal for his first cup final. Bloody Chelsea equalised just before halftime, and Billy burst into tears. The whole crowd around us lifted him up and said, “It’s alright little man, you’re a Gooner!” Aaron Ramsay ended up scoring the winner in the second half, thank god. It makes me teary just thinking about it…


LBB> How involved are you personally with VBFC? What is the football scene like in the area and California more widely, as compared to the rest of the country?

Ben> I have no official title, but I do offer a lot of creative ideas and advice to them. From a creative point of view, VBFC is just an interesting subject, and it’s a joy to point a camera at it. VBFC reflects the diversity of the community and the game, and not all youth ‘soccer’ clubs in America do. The ‘pay to play’ model excludes people that need sports the most, in turn ignoring a huge pool of talented athletes that could go on to play at a high level. VBFC is determined to play outside that system. And if I can help them in any way achieve that, then I’m cool.


LBB> What initial ideas came to you for the film? What were some key shots that were instantly put on the shot list?

Ben> VBFC just asked me to make something to celebrate the collaboration. It all seemed to unfold naturally.

The juxtaposition of an iconic Italian brand and Venice, California, was an obvious path. It seemed almost as if there had been a mix-up, and Pantafola had collaborated with the wrong Venice. We took that ball and ran with it. No permits, no crew, no scouts or casting agents. It’s just people and places in the community that we know. The guys with the low riders. Parents of Billy’s friends. Billy’s teammates and people that love the club. The guy in full Gucci drip was a random guy that we asked to participate. The Vespa and the skateboards were shot before I knew what form the film would take. 

To be honest, I was writing and shooting as we went along. There wasn’t a shooting script as such, and instead, I found it in the edit. 


LBB> What was your tech set-up for the shoot(s)? What cameras/lenses etc. did you use and why?

Ben> Ha! Tech set-up might be overstating it. It was a Blackmagic pocket cinema camera, and some Leica R stills lenses that I have had for years. I even occasionally used a tripod! We made a smoke machine from parts available at Home Depot, and there was one battery-powered light on the back of the truck we hung out of for the Vespa scene. Not very technical. I thought of using a gimbal, but it was too confusing to put it together, so I put it back in the box and gave it back to the guy I borrowed it from. 

I’m not the best DP, to be honest.

LBB> Where did the interview/voiceover come from? How did you use this to structure and influence the rest of the spot?

Ben> We had the idea to talk about Venice, Italy, while showing Venice, California - so I just wrote lines that we could easily contrast and shoot. E.g, fashion and automobiles. The only regret I have is not shooting a line we had about fine Venetian leather. There was this old sun-beaten, leathery man that we were going to film at the beach, but he chickened out on the day! He would have been great.

Once I had some sort of script written, I looked for an old Italian man to read it. We didn’t really have a budget, so I only had one guy to choose from! Luckily, Carlos was excellent. I wallpapered a section of my office and put up some lamps I bought from Amazon - made it a little studio and shot it in there.

I’m not a good production designer either. 

LBB> You describe VBFC as having a “punk rock spirit” - why is that? And how did you go about representing this in the spot?

Ben> The punk rock spirit is part of Venice’s DNA. The Suicidal Tendencies are from Venice, and the f*** you attitude of the dog town skaters is not a million miles from VBFC’s core. VBFC’s desire to work outside the system of US football is an example of that lineage. They have such an artistic freedom about them, which is special. I can’t think of another football club with a similar vibe.


LBB> Many of the shots are essentially portraits of different people in Venice Beach - was this always the direction you wanted to go in? Also, the actual footage of football is used relatively sparingly. Why is that?

Ben> Honestly, I think capturing the emotions of people who love football is often as exciting as the game itself. Like, you could stand facing the crowd at River Plate or Elland Road and understand what was happening on the field just by listening and looking at the faces of the people. VBFC is so much more than football. I wanted to reflect that.

Obviously, it’s called the beautiful game, but I think that beauty is more ephemeral, and to bottle it, you have to look outside the pitch as well as on.


LBB> You capture the intensity and passion of street football really well - how did you do this? Did you have to do much ‘directing’ or were the players fired up on their own?

Ben> It was a bit of both. I asked two players that I knew weren’t the best of friends to argue. It turned into a full-blown fistfight. But other than that, that’s the game that happens every Sunday afternoon. That’s just how passionate and beautiful it is. 


LBB> The child praying in front of Johann Cruyff and other footballer icons is a personal favourite shot - how did this come about? What’s your favourite shot in the final cut?

Ben> That’s my daughter, Frankie. She plays for VBFC too. It just seemed like a nice way to capture the passion that most supporters have for football and also that nostalgic love for a brand like Pantafola. All those players wore their boots back in the day. Obviously, Frankie doesn’t actually have an altar that she uses, and she prefers Bergkamp to Cruyff anyway. 


LBB> Billy, what was the experience like of working with your dad on this project? And would you like to be a filmmaker too one day?


Billy> Growing up in Venice, going to school in Venice, and playing football in Venice, Venice is my home. So having the opportunity to blend two of the things I love most (football and filmmaking), and be able to work with and learn from my dad over the summer, making a film about Venice and VBFC, was a really special experience. 

The main thing I learned from this project was how light affects the shot, and how one can manipulate the light to get that slight contrast on the subject's face or add a bit of an edge to a shot. I’d often use a plain reflector during this project, whether to absorb a bit of light or add a more dynamic feel. I was also in charge of preparing the lenses for when we needed to swap; we generally rotated between 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm.

I’ve always dreamed of being a footballer, so that is my goal. That being said, filmmaking is another major hobby of mine. Whenever I have a minute, I’ll sit down and have a little think about any projects I could make - whether it be a 15-second ad for school, or editing my highlight reel. If I could find a way to merge those two things into my life, that’d be the dream. 

LBB> And how has VBFC impacted your life? Which position do you play in and what are your footballing goals?

Billy> Being born and raised in north London as an Arsenal fan, naturally, I have a poster of Thierry Henry in my bedroom. I’m a striker with the dream of playing for Arsenal. VBFC has probably been the biggest factor in my footballing over the past few years. I first met Tim [Walsh] and Dillon [Chapman, VBFC founders] just before lockdown started in 2020, and since then, they’ve really taken me under their wing and looked out for me, on the pitch and off. They’re also the coaches of my school. We managed to end the school's 50-year trophy drought and brought home the city championship; on top of this, I equalled the school’s goalscoring record in a single season with 19 goals.

LBB> Which part did you have the most fun filming and why?

Billy> The scene with the Vespa and trailing skaters was definitely my favourite scene and the most fun to film. We scoured the area for a Vespa, made our own smoke machine out of a propane garden fogger that we filled with mineral oil, rounded up as many local skaters as we could find, and invited anyone that had some sort of weird scooter/skateboard. We shot for about an hour and a half with genuine smiles throughout the scene, and it shows in the film.

LBB> And finally… Ben, what does it mean to be able to work on a project with your son? Why is this particular project an ideal spot to collaborate with him on?

Ben> We have made about six films together so far. Four are ideas that he wrote, and I shot for him - and gave him advice on how to achieve what was in his head. I personally love working for him. It’s nice to potter around and make things with no stress and no stakes. While he’s learning how to write and direct and I’m learning how to light. It’s a very cathartic and liberating process for me. I’m very proud of him and the way he thinks.

Making this spot was great because he has been in rehab for an injury and had nothing to do in the summer holidays, so it was good to get him out of the house and away from bloody FIFA.

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Superprime Films, Wed, 14 Sep 2022 17:49:00 GMT