‘Build it’ is a project led by BMX rider Isaac Lesser and filmmaker Mike King. Set in the oldest skate park in the UK (and a grade II listed site), Rom Skate Park in Hornchurch, the video retraces Isaac’s efforts to re-invent the classic lines this park is used to seeing by building some new ones himself.
We’ve caught up with Isaac and Mike to find out more about their adventure.
What is 'Build It’?
IL: 'Build it' is an idea that myself and Mike came up with after we discussed some of the things I would like to do at Rom. After a while we realised that if we put our mind to getting these things done then it could be quite an interesting project and a good video.
MK: 'Build It' is a two part video project at Rom, a riding part and a story part, building ramps into an existing skate park is no new idea, but when your canvas is the oldest skate park in the UK, it’s certainly a little special.
What was your mission with this video?
IL: Obviously I wanted to get a few things ticked off at Rom, but the main thing was that I really wanted to put some work in and come out with something that stands out. I grew up watching DVDs where riders would spend years filming for a video part and I feel people don't appreciate things like that as much with 15 second Instagram videos and those awful webisode things. I wanted to really put some time and effort into a video and come out with something special. Hopefully all the hard work comes across in the video.
MK: Isaac and I had the same vision of what we wanted it to be, we didn’t want a typical video where you often end up improvising on the day, we wanted an end result that captivated some real time and effort, but ultimately the message was all about looking at things differently, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but Isaac and I both felt that a lot of content these days is extremely stale, what better way to encourage a fresh look on things than to use a park that has been around for almost 40 years?
Where did your inspiration for this project come from?
IL: I love riders who take their time to look at a set up and think of something different. Drew Bezansons videos were a major influence, I love the way he looks at a set up and will find a way to ride it completely different from the way it's meant to be ridden. Also Kriss Kyle and Alex Coleborn, both those guys are killing it and really put time and effort into their videos.
How does Rom compare to other parks you've ridden around the world?
IL: There is no other place like Rom, I feel lucky to have grown up riding that park. There is such a good atmosphere and it's so fun working out new lines and going fast round the whole park. I almost feel that if it wasn’t for Rom I would be a completely different rider.
MK: It isn’t your typical park, the classic 1970’s concrete is not forgiving at all, it’s rough and the transitions are quirky and different, but that’s just what is exciting about ROM, it’s grimy and hard work to ride. If you want a perfect transition then you can go and ride anything Fearless Ramps have built, but you don’t hop in a vintage car looking for cruise control and an easy ride do you? Visually it’s something special; filming at a park with so much history is a humbling experience.
What was the most fulfilling part of this project?
IL: I think the most fulfilling part was watching the finished video after Mike had edited it, I’d already seen the raw clips but Mike really killed it with the editing and it’s a crazy feeling putting so much work into something and seeing the end result.
MK: Any time you come away with a clip it’s enough, some days were easier than others, but I don’t think we ever left a day completely empty handed. Isaac works super hard and as the clips slowly stacked up, it was enough to give us motivation to persevere.
Did you feel out of your depth at any point?
IL: Yes definitely, some of the ideas I had in my head were things I'd imagined might be possible but when it came down to getting them done it was a lot more of a challenge than I had imagined, especially the ice over, that messed with my head.
MK: Not so much out of depth, but co-ordinating the project amongst some other big commitments was a big challenge.
What was the toughest thing you had to overcome for this project?
IL: By far the biggest challenge was coming straight back to filming some of the biggest things I've ever done after 3 months off the bike with a broken ankle. Situations like that are far more mental than physical, so it was pretty hard to overcome that and get the video finished.
MK: Again, probably Isaac and mine’s schedules; it was hard enough to juggle everything let alone before Isaac went down at NASS and broke his ankle, once those three summer months had been taken away from us the pressure was really on.
How would you describe the process of filming?
IL: Filming for this edit was different from other edits I've filmed because we really took our time, every clip required a lot of planning and setting up so most of the time it took a whole day to film each clip. We really wanted to make sure we had no filler clips in there.
MK: Sporadic. We’d get a day here, another day there and that’s just how it had to be, on the one hand it made the whole project very timely, but on the other it kept us excited to get back together and film the next thing without getting burned out or overwhelmed.
Who helped make the project possible?
IL: This project took a lot of work from a lot of different people, Animal in particular which helped out with some of the costs, Rom were down from the start and pretty much gave us the freedom to do what we wanted with the park, Fearless Ramps stepped in when we were struggling with building the ramps, and most of all Mikey for understanding what I wanted to achieve and making it happen.
MK: Animal jumped on board and were able to give us the control we needed with materials, Isaac and I were grateful for that. Then of course John at Rom, Jonnie Hicks, Legacy XS, the guys at Fearless and anyone that pushed the button on a second camera.
How was it filming with Mike?
IL: I've been friends with Mike for close to ten years now and he was the perfect guy to work with on this project. He’s an amazing rider himself so really understood the things I wanted to do and I didn't feel like I was wasting his time when it was taking hours for me to pull a trick.
And with Isaac, Mikey?
MK: It’s always a pleasure filming with Isaac. We’ve shot one or two things in the past and it’s always worked really good, Isaac’s patient with filming as stuff can often take a while and we’re always bouncing ideas off each other, it’s a good combination of things that make Isaac a great guy to film with aside from his ability on a bike.
How did you feel when you the last clip was shot?
IL: Kind of overwhelmed, this project was my main focus for over a year and as soon as I'd done the last clip it was a strange feeling knowing I wouldn't be working on it any more but I was so happy that we made it happen.
MK: Relieved I guess, but for me the work was just beginning!
Would you do anything different if there was a next time?
IL: Considering all the challenges we encountered while filming for this video I think we did pretty well. I'd probably have done a bit more research into building the ramps; luckily Fearless Ramps stepped in and helped us out. Oh and I would have avoided breaking my ankle!
MK: Haha, definitely invest a little more time into pre-planning, I remember the first day when we just had ramp diagrams scribbled on a bit of paper, John was pretty much like ‘yeah, that won’t be strong enough..’ We definitely did things pretty rogue!
What's next for you this year?
IL: I'm doing a few weeks of work at the moment then I’m off to Australia for two months, I don't really have a plan there, just to see a few friends travel about a bit and escape the English winter, I’ll hopefully be filming a video when I'm over there as well.
Finally, big thanks have to go to Isaac and Mikey from Animal. It’s been an awesome project to be involved with and we’re stoked to see you guys pushing the limits of Rom and building on its legendary heritage.