An interview with Rios Crew filmer Bálint Bence

For three weeks in May I went to visit the Rios Crew. They were kind enough to show me Budapest from their perspective, and took me to great hills, bars, and countryside spots. I took photographs during my trip, and made an interview from my conversations with Bence. What follows is a discussion that stretched over the three weeks, in which we touch on editing, soundtracks, and recent video releases. I have edited the interview sparingly so that hopefully it retains a Hungarian lilt.

csucsu-slappy-tail-(1-of-1)---CopyCsucsu Slappy Tailslide. Photo: Zhang Gee

How did the Rios Crew edits gain international attention?

We don’t know why we have this kind of attention from web magazines and blogs etc. We don’t skate as good as other people in the EU. We are just a simple independent sk8er group from Hungary, but I guess, thanks to the internet, that we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to represent our country to the world. Budapest is an undiscovered place for other sk8ers from around the world.

The spicy thing about our videos is that we try not to skate the same spot twice!! The edits never have the Deja vu feeling. The other thing is that all of the spots where we usually get footage are kind of sketchy and the ground in Budapest is also rough. Perhaps that’s why it has made others curious.

Both Palomino & Grey support the crew by posting all of the new releases on their blogs. They have a super cool selection from the World Wide Web sk8 videos. It’s so appreciated that they always put our stuff there, we feel so proud, [laughs] it is kind of funny to see our videos next to bangers!

We have the connection with Henry from last summer’s Vladimir film fest (Fazana, Croatia). He also was a participant like us and made a great exhibition in Pula (5 years anniversary of Grey). So we got acquainted with him there. He is such a cool person and he was so inquisitive about us. In our last days Nicola, organizer of the event, conducted a trip to an abandoned WW2 fortress next to the sea. We went there together with the other conveners like Richard Hart, Aymeric Nocus, Yoan Taillander (Minuit), Will Harmon, and a bunch of other really good people!! On that occasion, Henry shot a super sick photo of Kistomzon that he later published in Grey skate mag vol.3 issue 3. That was the 1st appearance of a Rios crew member in a European mag. Cheers Henry!

I just got in touch with Nick from Palomino via social media. He wanted to swap a shirt, so we made an exchange!! He sent a Palomino shirt – I sent back a Rios shirt!! I hope in the future we will have the opportunity to meet with Nick in person, and of course once more with Henry.

What do you think makes the Rios edits stand out? Is it the spots, tricks, or how they are filmed?

Perhaps a mixture of all these things, and the soundtracks. I dig a lot music with John Glenn. There has to be a cool atmosphere besides the visual elements. Complete shit. Full concept! (joking). Of course the city itself renders a lot to the edits unique. So much history exudes from them. We try not following any trends, just raw shit from the streets. “Real recognize real” [laughs].

Would you tell me a bit about how you and Glenn find spots on google maps? Does this method work?

As I mentioned earlier, we never go back to the same spots again. It’s an unwritten rule in our midst. It’s a little bit boring when you are watching a video and the same spots turn up all the time. We like to explore the city, but it’s not even possible always with a sk8board. Budapest is rather a huge city. We have lot of members in the crew – which makes it more difficult to observe the “rule”. We tire of always going out in the same direction. Maybe it is because we always meet at the same place. The simple lets go skating and get footage is not even working anymore, because we have made a lot of videos and don’t want to return to “already skated” spots. We really got bored of the downtown. We have to wait for the government to make new things. [Laughs] actually this summer they are building brand new squares and parks, so new spots are coming!!

To be honest the google maps spot searching is really working!! The idea came from Glenn’s mind, after we ran out of downtown spots. We can’t skate in the winter, so that’s when he has a lot of time to walk around “online”. He is collecting crazy unseen spots. He actually roams the whole city. He has in his collection all types of places like downhills, places in the outskirts, and sometimes undiscovered downtown places. We have already visited much of them. He sometimes finds like a hundred spots in one night… [laughs]. He is kind of obsessed with it. It’s way easier to pick up spots from a list with pictures. He is looking at spots for each member of the crew (hunky-dory).

Many Rios members have picked up the habit from Glenn and are searching for spots from maps. Anyway, we make a list from the chosen spots, make a route planner… and go!!!! Once in a blue moon the spot looks different in real life.

Balek-OllieMátyás Ricsi Ollie. Photo: Zhang Gee

Would you talk a little bit about editing the videos with Glenn?

The process starts before we sit down to edit. We are always thinking ahead and trying to ponder what music and “cut scene” we would like to present for a new video, but sometimes it comes up naturally.

The citizens reactions are important to us, to show what kind of people we join in a public space/ or situation. You never know what will be happening, but the best and weird things always happen when the camera has just been turned off – or the cassette just gets full. The schema for editing is almost the same every time. I always make a raw edit with all of the captured footage. After that we start the editing process – try to make it tight with the tunes that we have selected before.

It’s so hard to do the process with a lot of people, because everybody has their own idea about how to make it. Sometimes it works, but in effect the best way is to make it alone or with a small crew. It’s easier to have healthy discussions and conversations about it all. The point is, nobody is disappointed by the end result. I always get nice feedback from the crew when I show the end result. They trust me. There are members who never want to see it before it gets online. And of course we always have a small premier at Glenn’s place before we upload it online.

Do you think that the Hungarian citizens react differently to skaters if there is a camera following? Does it lend an air of legitimacy to your actions?

No way!!! It’s just a good chance to get more attention from the citizens. A lot people have nothing to do or just get out of bed on the wrong side – it’s a nice chance to dispute. Just imagine, they think you are such an asshole because the skater is not just “destroying” the ledges etc., but someone is also making documentation from it. It’s weird for an outsider.

In Hungary they really haven’t seen this kind of activity. They believe that we are like crappy street kids (they are not far away from the truth). But if you are skating for a long time you can pay attention to the citizens. We really have no culture of skating here. Also they are teaching their prejudices to the kids. Last time some little kids started to act like security guys and were screaming at us like “stop skating, it is forbidden here”. I tried to communicate with them, but they were brainwashed.

The best phrases are “don’t play here” and “go to the playground”. Does skateboarding really look like a game? Stupid fuckers, but respect to the exceptions!! I think it’s almost ditto in every country.

You mentioned that you are into edits that don’t use music. What other features of contemporary editing are you interested in at the moment?

I am not really into modern edits, I prefer the old school raw videos with not too much surplus information beyond the skating. But I like the way how the Bronze guys make their stuff with that “post internet art” thing, it’s kind of weird but works cool. For me, it is important not to put other meanings beside the skateboarding (e.g. not using scenes from movies or animation etc.) I know it gets more unique if you put some more content into the edit, not just tricks and lines, but it’s kind of a cliché nowadays. I like to demonstrate the happenings on the street, it’s almost inexhaustible – so we don’t have to put other shit in the edit.

Recently I got hyped on the new Colin Read trailer, this is going to be sick. The video transitions are superb, and Colin just made a flip with the camera, it just looks crazy. I know it’s also a common thing to use the mini dv setups with the death lenses, but if you don’t just copy someone’s style and put your ideas behind it – it becomes individual. It’s like an instrument or a pencil for an “artist”, everybody use it differently.

Not really getting together with the HD thing, but I have to mention here Öctagon, Rob Harris & Bill Strobeck, Johhny Wilson edits – they make some cool things with the high def – also the Pop guys are doing it well (what I mentioned to you, without music. Cracks = music).

Who does the music for the edits? Have you had offers from musicians?

Oh, the music for the edits are not 100% percent Hungarian artists – and there were no opportunities to have an o.s.t. [original soundtrack] just for the Rios edits, but I hope it will change. Most of the time, we selected artist from youtube or soundcloud (mainly European and overseas artists with less views). It’s cool to choose like this, because there is minimal chance of clashing with identical music in other sk8 edits. We haven’t only used Hungarian artists in the past, but my new idea is to try and restrict it to only musicians from our country.

I got some offers from good hip hop producers in Hungary, but I don’t think I would like to use that kind of rhythm. I like to try new things, and I think these dark tunes fit the crew/BP flow. We have Dani in the crew who makes beats. We used some of his music in earlier edits.

These days we like to use ÚJBÁLA music. He is a talented artist from Hungary, and a great friend of our other cameraman Santi. Újbála uses only analog tools for making music. He is developing his style, like us, in the video business. And now he is so damn cool!! We have a plan to ask him to make music only for a Rios edit. That will be super sick!!!

We had the unofficial Polar Hungary premiere. What did you like about Pontus’ editing?

Actually I haven’t seen a good film like that in a long time. So many powerful moves and fast skateboarding. I like the mystery of the spots/sk8ing, because most of the recordings were made in front!! It just creates more tension for the viewer. For me the background “arty thing” is not really as interesting, but it is cool to see his artistic imagination, which makes it more special. The company is getting prosperous and the team is awesome so it is necessary to build up individual ideas and background! It has its own flow and mood, you can’t compare it with other videos. Pontus just made it perfectly!!

Would you ever use animated interludes in Rios edits?

Yeah. Why not!? Just keep it simple, and easily join with the attitudes and style of the Rios.

Do you think you can explain the “attitudes and style” of Rios?

Tough going, but I will try!! The character of the crew just developed itself, we have known each other for years. It just evolved. We have numerous kind of people from different cultures and approaches. We are different but the skateboarding and friendship joins up the group.

We are not like skaters who just know each other from the skateparks, and after they’ve finished “practicing”, go to another type of life. You can choose your friends, but not you can’t choose your family. It’s like a “sect”!! The collective building (Rio DIY spot) made it tighter and validated the togetherness. It was a common interest!!

[Laughs] QS just called our “fashion style” normcore. It’s so different compared to the Western European countries. I mean the group doesn’t really care about the fashion trends etc. We have no money to buy the newest shoe models and so on, and always get the cheapest stuff. So the clothes always look like they’re from the 90s because all of us buy clothes in the 2nd hand shops. Hungary is famous for the “200 forint pizza” and the “English, vintage & second hand shops”.

The skating styles are also different. We enjoy the rough spots that are almost impossible to skate. It’s a challenge for us – and it looks way better to skate a damned scummy spot than for instance a marble one.

The attitude is simple, explore your own city, group love, friendship, using the streets, freedom, happiness, and trying to be individual. But it’s so hard in that modern era.

GraffittiPhoto: Bence

ZinePhoto: Bence

And finally, would you explain the idea behind the Guess Who zine of graffiti tags?

I started this collection of images a few years ago, and was thinking about what I can use them for. So after I had more than 100 hundred tagged names, I started to edit the zine and make a concept behind it. I also made a map with details of where I found the names. It just gives you a map for the “other side of the city”.

It’s not common to find real names written on the wall in the downtown, but if you go to the 8th district, which is more of a “dangerous” place where there are a lot people hanging out on the streets and living freely, you can find them.

All of the writers are walking around with open eyes and searching for new ones. If you are a real writer, the small scene can recognize your style, and they know you are behind the tag. For example the person behind the xyz tag started 6 years ago, he is in the abc crew and makes a lot train pieces etc. It’s just for the people who are into that lifestyle/scene.

Now that there are writers who take it seriously and write their names exactly so that they can become famous and get more attention. For these real forenames you also can’t recognize the author because there is no family name behind it. All of these name tags are so real, without any copied style, it’s so original. They really don’t know too much about the graff culture… that’s why it’s so interesting to me.

This series came my mind from the graffiti magazines and I got inspiration from the graffiti police who take pictures of the tags on the streets and make documentation from it. It’s the most natural way to leave traces. Leaving traces is an innate thing, it was in the people living thousands of years ago.

Bence’s Karate Zines can be found here.

Interview by Daryl Mersom. Give him a follow @fakiehillbomb.

Photos courtesy of Zhang Gee and Bálint Bence.

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