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Nizan Kasper Interview

When Nizan does not roam lesser-known areas of Hamburg trying to find the city's well-kept secrets, he combines his influences from art studies and love for film with the productivity and motivation of his crew Stanley We, protagonists of most of his skate clips. His full-length edits are always well thought out on the visual as well as the audio layer, turning them into a cohesive experience with a common thread throughout, to an extent that is not often seen in skateboard edits.

Hey Nizan! You were filming in Paris the other day, what’s your connection to the city again?

My aunt studied in Paris and lives there. My grandmother is an artist, a painter, and she has an atelier there. She lives in France six months out of the year to paint and spends the other six in Hamburg.

You make good use of her spot with the crew, you’ve put out a couple Paris edits in the past.

I usually go once a year, when my grandma isn’t there. Then we can sleep in her atelier. Mostly with friends, or Stanley We.

Who were you filming with this time?

This year, I went by myself, nobody had time, but I was keen to go anyway and meet some people. Also just to enjoy Paris by myself. I met this guy, Ben Kanet, super nice dude. He took me to a bunch of spots and he’s got a nice crew. We filmed a lot in a fairly short amount of time. It was fun to film with someone I didn’t really know too well, but we just vibed from the beginning. I’ve been to Paris at least 20 times, but I don’t really know anyone, except Luidgi Gaydu [Ace Trucks Euro TM] who I’ve shown around on tour in Hamburg once.

Because you’re always with the crew?

Exactly. It’s easier to meet new people when you travel on your own. That’s my experience at least.

"He was looking for bunkers from World War II in the sewer system."

When you’re not out and about in Paris, you’re studying in Hamburg.

I’m attending the art school in Hamburg called HFBK. I study art with a focus on film.

Last Thursday, you had a premiere, correct?

It was my bachelor’s degree film from last year and it was a screening in a cultural institution in Hamburg during the “altonale,” a culture festival. They showcased films made by art students and graduates. My film is called “BAB7.” It’s an experimental movie I filmed during COVID. It was shot on 16 mm and is my first movie featuring actors. I spent a lot of time scouting the harbor areas that I used to go to and attend illegal raves at back in the days. I got so acquainted with these places, mostly under highway bridges, that I realized I had everything I needed in that environment and started filming an experimental documentary about those places. One day on a field underneath the “Köhlbrandbrücke,” a well-known harbor bridge, I was recording sound when the manhole cover next to me opened and a guy climbed out. He wasn’t working for the city or anything, it was an odd situation. All of sudden, we’re standing in front of each other and of course we got talking. He was looking for bunkers from World War II in the sewer system. That encounter was what made me want to incorporate actors into my film and bring life to those places that have been so inspiring to me.

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Fakie flips ahead of the crew

How did you find your passion for film, was it through skateboarding?

Definitely through skateboarding! A long time ago, basically when I started to skate, I got myself a small digital camera. Still a gadget I use to this day. I collect different little old cameras. I’ve always had it on me to film my friends. That’s how I began getting more interested in making films. Always being outside in an urban environment with a camera on me was what got me into making movies. A majority of what I do is documentary pieces that focus on my immediate surroundings, things I have a personal connection with. For me, it’s important to have that connection on a subjective level and not just go for whatever topic is current.

Did you grow up in Hamburg?

Yes, I grew up in Hamburg, always been here, but I am half-German, half-Yugoslavian.

Is that where your name is from, too?

No, it’s actually the last name of French writer Paul Nizan. My mum just really liked the name. It is fairly common in Israel, maybe even Turkey, but it is usually spelt differently. Only once, I met a woman with the name Nizan.

When did your crew Stanley We start?

I think it started around 2007. That’s my core group of guys – and the Lobby crew of course.

Lobby did change Hamburg quite a bit. I feel like it was somewhat underrepresented before?

I think there was always stuff going on in Hamburg, but Lobby, especially Philipp [Kroll], did a really great job. We are a tight-knit, small circle that likes to be productive and work together. Lots of mutual trust. Philip does good business, but keeps a trusting, friendly relationship to the people around him. There’s something happening constantly, he’s always trying to push all the crews and involve people in projects.

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Lars Zimmermann - Nollie Bs Tailslide

The Lobby video is your main focus with filming these days. How is that going so far?

Exactly, that’s my current big project and the deadline is approaching. I think we’re trying to keep filming through October and are trying to release it this year. So as soon as fall weather gets unbearable, I’ll lock myself in and edit.

What’s your process going into such a project?

Whenever I work on a video like this, there is a vision for it that will promptly form in my head, as in, what will be the focus. More lines, more long lens, single tricks, what kind of spots, what do I want to show, the city or mostly the characters I spend time with. That ends up becoming a certain mixture, plus the visual presentation which is incredibly important to me. That’s usually the hardest part and most of the work, finding a certain look and common theme throughout the entire video. I usually start developing that as soon as I start a new project. What do I want it to look like? When I get to the actual edit, it’s basically too late to create the look I imagine. In a creative process, the idea usually starts out really vague, so you have to delve into it a lot to really transport your look and vision. That’s why I always take so long to edit videos.

How long did “UNALOWE” and “Therapy” take?

A long time! The therapy timeline I started a year before the edit was done. I worked a lot on the visual style and look of it. There are many graphical elements in there. I had to come up with those ideas, sequence the tricks, and match them up with fitting graphical elements ahead of time. But in the end, when it comes down to it, it’s a month or two of editing straight. I usually only start editing if I know I have five or six hours of free time on my hands. Searching for music is time consuming too. With films and also with skate videos, it’s not just about the visual layer, there has to be just as much happening on the audio layer as well.

Where do you find the music?

I just listen to a lot, especially electronic stuff. I don’t like skate videos to be too techno, but I do like it to be electronic or ambient. I like noise, but it needs to be leveled out with instruments and something melodic. I just search a lot, listen to sets, and just have fun trying to find music that is somewhat underground and not too well-known yet. I like reaching out to artists, buying stuff on Bandcamp, endlessly digging through YouTube, or random post-punk, techno Tumblr blogs that have been around since the ‘90s.

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Benny Vogel - 5050

"I love finding the little secrets of my city."

Do you let the guys in the video get a say in the music choices?

Not at all to be honest. Back in the day, I felt like it was problematic to have someone skate to music they don’t personally listen to, but within our crew, we have a similar taste in music. Christoph and I are probably most aligned, he will usually send me stuff, but I’ll make the decision. I do care that the skaters are happy too though.

Do you ever show someone their part ahead of time?

No. To me, a skate video has a beginning and an end. If you only show a slice of it, the impact is very different. If you show someone something ahead of time and the sound, for example, isn’t finished and the colors are still off, it makes a big difference. I am always afraid of ruining someone’s expectations, so I like to hold off until it’s done.

So, at a premiere, you’re the only one who knows the video? What’s that like?

Pure adrenaline! Also on the nights before, when I haven’t slept a lot, because I’ve been up editing. I’m always nervous because my computer is always near its limits. At this point I’m pretty good with backups, but that used to be different. With “UNALOWE,” my computer died rendering the night before the premiere and I had to call an emergency PC repair service at 1 a.m. that came to repair my computer in the middle of the night. Definitely thrilling! But it’s also the moment the work you put in pays off, and you get most of the energy and feedback from the people watching.

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Niklas Speer von Cappeln - Roll on 5-0

Do you think you’ve found your style or do you start all over again every time?

I think I found my own style and worked a lot for it. However, someone’s style should always be in progress, so I’m constantly trying to find new inspiration or try new things. The studies help to withdraw myself from the skate cosmos and see what’s possible to incorporate from other areas. It goes the other way around too! Binging skate videos or the process of making videos helps to break down some unwritten rules. In art, just like in skate videos, everyone is doing similar things or everyone is following the same trends. If you don’t look at anything besides whatever it is you’re into, it’s hard to free yourself from that. I think that’s important when you work creatively.

Where do you find videos outside of skateboarding that influence you?

We watch a lot of films in university, but I am also a bit of an internet addict, mostly during nights. I love Tumblr more than Instagram. Some of my favorite directors and sources of inspiration are Harmony Korine and his fashion film “Act da Fool,” Chris Marker (“La Jetée” and “Sans Soleil” are some of my favorite movies), Werner Herzog’s “Lessons of Darkness,” and the Safdie Brothers – they made “Uncut Gems” with Adam Sandler, but they have been making great movies for a long time. “Heaven Knows What” is one of my favorites. It’s a drug drama, really good and authentic, I think.

What’s it like getting support for your own skating but also being the filmer of the crew?

It’s hard, but it’s also motivating in a way. I always carry my camera with me, the heavy backpack is annoying at times of course. I think it’s good to be an active skater if you want to be a skate filmer. You need to care about it. I love skating too much to give it up or even just dial it back. Same with filming, I need both a hundred percent. It can be hard at times, but I get bored easily, so if I’m busy, I usually feel good. I think it’s good for me to do both.

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Niklas Speer von Cappeln - Fs Bluntslide

Do you think about the way you’re being filmed while trying a trick?

Sometimes yes, especially if someone I don’t know too well is filming. However, I like to skate stuff that gives me adrenaline, so usually I’ll be too concentrated on the trick to even think about it. If it doesn’t look good afterwards, I’m bummed of course, but at least I had the moment of actually landing the trick, which is worth just as much. Best case, you’re having fun skating and it’s captured well.

What’s the setup you use?

I got a Panasonic HMC and an array of small digital cameras to use for the visual arrangement.

For a while, every video started with Super 8 sequences. You’ve filmed BAB7 on film, but you don’t utilize that for skating at all?

I love analog material for making films. I’ve shot two movies on 16 mm so far. Generally, I don’t like 4K or too high of a resolution. I like digital noise or the grain in film, but as you said, if every intro is filmed in 8 or 16 mm then I don’t have to do that too. Maybe I’d like to, but if I did, it would have to be a different approach. I like that it is being done though, I support anything that still utilizes analog material.

Do you watch every edit that comes out?

I definitely check all the skate websites every day, but I tend to rewatch the same couple clips over and over again: GX1000’s “Roll up” (because of the skateboarding and I love San Francisco), I really dig Antosh [Cimoszko] a lot, Harry Bergenfield’s “Down Bad” (that one is fairly recent), and “Dancing on thin Ice,” the Hockey clip. I really like Benny Magliano, his work just stands out. You don’t see that often in skateboarding. Not just because it’s weird, but every clip carries a new idea and is always refreshing. “John’s vid” [by Johnny Wilson] obviously, half of the clicks are from me!

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Christoph Friedman - Bs Flip

What are you looking forward to the most?

Mostly, sick spots and a good edit. You can make something great with a shitty camera. The edit has to work. The style, the spots, and trick selection.

You guys have been scouting a lot of spots in Hamburg recently. You have to go far out to find anything new though, right?

Definitely! For me, it’s become somewhat of a meditation. I ride my bike, either by myself or with a friend, and just head somewhere I’ve never been. Whenever I’m somewhere new, I have to take it a little further, peek into this or that backyard. When you find a cool new spot, it’s like landing a trick. It’s a feeling of success. I always liked doing these missions, but always with a bit of a guilty conscience, wondering about what normal people would do with their time while I’m scouting backyards. It felt a little weird, but after a while, I realized the calming effects of it. It’s also not just about skate spots, it’s also about locations, and I take a lot of pictures. I love finding the little secrets of my city. That’s my personal excuse for it.

I think it’s really beneficial too, productive and meditative at the same time!

I’ve been listening to Dr. Andrew Huberman’s podcast a lot recently. He said the act of moving, even just having the movement in your peripheral vision, has a relaxing effect on you. Could be true for skating as well.

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Danny Stephen - Fs Nosegrind

When it comes to filming skating, you mostly care about showing off your crew. You wouldn’t just really want to film with anyone?

It is most important to have a personal connection. When you meet someone you vibe with, that’s essential for the creative process. There has to be mutual trust. There are a couple guys out there whose parts I could imagine to edit and design visually. I mostly care about being with friends and working on projects. I think there are many constellations like that with Johnny Wilson, for example, it’s also the crew that he’s close with and their familiarity that makes it special.

Do you want to work commercially in film?

I’m not sure yet. Of course, I have to pay my bills somehow. These days, I actually manage to make a little bit off of filming skateboarding. It’s most important to stay true to my style that I have been working for and work with that. I think if you put so much work into your art, it is legitimate to make money off of it. But I can hardly imagine working for a big corporation and making movies that would personally piss me off when I look at my phone or see in an ad on YouTube. That would be the worst for me.

So you’ll try to go the way of grants and public funds?

It’s a labor intensive route to take. I’m learning how to go about it in my studies, but it is a lot of work. It doesn’t always work out and takes a lot of time working on presentations and signing up. I really don’t know what the future brings, but I think if you spend a lot of time doing something, stay motivated, true to yourself, and open-minded for new things, something will eventually come out of it. What that will be I don’t know yet, but I will forever be making films.

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Nizan Kasper - Wallie