This month’s Carhartt WIP Radio show explores the soundtrack of PRECIOUS, our latest skate film directed by Paris-based filmmaker Joaquim Bayle. The score is a journey through LA rap, sludge metal, and avant-garde folk, punctuated by city noise and spoken interludes. Accompanying the show is a feature taken from WIP magazine issue 09, in which director Bayle discusses the process of making the film, the aesthetics of true emptiness, and why skateboarding is poetry.
When I speak to filmmaker Joaquim Bayle via video call, he is sitting with his back to a window. Looking past him, you can just about make out the houses of Trevélez – a small village nestled in the mountain range of Sierra Nevada in southern Spain. “More and more,” he says, “I find myself looking towards the countryside.”
This may come as a surprise from a filmmaker who first picked up a camera on the streets of Lille, France, shooting his cadre of skateboarding friends, and whose work has continued to intersect with skateboarding, and by extension urban environments, ever since. In 2022, he collaborated with Carhartt WIP on the brand’s first full-length skate film, Inside Out, and today we are ostensibly here to discuss his forthcoming follow-up feature, Precious.
It would be wrong, though, to peg Bayle as someone who only makes films about skateboarding. His recently-released short Gwendoline, for example, is about a post-punk band desperately looking for an audience to play to. And even with skate films, like PRECIOUS, you sense that Bayle is seeking to go beyond skateboarding itself. As much a plastician as he is a filmmaker, he is not here to simply record tricks for posterity, but to transcend reality, to deliver a feeling. He is interested, he says: “in the aesthetics of true emptiness.”
Words: Martin Sigler
The whole strength of skateboarding lies in its radicalism, in its constant involvement in a pointless lifestyle. That's what makes skateboarding poetic.
Martin Sigler: Video and skateboarding seem to go hand in hand. Was it skate videos that made you want to skate?
Joaquim Bayle: What first attracted me was skate culture, rather than skate videos. The arrhythmic lifestyle of the skateboarder gave me a form of emancipation, a way of differentiating myself. I started skateboarding at the age of 12 and ever since, I've wondered what the point was. Today, at the age of 32, I realize that it's pointless. The whole strength of skateboarding lies in its radicalism, in its constant involvement in a pointless lifestyle. That's what makes skateboarding poetic.
MS: How did you come to use video as a medium?
JB: Video was very intuitive for me. I started filming skateboarding in Lille with the simple idea of capturing our reality, our identity. I was obviously steeped in classics like Europa by Cliché or Hokus Pokus by H-street. In 2015, we released Öctagon with some friends. We tried to find a balance between our sensibilities, and to offer a skate video on the fringes of what was being done at the time, with a fairly radical approach but as close as possible to skateboarding culture.
MS: What did you learn from this experience for Inside Out?
JB: I kept that radical approach. With Inside Out, I was trying to crystallize the different experiences I'd had inside and outside skateboarding. What fascinates me is the material. During the editing process, I tried to play with the use of sound, putting the music with or against skateboarding, with juxtapositions and collages. In my opinion, it doesn't take much to change the aesthetic canon of the skate video. Inside Out isn't very subversive, it's an interesting format that continues to be attractive.
MS: And for Precious?
JB: Since Inside Out, I've had time to make Gwendoline – a self-initiated project that helped me deepen my own sensitivity and aesthetics as a director. Undoubtedly, this project also nourishes PRECIOUS, for which the idea is to go back to the essence of skateboarding. Now that I understand skateboarding a little more, I’d like to pay tribute to its subversive form, its poetic form. A precious feeling I had when I started skateboarding and which, as I've got older, I've tended to forget.
Without being too abstract, PRECIOUS is a search for new forms. Sound, image, photo, action. A play, a collage with these elements. Nothing is scripted. It really shouldn't be. There are ideas, axes, looks and it's the editing that freezes it all. We chose to make a skateboarding video, not a documentary, and I want to extend the edges of the skateboarding video and perhaps be guided by the material. The idea is to be carried away by the image, the sound, the moments of rupture. I'm lucky that Joseph Biais, who really knows skateboarding and the brand, can also guide us so that we stay on track. As long as you have that intuition, that sensitivity, you can move forward. That's what makes the film subversive.
MS: How do you keep the balance between commercial and independent projects?
JB: Like a lot of creatives, I am alienated. I’m experiencing what I used to perceive as a contradiction, working for brands that have specific briefs while potentially aspiring to make a living from my independent cinema. But I don't see it as a bad thing in the sense that when I make a film for a brand, I'm actually practicing. It’s a way to refine my skills, to work on my craft, and to have new perspectives, which nourishes my personal work.
MS: I have the feeling that your films show a specific rhythm, with moments of pause and emptiness that you can only experience in a rural environment, away from the city. Did you grow up in a rural environment?
JB: Yes, indeed. I grew up in a village not far from Arras, in the north of France. There were about ten of us skateboarders and an incredible open skatepark. I have fond memories of it. I think there's something disgusting about the city. At the same time it's very beautiful, but we don't take the time to look at things, we're drowned in a flood of information and images. I find that what I film in the countryside is very beautiful, because it's open. This openness allows me to choose more precisely where I want to point my camera. I don't idealize the countryside; on the contrary, I'm well aware that rural life can also generate problems. But in my work, it's towards the countryside that I tend to look more and more. It transports me more. It invites us to contemplate these moments of waiting and emptiness. I'm interested in the aesthetics of true emptiness.
MS: Any references that influence your work?
JB: Gwendoline is influenced by a cinema that’s a bit slow, a cinema that tries things out. I draw my references from the absurd, surrealism, and the documentary format. I love the cinema of Fellini; Godard's rhythm – in his lesser-known films which showcases his editing genius; Buñuel’s surrealism. I'm looking to be baffled, to experience a new dizziness – and that's not to say that I'm being manipulated. I like when it starts from reality to move toward surrealism. When it makes that shift, that moves me. That is what cinema is, something a bit meta. I like movies from the 1970s that are difficult to watch. There is something liberating in making those kinds of movies.
MS: In what sense?
JB: People watch these movies and say that it’s weird, that it's not realistic, and so on. But no, in fact, the play is theatrical to allow things to express themselves. It's about using form, caricature almost, to underline something peculiar in life. I don't want to imitate life through my work, there's no point in imitating life. It doesn’t bring anything. That's why I'm interested in surrealism, these guys were skaters to a certain extent. They were trying to transcend reality. There's something great and powerful about the idea of giving your soul to an ideal that you know will die eventually.
MS: The paradox of overcoming reality by embracing it completely.
JB: Yes, that's right, by embracing reality completely we'll be able to go beyond it, because as I always say, reality is a prison. For me, skateboarding brings that moment of vertigo, of being outside your body, of pleasure. Directing and editing makes me feel that too to some extent.
This feature was taken from issue 09 of WIP magazine, available from Carhartt WIP stores and our online shop.