We took some time with Middlebrook to see how his brain worked and if there was anything in there we could use and share with those wanting to follow in the mans footsteps.
Chris Middlebrook is a videographer and icon within the Australian skate community. Before taking his current position as Team Manager for Nike SB he worked very closely with the Volcom team filming what many regard as one of the most poignant Volcom films to date. Born and raised in the idyllic holiday town of Frankston Victoria, Middlebrook now resides in Fitzroy directly across from the popular Melbourne skate spot, IMAX. His talents aren’t confined to skate photography, Middlebrook has also worked along side Australian punk gems Eddie Current Suppression Ring. We sat him down and peer pressured him into revealing some secrets, in return he was allowed to come to our party and be our best friend.
WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY AND FILM STEM FROM?
I remember pretending to make a short films on my Dads super 8 camera with my brother and sister when we were kids. There was no film, but it had batteries and made the right noises so that was enough of us. In late 80′s Dad would borrow a video camera from work and filmed us skating a off a jump ramp. Once we had taste of seeing ourselves on the TV we enlisted anyone old enough to own and operate a camera to film us. My friends auntie filmed us on St Kilda road in 1990 and we made “Fish or Chicken”, which was then followed by “Fish or Chicken 2″.
By year 11 I knew a little bit so for my year 11 Communication Project I borrowed the school camera and started a video I never finished. The same year my friend Pete got a camera it came with us everywhere. I got my own about a year later and that was pretty much it. Still skated a lot but definitely got hooked on filming right there.
WHAT DO YOU SHOOT WITH?
Day to day skate stuff is on the Panasonic P2 and the Canon 7D. I’ve always loved doing time lapse stuff and have been using the 7D quite a bit for that lately. I still love shooting Super 8 and generally only use it these days when the project calls for it. It can get really expensive but nothing will ever replace it. Ensuring everything is exposed and focused correctly before shooting is so much more precise compared to using digital cameras. Not to mention getting the film back on a reel, watching it back on a projector and then manually splicing it together.
In 1997 Middlebrook filmed Let’s Live dedicated to the memory of Shane Cross, documented Australian skaters Shane Cross, Dustin Dollin, Jake Duncombe, Lewis Marnell, Chima Ferguson, Chris Wood, Joe Pease and Shane Azar throwing down with Mark Appleyard, Rune Glifberg, Darrell Stanton, Nick Trapasso and other Volcom crew.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE LETS LIVE 8MM EDIT AND YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE ORIGINAL PRODUCTION?
I first got involved with Lets Live when Dustin called me on a Saturday night telling me I was coming to NYC with the guys in 2 weeks. In my eyes it was the first Australian video with skateboarding consistent with the international standard. All the 8mm footage was shot in NYC over about a 10 day period.
WHAT WAS DIFFERENT ABOUT THE FILM
As it turned out not a lot of it got used. Lets Live had a different creative vibe to what Remy had done in the past, so most of it just sat in my computer until now.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH SHANE
It was always a pleasure to be around Shane in any situation. Honest and sincere with a heart of gold. He will always be missed. I first met him in 2004 when the crew were in Melbourne for one of the Globe World Cups. He was staying at Lewi’s house and I picked them up the morning after the SOTY party looking a bit worse for wear and we go to this 4 stair/footpath gap to road. Shane falls asleep in the van while Lewis goes to work on it. It’s dark by time we finish. Shane, still snoozing, he had mentioned earlier that he would like to check out Country Road rail as it was just around the corner and he’d never been there. We pulled up to the rail, it’s usually dark but for the first time I’d ever seen all the lights were turned on. We had lit it up in the past but tonight it was lit up by itself. So we woke Shane, he got out. Rolls up to it twice, just curiously, doesnt say anything and has no noticeable intent to actually jump down it. Third roll up he 50′s, just like that. No camera, nothing. Lewis and I just kind of look at each, I promptly grab my camera and he 50′s is two more times, then smith grinds it. No biggy. Needless to say I was pretty surprised.
CAN YOU TELL ME HOW THE RELATIONSHIP WITH EDDIE CURRENT CAME ABOUT?
All the guys in Eddy Current are from down Frankston way. Danny Young (drums) and Mikey Young (guitar, keys) are brothers. The two of them lived with Raph Rashid. Danny and Raph they started Blank Clothing around 1995 and I kinda became tour manager and filmer. Raf and I made all three Blank videos Dirtbags (1998) , Vandals (2001) and Crashing to Earth (2007).
Mikey did quite a few tracks for for these videos and when it came to doing the videos for Eddy Current Suppression Ring they wanted to work with someone they knew and trusted and were adamant about the look and feel of 8mm. My friend Johann (Rafs younger brother) and Daniella worked on these videos also. So far we’ve done three, I’m sure once another album comes around we will do more.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO PURSUE YOUR FOOTS STEPS, FOLLOW THEM, FIND YOU, CLUB YOUR MELON AND TAKE YOUR PLACE?
I guess it’s the same with anything in life. If you are committed, passionate and you believe in what your doing then it will work out. When I started filming I never dreamt I would be doing it 20 years later. It certainly wasn’t a viable career path when I started.
Be patient with the guys you film with, do it for the right reason and be ready to invest some money and time and make mistakes. Trial and error are an essential part of learning anything.