A super-talented British lensman: Theo Acworth

Theo Acworth’s Mountainboard photographs first appeared mid-noughties, after an ATBA-UK comp. Since then he has been a fantastic Remolition contributor, helped form awesome media/riding crew Project Documentation with Ben Rye & friends, and had his photographs appear on ATBA-UK posters and in MBS adverts. In 2011 PD & ATC Productions roadtripped to Europe, joining forces to create RADmag. All the while, as riding has been progressing, Theo has been shooting away and the shots have been getting more & more incredible. So it’s about time he answered a few of our questions!

Hey Theo, How’s things? What you up to at the mo?
I’m all good thanks, just lying in bed trying to ignore a photography essay I’m supposed to be writing.

Rock n roll! Let’s start with the compulsory first questions, how long have you riding? and what got you interested?
I started riding in 2004 maybe? A friend of mine lived about 10 minutes from Haredown and Ben Rye and myself ended up having a ride. One wet & muddy day later and that was that.

I remember back when we first set up Rem, Jack showing me this video on youtube of you riding in New Zealand: The ‘rolling wheel’intro is still one of my favourite intro’s of all time… Have you always been into film making & photography or is it something which came from your mountainboarding?

They both came about at pretty much the same time through riding now that I think about it, we simply just wanted to see how rad we looked haha. I remember photographing at Coastal in 2005 and getting pretty stoked on the shots. For the most part the filming took priority for the next year & a bit though. I was just using a digital camera to film with, and eventually ended up transitioning back to stills over videos.

How long did you spend in New Zealand? From your videos it looks like you spent most of the time riding on your own, is that right? And what was the riding like?
I was there for 2 years, and yeah for the most part I was just on my own. I rode with a few guys a couple of times, but New Zealand is a big place and finding someone nearby to ride with was a challenge. I tried to get my little brother into it but he wasn’t that keen. He was nice enough to film me now and again though.

The riding itself was mixed, I had a shitty jump in the garden which I played on, and a big field next to me which was always fun to charge. There was also a bike track down the road but I could never really get enough speed for anything.

Do you still ride much or is all your time spent behind the camera?
To be honest I’m behind the cameras most of the time now. I remember not wanting to end up as this guy because people would expect me to do it, and I’d never have any good shots of me either. I’ll get on a board now and again but not as much as I used to.

So when did you first meet Ben (Rye) & the rest of PD? How long after did you start thinking about setting up Project Documentation?
I’ve known Ben since I was about 10, and we just met everyone else through riding.

What was the motivation to set it up?
Tom Haycock (Missing since 2008) suggested the idea in a hot tub, and we just ran with it. Essentially we just wanted a platform to help us show people what we were doing with our riding, nothing more than that really.

For a film-maker & photographer, what’s it been like to be able to work with the same group of riders? Does it help being mates who spend so much time together or can it cause more problems with everyone having different ideas?
Yeah of course, it’s easier to tell a mate to sack up and hit it again rather than a stranger! For the best part of the last 4 years or so I’ve been the guy with a camera in my hands and I generally sit down and edit on my own so I haven’t too many problems with contrasting ideas. Ben’s been picking up his camera more & more lately which is class, it’s always nice to see someone else’s perspective on things. When we ride it’s just for fun, and that’s always good to film because everything is natural, it’s just us.

What are PD’s plans for the future?
Not a clue, we should probably try and use our site a bit more since Callum spent ages making it for us haha.

Yeah at least put something on the ‘crew’ page lol… You’ve had your photos used in various places like MBS promo stuff and comp posters, and you must have been well stoked when WhiteLines featured one of PD’s snowboard vids…
That was class for sure. I just facebooked them a link in the hope that I might get a positive reply, and they ended up posting it on their main site. Not much in terms of contacts unfortunately but i’m hopeful it’ll happen over time if I keep doing it though.

What are your plans for the future? Have you got any interesting ideas for filming and photography you wanna try?
My photography tends to be relatively natural, I don’t generally go for extravagant setups, just me and a camera most of the time. No plans in terms of filming, I’m sure we’ll get some stuff done though. I’ve done a couple of bits of voice work recently too, apparently theres pretty sick money it so hopefully I can keep that up.

Sounds interesting, we hope to hear you doing X-factor type VO soon 😉

What’s your take on the whole go-pro and DSLR filming which is going on a the mo?
Monkey see, monkey do. I’ll leave it at that.

We asked you to pick a load of your personal favourite shots for a ‘Best of’ Rem Exhibition and (apart from being blown away) I noticed there’s a couple of photos taken using film and remember when we were chatting once you said you “preferred film to digital”, which seems odd when the world is moving away from film…

Yeah there’s a few reasons. There aren’t that many shots on a roll, so you have to make each frame count. It helps me take my time instead of burning through 20 shots of the same thing. I also just love how it looks, the shots have a warmth and depth to them that I only get now and again with digital. Analog cameras are just nice to use. The other day I bought a camera after firing one shot simply because the shutter felt amazing.

What would your perfects days filming or shooting be?
Somewhere nice with a good bunch of people.

Sweet. And have you got any good advice for any new filmers and snappers?

Yes, and I’ll split this one up for the sake of ease.

Photography:

Don’t take 100 photos when you could take 10.
Move around
Know what you’re shooting, know what looks good from what angle.
Get photoshop, and learn how to use it.
You don’t need an £800 camera to take a good photograph.
Spare batteries and cards are essential.

Filming:

To get a good shot with a Gopro you have to be CLOSE, Not sitting in a chair somewhere.
If you’re going to slomo your footage then please do it right.
Again, move around, mix it up.
Make sure your footage is the right aspect ratio.
Keep your edits clean and simple, don’t get too hung up on stuff like effects and text.
If you don’t know someone, don’t stick a camera in their face and expect them to like you.
Never cut the bail out of a shot, everyone can tell.
Good music is crucial.

Most importantly for both stills and videos, have fun. The more you do it the more it will make sense, just find your style and go with it. Eventually what you do should speak for itself. It’s taken me a while to figure things out, and I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my work. If you ask me what I think of your stuff, I’ll tell you honestly, so be prepared for me to be a dick.

Or not, as the case may be 😉 Where else do you get your inspiration from?

I guess I draw from skate and snowboard photography, but I just shoot things as I see them really.

Where do see mountainboard filming heading? Do you think it’s going to stay web shorts with the occasional full length film?

I think it will largely stay internet based to be honest, with both a mixture of shorts and the odd longer film as you said. Simply put, It’s easy and free. DVD’s are tough, if you’ve got the resources to pull it off then sick, a hard copy of something is always sweet to have. Mountainboarde rs don’t like paying for things though.

True dat… Before we move on to the Rem quick-fire questions, RADmag? what, how, where, why?

When we were travelling last summer (2011) we – that’s ProjectDoc and ATC, figured we were all doing pretty similar things, so why not do them under one RAD name? Also we needed somewhere to put the stuff that gets deleted from Facebook!

Haha, now it makes sense! Cheers Theo for taking the time to talk to us, and for picking out such amazing shots for the ‘best of’ exhibition. It’s like being shot in the eyes by mountainboarding 🙂

And now, the Reminquisition!

What’s you favorite tractor?

Massey Ferguson for sure. Tractor was actually my first word.

Piña colada?

F**k yeah.

If you wanted to catch the mountainboard bus where would you go?

Far away.

Banana?

Nah.

If you were a super hero what skills would u have?

F**k I don’t know.

A day in the tree’s or a day in the park?

On snow, trees. On dirt, a bit of both.

If u take one last shot what is it?

Something gnarly or something funny.

Who’s Woodie Wright?

Some guy who lends me his camera now and again lol

Lema or Lamar?

Up to them

Short fast steep or long mellow run?

Mellow

Cork or not to cork?

Bs, yeah. Fs, now and again. Ask Josh Maddocks, he’s got them both dialed 😉

Theo, thankyou.

Find Theo’s ‘Best of’ Exhibition (and lots of other galleries) in the Photos section.
Interview by Smilie, incidental photos by Wilz.

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