Peckham BMX club is home to 60% of the British BMX team
27th December 2019 by Will Stewart
Samuel Hicks – I was/am a photographer, and always thought that I would like to make films as well as take photographs. For a few years I was mainly a commercial photographer where I would work on ads for companies like Nike, o2, Coca Cola. Sometimes shooting editorials for magazines like Wallpaper* and Intersection Magazine. Now I shoot both Stills and Moving Image commercially.
I’ve also always shot personal projects. A mix between documenting people, often involved in some kind of sport, and photographing urban landscapes as well as sometimes going on road trips and documenting people and landscapes I’ve travelled through. These projects have then led to me to gaining commissions from adverting agencies who have seen this work. So I not only see shooting personal work as something I want to do artistically for myself, as every artist needs to create something, but also as something that can lead to paid work.
I came across Peckham BMX Club about 10 years ago when there were literally 10 riders at the club. They had built their own track by hand on a scrap piece of land by a tower block in South London. Literally the whoop was a fridge freezer with mud over the top of it. I met CK who is the main character in the film and we got talking and I took some stills of the riders.
Over the next few years I’d stop and see the track and talk to CK and the riders and, to cut this short, after years of CK speaking to the council and seeking funding they managed to gain funding to build a proper track in new location, in Burgess Park. I would drive past the new track on my way into town. Seeing it at dusk with the flood lights on, it just looked so epic. I would pass it and each time think I’ve got to go back and take some photos or make something here. So I decided to make a film on CK and the club, and this how the film came about.
I really wanted the film not only to look filmic and cinematic but also for it to really portray CK and the club well as they are such a great bunch of people and do so much for the local community. The club now has hundreds of riders and are probably the best club in the UK. 60% of the British BMX Team come from Peckham BMX Club. Also importantly as a film maker, I wanted the the film to have a great story. My films are mainly documentary based but I try and shoot them more in a feature film way. So they are lit and captured to look cinematic. This film was very much a collaboration with the Neirin Jones who was the DOP on the film. A while before we made the film I said to Neirin I’ve always loved the steady camera scene in Goodfellas where Ray Liotta walks with his girlfriend into the club. The scene is shot from leaving his car on the street and they walk through corridors and kitchens that just seemed to go on and on (in a great way) to get into the club. Directed by Scorsese and DOP by Michael Ballhaus. I must have watched that film 15 times when I was at art school. And we used that scene as a starting point of how the camera work could feel.
I knew I wanted it to have a documentary feel but as mentioned briefly, for it to feel cinematic. So we decided to interview CK and then from that get a feel for the story, of how the film should be. We interviewed CK standing on top of the second burn (corner) at the track. The same place he starts to walk from in the film. He literally gave us 25 minutes of amazing stuff. He would be talking away and someone would pass us or ask him a question and he would just reply to them and at the same time talk to us. I like to think I managed to get him to relax and tell us interesting things but really we struck gold with him. He is such a great character and was totally relaxed talking to me about the club and himself. Afterwards we knew we had a great interview and then planned how we should shoot the film. We managed to pull in favours and get a camera and lenses from a company at Pinewood Studios. And Neirin and I got a small team of people together. We had a steady camera operator – Henry Landgrebe, a focus Puller, 1 AC and a DIT. We rehearsed CK walking a couple of times before we knew the light was going to be just right, and then shot about 5 takes of CK walking. We shot it all at 50 frames. The best take was the penultimate.
This was my first film I had made and directed. Last year I made a film on Kyle Gray a Formula 1 Stock Car racer. Again, I used the same process of interviewing him and then loosely writing or drawing up scenes but then filming it in a documentary way.
I am now working on a film about Kye Whyte. He is a BMX rider on the British Olympic Team who is going to race at Tokyo next year. Think you can guess where he started riding!
Here’s a link to a still project I shot on the club.