Video Days: Naquan Rollings

Images courtesy of Naquan Rollings, portrait of Naquan by Allan Stoops

What can be said about Naquan Rollings that I didn’t already beautifully articulate in my web interview with him last year?

‘The man has a way with a lens,’ was a line that stood out. A year and some months later, this vague assertion remains understated and true.  Where skate videos (and in my opinion, skateboarding on the whole) are in a notable slump, Rollings’ videos are a breath of fresh air: good skating, good people, done in a way that doesn’t flaunt itself, doesn’t sell you anything and doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, or anything other than what it sets out to be. Watching Rollings’ videos, it’s as though he has a preternatural understanding of composition, direction, and cinematic movement. His perspective is your perspective. His eye is your own, and the camera manoeuvres with effortlessness, finding exactly the right subject and at exactly the same moment that your attention is drawn. He’s also just a good person, and if there’s one thing we support, it’s good people making good things. Seeing him take giant leaps forward this year has been exciting and inspiring, and I wanted to know what’s next.

Happy birthday, by the way. Couple days ago, right?
Thank you. I forgot about that; it feels like it was mad-long ago already. Rented out Shark’s Pool Club for a few hours. That place is valid. I don’t like planning shit for my birthday. Growing up, I didn’t have money like that, but this year I had some money so I wanted to do some shit. That was my first time planning anything for myself, like, ‘I’m going to do this and you all are going to come.’

How old did you turn?

You’re 25 already? Damn. 
It’s wicked, bro, I know. I can’t believe it. Wait, how old are you?

I turned 28 a couple of days before you turned 25.
Oh, your birthday’s in September too, that’s right. Everybody’s birthday is in September. New Year’s babies.

Do you think your filming has changed in the last year since we spoke? 
I mean, I don’t know. In between then and now, I only put out one edit and a few little random things on my YouTube, but nothing too crazy. I just finished the first episode of my new series on. That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a minute. That’s probably why I haven’t been working on a video, I’m busy working on this shit. There’s a lot of shit that’s been saved for the series.

How often is that?
It was aiming to be every month, or at least the first few episodes. My first one already came out a month ago; I’m about to finish up the next one right now.

Five minutes of footage a month is a lot of footage. 
I mean, this shit is about to be longer than five minutes. Maybe some of them could be a little shorter, I’m still in the process of figuring everything out.

Well, most people work all year for five minutes.
I’m outside every day trying to get as much as I can. That’s why I think it took so long for this episode to come out. I get a clip and then fools be like, ‘I wanna use that for this other video,’ which is fine. It doesn’t matter to me; I just enjoy being out filming. It’s actually kind of cool that clips can go to this, this, and this—it’ll be sick to see everything come out and see how it all splits up.

How are you coping with the pressure that comes with being asked to put out 10 minutes of footage a month? Is there any?
It doesn’t feel like pressure that I have to put it out every month, it’s more up to me. I’ve been working on this for the past year and a half. It just depends on how I want it to look, making sure it looks good enough to me. Finding the right music.

How do you choose tracks to use?
I like to use homies’ songs because it’s easier, and also because people will be like, ‘Oh, this song is tight.’ I chill with my homie Air B a lot. We’ll just be in his room smoking and shit; I’ll sit there and watch him make a beat and I’ll be like, ‘Yo, this shits hard,’ and he’ll be like, ‘It’s not done,’ and I’m like, ‘Nah, stop right there, just send it to me.’ Because sometimes he’ll say it’s not done and he’ll keep editing it, and when it’s done, I don’t even hear it the way I heard it anymore. I feel like the way I hear music is mad-different, too. I think I like that shit that has missing notes or something.

Like off-beats?
I guess. One of my favourite rappers was Goonew. He just passed away, but he was one of my favourite rappers. The thing people say about him is that he’s off-beat, but I can’t even tell, like, to me that shit just sound hard. I love beats and instrumentals, though. Sometimes I’ll be listening to beats with my homie and be like, ‘Yo, you hear what it’s doing in the back?’ and they won’t hear it. I think I hear different shit in the beat.

What else do you do outside of filming?
I film, that’s it. I don’t even skate like that anymore. When I step on a board it feels kind of insane now. If I land some shit, I’m literally surprised.

Well, you’re 25, a well-respected filmer, a series on Thrasher. Where do you go from here?  I just want to stay in New York and keep working on the series. I’m hyped that I got that. It’s something that I can put my edits to and it’d be towards something. When I’m in LA, I’m not filming for this. I film there for other shit, but when the LA clips are not towards that.

What do you mean?
I mean, I’m from New York. I grew up in Fort Greene, downtown. I want to show New York. Eventually, I want to do trips and film other places, but the episodes will always lead back to New York. I live here, so this is the main focus. If I’m somewhere else, I’m working on some other shit.

How important is that to you?
When I was a kid, I wouldn’t think about that I’m from New York. I wouldn’t say that I grew up privileged or anything—I’m homies with Justin Henry and we talk about a lot of shit. We are both Black, and we have similar experiences, but places like Ohio is not how I grew up. I’m from Brooklyn, but my mom sent me to school in Manhattan. My sister’s ten years older than me and she went to school in Brooklyn, and I don’t know much about her experience, but I guess my mom knew it was all mainey and shit.

What, like, Brooklyn high schools are gnarly?
They do some shit out here called Time Out. This is crazy, and I don’t think my mom even knew about this, but they do this game out here called Time Out where if fools call Time Out on you at lunch, they can take it. Or if you don’t want to give it up, they can slap it out of your hand. It’s a whole game. In Queens—actually, I don’t know if they do this in other places—but in Queens, if you holding your food in your left hand, they can smack it out of your hand.

Who? Other kids?
Yeah, it’s a game. Going to school out here is different. I didn’t grow up taking a school bus or anything, you know? Here, you get out of school, you run around the city, damn near do whatever the fuck you want; it’s kind of lit. Now that I’m older, I appreciate being from here because I hear other people’s experiences, it’s actually real in those states in the middle, you know? I try to think about all aspects. I’m not a selfish person. I’m aware of what’s going on. I’m just grateful that I’m from New York and I want to showcase what we have here.

What do you think New York skating needs more of?
Back in the day, I would say that they should build more parks, but they’re kind of already doing that. I’m seeing a lot more kids around; I think that’s sick. When I was a kid, I was damn near the only skater kid in my school. There were other kids that skated but they didn’t care as much as I did. I had this one friend who told me what a frontside flip was–he would teach me the names of tricks. He was the dude I’d actually skate with and I landed my first kickflip with. In LA, a bunch of fools went to school together and would skate together after school and they still friends to this day. That’s the difference between New York and LA. In LA, after school, you go home, you hop in someone’s car, you might meet your homies’ parents. I have friends who I can say are my best friends, but I lowkey don’t know their parents like that.

Yeah, I see what you’re saying.
It sounds insane, but I’m so aware of how different it is. It trips me out. Of course, I know certain fools’ parents, but not everyone. We didn’t grow up going to each other’s cribs at the end of the day. There’s so much moving around here. I feel like that’s why people like it when they move out here, they realise how easy they can move around.

How do you think that separation of culture has affected your filmmaking?
More independent, I guess. That’s why everybody walks around feening to get to wherever they going. Fast-paced.

Is that the image you try to put out in your videos?
Nah, I just try to put whatever’s going on. There’s always some funny shit going on.

Your personality in your photography is interesting because your filming is strictly skating, but the photos you take—especially at the opening of your Thrasher series—is everything around skating, but not skating. 
Yeah, I started taking photos last year. Growing up, I’d see a bunch of people I was friends with in high school taking photos and I wouldn’t pay attention to it but now that I film, I learn about shutter speeds and ISO’s and shit. I started getting into photos and thought film is actually sick, how different film do different things; I started testing out different films for different stuff.

Do you have a favourite film stock yet?
Yeah, Ektar 100. I have an automatic point-and-shoot that I take around with me. Sometimes the colours or the picture don’t come out the way I wanted it to, but it’s still sick.

I notice you like a grainy black and white.
Yeah, I like the grain. I just try to capture whatever shit I’m around–whatever’s naturally happening. There’s always been shit happening since I was a kid, I’ve always felt like I need to capture it.

Where does that impulse come from?
A creative impulse. Like I said, I used to want to make beats. When I was eight or 10, my dad bought me Reason.

The audio software?
Yeah. I don’t remember exactly what it looked like, but I remember it was like Premiere times ten. There was mad buttons and shit. I think if I sat there and really fucked around with it, I’d be making beats today. There was always a creative side, wanting to do creative shit. Like, I tried gymnastics for a while when I was a kid; I was just trying to do active, creative, body things. I got into skating because of my sister, but I feel like I would have found skating either way. If I wasn’t skating and filming, I’d definitely be doing something creative.

Last question: where do you see yourself in five years? What do you want to be doing?
Fuck, I don’t know. I just want a nice house, honestly. Being from New York it’s kind of insane to be like, ‘I’ll just rent this little box-ass room.’ I would rather just have the house, but being from here and wanting to live here, it’s insane. Yeah, I don’t know. I just want a nice place for myself.

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