FIRETRE – Jan Henrik Kongstein

Per Christian Løvås and his independent Norwegian video FIRETRE where first brought to our attention by Simon Isaksson. Eyes sparkling with excitement he praised the talents of the man behind the lens as well as each of the mostly unknown (at least outside of Norway) rippers skating in front of it. Then came the trailer. These 43 seconds were so packed with energy and finesse that we had to find out more… Above is Jan Henrik Kongstein’s incredible section in the video and below is a little chat with the brains of the operation. Hopefully it’ll be enough to get you hitting The Palomino up for a copy of the DVD. 

_NRK4186Photo: Henrik Beck

Can you explain the title of the video?
YES! I was hoping you were going to ask me about that because the name sounds super wack in english. Firetre is Norwegian for four:three (or 4:3) and since it’s all filmed on a vx1000 in the 4:3 format, I just figured it would be a cool name. Keeping it basic. I also kind of wanted a Norwegian name that would mean something completely different in english (like Dank Magazine did) but I’m kind of bummed that my english-speaking viewers probably think I’ve named my video after a good looking 360 kickflip or some shit like that.

How did the decision to make a full length come about and how long did it take to film it?
Alright, so this story is kinda long, but I’ll try to keep it as short as I can. I was (and still am to this day, kind of) working for this Norwegian mag called Playboard, writing articles both in the mag and online. After a while I got Playboard to buy me a VX2000 so that I could have more video content on the site, that’s kind of where my filming “career” started.

I filmed and edited Hermann Stene’s «He-man Returns» and Michael Sommer’s «Oslosommer» with that camera and bought two vx1000s and an MK1 with the money I made from that. At the same time I approached Marcus Shaw, who I didn’t really know at the time at all, and asked him if he wanted to do an online-part as well. We were out filming every single day and got tons of amazing footage but when it came to editing the video, it turned out Playboard couldn’t find a sponsor for the part, which meant that I wouldn’t get nearly as much for it as I did for the two other parts that I had filmed. That’s when I decided to round up all my favorite skaters and make something independent instead. It was around two years of filming, but I would say that about 80% of what ended up in the video is from 2015.

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Per Christian Løvås filming Jan. Photo:Vittorio Brisigotti

Are all the skaters featured in the video just from one crew or did you hand pick a selection of the best in the country?
I mean now we are definitely a crew but I’d say that I kind of hand picked them. As I mentioned in the previous question, Marcus Shaw was the first guy I picked. I had seen a few parts from him, but the filming and editing was never on par with his skating. Magnus was probably the second. He’s one of my favorite skaters and my best friend, so it just made sense that he would have a part in the video. Even though it started off quite slow, he soon became super motivated and finally made the part that does him justice. Jan Henrik has been super good for a long time, but he really came out of his shell over the last year few years, same with Dan Stene, Hermann’s older brother. It started out with those four, and then as the project grew, more and more people wanted to be involved. I have filmed Hermann since he was like 10 years old, so I really wanted him to have a section in my first “real” full-lenght too. The problem was that he kept going back and forth between Norway and SF, and when he was back in Norway he didn’t really come out to Oslo that much. He filmed his part in about three to four weeks and most of it was with a broken wrist! I’d have lists of tricks and spots for him ready, so when he would finally come out here, I always knew where I wanted to take him. He is seriously the most productive/gnarly skater I have ever witnessed.

All the songs you picked are Norwegian. Can you explain this decision?
As soon as I decided to make a full length I knew that I wanted to do an all-Norwegian soundtrack. A couple of the guys in the video were pretty bummed at first when I told them. I guess they thought that I might mess it all up… I feel like Norwegian skaters are generally so afraid of being hated on for thinking outside the box (music-wise) that they just end up chosing something “safe” and uninteresting. Norwegians generally aren’t proud of their own music. I wanted to inspire others skaters to keep it local, it might take some research, but there’s lots of good Norwegian music out there if you look hard enough. I’m super stoked on the soundtrack and I know everyone else was at the end too.

The video was also filmed entirely on home turf. Can you explain this decision?
The short answer would be that I always thought Oslo footage looked the best. All the other Norwegian skate videos are always filled to the brim with footage from outside the country and I never understood why. Sure filming a line at Paral-lel is probably funner than having two hoodies under a puffer jacket and trying to skate some ledge that won’t grind in downtown Oslo but the footage will never look as good to me. It’s all about being proud of where you’re from. Oh and also, I was broke.

 I’d never seen most of the spots that are in the video. How did you go about spot hunting?
The spots are really important to me. Dan (Stene) quickly blessed me with the title “the strictest filmer in the world” because I refused to film at so many spots simply because I didn’t like how they looked. Me and Magnus (Bordewick) go on these hour-long spot searches (nicknamed “quests”), where we take the tram to an area we don’t know that well and search every inch of the area. After a while we started ringing the buzzers at apartment complexes, pretending that we’d lost our keys to be let in to explore. We found so many cool, unskated spots this way.

Any idea why in Norway the standard of skating so much higher than a place like say England, where they also have rough spots and crappy weather?
I want to start off by saying that I don’t agree with that statement. Most of my favorite skaters are from England and I feel that they are just as good as the skaters I film. And really, has skating ever been about being GOOD? Anyways, I feel like the main reason that Norwegian skaters are so good is because it’s so hard to get your name out there when you live in Norway. Just look at Gustav (Tønnesen), he is the best skater that has ever walked on this earth in every way and he still isn’t a household name.

Gustav mentioned that you haven’t been a filmer for that long, that he still considered you “a skater that films” if that makes sense. How/when did you get into it? Will you continue filming after this video? If so do you have any upcoming projects?
That’s actually really nice to hear because for the last year I’ve felt like I’ve become a filmer that skates, which I never really wanted to be. In the beginning I would carry two boards around, just because I felt like if I left my regular skateboard at home, I would become a filmer rather than a skater. Sounds super weird but I was really afraid of becoming a filmer at the beginning. After a while I realized that in order to make a great video, I had to leave my regular board at home and focus on filming. I could never make it as a skateboarder anyway and I’ve even grown to love being a filmer that skates. The thing that bums me out is when I’m at the park and I land something semi-impressive, the people I film with always tend to cheer way too much, like they forgot that I used to be decent at skating or something.

As far as new projects go, I have one that is kind of already in the works. It will be a 12-15 minute video called «Uønsket ferdsel» (unwanted trespassing?). I don’t exacty know what it would translate to… Which will drop online some time in may-june. I don’t really want to give out any information on this but you can probably make out what it will be about by the name. As for a new full-length, I’m not really sure. Filming can be pretty difficult, emotionally. At least it is for me. I just feel like you put a lot of time and effort into it and it’s easy to feel like you are being taken for granted by the people you film. I know this sounds pretty lame, but if I’m going to make another video, I need to get some cash money for it. I lived like a total bum through most of 2014 and all of 2015, not having a real job and living in a shitty, expensive apartment in the middle of Oslo. Im turning 27 this year and I don’t think I can handle two more years like that.

What are your influences past and present in terms of skate videos?
I feel like every european filmer always has the same answer when they are being asked this question, Lost & Found. To me, it’s almost the perfect video – great skating, the best soundtrack and a lot of really good filming. I know every single song in that video by heart, and it showed the world that you didn’t have to pretend to be a gangster to be “cool”. Nick Jensen skating to Travis really influenced me music-wise and in one of the (Firetre-)parts I chose a song that is very Lost & Found-ish, which turned out to be one of my favorite sections in the video. When it comes to filmers that inspire me, I have to start off with Jørgen Johannessen. I grew up watching his videos and he showed us that you can make great videos even though you live in Norway. What is that Magenta-filmer’s name? Yoan? Yeah, he is by far the greatest filmer ever. I wonder how many fisheyes he goes though in a year.

Can you tell us a little about skating in Olso? 
Skating in Oslo is rad. We have a lot of really unique and cool spots and we have a few iconic plaza-ish ones. Rådhuset is the main spot – it’s Oslo’s oldest skate spot and people are still coming up with new ways to skate it. The back tail over the stairs in Hermann’s part is probably my favorite trick in the whole video, just because it is a trick that no one would think was even possible just a few years ago. The older skaters were probably joking about it 15 year ago. At least that’s what I’d like to think. The scene is pretty big, everyone knows everyone and the level of skateboarding is stupidly high. The only thing I don’t like about this scene is this new “thing” where it’s cool to pretend like you don’t care about skating, it’s getting out of hand. As a self-proclaimed skate nerd I don’t understand why you’d think that it makes you a cooler person to pretend that you don’t care about the thing you are most passionate about. Woah, that question really side-tracked, moving on.

Who’s the next person from Norway to really blow up?
Has Magnus blown up yet? If not, Magnus Bordewick. He’s super motivated right now and I think he brings something new to the table. You can see it from the youtube comments, one guy is talking about how wack his style is and the next guy thinks he’s the rawest guy ever. That’s where you want to be I think, that’s when you know you are doing something new and refreshing. If we are talking about kids coming up, then I would definitely say Heitor Da Silva. He’s like 16 now and he already has one of the best styles and trick selections I’ve ever seen. If I ever end up making another video, he would be my first pick.

Where can people purchase a copy of the video on DVD? will be getting some DVDs in a couple of weeks. As of right now they’re the only shop that has approached me, so if you’re running a skate shop in America and you want some copies, hit me up! That goes for everyone else too, just hit me up on Instagram or at Stocks are getting pretty low though and I don’t think I’ll be ordering any more copies. I like doing small runs, all the other videos that come out of Norway are always packaged in these cheap little cardboard envelopes and thrown at you at contests. That that just makes the video less valuable. Also worth mentioning: the dvd includes another video called «Rætt ut» (Norwegian for “get the fuck outta here!”) which is a full-length video with all the footage that didn’t make the cut. It’s 17 minutes long and has three full parts and a couple of montages. It’s pretty good.