In Conversation With Filmmaker Jack Flynn

Behind every story of drive and endeavour is a real person, and that’s what inspires filmmaker Jack Flynn. The Londoner talks about ballet, boards and ‘Bangers’...

By Glorious

Photography by Jack Flynn

From a famous ballet shoe factory in east London to a talented young skateboarder in Tokyo, filmmaker Jack Flynn has found inspiration in a diverse range of subjects. But what the young Londoner is captivated by most of all is the human story behind the endeavour, and this is what motivates his work.

Glorious: How did it all begin for you as a filmmaker?

Jack Flynn: I grew up in Newcastle and my mum was an art teacher so I was drawing and painting from a young age. I would take photographs on my 35mm Pentax K1000 and paint from them at school. I had a great photography teacher at college called Geoff Weston, he told me I had a good eye for photography which I think gave me some confidence to stick at it. I went on to study photography and film at university in Edinburgh. My family all do something creative in either art or music so it felt quite natural to be following a similar path. I moved to London and started assisting on photography and film shoots. There seemed to be a sea of photographers, yet way more opportunities for film making, which became the path I followed. I now shoot a mixture of short documentaries, branded content and commercials.

Glorious: What is your main source of inspiration for your films?

Jack Flynn: I take inspiration from everywhere really, films, music, art, walking through Hackney! I love the format of a short documentary film, it can give you a window into another world. People have quite a short attention span these days so I find under five minutes the perfect time frame, it gives you some restrictions to work within, but also enough time to get a good idea or story across. I also find inspiration in collaborating with other people, I enjoy the camaraderie, you can push each other to take things further than you might do on your own.

Street skateboarder Yumeka Oda.

Glorious: How did you come to make a skateboard film with Yumeka Oda and what was your process?

Jack Flynn: I was going to Japan on a job to film the Japanese denim industry in Okayama for a clothing brand. I decided to stay on an extra few days in Tokyo to shoot a project. The Olympics was due to take place in Tokyo and as skateboarding was a new Olympic sport I thought that would make an interesting story. At the time Yumeka was the top ranking Japanese female street skateboarder based in Japan. I hired a fixer/translator and we arranged to film with Yumeka at her home and at a skatepark after school one day. I found it amazing that Yumeka would be at school one day, then travelling around the world to skate competitions in London, L.A. and Brazil on another day. Like some sort of super hero, she would jump from one world to the other. When the Olympics were postponed a year due to Covid, I wasn’t sure where to take the story. I decided to re-interview Yumeka again over the phone to find out how Covid was impacting her and her training – this gave the film a new direction and kept it relevant to the changing times. My friend described the feeling of the film as melancholic yet optimistic which I like. I think the tone of the music adds to this dreamy sense.

Glorious: Have you spoken to Yumeka Oda since the 2021 Olympics?

Jack Flynn: Yes she’s doing well. Her friend Momiji Nishiya won Olympic gold in the Street Skateboard category at 13 years old! She’s really happy for her and now is training for Paris 2024. Many of the skateboard medal winners were Japanese at this year’s Games!

Glorious: A lot of your work captures people in fast moving sport, how do you go about capturing this kind of movement?

Jack Flynn: I love filming sport, you always have a lot of movement and action to focus on. I like the juxtaposition in a film of a real story together with more surreal dreamy visuals. Shooting at a high frame rate/slow motion is a simple way of making you look closer at the beauty of movements. Like every camera technique, this can be overdone so it needs to fit with the right moments.

Young skater girl sitting on skate board
Yumeka Oda is training for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Emotion

Freed of London.

Glorious: The Freed of London Ballet Factory seems like it hasn’t ever changed, how did you find out about the factory? What made you want to make a film about them?

Jack Flynn: Nick David and I came across some images of the Freed factory in an article and were amazed by the place. The factory in Hackney is a very ordinary building from the outside but inside, it’s another world. Initially we wanted to document the manufacturing process but what became apparent after a couple of visits were the stories of the people who worked there. The contrast between the delicate aesthetic of ballet and the factory floor was really obvious yet we saw a real connection with the sheer physicality of both disciplines. The stress and pressure that a ballet dancer puts their feet through seemed similar to what a shoe maker puts their hands through. The factory had been documented before but people often focused on the ballerina in their story rather than the shoe makers themselves who we saw as the real unsung heroes. Many of the makers had worked at Freed for three or four decades. Most had never even been to the ballet.

Glorious: Real people are commonly at the forefront of your films, who have you enjoyed filming the most and why?

Jack Flynn: I’ve loved them all! It’s a privilege to hold a camera and to be allowed into other people’s worlds. I’m often humbled by how open people are to let you into their life. I’ve always loved documentary photography and have found real stories much more fascinating than fiction. I want to make something captivating for the viewer but also portray a story with some honesty to it. It’s important that the person who is being filmed would feel comfortable with how their story is being depicted.

Glorious: You’ve been to many places and documented a variety of captivating people. Do you ever think about returning to do a catch up? Jack Flynn: I’m more interested in exploring new stories and ideas. Part of making a film is going on an adventure yourself, so the prospect of working on a new idea is always appealing to me.

female athlete training
The film '800' features British athlete Revee Walcott-Nolan.

Glorious: What was the best part of shooting the Banger racing film?

Jack Flynn: The best situations are when you want to film everything around you. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does it’s a real buzz, you’re like a kid in a sweet shop. We had that when we first started filming the Banger racing film. The high-octane races create an exciting atmosphere, filling the senses with the smell of fuel in the air and the sounds of roaring engines. There’s a lot of chaos with visuals unfolding all around you. The crowd watch in anticipation, cheering the drivers on as they race and crash into one another. When they step out of the car and take their helmet off you realise they are often only about 11 years old!

Junior Bangers.

Glorious: Your film ‘Junior Bangers’ is about a small community dedicated to their sport, are there any other niche competitions you would like to make a film about?

Jack Flynn: Yes, but it’s top secret!

Glorious: What types of sport would you love to film?

Jack Flynn: I’d love to film anything with horses, swimming, wrestling, bikes… the list is long. For me it’s as much about the characters you can find as it is about the actual sport itself.

Made of Steel.
Young boxer
“I’m often humbled by how open people are to let you into their life.”

Glorious: Are there any projects you are working on now you would like to tell Glorious about?

Jack Flynn: I’ve just finished a short film called ‘Poetry in Motion’ featuring basketball player and poet Precious Adediran, which was a collaboration with Dan Langton from Bullfrog Studios. We filmed it this summer. Check it out here… www.jackflynn.co.uk instagram – @jackisflynn vimeo.com/jackflynn

Poetry in Motion.
girl in boxing kit
“I’ve always loved documentary photography and have found real stories much more fascinating than fiction.”

Yumeka Oda – Directed by Jack Flynn; Freed of London, Junior Bangers and Made of Steel – Directed by Jack Flynn and Nick David; Poetry in Motion – Directed by Jack Flynn, Creative Production Bullfrog Studios

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