Interview with Mike Christie

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To celebrate the release US release of director/producer Mike Christie's Concrete Circus documentary, i had the opportunity to interview Mike Christie and we had an in-depth talk on his past work(Jump London and Jump Britain),making of Concrete Circus, parkour and urban sports plus more. Enjoy!

Can you please tell readers about what you do.

I’m a British documentary director, mainly making films for the UK’s very cool Channel 4 and the BBC. Along the way, I’ve also developed a reputation for making some big and unusual documentaries about extreme sports.

What was your earliest parkour/urban sports experience.

I always had an interest in Urban Sports though sadly I didn’t take any up when I was younger… Then got too old (some would say lol). Parkour appeared on my radar when it featured in a British TV ad, but no one knew what it was because it was just used as form of balletic stunt work.

How did Jump London come about and what made you choose to direct it.

I got a call from an executive producer working with C4 asking if I’d be interested in making a science film called ‘Leap’ that used Parkour. I’d made TV series about clubbing but also a big series about architecture, so they’d thought of me. I said yes, ditched the science, and made Jump London. What appealed me was the fact that they didn’t know what the film was but were willing to invest in properly (for a TV project at least, it cost double the price of a documentary). I brought in a producer who encouraged me to think freely with the content, which meant I ended up writing a film treatment that was far more poetic than anyone expected. And that treatment was exactly the film I made.

Besides the obvious mainstream attention what was the unexpected achievement.

Jump London (and the sequel Jump Britain) both sold to seventy countries, which is a big big achievement. I’m very proud of the fact I played a part in bringing Parkour to a global platform because it’s genuinely transformed so many peoples lives. I’m sure they would have found it anyway, but it’s widely acknowledged the Jump films massively accelerated the growth in the discipline which really was a niche thing when we started.

Was it always the plan for Jump London to go mainstream?

No!!! When I finished it, I was say in the edit suite with Olivia [Baldwin, the film editor] and I looked at her and said ‘I wonder if anyone will notice this weird little film when it goes out’. There hadn’t been anything like it before and TV is such a roll of the dice. You just never know. Then, when it was broadcast in the UK, the viewing figures went through the roof and it went on from there. Next thing I knew, Eon called to say they were re-writing the beginning of James Bond Casino Royale and basing it on Jump and Madonna was writing a song called Jump and I was getting bombarded by emails. It was great :)

Looking back to when you first did Jump London to Jump Britain and now Concrete Circus how have you evolved directing urban sports and directing in general.

Oh god, I can’t answer that. You’ll have to ask someone else. A lot of people say I’ve evolved the genre, but I’d say the thing I’ve tried to do is give these type of films more depth and story than they often have. That’s why the films so often appeal to a mainstream audience I think.

What was the creation process and overall experience like for Concrete Circus working with four filmmakers compared to you working on Jump London and Jump Britain?

I was so lucky because I’d had 7 years more experience since Jump London and all the guys in the film had seen it seven years earlier – and liked it, thankfully – so they trusted me. Concrete Circus was one of those films where I knew exactly what the running order was from day 1. It wasn’t without it’s moments, but it was a very efficient production despite all the variables.

Which of the three has been the most challenging project for you?

They’ve all been challenging. Jump London was scariest I guess because we were having to write the rule book about how to film Parkour legally and safely… on top of famous landmarks. Also, I had no idea if anyone would ultimately get it. Jump Britain came with some massive logistic challenges, but they’re not the obvious challenges you think they are when you watch the film. The most complicated scene was actually the gym scene. Then Concrete Circus fundamentally contained far more risk than any of the other films – though I didn’t make such a big thing out of it in the film itself. Just enough to make people think, I hope.

As a director and a person what do you think is unique about urban sports that sets it apart from sports and other forms of discipline.

I like the balance of the pushing of boundaries, the freedom, the escape, the occasional anarchy.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about parkour and urban sports in general.

The whole stoner stereotype that used to come with skaters. I think that – thanks in part to films like those by Kilian and Brett – that’s changing because bigger audiences can see the artform for themselves now.

Where do you think parkour and urban sports are heading now that is much more mainstream and attention attached to it.

The films set clear limits which, in turn, get pushed quicker and further than ever before.

Craziest/remarkable moment shooting Concrete Circus.

Definitely shooting the finale! Barbican Bolero. I’d set all these rules for the other filmmakers: equal budgets, DSLRs, etc. Then when it came to shooting the finale, I had to stick to the same rules. The only difference was I had to shoot it all in a 10 hour day – not the weeks the other guys all had. It was a crazy crazy day and I’ve never been so charged after any filming day ever. Danny MacAskill and I went for dinner after and he was the same. Crazy day.

In your opinion what is creativity.

Creativity is what you hear in your head when you silence all the doubting voices (inside and out). It’s about instinct. It’s about belief and vision and truth, and finding a way to try and contribute something that captures the essence of something else for other people.

I love your artistic and cinematic direction, any chance of you making a full length movie?

Thank you. And yes, I’d love to. When the right one comes along…

Any current project you are working on you would like to share?

I’ve had the busiest year of my life. I’ve made a really interesting little documentary about risk called ‘Danny MacAskill: Life On The Edge’, a top secret film for a huge company we all know and love, a CGI ad for a new video game (not out yet) AND produced and directed some content for London 2012. Check out the opening film to the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games on Sept 9th. I start shooting it tomorrow and it’s crazy!

Favorite spot in London.

That’s a tough one. Probably the roof of Shoreditch House.

What do you like most about what you do.

Everything! I love music, I love photography, I love film, I love stories and I love people. This is the job that brings all of those loves together!

Find Mike Christie here :

Concrete Circus Links :