SEEN 'PILGRIMAGE' YET?
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IN THE FORUMS
North Carolina, USA
As a bit of background tell us about yourself?
DG: I WEAR GLASSES WHEN I FREERUN how cool is that.
And I also freerun in jeans. So if you spot a ginger in
jeans wearing glasses vaulting a rail, odds are it's me.
Other interests outside of pk/fr and video work are LEGOs,
novel writing, some amateur music mixing, making Jedi
outfits from scratch, etc.
I've only got five shirts (all black), one pair of jeans,
one pair of jean shorts, one pair of shoes at a time,
and the jacket I wore in Go. I don't believe in having
more stuff than you need, and I'm a fan of simplicity/asceticism.
Currently a junior at UNC Chapel Hill, to become a middle
school English teacher.
My only sampler that I actually want people to see: Go,
available for download or on Youtube.
WJ: How did you get into parkour?
My own personal bio in the world of parkour and freerunning
is pretty standard, I guess, at least in terms of how
I got started. I've been a martial artist (Tae Kwon
Do) since I was twelve, started in 1999. In 2002, I
went to a boarding school for junior and senior year
of high school, and was separated from my academy for
the first time.
To stay interested and motivated in my TKD training,
I started browsing the internet for tricking videos,
which became a habit. I started learning some basic
acro in the wrestling room at that school, where they
stored the track mats, learned front, back, and wallflip
there. When I got to UNC, my freshman year I was on
Bilang and they had this video posted ... "Hey,
guys, sorry this isn't really martial arts, but we thought
it was pretty freakin' cool anyway, so ..." and
it was the vid "Evolution," by a team that
was at the time called Supertricks. I joined their forum,
which had only about thirty members at the time, and
thus always had a very strong, personal connection both
to the team and to the European community.
WJ: When did you first get to bridge the Atlantic?
DG: Over time, I began to forge some pretty solid
friendships, as well as some actual clear definitions
between parkour, tricking, street stunts, freerunning,
etc. Eventually, I decided, I had to get over to England
(remember that at this time, 2004, 2005, there was still
virtually NO ONE in the North Carolina area doing parkour
unless I had introduced them to it myself). My first
big project was a result of that trip, the 3Run Family
Video, which was kind of a manifesto of that community.
THAT WAS ALSO MY FIRST TRIP TO LISSES, summer of 2006.
WJ: What exactly inspired you to create Pilgrimage?
DG: The beginnings of what ended up being Pilgrimage
came out of the aftermath of the 3Run Family Video.
It was a success, and it hadn't been that difficult
to make, so I turned my attention to the next level,
which was obviously a full-length documentary. I'd already
seen Jump London and Jump Britain (and loved them both),
but I'd been paying very close attention to every scrap
of info I could find on parkour and its history, and
was conscious of some small holes here and there, as
well as some things that weren't holes so much as just
other topics that might be useful in a parkour doc,
but hadn't been included. So I suppose it began as a
desire to make a "complete" parkour documentary,
one that did its best to leave out nothing.
The idea didn't go anywhere for a while, and I turned
my attention to my own personal sampler, "Go,"
which was starting to come together at the beginning
while I was reading some threads on .net about David
Belle, I started to think about how ... fragmented?
... the parkour/freerunning community was really becoming,
with all these little armed camps in opposition to one
another ... UF hating on 3Run, .net seeming elitist,
local forums being lost in the shuffle, beginners having
no idea where to go. It seemed to me that most of us
were on the same page as Belle, so why all the tension?
WJ: It seems amazing that a guy in the states
who is virtually training alone has such a strong connection
DG: This really mattered to me, because, being
all alone over in North Carolina, pretty much all I
had was the internet. My only community was the online
community, so if it wasn't actually a community, I had
nothing. I had a very vested interest in developing
a sense of togetherness, because without it, who would
I stay with in Europe? Who would I talk to in slow periods
of training? Who else would understand what I was doing
or going through? That sort of thing.
WJ: Your dedication to developing 'community'
became quite renowned on parkour.net, what other projects
have you been involved with?
DG: I came up with the Hand for David Belle project,
which I won't go into here because I'm sure you either
know about it or could find out quickly. My ostensible
goal was to give thanks to David for all that he's done
for us, but underlying it was this goal of getting everybody
thinking about one another, and realizing that a lot
of us are thinking the same things. And in doing so,
I also keyed into this idea that David Belle, the founder,
the origins, and the history ... that this was becoming
more and more important to a lot of traceurs, as people
got to the level where they wanted the "truth,"
and wanted to know how things were really meant to be,
the proper method of parkour, its true goals and purpose.
And that's when Pilgrimage really formed in my head.
Lisses ... we all go there, we all want to see it, it's
important to all of us. Why? Suddenly I had a "lens"
for my documentary ... I wanted to look at parkour through
the journey to Lisses. In explaining what Lisses is
and why it matters to us, I felt I could SHOW (rather
than telling) the true spirit of parkour. And at the
same time, going through Lisses gave me opportunities
to touch on a lot of things that no video had ever done
so far ... to talk about imitation versus innovation,
to discuss travel and this sort of international brotherhood
that's quickly evolving, to explain parkour from its
beginnings to its present state, to really demonstrate
the need for respect and community service.
had a way to include everyone, because everyone's
Lisses videos were already online and available,
and I knew from the beginning that I did NOT want
this to be just "my" video"
The project gave me a chance to get in touch with traceurs
all around the world, up to and including Belle himself.
Most importantly to me, by funneling my message through
the pilgrimage, I had a way to include everyone, because
everyone's Lisses videos were already online and available,
and I knew from the beginning that I did NOT want this
to be just "my" video.
was a pretty daunting undertaking, now that I look back
at it. My second visit to Lisses was in May/June 2007,
when I delivered the hand project and took most of the
raw footage for the video.
It was a little bit on-the-fly, because I still had
no real outline or plan, just a general idea of what
the project would be. Originally, I thought it would
only be 40 minutes long, more like the 3Run Family Video
than like Jump London or Jump Britain ... it was only
when I got home and actually began editing that it started
to grow. But we still filmed EVERYTHING, knowing that
it would kill to get back home and be missing ONE CLIP.
at the summit of Dame du Lac
ended up recording about twice as many narrations as
were included in the final product, covering every topic
we could think of, and making each one self-contained
so that none of them would be invalidated if another
wasn't included. We took the camera everywhere, filling
up a total of 32 tapes (I think ... it might have been
23). The best part was when we managed to make friends
with Jean Luc, the elderly Frenchman, who both agreed
to an interview AND was crucial in our efforts to contact
Anyway, we got home, and I got to work. From June 2007
to February 2008 I was working, and I think I ultimately
logged about 2000 work hours ... sometimes it was all
I did between school and bed. I edited the video chronologically,
so the footprints were the first thing to be done, and
the Dame du Lac and the credits the last.
I had put the word out for raw footage on parkour.net,
but only received two videos through that ... most of
the raw footage besides my own came from download links,
some taken straight off Youtube. I worked in FinalCut
Pro, recording narrations with the built-in microphone
on my Mac, and essentially just went step by step, first
choosing the goal of the upcoming section, then choosing
music to match it, then assembling my footage, writing
narration, and filling in the blanks. Due to difficulties
in getting my diction right, I recorded each narration
at least fifteen times, and still remember them all
was important to me to step away from the whole
list' mentality, in terms of "Learn catleaps
and kong vaults and the roll" ... and the
obstacle-focus seemed to me to be the most original
and simple way to get it done, a method I don't
think anyone else had attempted yet"
The first twenty minutes (the "pre-Lisses"
section) was the hardest. The black-and-white description
took nearly a month just by itself. The videos were
done with a simple filter/effect, but all of the still
images had to be drawn, pixel by pixel, in a program
that's essentially a Mac version of Paint. All of the
graphics/animation was similarly done frame-by-frame,
using the images themselves as a base, because I don't
have any knowledge of animation yet (all of my video
skills come from trial-and-error and watching parkour
vids ... I've never had any real training).
It was important to me to step away from the whole "list"
mentality, in terms of "Learn catleaps and kong
vaults and the roll" ... and the obstacle-focus
seemed to me to be the most original and simple way
to get it done, a method I don't think anyone else had
The Lisses map animation was similarly difficult, but
went easier after having the black-and-white experience.
I used a video capture tool and Google Earth to do the
hard stuff, and after that just had fun with it (making
the magnifying glass took an entire evening).
Once we actually got to Lisses, the video almost wrote
itself. I had the narrations we had already filmed as
a rough guide, and I knew the locations I wanted to
cover and most of the topics that I wanted to discuss
... the only tricky part was finding the right order.
It was important to me that each section of the vid
be able to stand mostly on its own, and ALSO that each
section include as many traceurs as possible. So in
creating any given section, I first went through EVERY
Lisses vid I had, and lifted out and assembled each
and every clip dealing with that location. I did this
for each of the segments, and boy was that a pain, but
in the end I think it made the project a lot stronger
and more inclusive.
The other narrations were done by Luc Dunn and David
Lanning, two friends of mine from here in North Carolina
who got into parkour with me (the intro footprint narration
was done by Mark Menees, a black belt at my academy),
and the voice-over was kindly sent to me by Scott Bass,
a traceur from Cambridge.
and willingness to help out is exactly what I was
hoping to foster"
The painting was suggested by the interview we did with
Jean Luc, and Luc, David, a traceur named Dom from Cambridge,
and I all went to the shop on our last day and bought
the soap and paint ... Jean Luc let us use his sink
for buckets. We were unable to finish it, since we ran
out of money and time, but a traceur named David from
Canada (Guardian) came out of nowhere and, when he saw
what we were doing, immediately volunteered to finish
for us. And he did ... the next day, after we were gone,
he went and bought his own paint and came back and wrapped
it up all on his own, which probably made me happier
than anything else, since that sort of togetherness
and willingness to help out is exactly what I was hoping
Any one of us can make a difference, but all of us working
together can be INCREDIBLE. I didn't include their names
(or my own) in the video because I wanted the anonymity
to serve the overall feeling that we were speaking for
everybody ... that our own identities were less important,
in this context, than the fact that we were traceurs
on the pilgrimage.
And then, before you know it, it was done. I was working
towards a March 6th deadline because I had plans to
return to Europe, and David Belle had agreed to meet
with me to discuss the project, so I darn sure wasn't
going to NOT have it ready for Mr. Belle. ;) Another
local traceur, Kristopher Holmquist, volunteered to
do the subtitling for me (he speaks French), and at
that point it was ready to roll.
David didn't ask for any changes (in fact, he actually
asked for an extra copy, saying he was going to show
it to the mayor of Lisses!), so as soon as I got home
I included one or two last-minute clips and just put
There's a chance it will be widely available in DVD
format someday, if I can work my head around the economics
of it. I don't feel I have the right to take any money
as a result of this, both because it's not in the parkour
spirit, and because so much of the footage came from
everyone else, so why would I deserve a profit? But
if there's demand, I'll try, and any surplus cash would
go directly into funding for community projects in Lisses.
WJ: Looking back now, especially after all the
praise you've been receiving from the parkour community,
do you think you've achieved your objectives?
DG: The project was hard, but worthwhile. My
major goals were to spread the proper spirit of parkour
as David Belle sees it, to teach beginners, to offer
help to those making the pilgrimage, and to highlight
some important issues that are often neglected. I hope
that, as a result, more people get into parkour, more
people do community service in Lisses, and more people
recognize that we are ALL in this together.
WJ: What next?
DG: Who knows? I plan on spending six weeks in
Lisses over the summer, as well as attending the TRACE
gathering and the 3Run Family Jam in London. I'll be
taking my camera, and I'm sure to see a lot of skilled
traceurs (including Belle, who has agreed to meet) and
a lot of good spots, so we'll just have to see.