When did you start filming for this? And did you start filming for it? Or were you filming anyway and then decide that Static 6 could be possible?
That's historically the way it's mostly worked in the past. I’ll be skating with guys and I'll start getting inspired by their approach to skating. Like going to the premiere of the Static 2 video in London, afterwards we skated with some dudes…Olly Todd was in that crew and seeing his approach to street skating inspired me. I wanted the privilege of being able to showcase his skating to the Americans first, because Olly was probably well known in the UK at that point, but I didn't know anything about him until I met him that day.
So with Static VI, I went to Chicago for a Theories project and started filming with this kid Brett Weinstein, who was a Chicago local, and he's just got this eye for spots, and knows how to put a good spot to use in the right way. That kinda started getting the gears turning.
I get inspired by cities, like Washington DC for Static 1. Just my first few times filming and skating there, I became enamoured with that city. I was hugely inspired by London for Static 3. And with Static 6, that Theories trip to Chicago really inspired me a lot. Both the city itself and skating with Brett. I saw a lot of potential in both, especially since Brett was a pretty unknown kid at that point. And then John Baragwanath moved to New York around that same time, and I started skating with him and I started accumulating some strong footage of both him and Brett and a little seed started getting planted, like “Damn, who else could have a part if we made this into a Static project?” We all have some wild ideas of things we want to do some day, like, ‘Oh, I wanna write a book’, or this or that, but then the voice in our head is like, ‘Well, you really don't have time for that’, so there was all that self-doubt of like, ‘Could I really do another Static video? Is that really possible?’ I would go through spurts of feeling inspired to make it happen and then feeling like I didn’t have it in me to do another one.
You’re particularly good at pairing up spots and skateboarders for Static videos, but how do you know when footage should be in, say, a Picture Show video, and when do you know to keep it for Static? Is there a type of Static spot? How do you know what's a Static clip and what's another clip?
Yeah, it's tricky because I've never really worked on a full-length video in this modern era where you also have to be making so much immediate content. Working on an independent project on the side while being heavily involved in probably four other projects per year is really difficult to balance. It’s like you're trying to build a house and every three months people come and steal a bunch of wood from the house, and that's exactly how this whole video's been.
So every time we were starting to work on something for Theories it’s been less like saying, ‘No, that's a Static spot, we have to save it’, and it’s been more of having to cannibalise these guys' footage to make other projects happen. And then it's kind of held them back to a certain degree because people haven't been seeing their strongest footage. Not always “strongest” because it’s the gnarliest trick, but because the spot has more of a Static vibe or it’s a night line with the city skyline in the background. More like, saving the stuff that feels aesthetically “Static”. But having Theories constantly pulling at me, it's been especially difficult to prioritise Static…especially since some of these guys have multiple other sponsors that they have to do projects for as well.
At what point did you give yourself a deadline? When do you stop?
I mean, realistically I'd say we've been working on it for a little over six years, probably…so obviously some people have grown impatient, which I completely understand. The thing holding the video back the most over the last 1-2 years has been me trying to figure out and complete the conceptual stuff and give the video its own unique feel and theme. That really nearly drove me crazy because I'm trying to create yet another new concept for the same series, give it a different title concept, a new theme, etc. Which is tough after doing the same series for almost 25 years. But also, I wanted the video to be a secret until right before it came out and it started to become more and more well known that it was happening. So around January of 2023 I had to just decide that it had to be done by July no matter what. Force myself into a deadline.
So how hard was it to keep the secret between you and all these dudes? Or did everybody that you were filming, did they even know they were being filmed for a new Static video?
Yeah. As of five years ago, everybody in the video's pretty much known. And they all knew I didn't want people to know that it was happening and they did a good job of keeping it quiet. I didn’t want people to find out because I didn’t want anyone to have built-up expectations, I just wanted it to drop as a surprise. But I feel like nowadays there's so much information out there, there's so much content-pollution that one little bit of news like a new Static doesn't have much of an impact. So even if it did leak out a bit, it didn’t seem to spread too much. So I dunno, maybe it’s not a big deal to most people…there’s just so much media dropping constantly I don’t know how excited people get about a new Static video nowadays.
A Static video is still a big deal. And I guess it depends on whether or not the person finding out has got a Slap account.
Did the pandemic affect you badly? It did a lot of good for a lot of areas of skateboarding, but you travel a lot. How was the pandemic for you and your filming missions?
Yeah, I thought at first that it was going to be good, like it was going to help me really focus on figuring out the editing or the concepts and stuff like that. But it definitely made a long filming process a year longer, really. I actually ended up skating a lot myself. I started skating a few times a week just to escape the house after being cooped up for so long. Once people actually started going outside in New York—I’m sure it was like that everywhere—if you went out skating in the summer of 2020 you were judged, like you were doing something you shouldn't be doing, even though you weren't hurting anything.
I think the issue was if you hurt yourself, then you’d use up a hospital bed. Like if you get hurt then you're taking up a doctor's time.
Right. So yeah, it felt weird at first, but it was like people were hitting me up to film on the weekends and I was skating, and I wouldn't want to go. I wouldn't want to go film. I just had more fun skating that year than I had in a long time. So that kind of put a speed bump in Static VI’s progress. Realistically the pandemic should have really given me time to focus on the conceptual side of the video, but it didn't pan out that way, unfortunately. I'm still struggling with the look, feel and theme of the video. I think just so much of my day is consumed by stressing and worrying about Theories of Atlantis that I’m rarely in that calm, like meditative space that I always needed to get creative. When I lived in Florida that would happen for me a lot during long drives where I’m just listening to music and not focusing on anything specific. But now in NYC I’m just constantly stressing over work and on the go non-stop. It's made the creativity side more difficult for me now, so it's been a struggle.
How do you find the spots in cities that you’re less familiar with? Do you have homies in each town that can take you to the NBD spots? Or do you just spend time? Are you exploring or are you acting on tip-offs?
It's just tricky because everything's changed so much, it's like everything's so accessible now. It really comes down to the skater. Like Ben Gore or [Bobby] Puleo or Steve Brandy, those are a few guys I can think of where when we go to a city and we go to a spot, or somebody takes us to a spot, those guys would typically take off and go push around while the rest of us are at the spot. Because they want to find something that isn't a spot, or isn't something people considered a spot. So it really depends on the people. For Static 4, I literally was skating and filming every single day, so I was finding stuff, and now I'm filming once a week. My back's so bad I can't really go out and cruise around a lot. I kind of need to go straight to spots now, so my ability for finding spots has changed a lot. It more comes down to the skater, and how diligent they are. But on the road there's such a great network.
It’s like the Vladimir Film Festival in Croatia, that's kind of a similar thing where you go there and it's all those people that are in that secret network, like what skateboarding used to be. Skateboarding was this secret network and now skateboarding’s so big and it doesn't seem like that exists, but there is still an underground scene. A network of skaters, filmers ( typically VX guys), photographers and magazine/zinemakers—and so you can go to cities, especially cities that are under-appreciated, like St. Louis or Chicago, where there's that network of dudes that are making rad stuff and all the skaters have similar sensibilities and tastes to us but most of skateboarding hasn't seen what they're doing.
So in St. Louis, there's a rad crew of guys. There’s this guy Gabe Kehoe, and they've been making videos and doing stuff forever. In Chicago there's the Deep Dish guys, so there's always this network of guys who definitely help us out. But also there’s Instagram and everybody's got spots listed and it's like it's so unfair now. It's so easy to just cheat and use other people's work, but when you're in those cities for a short amount of time, even if you wanna find stuff on your own you still kind of need to rely on some locals to help out, so you kinda have to use both, your own knowledge and what that underground network is willing to share.
Do you think it's possible to be protective of spots now? Because yeah, with Instagram, everything's kind of out there one way or another. If you found something new, can you keep it to yourself? Or does it matter anymore?
It's so tough. It's so tough. I mean, again, it depends on the city. In New York I would almost say it's impossible. If something pops up, it doesn't matter where it is or how obscure it is, it's going to get discovered, so it's especially frustrating. It happens to us a lot. We’ll find something we’re positive is a new spot that nobody has touched, we’ll film something on it and then a week later it’ll pop up on an Instagram reel with someone doing the exact thing we just filmed.
So it sucks because you rarely get to have that moment anymore where you present a spot for the first time to the world. Especially if you have the patience to make a full-length project….if you're going in for the long haul, you just have to expect that 25% of the stuff you guys film is either gonna get done exactly the same or people are gonna put those spots on Instagram. But on the other side of things, it is true that nobody remembers most of what they’re seeing online anymore. So the old rules are kinda a lot more loose. Like before if we filmed something and then a few months later a video came out with someone doing the same thing on the same spot, we would’ve trashed our clip. But now, I assume most people aren’t going to see both our project and the one with the other skater doing the same trick. So it’s mostly not necessary to be as strict about that stuff these days.
If you just film yourself ollieing in the spot, then some kid’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna kickflip that’. And you've already got the kickflip in the first place to go in the video.
Where have you been? I mean, St. Louis in a Static video just sounds perfect, but where else have you been for Static 6?
This video, it's all American skaters and only one guy that lives in New York, so it's more kind of based around America. So we've kept it all here. We would've gone to London, but the pandemic really kind of shut that down. Just obviously London so perfectly fits the Static aesthetic. But for this video, the USA eventually became a big part of the theme of the video…so we’ve kept it all within the States. We’ve been all over but basically Chicago a lot, St. Louis, New Orleans, Miami, Philly, Baltimore, LA, Connecticut, and NYC of course. It just comes down to the skaters who have parts and where they’re from.
Do you think of yourself as a critical editor? Do you feel that you can be ruthless with the things that you cut? Because there's stuff that I think people put in their videos that you would cut out, even if it's perfectly good. Do you worry that if this took a long time to get, then the dude's gonna be bummed that it didn't make the cut?
It's tricky. I would say I've had a hard time cutting stuff in the past. You watch a lot of videos and you're like, ‘Man, that video was rad, but it was too long. It would be so much more watchable if it was two or three less parts in there’, you know? And I'm aware of that in making projects and it's difficult. I actually did it for Static 3. I pushed some people out because the video needed to be shorter. It felt terrible doing it but I hadn't been able to give them the time needed to film a complete part and it would’ve held the video back. But telling them I was pushing them was absolutely gutting. I promised them that I’d have a 4th Static video out 2 years after Static 3 and they’d be in that. But then it ended up taking me 7 years to get it done in the end. But yeah, there are still sections I wish I had cut from other videos, just to make the video more watchable and stronger. But I didn’t have the heart to do it.
As far as what you're saying, definitely. There's plenty of footage that the skaters are stoked on but that I don’t want to use. A lot of times it comes down to it being filmed by someone else and it not jiving with the rest of the part. It really hurts a part when it’s a mixture of a bunch of different filming styles and different cameras and white balances. I usually end up making exceptions to help keep the skater happy. But then years later I’ll watch the video and wish I had put my foot down, because a video just looks stronger when the filming all looks consistent and uniform. And I hate when a video feels like Frankenstein's monster of different filmers’ footage.
Like a 411.
There has to be a balance between it being more important when the skater does the trick how he/she wants to and when the filming looks the best. A good example is when we film something and I capture it on my phone and we sit and watch it at the spot. At that moment, what I'm looking for is not what the skater's looking for. The skater will be like, ‘Oh, that sucked, my foot was crooked’. And I’ll be like, ‘No, that was perfect, the camera caught up to you right at the right moment’. Sometimes the filming is more of a priority, which sounds wrong but the audience is experiencing this through the eye of the camera, so realistically that makes the filming really important. I’ve had a couple guys like Steve Brandi and Pat Steiner who really understand that…and they’ll often redo something because they know what the filming SHOULD be showing and I may not get it right the first 1-2 times. They're so focused on their skating, obviously I'm focused on my filming, but in the grand scheme of an edit, sometimes the filming is more crucial in the way that it presents the spot and provides more of an experience than just watching someone skate like it’s a sporting event. But nowadays everyone’s just filming long lens for everything so they probably don’t have this experience as much.
What was it like working with Jake Todd this time? What was it like having him involved?
If there’s some repost account or nostalgia account on IG and they repost some footage from a Static video, a lot of the time it’s something that I did not film, but it’s in a Static video so they credit me, and I always trip having to say, ‘Actually, that was…’
I'd say with every video I had somebody who was a major help. There's always been one person who is pretty selfless in that they’re just down for the cause and want to help make the video the best it can be. In Static 4, Ryan Garshell helped a lot, and Jeremy Elkin helped a ton with Aaron Harrington's part. Static III Andrew Petillo was a big help, Static II my friend Travis Sales was a massive help. And then this one, the video wouldn't be as nearly as complete without Jake’s help. He’s one of the rare filmers who’s willing to put his own ego aside to help me make sure this Static video actually got finished. Which is a MASSIVE favour because, as a filmer, the little bit of reward you get is the recognition of your work. But when you film for someone else’s video you rarely get the credit you deserve for your contributions….so I can’t thank him enough.
Having a second filmer is also critical in helping get second angles and allowing me to shoot 16mm of the skating. I’ve filmed quite a few tricks with the Bolex on a tripod next to me with my left hand on the trigger and then a VX in my right hand and shooting both at once. But then it’s not as effective since the perspective is pretty similar for both cameras. A lot of spots/tricks I would ask Jake to take the primary angle, like Jordan’s ollie over a bump to bar to lip slide a stoop, Jake filmed that fisheye way better than I could have. And it allowed me to get a long lens angle and then Trevor Thompson shot the 16mm for me. Jake also helped with the organizing and team manager kinds of stuff that comes with being a filmer. So it really helped take a load off my back during the last 2 years of wrapping up the video while I was also overburdened with Theories work.
You yourself are very particular about music though, I think. Would that be fair to say?
Oh, for sure.
Do you know what tune is going to be used as you’re putting the thing together? Or do you have tunes in mind? Does it vary? Have you got things in mind for people, or does it sometimes take until the very end for something to be clear?
The song is almost everything. And it sucks because there's always like 20% of the parts where I don't have a song figured out ‘til near the end. And that's the worst because it just never feels homogenous. It never feels like it's meant to be, and then it’s a mixture. It's tricky because a lot of times I've solidified it in my mind, knowing that this is THE song for this guy and it works so well and there's a story behind it and everything….And then the skater's like, ‘Hmm, I'm not really into that’, and that really sucks.
It used to be that it had to be my way. Like John Igei did not wanna skate to Jeru, he wanted Jay-Z, but he was cool about it. He told me ten years later when I saw him randomly or whatever, he's like, ‘Hey, I'm stoked we used that song now’. I dunno if he was just being nice or what, but it's amazing when you know for sure a song you're using and you can shoot stuff catered to that song. When I used to drive a lot and be on the road and listening to music, it allows you to kind of visualise the picture that music paints in your mind. When the right song hits, that's inspired me to want to make videos. Hearing a few songs and I'm like, ‘Oh my god, dude, this song could make such a rad edit’.
It's almost as critical as the skaters in the video, and that's what's really tough because I can't work within that world of music, getting the rights to everything. I just uploaded a part to YouTube for somebody to watch his part, and it was a private link, so it wasn't monetised or anything. Whenever you get problems with YouTube it’s usually, ‘This video can’t be watched in North Korea, Syria’, all that, but this one was: ‘We can’t identify who owns the rights to this so we won’t post this whatsoever.’ So I have to decide if the song is this important to me that it’ll never be able to be viewed on YouTube, and to me it is! It’s so critical because it ties in with the theme of the video. The skater doesn’t even like the song. But everything’s changed, and realistically it’s more important that it can be seen on YouTube, but to me it’s more important that the overall theme and feeling of the video is complete, and this song is so critical that I’m gonna probably just have to use it and figure something out.
It'll be on DVD, right?
Is everybody in it on a Theories brand? Is everybody involved?
No. That’s kind’ve a sticking point that the Static videos need to always maintain their independence. They’re not meant to be promotional videos. When this line-up was first formed, the only guys in the video who rode for TOA brands were Brian Powderly and John Baragwanath. But after you’re on the road with people for years on end and they become part of our family it just makes sense to try and get them involved somehow. Like ‘This guy doesn’t have a wheel sponsor? Fuck it, we’ll put him on!’ So we slowly added Jordan, Maalouf and Trevor to our wheel brand Dial Tone, because they didn’t have current wheel sponsors and we were hyped to have them in the TOA family. But everyone in the video was picked to be involved on their own merit. I’m a little hyper-sensitive to that belief that some people have, that the Static videos are gonna have all TOA riders in the line-up. But that’s never been the motivation for picking the talent in these videos. I mean, for the first three Static videos there was no such thing as Theories of Atlantis, so there was no motivation for promoting our brands.
Who you think is closest to the perfect cinematographer, director and editor, rather than just being particularly good at one. Who can do all that?
That's a tough one because there's several, but none of them are current.
I guess a good way to answer that would be to ask what’s the last thing that really moved me? There’s been some awesome stuff over the last ten years, but I feel like the last full-length that was complete and kinda moved me, was Mind Field. I don’t envy what Greg Hunt had to do with that video…basically taking Mike Hill’s original vision and try to bring that into the modern world while still respecting it. But I think he did an awesome job on that one.
That's a really good point because I would always say that around about 2001 or 2002 is when skateboarding started to refer to itself. When skateboarding’s progression became a result of the sum of its past parts. Things that happened after that, you can kinda pinpoint the references. Video production is more professional now than it’s ever been, but it was probably breaking more new ground when it was more amateurish. When the aesthetic was being defined.
My favourite videos, or the most influential ones for me, were Memory Screen, A Visual Sound, and obviously Eastern Exposure 3, and probably Photosynthesis. Mike Hill was editing with two VCRs and it’s poorly filmed, but that’s an aesthetic, now, that people try to recreate. So the tools aren’t necessarily as important as somebody creating that unique feeling that leaves you with something, an experience you’ve never had before. That was what was so brilliant about Memory Screen; all that music that you couldn’t find anywhere for a decade at least. When you hear music for the first time in a video, it links you forever to that video.
I feel that the most complete package is probably [Joe] Castrucci, because he was doing everything. He did his motion graphics, and filmed… Although he didn’t film everything because [William] Strobeck was there… It’s a tough one. The peak of [Dan] Magee’s best work. Him and Castrucci are probably some of my favourites in the “complete package” category. Filmmakers who did everything themselves, aside from score their own music I guess. Ty [Evans] with Transworld videos as well. Those were so influential to everyone. Jacob Harris and Pontus have been good examples over the last decade as well. Also been a fan of what Alex Rose and Matt Creasy have done with their “Threads” series as well. Creating an original look and vibe is not easy in such a saturated field. And they’ve made something that really stands on its own.
Is there going to be a Static 7?
No, absolutely not haha….Absolutely not. This one has literally been the hardest video I've ever made in my life for sure. Without question. And I physically can't do it anymore.
If I skate on a Saturday I can’t film on a Sunday because my back’s just fucked for four or five days. Same thing if I film for a day—real filming, carrying my shit and follow-filming—I’m ruined for nearly a full week. So I physically can’t do it anymore, and I’ve put the guys in this video through such torture, with it dragging on for so long and the business taking all my time.
The last one was supposed to really be the last one, and I made it really apparent that that was the point, but I always planned on doing this one, because when you open the box, there are two slots for the DVDs, but there were also these little slits that could hold a third DVD. So that was the plan, that I would finish something—maybe a twenty-minute thing, a smaller project—but within maybe six months of that DVD coming out the manufacturer who produced that packaging emailed me and he apologised saying they tested the slots and he just realised that a DVD won’t actually fit. They mis-cut it, so it won’t even fit in the little slots, which is a bummer. But then once this thing got to a certain point, it’d be a bummer not to have a separate package for it, so you could have them all in a line. If you care about that kinda stuff.
Is there anything else you want to talk about? I don’t want to ask ‘What’s next?’, because you’ve only just finished this massive project. That feels like a stupid question.
Yeah, I've said that before too. And how much I hate it when you're at a premiere of the video that you just spent seven years on. And they're like, ‘What's next?’ Really? ‘What’s next is you buy the dvd and you watch it a bunch and enjoy the fruits of our 7 years of hard work!”
Exactly. ‘This is what’s right now!’
Especially nowadays because videos are like a box of tissues. Take one out, watch it, and throw it away. This all sounds like it’s self-aggrandising, patting myself on the back, and I don’t mean it that way, but I always want with each video—and I’m not saying I’ve accomplished it with all of them, or with any of them—I want to figure something out that’s a surprise that breeds a new experience, and gives it a little bit of a longer life. And that’s really tough nowadays. How do you do it? Like the last one, the surprise was that it was two videos, but what can you do to extend the life of something? We definitely will premiere it in real theatres, probably almost a month before it’s actually out, and then it’ll be on DVD and then we’ll probably do a couple parts online, but I don’t plan on putting the whole video online.
So much goes into making these things, and I’m not just talking about myself. There are tons of full-lengths, still, but a lot of them are just like an online edit that’s forty minutes long. That’s why Magee and Castrucci were my favourites because you watched it and you knew there was far more thought going into this than just making a skate video. They sank their lives into it and bled for it,
Lenz III felt like a real full-length.
For sure, it did. There was so much work that went into that and the filming was incredible, the skating was gnarly and obviously there was a shitload of work put in for how hard it is to film in Tokyo in the first place, or to skate at all. That alone proved how much hard work went into it. Yeah Lenz III kinda felt like Eastern Exposure III to me where it was like a massive statement to the world saying “We’re here, fuckers!…and we’re actually better than most of you!”. Haha
That’s what’s rad about skate videos because..Lenz III is filled with this absolutely unbelievable CGI and post-production effects that are probably the most advanced we’ve ever seen in a skate video. But then I can also watch a video that’s on the exact opposite side of things, with cheap cameras and crappy titles and still get just as stoked or inspired from it. I use that Croatian video, Finta, as an example. The technical quality of it is super budget…but that’s not important at all. He’s basically proving to the viewer that high-end production is insignificant in a skate video, all that matters is if it makes you feel something. But he still blows you away…like, I don’t know how he did it but he makes a tiny little camera and he pushes it through the hole in the toe of his shoe and then you see through that perspective of that tiny camera. There’ll be a really shitty quality clip of him kickflipping, and then it cuts to him pulling the little camera out of his shoe. The quality is budget but the video is so damned enjoyable. It’s such a fun experience. It’s meaningful. You can tell that it means something to the person outside of just, ‘Oh, I’m gonna impress you with my skill’. And that's what's so rad about skateboarding overall, we get inspiration from so many different styles of skating, cultures, etc. Like I got just as hyped and inspired by the Menace section in 20 Shot Sequence as a kid as I did the Welcome to Hell video. It's just rad that there are endless ways to make inspiring work. You don't have to have the most expensive cameras or the latest editing software. You just have to really put your heart and soul into your work and it can shine through and inspire people no matter what format or technical quality it's presented through.
Published in our special Theories in Miami issue in North 37
Static VI and all other static related goods are available HERE