To make it short, Vans first ever skate video Propeller does live up to the expectations. All of them. It’s safe to say it’s more than what we’d hoped for. The premier at Babylon theatre in Berlin yesterday revealed there isn’t a dull moment throughout the roughly 60 minutes of running time – even in an era of 15 sec attention spans. Propeller caters to everyone: it’s got the legends, the young guns, the bangers, the flow; the spots, the shots, the music and the moments in between that put everything into perspective. High octane, super charged skateboarding from beginning to end. Altogehter a job very well done by director Greg Hunt; nothing contrived here; not the re-invention of the wheel, as Greg humbly downplays it – “just a really good skate video”! Before the screening we got a chance to sit down with him for a bit of skate video talk…
Hey Greg, how are you feeling now that the first few premiers in LA, Melbourne and Shanghai have gone very well and everyone seems more than excited with the way Propeller turned out. Do you feel like a lot of pressure has dropped of your shoulders, do you feel happy, empty… what are your feelings now that this four year project has finally come to bear fruit?
I’m feeling very good, I’m really happy. Maybe I’m just a stress case, but these videos really stress me out. Every time I’m editing a video and it’s at that point where it’s not really done yet and you don’t know if you can finish it in time, I feel so much stress. And it’s bad stress, too; I might wake up in the morning and forget a bout the reality for a split second – and then it hits me and I remember…!
…well, it seems you’re not greying too severely so far.
Yeah, but every time I do a video like this I reach a point where I’m asking myself: Why the fuck am I doing this?! This is so unhealthy. It’s stupid to be trying to do all this work myself. And this video especially was stressful just because there was so much footage to edit. And of course it’s a really big video – it’s the Vans video! A lot of people have high expectations. So now I’m not only happy that it’s done. And it’s one thing that people seem to perceive the film really well, but also the team seems to be really happy with it. And that’s really why I do it. All those guys: from Cab and Geoff Rowley down to the youngest guys they all really enjoy it and are stoked to be a part of it.
Yeah, you’ve got around five or six generations of skateboarders involved. Do you see any trait or feature you think all of these guys from Alva to Zorilla share? Anything you felt you wanted to portray and bring out in the film?
Yeah, I think this is such a cool thing to have. Skateboarding really has come a long way. So now seems almost like the perfect time for Vans to release this video. Because I think now maybe more than ever skateboarders universally are excited to see Hosoi and excited to see Tony Alva. I don’t think maybe ten of 15 years ago it would have been quite the same because I don’t think skateboarding was really ready for it and mature enough. So, that said, I know a lot of the younger guys are blown aways they’re in a video with Hosoi, Grosso and Ray Barbee. You know, Ray came on a couple of trips, and the younger guys were like: “This is so sick, I can’t believe it’s happening!” But also the old guys are all huge fans of the young guys.
Would you say this is a special vibe the Vans team has got going or would you say this goes for the bulk of skateboarders?
Well, I’m not saying this because I work for Vans or because I’ve done this video; but I do think Vans has got something special going on. I think a lot of that comes down to how they’ve always run it and to Steve Van Doren. He’s always supported skateboarding and skateboarders. Nothing is really part of a bigger plan to have guys in contests; it’s really just about supporting skaters that embody and fit Vans. All these guys have a lot of respect for each other. When you do get these guys together, there really is something special there, and it’s special for them to be on Vans – and it’s not just a big pay-check, it’s a heritage. All of them have been part of it a lot longer than I’ve been around. Now I don’t know if it’s reflected in the video, but if you get them together it really feels like a family.
You clearly chose the classic full-length format for Vans’s 2015 debut feature. Would you say this format is a dying breed or are we maybe at the beginning of a new rising of the full-length, with people fed up with mass-consumption of bite-size edits?
I don’t know if there is going to be a new rising or a revolution. There is this conversation everyone has on no one making full-length videos anymore, everything being on the web and this being maybe one of the last big videos and so on. All of this seems so stupid to me because skateboarding has been ally of all of us; and to think people are going to stop making full-length videos and there won’t be any more of them is crazy! Especially because skateboarding does what it wants to do! And as long as that exists, as there are people like Steve van Doren and these guys at Vans or people like Rick Howard, that say “We don’t care if we’re not gonna sell 200.000 copies anymore – we’re gonna make a full-length video because we’re skateboarders.” So, as far as full-length videos go: I don’t think they’re going to die. If anything, I hope this video might inspire some people to do more!
Not JUST a bunch of tricks!
What’s can a full-length do that a single part can’t?
And I think you’ll see it in the video: There are moments! Moments you can only get when you spent that much time making a video. It’s the same with videos like Yeah Right! or other bigger productions that have come out over the past years. Certain things just happen and turn into special moments in the video – and you just can’t get that when you only spent three month on a part. Also for Propeller I really made sure I spent time with everyone of the guys individually, just filming them doing their thing, just so there are some really genuine moments. Not just a bunch of tricks, plus the guy setting up his board or sitting on a ledge, or standing against a wall… I don’t think anyone is really inspired by that, or gives a shit. It’s just filler. It’s boring. I wanted real moments… for example there is this shot in there in the beginning of Anthony Van Engelen’s part – real quick, probably just two seconds – someone was filming him doing a line. I thought I’d film him start, but with the tele lens on my Red Camera from real far away. There are workers doing this street construction behind him, working on water pipes. And he looks points at something and then suddenly there is this huge explosion of water and it looks like it’s right behind him through the tele; just a really short shot… moments like that you will only get when you’re out all the time for a long period. But to get back to the point: To me those are the things that make a full-length video special. You’re going to sit down and watch it without knowing what’s going to happen and you get a sense of the team and tell a story. You just can’t do that with single parts. You might end up with really good tricks – but not much more.
So are there any other full-length videos you are especially looking forward to?
I think Lakai is making one, Federico (Vitetta) is doing that. And I love him as a person and I’m also a huge fan of his creativity. I’ll be excited if Pontus (Alv) made another one… other than that I don’t even know how many other people are even making them. I hope people will!
Do you have anything in the pipeline yourself? Another full-length? Do you see yourself prescribed to this format?
No. (Laughs) It’s hard. My life is a lot different now than it was five years ago. I’ve got a kid. You’re always growing and changing as a person. I love skateboarding, I’m always going to be part of it, but this level of commitment – 15 years of it – is gnarly. It’s worth every second. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I really want to do now that this is done. I’ve got a couple of ideas for film projects around skateboarding that aren’t necessarily skate videos, more documentary style stuff. And I want to do non-skate stuff, too. But we’ll see. Getting Propeller done was such crazy work that I didn’t think much about it. What I really want to do now is hang out with my kid and my family. Then there is also a lot work left to be done around Propeller… but for me, I’m definitely not jumping into another full-length video now, that’s for sure. I’d hope though, that this video might make some younger guys want to get onto it.
Intro & interview: Jan Kliewer