What makes a good skateboard documentary? Well the very mention of “skateboard documentary” is enough to turn off most skateboarders, so why is it that people still insist on putting their time, money and immense efforts into making such films? Will anyone bother to watch them even once? The answer to these questions is not easy, but I do believe there is a place in the world for skateboard documentaries; every once in a while someone figures out how to do it right. There is no exact formula for making a quality skateboard documentary, but hopefully what follows will enlighten a few on the right ways to make one.
Skateboard documentaries range from big-budget Hollywood productions to teenager’s film/video class projects. Probably the most successful skateboard documentary is Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and the Z-Boys.
Peralta’s film has loads of seventies legends, a good soundtrack, and a captivating narrative by Sean Penn. But arguably the main reason Z-Boys was so successful was that it was made by an actual skateboarder, not some Hollywood hot-shot that thinks skateboarders’ only desire is to get ‘extreme’ on ‘half-pikes’.
Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator chronicles just that, Mark “Gator” Rogowski’s rise as a top pro in the Eighties and descent into alcohol, depression and eventually committing first-degree murder. Stoked set the standard for a variety of documentaries to follow about Eighties skateboard legends including: Pray for Me: The Jason Jesse story, Rising Son: the Legend of skateboarder Christian Hosoi, and more recently, Supercharged: The life and times of Tim Brauch.
It is impossible to discuss skateboard documentaries without mentioning Patrick O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d series on VBS.TV. In a more contemporary format, Epicly Later’d comes in the form of weekly web episodes on Vice magazine’s multimedia site. In my opinion, O’Dell nails it; he does a great job at giving insight into his featured skater’s lives and he never feels the need to add a cheesy soundtrack to his footage. My only critique would be that he often leaves the viewer yearning for more.
Pre-Epicly Later’d was 411VM and Josh Friedberg’s On Video. On Video was before the days of embedded video in the early millennium and came available on VHS and occasionally on DVD. On Video discussed various topics such as the meaning of style in skateboarding and the class of 1990.
Not so famous for his skateboarding abilities, but more famous (or infamous) for how he dominated the skateboard industry is a man called Steve Rocco. Rocco’s story was brought to the masses in The Man Who Souled the World. It’s worth a watch alone strictly for the unseen Guy Mariano clips.
Sometimes it’s all about the adventure that makes a skate doc worthy. Alex Craig’s Riding the Long White Cloud, premiering soon in London, chronicles the cross-New Zealand cycling excursion of Cairo Foster, John Rattray, Rick McCrank, Kenny Anderson, Chris Haslam, Silas Baxter-Neal, and Keegan Sauder. Twelve days of cycling and skateboarding across the kiwi countryside with a serious crew of heavy hitters is bound to make a good flick.
Featuring a legendary skateboarder or skateboard crew isn’t the only means to make an enjoyable skateboard documentary. Travelling through foreign and un-skated lands can indeed prove to be a captivating watch. Patrik Wallner’s documentary 10.000 Kilometers follows a band of ten international skateboarders on their journey along the Trans-Siberian railroad. Not as many big names on the trip, but the sights seen, spots skated, and experiences gained keeps your eyes glued. Wallner’s doc makes the grade by never including dull moments where you yearn for the vert button, I mean fast forward button, oops I mean the skip chapter button.
Courageously travelling to Russia this past March to premiere 10,000 Kilometers in a snowy Moscow, post-premiere, Wallner and crew set off south on a mission through Georgia, Turkey, and around the Black Sea. The trip was captured by Wallner and edited into an Mpora exclusive entitled: Around the Black Sea. Enjoy….