The art of film in skateboarding
To build a list of famous skateboarders does not depend on whether or not one has ever skateboarded— Tony Hawk, Nyjah Huston, Ryan Sheckler. Easy enough. Everyone knows those names. There’s band of creative filmmakers and photographers, however, who trail behind skateboarders that typically go unnoticed; creators who care little about having their talents eclipsed by the raw footage they capture of these prominent skateboarders. Some worthy mentions of filmmakers who are responsible for the exponential growth of skateboarding: Torsten Frank, the now deceased Preston “P-Stone” Maigetter, Spike Jonze and Ryan “Beagle” Ewing. And that barely scratches the surface of the creators who have made skateboarding what it is today.
It’s not difficult to imagine what skateboard filmmakers go through to get the perfect shot. For every skatepark line, for every stair set and every hill bomb, there is a camera person catching the same amount of speed and traversing the same exact obstacles behind the skater who’s being recorded. The only difference is that the filmmaker simultaneously skateboards, juggles a camera and keeps their eyes on the viewfinder.
Unlike a Hollywood movie set, the filmers are in the fray with the skaters. Whereas camera operators on a movie set use dollies, cranes and shoulder rigs, the skate filmer has their own set-up — 8.5 in. boards, urethane wheels (for quieter, safer shots) and cameras with handles (Usually a Sony VX) allowing them to skate and shoot.
And it’s no easy feat to be a skate filmer. More than enough videos exist on the internet of filmers catching rogue skateboards to the face or cracks in the ground and falling flat on their faces. Who then can be considered the stunt person on the set of a skate flick, the skater or the skate filmer?
Skate filmers tend to rip through footage and libraries worth of memory cards due to their filming techniques. There is no cut, take, scene on a stair set or in a skatepark. Filmers keep the camera rolling and capture whatever they can while the red light is on. Because skaters can’t call when they’re going to land a trick or get busted by the cops while attempting to do so, it’s best for the filmmakers to “keep that shit rolling,” as Beagle famously said in an interview with RIDE.
Beagle set a precedent with his films by using this exact technique. For those unfamiliar with his work, he is responsible for most of the films that come from the skateboard companies Baker, Deathwish and Shake Junt. All of those companies are famous for harboring the most talented and charismatic skaters in the game. Skaters idolize the films “Baker 3,” “Baker has a Deathwish” and Shake Junt’s “Chicken Bone Nowison” for two reasons: the skateboarding and the incidental comedy.
“What comes with the style [of skateboarding] is personality. You just leave that camera rolling and capture all the after-antics,” Beagle said. “The big part of skateboarding is the fun, so you got to capture all the fun that comes with it: the celebrating, the random freaks and characters, the effort, the board-throwing, the meltdowns, the laughs, the cries. It’s good to show it all.”
All that’s known about skateboarding and the culture therein is because of the people that stay behind the camera. While they handle shooting the film and snapping the photos, most of them edit their own footage, too. Beside the two Baker team skaters, Andrew Reynolds and Dustin Dollin, who help edit certain parts in Baker films, most of the creative process rests on the shoulders of Beagle.
“Ever since I started filming, I wanted to make the magic happen […] There was never a turning point where [filming] became a job for me,” Beagle said. “Anybody [can] point a camera, push record and think that they’re filming a trick, but there’s so much art that goes into [filming].”
While the art of skating is left to the skaters, the art of skateboarding and how we perceive that art comes from the filmer’s passion they put into their work.
“This is skateboarding for the world. You want it to look as good as possible,” Beagle concluded. “They might try the trick 300 times, but if they land that trick the 316th time and you didn’t film it the way you wanted to, you’re going to live with that the rest of your life.”
Beagle exemplifies the dedication that filmers put into making skateboarding great. And while filmers get may get the appreciation they deserve from within the skateboard community, most of them are entirely disregarded by the fans who view the films. Beagle is an exception because the Baker team makes it a priority to take the camera out of his hands and turn it back on Beagle, thus resulting in the favored “Beagleoneism” part that plays at the end of every Baker, Deathwish and Shake Junt film.
Maybe other skate teams should take a page out of Baker’s book and feature their filmers more often. Maybe then a level of worldwide recognition would materialize for these artists. Sadly, though, many filmers are not recognized for their work as skate filmers until it’s too late. For Spike Jonze, his work on Girl Skateboards’ “Yeah Right!” is completely overshadowed by his work on “Where the Wild Things Are” and the first three “Jackass” movies.
But is this not the plight of the artist? To be heard, but never seen? Undoubtedly, these filmers are not concerned with stepping in front of the camera because they are too focused on ensuring that everything behind the camera goes smoothly. For what skateboarding has become today, the thanks goes to the filmmakers who put their bodies on the line for the sport, from their motivation on set to their dedication in the editing room.
For every skater ripping down a hill or tre flipping a stair set, there is an artist, hard at work, ensuring those tricks find their way to the next generation of skateboarders and filmers who wish to create the same fire with their creative spark.
Written By: Clay Allen Rogers — firstname.lastname@example.org