A Fragmentary History of Skateboarding Videos – Chapter 3 - What Do You Think of Skate Videos?

Chapter 3 – What Do You Think of Skate Videos?

Fragment 12

“ – Hi, what d’you think of skateboarding? – Hm, it’s obnoxious.”

Fragment 13

“- Hi. – Hi. – You look like an adventurous guy. – I like to think so. – What do you think of skateboarding? – Hm... it’s an artform, I think.”

Fragment 14

We could take it from here. The two answers above are not mutually exclusive: we can easily think of art that is obnoxious. However, they do illustrate two opposite ways of looking at the same thing. Socially, skateboarding’s reputation has always balanced between the two extremes: being dismissed as obnoxious or praised as an artform. It would be interesting to trace these two lines and the ways skateboarding as a culture or community has responded to them along the years. However, what interests me most is the fact that these two scenes, with question and answer, are part of the video at all.

Fragment 15

I chose Ron Allen’s Shackle Me Not [1988] part (aside from the impressive stuff he manages to ollie with a noseless board) because it includes the two “what do you think of skateboarding” questions. There’s an earlier one, which is asked in the beginning of the video to the old twin sisters that dress alike (“You look like you’re having fun and that’s the main thing”). Comparing these scenes with the stuff we found in the Powell Peralta videos of the past chapters gives us the basic ingredients to understand most of what would come in terms of skateboarding videos.

Fragment 16

Stacy Peralta’s videos were smart, ironic and not exactly out of touch with what skateboarders liked. But they were made by someone who was happy to experiment with classic filmmaking devices: things like plot, characters (the different colours for each skater in Animal Chin), dialogue, etc. They made fun of Hollywood and TV productions, but they had what was known in those industries as “production values”.

Fragment 17

H-Street’s Shackle Me Not is the neo-realist or cinéma vérité answer to Powell Peralta’s Hollywood. I don’t mean to say I buy into the whole “pure cinema” theory. There is no such thing. Once you’re filming, you’re making choices, proposing an interpretation by determining what’s left in and left out. What interests me is that by substituting the Bones Brigade videos’ scripted dialogue by stuff they picked up randomly on the street, H-Street made two important things more obvious to everyone: first, that the experiences surrounding a skate session are just as important as the skating itself, then, that the skate video is a powerful means for conveying those experiences to the larger community.

Fragment 18

Traditionally, the Bones Brigade videos and the H-Street videos are seen as two different types of beast. The first with its studied entertainment values, the latter with a rawer sort of allure, selling authenticity. But both are saying the same thing in different ways: that skating should be seen on video, that the two are inseparable, that with or without script the camera belongs in the session. Once that is said, the difference between scripted and unscripted or between real and fictional will necessarily become blurry.

Fragment 19

This can be seen in more recent videos. In Girl’s Yeah Right! [2003], the various invisible ramp scenes, where skaters manage to land tricks with the aid of ramps that were then edited out, beg the question of how far we are willing to let cinema interfere with skating in a skate video. The video’s title is the answer to the perplexity they expected to cause in the viewer with such scenes. On the other hand, in Baker 4 [2019], Baker’s filmer Beagle, famous for capturing what he calls the “hijinks” surrounding the sessions, catches sight of a feather slowly falling from the sky and manages to keep it in his frame. You can hear him say “Oh shit, oh shit, Forrest Gump, hold on... oh shit, Forrest Gump that shit... catch it, Spanky... catch it”. And Spanky does.

By Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira

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