As the world of action sports videos slowly creeps away from the DVD viewer and into the hands of smartphone and tablet users, skateboard videographers walk the line between the past and present.
Through hardcore dedication, filming with all mediums, scouring the streets around the world and being chased by police, skate "filmers" are still putting in the time and pushing their creative boundaries. One of the gold standards of skateboarding video production has come from the Transworld Skateboarding camp. Though TWS is one of the world's premier skate magazines, its videos have become a stepping stone for would-be professional skaters and the elite alike.
Starting their video domination in 1994 with "The Dreams of Children," the bar was set and skateboarding hasn't been the same since. Not just through the unbelievable level of skating, but the TWS videos took editing and production to the extreme and made kids with video cameras cinematographers.
"The Cinematographers Project," the new release from TWS, is a culmination of years in the trenches and producer Jon Holland's distinct vision. The premise is simple: call up all the best filmers in the industry, let them go one-on-one with any skater they chose, give them total creative control in the editing room and splice the results together in one monolithic compilation of gnarlitude. The participants read like a who's who of the industry's premier lensmen: Holland himself, Dan Wolfe, RB Umali, Lee Dupont, Mike Manzoori, Beagle, Chris Ray, Bill Strobeck, Benny Maglinao, Brennan Conroy, Russell Houghten, Torsten Frank and Chris Middlebrook.
"When I saw the list of the elite skateboard filmers chosen for this project I was honored to be included in the video," Umali says. The icing on the cake goes to Dan Mizicko, an Ohio native who entered the Cinematographer Contest and won a chance to have his video edit included in the film. When asked how he would make his part stand out from today's watered-down, YouTube deluge, filmer Wolfe replied, "I'd compare it to making music. Create something more classic than pop and it will be less disposable. Solid fast skating will always be watchable."
"The Cinematographers Project" stars Jason Dill, Dennis Busenitz, Zered Bassett, Chaz Ortiz, Braydon Szafranski, Dylan Rieder, Mark Gonzales and a host of other top-notch skaters from around the world.
We sat down with Holland, who is the "Cinematographers Project" producer and head honcho, to get his take on what makes his new film one for the ages.
ESPN.com: Can you give us a brief who-you-are and why we're talking?
Holland: Hey! I'm Jon Holland and I run TransWorld Skateboarding's video productions. I'm originally from Birmingham, Ala., (Roll Tide!) and I moved to San Diego in 1995. My best friend, Ted Newsome, had moved out a few years prior and landed a job as art director for TWS. I didn't know anyone in Cali except for Ted, and he worked 20 hours a day. For real, he was always there working on the magazine, and then he would spin around in his chair and work on the video.
Ted got my foot in the door, and he basically taught me the programs: Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, etc. The first video I worked on was the original "Cinematographer," strictly in an editing roll. Back then, very few people could afford their own personal editing bay, so a lot of guys would just send in the footage and have us edit their whole part. TWS started realizing the interest and support they were getting for their videos, so a video department was born. Ty Evans was hired to run it, and I was there to learn. I was so thankful for the opportunity that I've been here ever since. Seventeen years strong, best job ever!
How many videos has TWS made? What year was the first one?
TWS has made 24 feature videos counting this one, as well as "Anthology" (a best of), and a handful of road trip and trick tip videos, too. "The Dreams of Children" came out in '94, but wasn't technically produced by Transworld, though it was made by TWS staff. The first official TWS video was "Uno" in '96.
How did the concept of "The Cinematographers Project" come about?
Just trying to update the original "Cinematographer" (1997). I still hear people out in the wild refer to the original. So I thought that there's so many good skate cinematographers nowadays that it just makes sense to do it. It gives everyone a chance to do their own thing. I think it's a great concept.
We actually created an online Cinematographer contest for anyone to participate in. There were over 130 entries in a little over three months. We chose a winner and he was flown to L.A. for the premier, got to stay at The Roosevelt, presented him with an award at the TWS Awards, and showed his winning entry on the big screen. He was so stoked! This is going to be an annual contest and award at our premieres from now on simply due to the overwhelming response and the number of quality edits we received.
How did you choose the videographers and why?
I reached out to everyone that still films skating that was involved in the original (from 1997), and I asked the guys I thought were the best in the business. Pretty simple.
Was it easier having so many working on the project, or a logistical nightmare?
It was pretty smooth. All the guys know what's up, so it's not like you have to really teach anybody anything. Everyone was prompt and on schedule, very professional.
A few of the videographers pulled out, did that throw a wrench in the cog?
No, it wasn't an issue. Our premieres have traditionally been in May or June, but this one we moved up to February for the awards show, so it put everyone in a time crunch. Both Jason Hernandez and Greg Hunt really wanted to do it, but couldn't due to prior work schedules. Same with Ty Evans. Jason felt so bad that he even came down to TWS for a couple of days just to help out. Thanks, J!
What makes "CP" different from the other films you've worked on?
The fact that 12 other people filmed and edited their own sections. The video is over an hour long, so there's something for everybody. From Australia to NYC to Europe to L.A. Buy it, you'll be stoked you did.
Is there an advantage in filming smaller parts or whole videos?
Both have their advantages. Small parts can usually focus on one guy. A company can really promote an individual skater or product, which is great. Where whole videos have more variety, which may appeal to a broader audience and have a longer shelf life, as well as represent the company as a whole.
How can you create a skate video without it becoming obsolete in a month?
Good question. Online skating overload. It's the most viewed sport searched and viewed on YouTube. I mean, when I was growing up I craved to see a new video or anything new of skating. Just give me something, even a 'zine, but now there's so much that I don't know where to look. So much crap, too. Just because the website has to post something every day or week doesn't mean it's worth watching. I guess if you want longevity in a piece, you should film skaters that are timeless.
How does a skater, his sponsors and yourself benefit from being a part of a video that is not owned by that skater's sponsors?
It's not like companies make any real money off skate videos once you minus the travel budgets and production costs. So really, if you're a company, videos are a marketing tool. And if you're trying to market something, then you want as many people to see it as possible.
TWS videos are different. It has a certain legacy to it. I mean look at the list of people that have done pretty epic parts with TWS. From (Chad) Muska to (Heath) Kirchart to MJ (Marc Johnson) to Daewon (Song) to Mike Carroll to (John) Cardiel and (Dan) Drehobl, this list is endless. Why do you think Paul Rodriguez did two parts with TWS? It's obvious to me that if you're in a respectable video that most everyone is going to see, then it's a good thing for both the skater and the sponsors.
We talked about how big premieres are the norm, is that changing? The cost of renting a theater and all the headaches that go with it, isn't it easier to just release it online?
Yeah, it's easier, but who said easier is better? An online premiere is a joke compared to a live premiere. You miss out on all the energy, all the cheers and excitement. It's still good to see people and share a beer, man. It's the American way! Plus it's on the big screen! Renting a theater can be covered with sponsorship alone, so that's not really an excuse if you're resourceful. There's ways to make it happen.
You've been making skate videos for a while now, what keeps you going? What keeps it fresh?
Skating doesn't get old, it's constantly reinventing itself. For me, I like meeting new people. TWS doesn't have a team or sell skateboards, or wheels or trucks. We sell journalism on skateboarding and the skateboarders themselves, which puts us in a unique situation by producing full length videos. In fact, TWS is the only skateboarding magazine or media group that produces our own video on an annual basis with a premiere and awards show. I have a lot of pride in that fact.
I've seen it grow from the beginning, from the very first premiere and awards show. I've also had the honor of partnering with some of skateboarding's most talented filmmakers while witnessing first-hand some of the best raw skateboarding of the last two decades. What gets old about that?
When will it drop?
What's next for you and TWS?
Skating, filming and traveling. Chris Theissen is stepping up to be my new partner, and we'll have another one ready to go next February.
I just want to say thanks to my wife, Elena for putting up with my crazy schedule!
Thanks, Mom and Dad for all your support! Thanks TWS!
I'm out …