Art On The StreetsWhen too many players use the same formula, things tend to become stale. Luckily for skateboarding, new sources of inspiration come along and shed new light on old news. Veteran riders are re-joining teams and making new video parts, kids are buying cruiser boards and old school tricks are being interpreted to today's standards. Skateboarding will always be skateboarding, but recently, it's going back to the basics.
Early skate videos often showcased group sessions. Think Rubber Boys, the Bones Brigade or the YMCA montage in Hokus Pokus. Elwood's 1st & Hope captures the real-time, real-life skateboard session, and the film is an x-ray of the experience: skate through traffic between spots, show up at a spot, join a session that's going down, wait around for your homie to land his trick, stop at the store, get kicked out just as the sesh is warming up.
"We skate around downtown late at night. We find a spot and skate it. We bomb a hill, walk back up, bomb it again, then bomb it one more time. We skate with whoever's skating, wherever the day leads us," says 1st & Hope star Kenny Anderson.
In the film, Anderson and Brian Lotti meet up and skate from the intersection of 1st and Hope to the Staples Center in downtown L.A., hitting spots and meeting friends (Eric Dressen, Lance Mountain and Matt Hensley among them) as they roll along.Ray Barbee sessions with Salman Agah, Lotti and Anderson. "It was great to just show up, skate and get what you get in a day rather than a year. I like the parts when the skaters bail, get their boards and keep going. That's very real."
Before production started, the creative process brewed for some time. "Lotti sent me a packet of drawings and poems that told this story," explains Anderson. "He said he wanted to make a film about skateboarding at its purest, and he wanted to portray the film as if it were a painting. He also wanted to do it in one take."
Once the project started to take shape, the Malloy brothers, surf and music vid-vets, signed on to co-direct the film alongside Lotti. In his directorial debut, Lotti plotted skate spots, lined up skaters for each session and took turns with Brendan and Emmett Malloy directing the session's flow. The Malloys have an extensive track record in music videos (Metallica, Black-Eyed Peas and The White Stripes are among their clients), but this project was a new challenge.
"We decided to shoot the movie on film, and 16mm is very expensive. We knew we wouldn't be able to burn through a bunch of film while skaters tried to land tricks, and that's what got everyone excited," Brendan Malloy points out. Having a camera crew didn't make it any easier to not get busted skating downtown L.A. "We knew no one would give us a permit to film skating, even if we had major skins," says Brendan Malloy, "so we said we were shooting a student film and wanted to shoot at the location for an hour or so. On the paper work, we said one of the actors would be carrying a skateboard. That way, the taboo word was on the permit." 1st & Hope is an ode to downtown Los Angeles, with panoramic shots of its architecture and streets busy with vendors. "I was thinking of the city in terms of different locations downtown. I wanted to represent what each part of the city means to me," says Lotti.
Several sequences are filmed from the front, giving the sense that you're looking back watching your friends skate. Some of the most standout scenes, like the flat ground session with Paulo Diaz, don't showcase the most spectacular tricks, but the chemistry of the sessions is remarkable.
The film boasts a solid line-up of old and new street innovators, but the real the star is skateboarding itself. The leading lady: downtown Los Angeles. The moral: skateboarding is seducing even in its simplest form.
For Lotti, the film is a reaction to the current state of skateboarding, "A lot of skateboard videos are focused on tricks. I wanted to show skateboarding in a way that it would make sense to kids. If I was to tell my kid the story of skateboarding I'd say, 'It's kind of like thisyou just roll through the city.' That's where it all started, and that's where it can return to."
See more at Elwood's 1st and Hope