Emerica filmmaker Jon Miner interview
I'd rather be a construction worker than a skateboard filmmaker in 2011. I don't think I could handle the heavy lifting of trying to create something unique both in terms of look and content from what everyone else is doing while also trying to give a glimpse of skaters' personalities. That last part might be the toughest. Aside from a quick sound-bite, a stray high-five and a song of the skater's choice, it's a daunting task to convey much about anyone other than their skateboarding ability in a video part while still keeping kids interested. I think that's what makes Emerica/Altamont filmmaker, Jon Miner, such a genius. He created short, free, B-side videos for each rider from the excess and alternate "Stay Gold" video footage to try to convey the story and hard work that each guy put into their part. I think he's doing a masterful job. The B-sides to me have a very personal feel, giving us that behind-the-scenes insight into who these skaters are. We caught up with Jon to talk shop and see what he's got lined up next.
What is the story with all these B-Sides?
The B-sides are a lot of the leftover footage from "Stay Gold." After the video, I went through everything, every clip in all the hard drives that was interesting, behind the scenes stuff or alternate angles, and organized everything for each skater. That took forever: three months. It was so much footage to go through. These B-sides have taken way longer to edit than the video; it's super gnarly. We talked about making a whole other video but it seemed like it'd be funner to tell each skater's story and do it for free.
Does everyone have a B-side coming?
Yeah, pretty much. I'm still going through it all; some of the guys I might end up grouping together. But its worked out to be our own version of a "Behind The Scenes." This gives people a good idea of what goes into each person's part. Like [Justin Figueroa] Figgy's B-sides; it wasn't until I watched it through once until I was like, "Wow, this is super gnarly. This guy beat himself up for his part."
What was your vision for "Stay Gold?"
The idea from the beginning was pretty basic: to take "This is Skateboarding" to the next level by elevating the younger guys, bring in new talent, and expand on the filmmaking taking it in a more psychedelic direction while maintaining the integrity of Emerica. Working on a project of that size, involving so many people for four or five years, the project takes on a life of its own. But in the end, overall I think we reached our goals.
What's your approach to filmmaking and what is the secret to making a good skate video that doesn't look like everything else that's out there?
There's no secret, I try to keep the filming clean, nothing too fancy that will distract from the skating. Cut together a basic edit that flows and, at that point, decorate it based off the overall vibe of the skating and the music. It's like a painting, you start with a basic outline, then you add color, perspective, etc ... not to sound like some art dweeb.
How difficult was the editing process will the mass of footage it seems you had to work with?
It required constant care keeping all the tapes/drives organized. As far as trick selection I worked closely with the team to make sure they were happy. There were only a few cases where there might have been disagreements and in each case I tried to make it work. If it didn't, I would do my best to explain exactly why. Making the team happy is number one. If they're happy, I'm happy.
What are some tricks that you were really torn between cutting and keeping?
The only thing that comes to mind is Leo's grind up the rail. I just felt like the footage didn't do the photo justice but in the end Leo really wanted it in. That's actually a funny story: Leo tried to keep that trick a secret because he knew Emerica would want to hold the photo until after the video and he was so eager to run it in the mag. Cricket, the guy who filmed it, partially spilled the beans saying, "Leo got an epic trick, but I can't tell you what it is." Jet [Emerica Team Manager Jeff Henderson] and I looked at each other confused, "What? You can't say that and not tell us what it is, why did you mention it?" Cricket responded, "I can't tell you guys, [Skateboarder magazine Senior Photographer, John] Bradford already told Figgy, and Leo is pissed." So I called Figgy and tricked him into telling me the truth, 50-50 up Owen Wilson [the nickname for that rail based on the skit from "Yeah Right"]. I didn't mention it until after the cover came out. Leo's got a natural talent for making things awkward.
We saw Andrew Reynolds' filming madness in the bonus section of "Stay Gold." Who else has some filming madness?
Pretty much just Reynolds with the madness.
What was the hardest part about making "Stay Gold?"
There were a number of challenges, the ones that came closer to the deadline stand out the most just because of the level of stress. Jerry Hsu's constant knee/ankle injuries and what direction to take his part in was a pretty heavy one. Jerry went through hell to film that part, He got ankle surgery and two or three knee surgeries. He skated switch because he didn't have the strength in his knee to skate regular. That's how good Jerry is; he filmed an amazing part on a bad knee going the wrong way. Other stresses include picking music, clearing rights (my manager Dustin Aron handled the music licensing and he killed it). A lot of it came down to the last minute which was pretty stressful. We wanted to use Cat Stevens' "Trouble" for Jerry, which fell through at the last minute. Also, editing in my small apartment with a newborn baby, the list goes on and on.
Who is the easiest to film?
Reynolds is pretty easy. He always has a plan and tends to nail it pretty quick. Maybe not so much easy because the filming situations are challenging, but definitely cooperative is Collin Provost. The intro stuff we shot at the skateparks was shot in 16mm so for the lines he did them at least twice, usually more than twice: once for video and again for film, so we could sync the audio and also get the filming dialed before shooting expensive film.
What's the next project you'll be working on?
Working on a promo for Emerica with parts from some of the guys. I don't want to get too specific because it's still in the early stages of planning.
Can you still zip around Santa Rosa Park like you used to back in the day?
Yes, flowing around Santa Rosa Park, like riding a bike.
To keep up on future B-Sides, keep checking the emerica site.