Drones are in the news again, as fire chief gripe about miniature robotic helicopteros obstructing blaze battle plans, radio frequency weaponizers develop defense systems and the kite-eating tree occasionally graduates to more expensive and, one is forced to assume, tastier and electronified fare. While persnickety oldsters would pass laws and hang out ‘No Droning’ signs, the young and vibrant drone subculture simply wants to drone in peace, twirling their little propellers in disused parking lots and parks. Sound familiar?
Ty Evans, captain of TWS and Girl videos that were, finds himself astride the bucking international drone hoopla as he promotes his newest Film, ‘We Are Blood,’ a citrus soda-financed, high-tech frolic through megacities and undercharted backwaters aimed at pushing the production-value envelope and explaining what makes skaters tick. After a decade in the Crail camp, Ty Evans is unshackled from the rote part-part-part skate video format, trading in Girl’s unexpectedly long-lived ‘SHT SOUND’ for a Dolby hi-fi replacement and free to indulge in as many bro-hugs, high-fives and wildly undulating overhead-hoisted boards as his cameras’ memory chips can manage.
Cribbing the template from Brain Farm’s big snowboard movies such as ‘Art of Flight,’ Ty Evans points his lenses and drones and microphones at Paul Rodriguez, whose impeccable technicality, worldly vet status and passable script-reading capability provide a cipher for framing this road trip exploration of a bond between skaters worldwide. Paul Rodriguez sets it off appropriately enough in Los Angeles’ hallowed schoolyards, jumping to Dane Vaughn at J-Kwon and some euphoric and very welcome ditch-bombing by Omar Salazar before Ty Evans pulls back the lens to fit the rest of the US and well-traveled overseas jurisdictions like Spain, China and Brazil.
Paul Rodriguez dispenses with his own brand of razory execution — the k-grind front foot flip out is taken up a notch — before turning over a good portion of the RV miles to lesser-knowns like Jordan Maxham and infrequently-heralded journeymen like Moose, who rips most of the spots he’s recreationally vehicled to. Tiagos Lemos easily comes over as Ty Evans’ breakout star though, manufacturing at least one incredible clip per location-specific segment and his own mini-part when ‘Blood’ winds its way into Brazil’s particular deep-city grime. His ratio of monologue to tricks like the b/s 180 switch f/s crooked grind fakie flip out, switch b/s tailslide switch flip out, of the switch bigspin b/s tailslide is favorable.
Elsewhere Jamie Thomas boards Ty Evans’ RV to address some Deep South spots that include his old high school, inviting the viewer to marvel at his enduring grit and award style points for the right hand on the kink 50-50. At some juncture Brandon Biebel does a nollie b/s heelflip over a table that could repeat for 10 minutes, or perhaps through the end of the Film, with ultimate justification.
‘Blood’ reverts Ty Evans in some ways to Transworld mode, enabling him to pick and choose seasoned pros and comer-uppers motivated enough to revel in motorhome squalor for seven weeks, book extended stays overseas and spend lengthy stints at the spot biding time until the half-fozen camera rigs are properly aligned. It’s a testament to Ty Evans’ famed work ethic and the spry joints of his subjects that they cultivated a 90-minute Film from just over a year of Filming, versus spending years to construct an hourlong vid from a 30-deep roster of geographically diverse dudes that include a fair number of entrepreneurs.
(Probably Ty Evans and Girl should have broken up before ‘Pretty Sweet.’ Manning a Film that is his alone ups the stakes for Ty Evans the auteur personally but drags no weighty and beloved 20-year video legacy behind it, nor are there destination concerns for precious video-footage minutes turned in by aging favorites and the potential for substantial portions relegated to b-roll extras.)
Untethering himself from the skate vid format seems also to have resparked some of Ty Evans’ creativity that in the last few years seemed to have piled out, like in 2011’s leafy HD rehash of Rick Howard’s forest cruise in ‘Mouse.’ ‘Blood’ breaks from the schralping for an educational and droney cruise through a granite mine that sets up a slab’s brief journey from quarry to waxy ledge, there’s cool time-lapse footage of a wall scarred up by wallrides, a small-world-after-all moment in the unearthing of an ancient Spanish bowl, and frantic gamesmanship between the ‘Blood’ gang and an irate Chinese official wielding a garden hose. Staged puddle sprays aside, the RV segments bear honest whiffs of open-road adventuring and Paul Rodriguez’s ‘blank canvas’ remark about Dubai’s sumptuous plazas is on point, though Tim O’Connor’s quip on traversing the globe’s far corners to end up behind some K-Mart isn’t far off when Theotis Beasley, Sean Malto and others helicopter their way to a high-altitude landing pad where they session a basic bench.
‘Blood’s’ Cleveland-channeling theme of togetherness gets repetitive after 90 minutes, particularly when these annointed blood brothers are nailing ferocious tricks in pristine tropical spots with the blessing of local extreme power brokers, but some of ‘Blood’s’ best detours arise from dudes with only tenuous industry ties. Ty Evans of all people manages to put outer borough nomad Anthony Pappalardo in the most thoughtful and succinct context he’s had recently, same with DC’s Darren Harper. The Film’s message gets over in a surprise Skatopia visit and a well-spoken stop by a small-town DIY.
Whereas ‘Blood’ trades on the concept of a bond between skateboarders, the Film also raises the question of its elasticity. Many* believe in evangelizing skateboarding — Ty Evans in the ‘Blood’ Transworld issue says that “I’ve always been under the idea that I would love to share skateboarding with the world, and especially those that don’t skate. If a kid that doesn’t skate happens to see one of the films I’ve made, and that gets him hooked on skating, then I think that it’s working.”
Are the spirits of the kid kickflipping in front of his stoop in Oakland and the kid who swings through the YMCA park after swim team in the suburbs as closely kindred as those few dozen who may have traveled over an hour to glimpse underpaid pros skate a rickety hockey-rink demo in 1995? It is a question recently pondered by Ty Evans’ former Lakai coworker Kelly Bird, now a Nike employee:
“You can’t check a kid’s gear and automatically draw the conclusion that you’re the only two kids in school that know what Thrasher is anymore. You and the quarterback show up to school in the same outfit and neither one of you think it’s weird. He actually invites you to his party now instead of trying to flush your head down the toilet. You go to his party and have an awesome time. He lets you borrow his copy of Thrasher the next day, then Lil Wayne calls you to go skate.”
It makes little sense to attempt judging Ty Evans’ ‘We Are Blood’ on typical skate vid merits, but the effort to harness a heady concept, glossy production that stands at odds with the broader skate sphere’s persistent VX fetishization, and a lengthy runtime leaves the question as to who the Film is for. For those increasingly accustomed to digesting Guy Mariano’s latest facemelter in 14-second increments, an hour and a half seems a big ask. Volcom’s recent ‘True to This’ was partly perceived as looped fodder for retail outlets, though the number and capacity of whispered Mountain Dew speakeasies remains unclear.
Ty Evans previously has touted the high sales of ‘Fully Flared’ and ‘Pretty Sweet’ as signs of their resonance with Joe Kickflip; does ‘Blood’s’ loftier aim require a bigger yardstick? Will collapsing oil prices constrain Dubai’s ability to deploy economic incentives that could help the emirate compete against Spain and China for pro roadtrips and magazine articles detailing esoteric and wily local cuisines? Will this be the Ty Evans production that finally tops Richard Angelides’ Rhythm part in the slow-working minds of certain backward-thinking internet reactionaries?
*Particularly those whose livelihoods are tied to selling skateboard goods