Posts Tagged ‘On Video’

What’s Really Good With ‘What’s Really Good,’ The Doc On Skate Docs?

July 7, 2013

“We were just some kids with a couple beat-up cameras…”

The flashes pop in rapid succession and the stringy-haired kid narrows his eyes, looks ahead, looks down. He’s steadily moving toward something, from somewhere we hear urethane on cement, Swiss with the shields popped off.

The shot cuts to a pair of Half-Cabs, one shoelace torn and mended with a dirty knot. Underneath, though, no griptape but instead a plush red carpet. Tuxedo slacks, cumberbund. We hear the crack of an ollie as the kid disappears into a darkened theater, still trailed by cameras.

“You have to realize that nobody set out to make a ‘documentary film.’ We barely knew the word. What, PBS? ‘Roger & Me?’ It’s raining out. The camera battery’s charged, now what? Sit over there and talk about your town. Your scene, whatever. Grammar? What’s that? One take, you’re done, forget it.”

The brainchild of Dean “Slim” Newten, “What’s Really Good” tells the story behind the rise of the skateboard documentary as an art form. From its parodic beginnings in Bones Brigade video-part bumpers to 411VM’s early stabs at profiles and forays into long-form pieces by “ON Video,” Newten sifted hours of cutting-room floor footage and assembled filmmakers behind “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” “Dragonslayer,” “Fruit of the Vine,” “Stoked,” “Epicly Later’d,” Rising Son,” “The Man Who Souled the World, “Waiting for Lightning,” “Bones Brigade” and others to tell this no-holds-barred story through the people who were there.

“These guys were literally making it up as they went along — something from nothing,” says “Slim” Newten. “It’s an inspiring story because they were writing history and they didn’t even know it, with no rules, no film school professors, no budget. They just grabbed a camera and a tripod and a stool and went for it.”

But when the red carpets began rolling out, they sometimes led to darker places than Hollywood premieres. As the promotional tours and receptions grew more lavish, some filmmakers succumbed to the debauchery for which the documentary film scene has become notorious — writhing among glaciers of crystal meth, drifts of cocaine and endless nights soaked with heroin and frequently anonymous sexual relations.

“We always lived on the edge. But all of a sudden we looked down, and there was nothing under our feet anymore.”

Gilded mansions and white tigers on leashes soon replaced skate houses and unpaid amateurs as filmmakers’ indulgences took them in garish new directions. Directors began employing actors to perform soft-focus reenactments, harnessed cameras to miniature helicopters and experimented with “reality” television.

“In the end, for some of them, it was their original love for documentary filmmaking that brought them back from the precipice of oblivion,” says “Slim” Newten. “There are a few people — and I count myself among them, for better or worse — who can honestly say that making documentaries about skateboarding saved their lives.”

As raves pile up for “What’s Really Good,” “Slim” Newten already is looking ahead to his next project — executive producing “It Is What It Is,” a documentary by independent filmmaker Franciolious Paul Julian-Buzzles, chronicling the painstaking process of poring through Hi-8 tapes and archival VHS tapes to make “What’s Really Good.” It’s a journey that “Slim” Newten says nearly cost him everything — his friends, his credit rating and, most riskily, the love of an honest woman.

“I set out to simply tell the story behind the story about the stories of the stories of a generation that’s all too often overlooked,” says Julian-Buzzles. “What I didn’t count on was stumbling across a tale that could’ve been my own life.”

Julian-Buzzles, originally trained as an organic taxidermist specializing in Eastern European waterfowl, is currently consulting with prospective ghostwriters for his own autobiography. It is tentatively called “Franciolious Paul Julian-Buzzles: The Raw Deal.”

On And Off Again: A Video Magazine’s Tale

February 1, 2009

In case you don’t understand, I’ma make it understood again

ON Video: a FIC x BTO collab

Right up front let me just tell you how I’m generally unreliable and a veteran procrastinator: I hollered at frozen in carbonite quite some time ago to see if he wanted to do kind of a point/counterpoint thing about 411’s star-crossed “On Video” series, after I issued some smart remark about it and he nobly rose to On’s defense. So he wrote some shit and sent it to me. In the ensuing months, love affairs were launched, puppies lost and reclaimed, missiles deployed, an historic presidential election.

Oh, and in all that time I didn’t watch or download or stream a single piece of On Video footage, and I know there’s at least one floating around my hard-drive. I think it’s the Rodney Mullen one, which I did watch at one point, and downloaded years later in hopes that it was the Love Park issue and I could comb it for Kalis footage to include in this project. But, I didn’t even watch that. And, I never bought any.

Which is basically what I imagine the guestbook at the On Video wake would have read. “Never bought one.” “Watched part of it at my cousin’s house once.” “Got ‘Reel to Real’ instead.” “Too much talking.” Et cetera. On Video, beloved by some, ignored by others, bought by very few. It was definitely a much-welcome lifesaver those long Wednesday mornings when I worked a skate shop, but even then I don’t recall watching one more than once or twice, with the possible exception of the half-hour Danny Way love-feast. And didn’t ever buy one, even with my mighty 10%-above-cost discount.

I did purchase the Arcade tour video, but that’s a whole other ball of worms and just one of my several personal problems.

Which is not to say the forward-thinking On series, and their obnoxious magazine ads with the inexplicable giant red dots, served zero purpose aside from running down the Natas-Satan name imbroglio to half-wit sixth graders. Fueled by a great abundance of tour footage, in an age when each and every road trip was deemed worthy of its own 411 segment (or a section in the abysmal “Around the World” videos), On got people thinking about the history, personalities and places skateboarding has produced over the past few decades as a subject worthy of serious consideration for your independent documentaries or vanity press books or what have you, at roughly the same time the current incarnation of skateboarding was powdering its collective nose for star turns on ESPN, MTV, and any numbers of theaters near you.

Frozen in Carbonite lauds On Video, rightly, for parsing the process behind pivotal video parts, people, places in skateboarding, ideas that were picked and expanded upon by the Stacy Peraltas and Epicly Later’ds and various others. Interesting, sometimes intriguing, usually at least marginally entertaining. But when the chips have been counted and so on, to me the process will forever be second to the finished product, burger over bun, the four-point-five second clip rather than the 90 intense minutes it took to climb the fence, pass over the generator and camera bags, patch the cracks and set up the lights.

Hearing Marc Johnson emphasize the stress and drama that went into making “Fully Flared” doesn’t put the proverbial balls any closer to the wall when it comes to Alex Olson’s part, or make the see-saw slow motion any less distracting. Commentaries are fine, and I enjoyed hearing about Guy Mariano’s favorite hat and the Girl honchos’ ruminations on rap music in video parts, but after one or two times through I’m back to the Earth Wind & Fire, thank you. And trying to build a skate video around the documentary idea hasn’t proved especially successful, at least to me (and I’m thinking mainly of the at-times eyeball-rolling “Hot Chocolate” video here).

And you know what – there’s something to be said for the apocrypha of skateboarding, stories that belong to them what who was there or somehow passed down via skateboard shop bullshitting, post-video screening mullings or after you’ve been at the spot a couple hours and everybody’s spending more time shooting the shit than trying tricks anymore. As valuable as the Andy Roy Big Brother interview remains, as a document and, for some, a manifesto for living, there’s something vaguely sad about the idea of it being reduced to a handful of jpgs to be bandied about messageboards and LOL’ed over. It’s sort of disappointing to think that anybody with a cable modem can click through the highlights of “Tim & Henry’s Pack of Lies,” a video that used to be next to impossible to see, much less own.

Insert here bitter old man comment re: earning it, building character, etc.

It’s certainly not like I hated On Video. And it’s not like I don’t love Epicly Later’d (though my shriveled internet grinch heart did break a bit when Pappalardo and Wenning didn’t get back together at the end of the most recent episode). Without On’s at times fumbly foundation-building, maybe O’Dell wouldn’t have been able to nail it as he seems to have done – disposable, free-of-charge slices of skateboard lore in easy-to-digest six-minute bites, to be viewed and forgotten as necessary, bought on disc by the library-builders. It remains to be seen how often I come back to the DVD of season one, which I didn’t pay for… or the Lakai box set, which I did. (Sans Blu-Ray players, too.) The grand fool-maker time will no doubt reveal which ends up being the better investment…