You know a lot of skateboarders. Why Austyn Gillette?
In 2010 I co-directed an on air promo for Fuel TV and cast Austyn as one of the skaters in it https://vimeo.com/11956628 After witnessing his skating on set that day, I knew I wanted to do a bigger project with him eventually. That opportunity finally presented itself in 2012. I had been working on the idea that would eventually become QUIK for about a year, making notes on spots that you could shoot from the car, interesting locations, etc. I knew that it would be a great fit for Austyn, after seeing how fast and powerful he was on his board. The stars ended up aligning and Quiksilver wanted to do something with The Berrics for 2012. I pitched them QUIK, they were on board and the rest is history. In the end, Austyn worked out even better than I anticipated, not only with his skating abilities but also with his ability to deal with all of the headaches that come with shooting a project like that. Over the ten days of shooting, it took a lot of patience on his part to say the least.
No screaming housewives, swinging security guards, or drunken homeless men. The people in QUIK are a little more typical, a little more real, and they seem to be shot through a more sympathetic lens. Actually, I might even feel my big city cynicism subsiding (I’ll never look at a sale-sign-swinger the same way again). Whether commuting or shooting, can you describe the type of people you enjoy observing the most?
I think you pretty much answered the question for me, I like real people in real moments. There’s something about the small, seemingly unimportant moments of the day that I find most interesting. Even though Los Angeles is a vast, sprawling city I wanted the moments in the video to feel a bit more personal and intimate.
I like real people in real moments.
At points it seems like the skateboarder-as-artist is contrasted against the pedestrian’s daily grind, but there are some moments where people seem to echo Gillette’s creativity and vitality. Is the skateboarder out in L.A. often at odds with society as frequently portrayed, in say, Baker videos?
That’s a tough question, I think there are times where a skateboarder might be at odds but there are other times where I feel a skateboarder is completely in sync with the city around him. With QUIK I wanted it to look and feel natural, almost as if by sheer chance you happened to look out your car window and catch a glimpse of Austyn making his way through the city.
I wanted to showcase Austyn’s speed, power and control on a skateboard and I thought the best way to do that would be to show everything in realtime. I also wanted to be able to use long takes (i.e. lots of pushing toward the obstacle and pushing after the obstacle) while maintaining a constant energy and I think slow-mo would’ve taken away from that.
I wanted to showcase Austyn’s speed, power and control…
Theorizing about cinema, a French guy once wrote, seeing is “subject to the operations of reason, whereas hearing picks up messages that for the most part trigger purely sentimental reflexes” (Jean Epstein, Close-Up On Sound). What are some of your favorite city sounds?
It’s hard to pinpoint exact sounds, I think the city itself has a living, breathing, quality that is impossible to replicate. The sounds of kids playing, the click, click, click of wheels on a sidewalk, muffled music coming from someones house or car, delivery trucks, footsteps, helicopters, conversations on corners, they all add up to this wonderful cacophony.
And speaking of French, a lot of your films are set “en route”. Austyn Gillette in QUIK, the boy in The Dodos music video, and even Pepper in the Broken Life doc—they all seem to be wandering. Where does this fascination with “the in-between” come from?
That’s an interesting observation. I had never really stepped back and looked at my work collectively as it relates to traveling or moving. I guess I like to show it in my work and it makes sense because I love camera movement and I like to wander myself. I have a hard time being static, I don’t think humans are wired that way. One of my favorite things to do is to wander. I think I can safely say that I’ve spent a majority of my life driving side streets, searching alleys, taking alternate routes and basically exploring as much and as often as I can wherever I am. If I’m on vacation with my wife, we’re walking and exploring. If traffic sucks, I pull off the freeway and purposefully take unfamiliar streets to my destination, if I’m on a walk with my kids we’re exploring some weird dead end street that we’ve never walked down. I’m always looking for a location, an oddity, a story or an adventure and as long as I’m doing that, I’m happy.
I have a hard time being static, I don’t think humans are wired that way.