A conversation with Emerica filmers Mike Manzoori and Jon Miner, right after the release of This is Skateboarding in 2003.
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How did the This is Skateboarding video originally come about?
Mike Manzoori: We had been talking about doing an Emerica video for a while—pretty much since we both started working here. It was in the pipeline around the same time that the Emerica team was being re-focused, so it was a much tighter package to work with. That was when we really just buckled down—two years before the release date.
Jon Miner: It kind of started right around when they were finishing the éS Menikmati video at the end of 2000.
MM: Yeah, right at the end of Menkimati, we sort of went from one video to another. But, it took a while before This is Skateboarding gained momentum, because everybody on the Emerica team was working on various other video parts at the time and they kind of needed a break. The ball really got started during that Australia trip in February 2001. This is Skateboarding came out in February 2003, so it was two years in the making. That was when Jon and I went to Australia with Andrew Reynolds, Jim Greco, who was on the team at the time, and Donny Barley, who was also on the team at the time.
So that’s when filming started?
MM: Yeah, that’s when we counted it as officially starting, although some stuff had been floating around before.
Who all filmed for This is Skateboarding?
MM: Primarily, it was Jon, myself, Justin Regan and Dustin Aron. Outside of that—kind of just like every other video—we had a whole list of contributors.
JM: We got a lot of footage from Scuba Steve.
What kind of cameras did you guys use?
MM: The Sony VX 2000—pretty much 90% of the video was shot on one of those.
JM: We used the 1000 a little bit at the beginning.
MM: Yeah, the VX 1000. Other than that, we both used various super-8 film cameras—so, some of that stuff got in the mix.
Are they vintage super-8 cameras from the 1970s or ’80s?
MM: A bit of both—some of them are really old, some of them are fairly newer.
Did you use elaborate light set-ups?
MM: Nothing too unusual. Like most skate videos now, you have to film at night, so we have the generator and two or three simple lights going on—the kind of stuff that everyone does these days.
Where do you get the lights?
MM: There are various levels. The beginning level is just the yellow work lights from Home Depot that everyone seems to start with, but they’re kind of impractical. We actually use these Lowell lights—they’re pretty good quality professional lights, but the main reason we use them is because they’re light and easy to travel with. But, people have all kinds of lights and rigs.
Do you use one of those loud gas generators?
MM: Yeah, we’ve been inhaling gas fumes for a couple of years.
Did you encounter real cops much?
MM: Yeah (laughs), almost every time we went out, we saw a cop in one way or another. It wasn’t always harsh situations, but we had our fair share.
JM: The only harsh time is that clip in the This is Skateboarding video where the cops are watching footage on the camera—those guys took our tapes. But, luckily, we didn’t have any good footage on there.
Did you ever get tickets or jail time while filming for this video?
MM: Surprisingly, not. We actually filmed at some places we knew were a full-on bust—that’s why we do all of the 3:00 a.m. filming sessions. But, somehow, I actually didn’t get any tickets, but Jon did.
JM: No, I didn’t get a ticket.
JM: I was out with Heath Kirchart one time and thought I was going to get a ticket, but only he did.
MM: Oh, you guys left and everyone else got tickets.
Did you ever get any trouble from random people passing by?
MM: Yeah, I can’t think of any particular instances right now, but you have random things happening so often, you kind of just forget about it and get on with your day. But, every other time you go out, there’s some nutball who’s got something weird to say.
JM: There’s only a problem with Heath, because he goes out late at night because he doesn’t like people around watching him. We’d be at UCI and kids would show-up to skate. Somebody would have to ask them to leave.
Would they leave?
JM: I think so (laughs).
MM: They could have just been hiding out somewhere.
How many countries did you guys film in?
JM: I’ll name the places we filmed, but I’m not sure if they all made it into the video: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Did each skater choose the music to go with his part?
JM: Pretty much everybody—except for Chris Senn.
MM: Yeah, he was the only person who said, "I don’t care—use whatever you guys want." But, we gave the riders priority. We got them to give us a list of music to pick from, then we kind of just went back-and-forth from there. Sometimes, they ended-up with music that wasn’t even on their list to begin with, but we definitely always made sure that the riders were involved in the choosing of the music.
JM: I picked Spanky’s song.
JM: The Cure.
Was there any trouble getting rights to use the music?
MM: There were a couple of things we got denied on, wasn’t there?
JM: There was a bunch of stuff. Braydon Szafranski had some ridiculous choices.
MM: Yeah, like the Rolling Stones.
JM: The Doors, Metallica.
Which is way too expensive?
MM: Yeah, some of them don’t even give out the rights to something like this.
JM: Yeah, The Doors’ response was that they don’t even work for under six figures.
MM: A lot of the music in the video was actually made by friends, and we also ended up using stuff that wasn’t on a major label, so that was pretty cool. I think the worst one was Danzig, which ended up costing, like, ten grand altogether—which was pretty harsh.
Which other skate videos have you guys worked on?
MM: The last main one we worked on was éS Menikmati. Before, that we did the Sheep video, Life Of Lesiure. Then we did a couple of videos for ATM—one was called Come Together—hence Come Together Productions. The Physics video.
JM: The Physics video was called Dream Reality. I’ve filmed for a bunch of different videos.
Did you guys film on Menikmati or just edit? Was it mostly filmed by Fred Mortagne?
MM: Actually, it was filmed by a lot of other people, too. There was a huge list of contributors for that video—moreso than Emerica. But, I’d say 50% was filmed by Fred and maybe 15-20% was filmed by us, and the rest came from other people. We also worked a lot in production.
What was the most rewarding aspect of working on This Is Skateboarding?
MM: (Laughs) Making skate videos is not as rewarding as you’d think. It’s a lot, a lot, a lot of work, then when it’s all said and done, you look back and say, "This is cool, but was it worth two years of my life?" That’s a question you ask—you know what I mean? I mean, I think it’s a good video—we’re all proud of it—but it’s pretty gnarly when you spend so much of your time, up all day and all night.
What are the hours like?
MM: Whenever anyone says, "Jump!" We say, "How high?" pretty much.
Did you guys put in a lot of all-night sessions?
MM: Yeah, toward the end. I guess with every video, it’s common to have a crunch time. Usually, in the last three or four weeks, you’re pretty much not sleeping at all. You might catch an hour or two here and there. We pretty much slept in the editing suite for the last two weeks non-stop. But, before that, it was pretty constant, because not only were we working on this project, but we also maintain all of the other projects for Emerica, éS, etnies, ThirtyTwo, etc. So, sometimes we would film until 5:00 a.m. then have to be in the office at 10:00 a.m. making an etnies BMX ad or something random. So, it was pretty crazy.
What future videos are you guys working on?
MM: Jon is working on...
JM: The Kids in Emerica tour video, it’s just going to be from all of the demos the team did this summer.
Just random footage from different tours?
MM: All of us are also collaborating on the next éS video, as well, which should hopefully be out sometime in 2004.