Vladimir Film Festival

Inter­view with Rick Charnoski and Coan Buddy Nichols

15 / 10 / 2018 / Interview

Open­ing of the Behind the fence install­a­tion / Photo Tedi Korodi

Inter­view by Aymer­ic Nocus

Q: Where do you guys come from and what pro­ject are you spe­cific­ally com­ing to present in Fazana? Would you say it’s an unpre­ced­en­ted install­a­tion? And would you say fly­ing all the way to a vil­lage in Croa­tia to present such a pro­ject is unprecedented?

Rick: I come from Phil­adelphia Pennsylvania, nyc and now los angeles. The pro­ject we are bring­ing is some­thing that we’ve been dream­ing about for about 10 years. When we got the invit­a­tion to come to Croa­tia, we decided that it was time to make it hap­pen. We would not have been able to do this without the help of our friends, Chris Blauvlet, Sean Goller, Jim Kwi­atkowski, Dean Lee, Brad­ley Weems and Keslow Cam­era. This install­a­tion is a first of its kind. It has nev­er been seen or done before and the build­ing and install­a­tion is just as excit­ing as the video itself. The entire work is 100% exper­i­ment­al. This is what excites us more than any­thing. We have been mak­ing skate films for over 20 years, but nev­er any­thing like this. Tress­passing and skat­ing an empty pool in the Hol­ly­wood hills is as secret and off-the-radar as it gets in skate­board­ing. Most people, even most skaters will nev­er exper­i­ence this for themselves.

Buddy: Right now we are liv­ing in Los Angeles for the last 15 years but we both grew up on the East Coast of the US. The install­a­tion we are doing prob­ably hasn’t been done in skate­board­ing- we are doing it more as a “home made”/ DIY type of install­a­tion which also makes it unique. We are super excited to be premier­ing this in a town in Croa­tia! Whenev­er we tell people about the pro­ject we always fol­low up by telling them we are show­ing in Croa­tia and every­one gets stoked- it’s not every­day you get flown half way around the world to do some­thing like this.

Behind the fence / Photo Spen­cer Legebokoff

Q: How long have you been oper­at­ing for? What would you say made your first film, “Fruit of the Vine” (1999) stand out and how did that drive you to work with Gus Van Sant on the dream sequences of his “Para­noid Park” (2007)? What was that exper­i­ence like, get­ting involved in such a project?

Rick: Buddy and i have been work­ing togeth­er since about 1998. We star­ted in new york, then moved to la in 2003 to be closer to waves and empty pools. Fruit of the vine was shot all on super 8 film which is unusu­al in skate­board­ing… But the thing that made fotv totally unique was that it shed some light on all of the oth­er stor­ies and people ythat come with skate­board­ing. It was an invest­ig­a­tion of our own tribe. We talked with people and shot inter­views and took audio samples and made music and shot with ‘storytelling’ in mind. You need to remem­ber that in 1998, people weren’t look­ing beneath the sur­face of skate­board­ing. Skate films and videos were about doing tricks to music. Our film was some­thing to pro­voke some thought and give insight into who we are as skate­boarders. “Para­noid park” was dir­ectly linked to fotv. We were in aus­tralia at a film fest­iv­al show­ing fotv, when we weere intro­duced to cine­ma­to­graph­er Chris­toph­er Doyle. He was get­ting ready to shoot Para­noid park and thought that we’d be per­fect for it. When we got home, we got a cold call from Gus Van Sant who was call­ing to ask if we’d come up to Port­land to shoot some super 8. It was a great exper­i­ence to work on that level and is still one of our biggest “Hol­ly­wood” moments.

Buddy: Our first film “Fruit of the Vine” was basic­ally Rick and I hav­ing an idea that we liked and just going for it. We didn’t really know what we were doing – we just had an idea and decided to use our lim­ited exper­i­ence and resources to make the idea a real­ity (the same as we are doing with The Skat­rix). A big part of the fun of mak­ing films is fig­ur­ing it out as we go along. Gus Van Sant happened to see some our super 8mm film work from “Fruit of the Vine” and he liked the look and feel of it and the main char­ac­ter of his movie “Para­noid Park” was a skate­boarder so Gus wanted his dreams to involve skat­ing and be shot by skaters. Since we worked on that we have kept in touch with Gus- he’s a great guy.

Inside the install­a­tion / Photo Tedi Korodi

Q: Between tour­ing Aus­tralia with the Anti­hero Skate­boards team (“Tent City”, 2003) and trav­el­ing across Amer­ica with Pearl Jam, which exper­i­ence would you say felt the most chaot­ic? What hap­pens on tour stays on tour until someone always spills the beans, do you have any crazy story regard­ing those trips to share?

Rick: “Tent City” was the most insane pro­ject ever. “Vote for change” was crazy too but not like Aus­tralia. Both film we were learn­ing as we went. We were in over our heads on both pro­jects but we had some sup­port and we just kept ham­mer­ing. The stor­ies are hard to recov­er because it was all one big blurry explo­sion. We just worked and worked and worked and tried to rely on instinct when we hit the wall.

Buddy: Ha- both those trips were in the same year! Both were pretty chaot­ic for dif­fer­ent reas­ons. The Aus­tralia trip with Anti Hero was just pure skate mad­ness with friends. The nat­ur­al chaos that comes from being on the road with 16 skaters. The Pearl Jam trip was hec­tic because we were trav­el­ing in our own car and had to drive to each city and be ready to shoot every day with no days off. Both trips were super fun and we learned a lot. We don’t really tell behind the scenes stor­ies of our sub­jects. We put the inter­est­ing stuff in the film and keep the per­son­al stuff personal.

Kastel fort­ress, ven­ue of the Behind the fence premiere / Photo Tedi Korodi

Q: Can you tell us about “Death­bowl to Down­town” (2009)? Could you ever look at Chloe Sev­igny the same after “Brown Bunny”?

Rick: Death­bowl was a 4 year pro­ject that we did between la and ny. It was long and again, we didn’t know what we were doing, so we just kept ham­mer­ing away until we found it. It was labor intens­ive and at times felt like — “why are we doing this”?. We figured that one out in the edit room. That was a heavy project.

Buddy: “Death­bowl to Down­town” was anoth­er big learn­ing exper­i­ence. We had no idea how to make a film like that and it took us forever to fin­ish it. The exper­i­ence was hard for us and the timeline of the film spanned 40 years so we had to col­lect tons of foot­age and stor­ies and then fig­ure out which stuff was most rel­ev­ant to the story etc. We nev­er felt like we got it 100% right but we damn sure tried our hard­est! Chloe Sev­igny is an act­ress and plays many dif­fer­ent roles — I think she’s an amaz­ing act­ress and I thought she did great in “Brown Bunny”.

Behind “Behind the fence” photo exhib­i­tion / Photo Tedi Korodi

Q: What does “Love Let­ters to Skate­board­ing” con­sist in, what kind of spir­it are you try­ing to spread with that series, how would you describe the cul­tur­al con­tri­bu­tion you’re try­ing to bring?

Rick: Its simple — we want to pre­serve the his­tory of skate­board­ing by talk­ing to the guys who laid the ground­work for every­one today. Skate­board­ing is cur­rently mov­ing fast in many dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tions along with everything else in youth cul­ture. Skate­board­ing is ours and we are pas­sion­ate about not let­ting nike and the olympics and who­ever else is try­ing to fuck with it, sell it out without the prop­er his­tory being avail­able. Skate­board­ing is for every­one… It comes from out­laws and people that make nor­mal people nervous. It saves and ruins lives.

Buddy: “Love Let­ters” is a labor of love for us. We have a great time doing it but we always spend way too much time on it because it’s about skate his­tory which is our his­tory. Since it’s a his­tory type show we want to get it right. No one else is telling these stor­ies. We always say that if we don’t tell them no one will and then skate his­tory will be for­got­ten. We are just try­ing to remind skaters and every­one that his­tory matters.

Behind the fence video install­a­tion premiered at Vladi­mir Film Fest­iv­al on Septem­ber 28th 2018.