Interview with Rick Charnoski and Coan Buddy Nichols
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.