Vladimir Film Festival

Rick and Buddy for VX

6 / 9 / 2021 / Interview

Photo Ben­jamin Deberdt

Aymer­ic Nocus inter­views Rick Charnoski and Coan “Buddy” Nich­ols from Six stair

Aymer­ic: Yo guys, so this is actu­ally not your first time vis­it­ing Croa­tia to attend an edi­tion of the Vladi­mir Film Fest­iv­al. May you please explain where you come from and how you caught wind of the exist­ence of this gath­er­ing in the first place? What would you say was the most mem­or­able aspect of your first exper­i­ence here and what is it exactly that encour­aged you to come back and show more works?

Buddy: I am so bummed to miss the fest­iv­al this year! Cov­id con­cerns have me side­lined with the fam­ily here in LA (where we have been liv­ing since 2003) — our last trip to Croa­tia and the fest­iv­al in 2019 was insane! It was blown away by how genu­ine and real the fest­iv­al and the cre­at­ors of the fest­iv­al are. These guys work so hard to cre­ate an event that brings togeth­er an amaz­ing bunch of people who have skate­board­ing pas­sion as the com­mon bond. It’s really beau­ti­ful and so much fun and super inspiring.

Rick: We found out about the fest­iv­al through Sergej Vutuc. He said we needed to go to this fest­iv­al because this fest­iv­al and six stair share the same ideas. We were invited over there and from the moment we hit the ground, not just because Tibor drank me to the ground, we knew that Sergej was right. Oleg, Mar­ina, Tibor and Nikola… incred­ible human beings. If I was going to cre­ate a film fest­iv­al, I would call these people in as my advisors. It’s really well done. The best memory from our last time here is the exhib­i­tion that we did Behind the Fence. We had nev­er done this before, we didn’t even know if it would work. It was a total bull­shit risk but they wanted that risk. so we came and we figured it out. The exper­i­ence of com­ing here with noth­ing but ques­tions and a sol­id crew on the ground was the most mem­or­able exper­i­ence of my life. Much thanks to Marko Bolković who engin­eered and rigged our exhib­i­tion in the fort. That dude is the king!

A: I think it’s fair to assume the gen­er­al pub­lic knows you best from the Jeff Grosso’s Love­let­ters to skate­board­ing inter­net video series.

B: Agreed! People all over the world know that show! Just like most things we have done we thought that no one would give a shit when we star­ted our goal is to have fun, try and learn some­thing and cre­ate some­thing new and inter­est­ing. If oth­er people like it that’s a bonus!

A: Your goal with that series has been to high­light the vari­ety in pro­files of skate­boarders and skate-related cre­at­ives from as much of around the world as pos­sible, is that right? Do you sense any sim­il­ar­it­ies between that drive of yours and the drive behind Vladi­mir and its par­ti­cipants? If yes, how would you describe this uni­ver­sal aspect of pas­sion for skateboarding?

B: Abso­lutely the pas­sion to show­case how amaz­ing skate­boarders are and how fun skate­board­ing is con­nects us to Vladi­mir and many oth­ers around the world.

A: To the non-ini­ti­ated, may you please explain who Jeff Grosso (RIP) was and the eth­os and val­ues that he embod­ied in the eyes of even the masses in skate­board­ing? What do you think his appre­ci­ation for a gath­er­ing of skate­boarders as spon­tan­eous, organ­ic and inde­pend­ent as Vladi­mir would have been like? Any trait that he might have defen­ded that you think hap­pens to live on through VFF and oth­er loc­al initiatives?

B: Grosso always said “do it for the kids”I think by “kids” he meant any skater who still thinks like a kid any­one who has that spark. He wanted to come with us so bad when we came last time. We told him all about it and how much fun we had and he was so jealous.

R: This may sound a little cheesy but I feel Grosso’s pres­ence often. He lives right over my shoulder when I feel like I need a little sup­port. Grosso didn’t speak unless he meant it and he spoke a lot he had a lot to say. And he was hon­est even if he wasn’t com­pletely hon­est. He owned it and that takes balls. That’s why I think people like Grosso. He was an inspiration.

A still from Warm Blood

A: From Fruit of the Vine (1999) to Warm Blood includ­ing a pen­chant for New York City with Death­bowl to Down­town as well as vari­ous stints and stud­ies in dif­fer­ent coun­tries through­out the years (ecuador, Tobac­co­land), your skate filmo­graphy was always var­ied in terms of sub­jects and con­tents, again with a tend­ency of lean­ing towards the doc­u­ment­ary genre (which cul­min­ated in itself with your Pearl Jam tour video Vote for Change, 2004) all the while for the most part rely­ing on ana­log tech­niques and tan­gible medi­um such as film.

B: Very true we love vari­ety! And we love film! shoot­ing film is so excit­ing it’s put­ting your ass on the line and going for it like skat­ing. R: vari­ety is what it’s all about. Keep it inter­est­ing and exper­i­ment­al always. And do whatever feels right even if it’s wrong.

A: From that per­spect­ive, how would you describe your pro­gress through­out the years as a whole? What would you say is your ideal vis­ion that you are pur­su­ing with all those cul­tur­al con­tri­bu­tions, in the long run con­sciously or sub­con­sciously, is there a par­tic­u­lar mes­sage that you wish people clearly read in the sum of your efforts and if yes then what is it? 

B: First we always want our stuff to be enter­tain­ing and fun to watch. We like to take risks and do our own thing and hope that inspires oth­ers to do the same.

R: I think. I hope, the mes­sage is clear. Our work is hon­est. Art has to be hon­est and some­times I don’t think people remem­ber that. I try to look at it like being a plumb­er. There’s a broken pipe and water is pour­ing into your house. You want someone to come and fix that prob­lem. There’s no room for bull­shit here. I don’t want to hear you talk about who you are or what you did or are going to do. I want the water prob­lem to stop. You can’t fake plumb­ing. The truth is obvi­ous. And so why should art be any dif­fer­ent? Good, hon­est work is the only option. And like Buddy said it damn well bet­ter be enter­tain­ing and stim­u­lat­ing. Oth­er­wise go to church or whatever people do.

You can’t fake plumbing.

A: When it comes to the util­iz­a­tion of film in par­tic­u­lar, what is your reas­on­ing is it because the phys­ic­al realm seems like a more reli­able sup­port than digit­al data?

B: Yes! Look at a roll of 16mm from 1940 and it’s still a per­fect image — look at a vhs tape from 2001 and it’s almost total dog shit — who knows how a mega­byte is gonna look like in 30 years?

A: Please cor­rect me if wrong but going through your filmo­graphy alone, it feels like the trav­el­ing aspect just used to kind of hap­pen around the skat­ing that you were doc­u­ment­ing (think­ing com­mis­sioned pro­jects such as your videos for Anti­hero skate­boards) but then over time, the appeal and curi­os­ity took over and star­ted to dic­tate the pro­jects, with an increas­ing focus on more and more scenes as you kept dis­cov­er­ing more unique approaches to skate­board­ing around the globe.

B: Mak­ing films is an exten­sion of skate­board­ing for us — we both love to travel and have fun so we cre­ate pro­jects or part­ner with oth­ers to cre­ate pro­jects that involve doing what we love — shoot­ing film/telling stories/ hav­ing fun/skating etc.

R: skate­board­ing is evolving at light speed. And so the doc­u­ment­a­tion of it should evolve as well. That’s not always the case though. It doesn’t make me feel great to see how heav­ily it’s been co-opted lately but that doesn’t change the real ones that are out there doing it. Ureth­ane and skin and con­crete don’t lie. I think the coolest thing about skat­ing is the per­son­al­ity and ded­ic­a­tion that it takes to become good. I’ve applied that to everything in life.

A: Would you con­firm that this is your cur­rent dir­ec­tion, or was this eager­ness to doc­u­ment every pos­sible angle of skate­board­ing always present and you just now hap­pen to have the oppor­tun­ity to explore all these horizons?

B: Our plan has kind of always been the absence of a plan — we keep ourselves open to the pos­sib­il­it­ies that the future holds.

A: either way, is always more inclu­sion of (for now still) rel­at­ively obscure scenes and styles from all over the globe a spe­cial part of your aspir­a­tions for your future works?

B: Uncov­er­ing the unseen scenes is inter­est­ing and fun.

Still from Roller slob

A: This year at VFF, amongst many oth­er fea­tures, in par­tic­u­lar you are show­ing the res­ult of res­tor­a­tion work, pretty much, with your reas­sembling of steph­en Quintin’s roller slob 1987, the Vivi­an Maier-ish story of which is quite fas­cin­at­ing. What was your reac­tion upon find­ing out about the con­tents of that film which you col­lec­ted from a card­board box and turned out to be a DIY skate short movie, and how pre­cious do you think it is? Finally, may you please tell our read­ers about which oth­er works you will be show­ing at VFF 2021, and what was your motiv­a­tion to include those in par­tic­u­lar and shape the pro­gram in this spe­cif­ic format? Any­thing else you would like to include? Thanks a lot for your time!

B: Since Rick is going to be there present­ing I will let him explain this stuff — have fun every­one! I am so bummed to miss out this year cheers and thanks for show­cas­ing our work and sup­port­ing inde­pend­ent film­mak­ing! You guys rule…

R: Roller slob was one of the most excit­ing dis­cov­er­ies I’ve ever had. It’s a dream to find this kind of thing when you are doing research and col­lect­ing archives for a film. In this case Death­bowl to Down­town. These are the things that form your film. This Is the story. This film was in 2 pieces the film and the sound tape. The film wasn’t hard to trans­fer but the audio was hard. Because that par­tic­u­lar sound machine isn’t avail­able any more. When it came togeth­er and we synced it up it was like a look­ing glass into the 80’s NYC. Some­thing incred­ibly spe­cial about that. It would have nev­er been seen unless we met Steve and he told us about it. It’s not so pre­cious any­more though. It’s on You­Tube. As for the rest of our work I spoke of evol­u­tion. We’ve been mak­ing movies about skate­board­ing for 25 years. I’ve always wanted to expand the palette but have nev­er had the time or money to really go for some­thing big. I’ve always made fun little short films from super 8 or whatever but I wanted to pin togeth­er everything I’ve learned and try to apply that to nar­rat­ive work. That is what Warm Blood is. It was a very weird exper­i­ence try­ing to make this and use what I knew from skate­board­ing. It was weird until I real­ized that it’s all the same thing, same style, same approach, same meth­od­o­logy. That is why we want to share this evol­u­tion on the island. We want to show how to build on what you do and always push for­ward with unlikely ideas. Warm Blood is still not fin­ished but we will show some samples of this.

We call it a skate film without any skating.