Rick and Buddy for VX
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: 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.
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.