Broadway (full video) + an interview with Brett Nichols

‘An auteur is an artist with a distinctive approach, usually a film director whose filmmaking control is so unbounded but personal that the director is likened to the “author” of the film, which thus manifests the director’s unique style or thematic focus.’
There are skate filmmakers out there that are auteurs, ones where you know it’s their work as soon as you see it: it’s unmistakeable. Jacob Harris, William Strobeck and Joe Castrucci are a few that come to mind… But for all intents and purposes I’m here today to talk another auteur: Brett Nichols. Unlike the aforementioned few, Brett doesn’t get paid to make his videos, he makes them because he has to… He has to: to fuel his passion. He has to: to be satisfied, fulfilled… But Brett’s labours of love take time; filming began for Broadway in 2014 and Pathways 2 in 2016. Without a brand breathing down your neck about deadlines and whatnot I suppose filming for a video could actually go on forever. Luckily for us Brett knew when his projects were done, which brings us here to this moment. After meeting Brett this past September at the Vladimir Film Festival in Croatia, where Pathways 2 and Broadway first premiered, I was ecstatic to pick his brain about his process in making them. So if you’re interested in industrial design, spot porn, ‘vernacular architecture’, Bay Area skateboarding, or curious about Brett’s ‘rules’ for the films, 
what his early influences were and much more keep reading on.  

Brett Nichols Interview by Will Harmon

How did you first get into filming skateboarding?
Brett Nichols: I started skating in ‘93 and I didn’t really have access to skate videos, or magazines or anything like that, until maybe ‘96 or so. And in ‘96, I saw Trilogy and I just became obsessed with this format that I was completely unfamiliar with, even though I had already been skating for a few years. So I saw this format of a skate video and it was so foreign to me; the concept of a line didn’t even make sense. Like, ‘there’s a guy following with a camera and there’s someone that’s doing consecutive tricks! What’s happening right now?!’ I specifically remember Lavar McBride and his last line at USC just, you know, flip trick after flip trick, and it just blew my mind. And I think within a week of seeing that video, I borrowed my mom’s VHS-C camera and started filming my friends and having them film me. And it’s basically continued since then. There was never really a break from about ‘96 to now. So yeah, it was just seeing a video and being blown away and wanting to do it.

That’s an incredible first skate video to have watched. So when did you think: ‘I’m going to actually make a video one day’? Because going filming with your mom’s camera to like, making a full video, is such a different thing…
It’s obviously kind of a snowball effect: it starts off by filming your friends here and there, and then it turns into making a sponsor-me video and then that snowballs further into helping other people with videos, then to making your own videos. So yeah, it was just a progression.

Wes Allard kickflips as Brett films. Ph. Daniel Beck

Any other early inspirations?
Photosynthesis might have been the first video that exposed me to the fact that you can show more than just skateboarding. You can set a tone and a feeling to what you’re watching and suck the viewer into your own little world. Because I certainly feel like when you watch Photosynthesis, it’s a rather surreal experience. You’re being presented with a lot of images that are not representative of what you’re seeing in real life, you know, just setting up little shots with animations or whatever it is. So that one exposed me to just unique art direction and wanting to do things creatively. Strangely enough Cliché’s Europa I think was the first video that I saw that had end-to-end pretty unique architecture. And at the time I didn’t really grasp what I liked so much about it, but when I look back on it, everything’s really aesthetically pleasing throughout that entire video; it was pretty well put together. So yeah, that one too was definitely an earlier inspiration.

I know you grew up in Southern California, which is the birthplace and arguably has been the heart of skateboarding for a long time, so it’s interesting that Europa kind of moved you because of the architecture.
Yeah, I mean there were certainly Southern California videos that I really enjoyed and grew up watching a lot. Frankly, Trilogy is mostly filmed in Southern California. But yes, whenever I would see a video from another place, like seeing what I’ll call their vernacular architecture, architecture that’s specific to a region… Seeing a new collection of vernacular architecture is really intriguing to me, and kind of sucks me into a new place. It feels like you’re going on a new adventure. And so that’s Europa, but also Photosynthesis. I can’t really say that I had seen much East Coast skateboarding before I saw Photosynthesis.

Ah I see. So speaking of a change of architecture, when and why did you move up to the Bay Area from SoCal?
I guess the first time I lived here was in 2005, but that was fairly brief and I had to go home for some family reasons. But I returned back in 2007, to go to Berkeley. I went to UC Berkeley and studied Political Science. And that was just the whole impetus: I came here to go to school and just never left. I loved it too much. Growing up in Southern California and filming, skating and being filmed and all this stuff, I spent so much time in a car driving. You know, you go to one spot that’s in the Valley and then the next thing you know, we’re driving to like Riverside County… The driving culture behind skating in LA is insane. And so I moved up here, and it’s like, ‘oh, there’s spots on every block!’ I don’t have to go that far to have a good time street skating and I got so drawn into that. And then back to the whole idea of just being drawn into my surroundings, having so much interesting architecture and sculpture and… The culture. I mean, there’s so much more happening here than in Southern California. So I just never really had any desire to move back.

Harrison Hafner, ollie up, drop to feeble grind 180. Photo: Tadashi Yamaoda

That’s dope. Okay so I want to talk about these two videos: Pathways 2 and Broadway. Were they made over the same time period?
Broadway was started when I was still working on the first Pathways. You know with the Pathways concept, I really hemmed myself in to skating spots that have a certain design style; modern and post-modern architecture. And that can be pretty challenging, especially considering where I live in Oakland looks nothing like that. You have to go to specific areas to find it; you might be in downtown Oakland or downtown San Francisco or in wine country or what we call the peninsula… I’d have to go to these very specific areas to find these particular spots, while you know, right where I live in every single direction are spots that look more like what you’d see in Broadway, which focuses on older architecture. And so I just wanted to actually utilise my surroundings, because it was kind of an odd choice to just constantly pass that stuff up. So I decided to start the Broadway video in 2014, really, just to branch out and start utilising all the spots that I had been searching out for years. I’d already wandered every inch of the Bay coastline for industrial remnants, and countless bike rides through every neighbourhood looking for spots. I mean, I’ve always been obsessed with spot searching, and so by the time we get to 2014, I had a spot book big enough for Broadway that I could make three of these videos. So I just needed to do something new.

I see.
Pathways 2 was started right after the first Pathways came out (early 2016). The moment it was done, I was already starting Pathways 2. Because the first one was sort of an experiment trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with it, and by the time I started the second one, I had the concept pretty nailed down. And there were so many spots that were leftover that I had found that I hadn’t documented, and it was really just the desire to document every one of these locations. I also honed my methods to get the surreal b-roll: locating as many kinetic sculptures as possible, lots of science and art museums, and even robotics events. I knew I could do more the second time around.

Pathways 2 is obviously a continuation of the first Pathways, but I want to know, in the first place, what gave you the idea to create a video full of all this unique street furniture/architecture?
I mean, it goes back to my obsession with skate videos. I’ve been collecting skate videos ever since I’ve had my own money to spend on them.

I’ve seen a photo of your collection!
Yeah, haha, and I’ve been drawn especially to independent videos from different regions, because it kind of shows you a time, a place, a group of people, and specific sort of styles of skating that you might not get to see in a mainstream video. And I was especially infatuated by Japanese videos, when I finally got access to them. So I think the first one that I saw was Behind the Broad around 2005, and then Skate Archives in I’d say 2007. And Skate Archives, something about it just blew my mind, because not all of the skating was, you know, at the highest level, but the spots, and the feeling that I got from that video was so unique, because it just looked nothing like where I live. This is back to that whole idea of seeing a new collection of vernacular architecture… So seeing what it looked like in Japan was something new to me, and also just the way that they were skating. It was a lot of compact hyper-modern architecture, lots of tiles, unique materials, and amoebic forms; obstacles lining thin spaces on the sides of buildings. They were doing all this quick foot stuff, they were skating funky sorts of street transitions, and just things that weren’t so common where I lived.

Yeah Japanese architecture looks so sick…
And so, I just say over the years from, let’s say, 2007, to the point of starting Pathways in 2011, I got access to more of those videos and I had a knee injury, I think my third (in 2011) and I just needed to do something new, like I needed to just branch out and figure out a way to be creative during my injury. And before that, I’d already always been kind of focused on filming my own skating.

Yeah I see.
And then in 2011 I just said, ‘I’m gonna start a video.’ And you know, I’ve got this infatuation with these Japanese videos, so I thought, ‘can I do something similar where I live?’ Because I started kind of putting it together in my head that little elements of what I would see in those videos exist all over my city, but in just different areas. For instance in downtown I might see one thing and in some little park I might see another thing…. And I thought that if I just focus exactly on those elements, I can sort of reshape and create a different world, and a different surrounding, than what I actually live in.

Chris Jatoft, blunt fakie in a death trap. Ph. Tadashi Yamaoda

Yeah, I mean, you really l picked out all these incredible spots, and non-spots I’d even say, and put them all together… Great curation. So was Pathways your first full-length video?
Yeah, I mean, I’d helped work on videos in the past, mostly filming, but never had really edited anything before. So that was my first foray into filming and editing a complete project.

That’s pretty impressive.
I watched a lot of skate videos. So I had a lot of context.

What kind of process did you have sourcing and scouting all the spots for the Pathways videos? Was it basically driving around? Or did you do some (Google) Street View stuff or word of mouth?
For Pathways, for one, I’ve been non-stop spot searching, as long as I can remember, going back to the times of living in Southern California. So just being on the street and looking for spots constantly, for you know, 20 years, I already had a bank of these spots in my head from Southern California. So in the first video, and in the second one, for that matter, I did a number of trips to SoCal to document all these spots that I kind of knew about and just ignored, because they weren’t, at that time, engaging to me, or I didn’t really see any need to go skate or document them. And then suddenly, when I started this project, I had this big library of spots in my head already. And the same thing with the Bay Area, you know, I’ve been living here continuously from 2007, to the point of starting the first Pathways in 2011. And I already had a bank of spots, I just had to sort of think about it, like, ‘here’s the concept. What do I know about, that fits in that box?’ basically. Then finding new stuff: it was just continuing to look around, and knowing that there’s a specific design style I’m looking for and I knew where I could find that sort of stuff.

Tom Brinkerhoff, wallride. Ph. Brett Nichols

And where is that?
It tends to be in a city centre. So, you know, go check out the city centre, or downtown of every single city within a couple hours’ drive and see what you find. I’d also figured out through trial and error, practise, or maybe repetition that if you go to all these city centres, especially for, let’s say, medium-sized cities, often they would have really interesting modernist buildings from the ‘60s or ‘70s and you might find some really interesting element that’s never been documented, if you kind of go a little bit off the beaten path.

So you created a process.
Yeah. So for instance if you go to downtown Fresno, which is a place that you wouldn’t think people would often visit, you’re going to find some interesting spots that haven’t really been documented.

Fresno! Yeah I never thought about going there to skate.
Not many people go there to skate, especially for what I want to capture. But if you go check out their city centre, there’s some interesting little elements. One of which was actually a really famous photo of (OG) Tom Knox and it’s this drained fountain that snakes through the centre of their downtown. It’s designed by Garrett Eckbo, who’s a really important modernist landscape architect, which is itself useful information you can use: what else did the guy design and is it skateable?
Another piece would be just Google searching. I figured out certain design styles and elements and things that were good search terms, and then I’d just attach every single city name to it. An example would be: ‘Modern Public Sculpture Piedmont’, and just keep adding city names to it. And I’d just spend hours trying to find spots through random Google searches. I’d say there’s a nice chunk of spots that are just found through that method. Also, people knew I was doing this project, and every now and then someone would come to me with a really amazing spot. Because they’re like, ‘Oh, I know you’re doing this thing. I found this spot. Let’s check it out.’

Josh Paz, alley-oop front bluntslide after moving around wood chips for a half hour. Photo: Derek Popple

Was it hard to persuade some of the skaters to skate these funky spots? Did you have to bribe them or anything?
Haha… Yeah, I got really used to people rolling their eyes at me. I would bring people to things that were hardly spots and I would want people to skate them so badly. And we really would stretch the definition of what counts as a trick or what counts as a spot. I mean there’s spots where we’re really not even rolling away from it. So I started using the argument that well, ‘landing a trick is a construct’. So yeah, you might not be able to roll away from this, but it’s going to look interesting. You’re on your board and the surroundings are engaging. But yeah, sometimes I would have to help people work on some other video part; I would film them do a few things for that and then a few things for Pathways.

A trade off then…
Yeah. By the time I started Pathways 2 I think the concept was proven out so people were a little more willing. So the second one might have been a little easier to make in that sense. But, you know, it definitely was a challenge. The spots weren’t always fun. Some of the stuff can be kind of a headache to skate. So when I say rolling away is a construct, think of those concrete playground slides that go straight into sand. So you know, there’s no rolling away, but they look so interesting to me. And that actually goes back to the Japanese videos; I got really into trying to find concrete playgrounds, because that’s a really common element within those videos. And I just wanted to document as many of those things as I could find, because I knew that they existed here.

So on a typical day, say in like 2017, would you hit a Pathways spot and a Broadway spot in the same day?
Oh sure. I mean, it just kind of depends where I was, you know? Broadway has specific geographic boundaries to it, so if I was outside of that geographic boundary it was an only-Pathways day, but if I’m in the East Bay or something, I would definitely go to both. Depends on who was with me too… There are some people whose style of skating is more amenable to the Pathways concept, or more amenable to the Broadway concept, so that would definitely help determine where we go as well. People with transition skills definitely excel in Pathways, while power and pop might suit Broadway better, but there’s plenty of crossover for each.

Harrison Hafner, frontside ollie to 50-50. Photo: Tadashi Yamaoda

You briefly alluded to this earlier, but I know you had a specific set of rules for Broadway and that all the footage had to be shot in the Bay Area excluding its biggest city, San Francisco. Can you tell us a little bit about that? And why you chose to do that?
So earlier I said I moved up here to the East Bay, I lived in Berkeley and Oakland, and I would see what I thought to be incredible spots everywhere, and often kind of overlooked because everyone comes here for trips to San Francisco, as that’s the popular place to visit. Local skate media is centralised in San Francisco as are many of the skaters actively working on video projects. There’s great East Bay videos to point to like Focus Group, The 510 Video, Island, or Dangerfun, but the volume of output is not that of SF. It’s the underdog scene and I love it. Of course in any Bay Area video you’re going to see a handful of Oakland spots, but you know, people aren’t really travelling that deep. And there’s practical reasons for it.

I mean it’s easier to get around without a car I found in SF than in Oakland, but that was my experience 15 years ago, maybe that’s changed?
Yeah, it definitely helps to have a car to skate in Oakland, or at least a bike. I mean I definitely did plenty of bike missions, but it helps to have a car as the spots definitely can be more spread out. There are really amazing gems that are just kind of buried into a hill or something where you have to drive up a mountain, and it doesn’t make sense to skate to get there. There’s so much to offer in San Francisco, and it’s such an amazing skate city, that often people don’t leave. And so I spent all these years looking around seeing so much cool stuff in the East Bay so I was like, ‘man, it’d be kind of interesting to just try to document this area.’ And there was a specific moment that drew me to it…
There was a video by this guy West Van Heest called In Crust We Trust. And it was filmed in New Jersey, but from my understanding they lived pretty much across the bridge from Manhattan and (in the video) there’s no tricks in New York. I read about it on the Quartersnacks blog and they were giving them a lot of credit for the fact that whenever people talk about New Jersey videos, it’s often filmed 75% in New York, but these guys really stuck to their area. And so that kind of swirled around in my head for a while. And you know, I’m seeing all these amazing spots, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, what if I did something like that?’ And so I set this boundary where I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll film in the Bay Area, just not in San Francisco’, just to show everything else that this area has to offer. And I’d also say that if you exclude San Francisco and just have East Bay spots, it looks different.

Greg Demartini backside tailslides at a long-gone concrete factory. Ph. Brett Nichols

It definitely does.
If you see one or two East Bay spots in a San Francisco video, it blends in and you won’t really notice it’s a different place. But if every single spot is outside of San Francisco, it’s a completely different feel, in my opinion. So yeah, it started off just as East Bay; Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, Crockett, Rodeo, kind of all these towns all along the East Bay and then stretched out a little bit on the other side is just a few clips in the peninsula, which is just south of San Francisco. There’s a lot of clips in the Northeast Bay, which would be Vallejo, Benicia and some other random towns.

Then there’s a video called Grains, by Kevin DelGrosso, and he was filming all in these different rural areas around the Midwest, finding really unique, crusty spots. And so I started going a little further out thinking: ‘can I do something like that?’ And so it started off visiting Santa Rosa and other areas in wine country. Then eventually I started just going to completely remote areas to see what can be found, and actually had a lot of successes there. And some of my favourite footage from Broadway is in tiny towns of like 1000 people that are completely rural, and somewhere where no one would really visit to go film. These towns have been slow to rebuild, and often have odd bank riddled formations that aren’t up to modern building codes.

That’s so cool. So when you had friends visit you, did you always stick to the strict parameters of Pathways and Broadway to film?
If I had a friend come up and visit, I would certainly be totally open. And I would often tell them, ‘Hey, I’m doing these videos with these concepts. We can go skate more traditional SF spots, and I’m happy to film you. I’ll give you the footage, it’s just not going to fit the concept of what I’m doing.’ So it would kind of be challenging.

I’m sure that would also encourage them to be like, ‘well let’s maybe go to one of these spots that fits your criteria.’
People would come up and visit and never step foot in San Francisco too, because all we did was film for Broadway the entire time. And we barely left a two-mile radius of my house. And that’s the thing, as I said Broadway was filmed all over Northern California, but there’s a nice chunk of that video that’s right by my house. As I worked on the video, more and more people were filming in the East Bay, and I saw more and more footage happening in Oakland. But you know, I feel if you watch the video, a lot of those spots hadn’t been documented before. And a ton of them are really centrally located in Oakland.

Elijah Akerly, frontside feeble grind to flat. Ph. Tadashi Yamaoda

I also really appreciate the effort that went into the B-roll in Broadway. Did you have a checklist of all these things you wanted to capture? How did you manage that? I hate to even call it B-roll. It’s like A-roll, just non-skating.
Well, for one, yes, I actually kept a spreadsheet in my phone; I’m an Excel fan. So I kept a pretty comprehensive spreadsheet and anytime I had an idea, I would just either write it down, and just kind of check them off one at a time. I would think about the spots or the tricks that I’ve captured, and consider: what can I do to sort of accentuate that clip? Like, what’s the design style of the clip? Curvy and banked Spanish revival architecture spots are cut with Spanish revival belltowers. A local water temple is cut with a skate clip at the similar looking Lake Merritt bandstand. Neoclassical stone banks are cut with the neoclassical UC Berkeley clock tower. It’s an attempt to show our older vernacular architecture, and set a scene that feels aged. Or, you know, pulling some element out of it, maybe a colour, shape, or texture and then finding some B-roll that matches it. And then it was a lot of being in the right place at the right time and a lot of it was due to me just always carrying a Super-8 camera.

So let’s say for the entire time that I was filming for Broadway, I more or less left my house with a Super-8 camera, I don’t know, 80% of the time. So I caught sideshows, cultural events with street performances, and building demolitions. Then, sometimes I would see little moments where I knew something was going to happen and I would immediately go home and get my camera and go back there and just camp out and wait for it. An example would be footage of a crane being raised in Broadway and I literally just sat there for hours because I knew they were about to do it. Or I’d be waiting hours for a freight train to cross an old train bridge. A lot of it was just me riding my bike around for hours and hours and just waiting and seeing what could happen; maybe running into someone painting a freight car and politely asking to film them. And then a lot of it was just focusing on my surroundings and trying to find things that were kinetic and had movement. So some of the factory stuff, you know, I’d just be out looking for spots or out skating, and I would see some visible elements at a factory that were moving, whether it was a conveyor belt or, you know, something that’s smashing molten metal, whatever it was, and I would just take note of it and go back in and try to document it. Some of the industrial stuff was even caught from the SF Bay Ferry and a little boat a friend had access to!

The amount of Super-8… I mean, you must have spent a fortune on developing. Did anyone else help you fund either of these videos?
No, completely on my own.

Completely independent, that’s what I thought. And have you ever filmed for any brands before?
I mean, going way back to maybe the mid-2000s, you know, here and there clips that I had filmed would end up in a brand’s video, but it was never really a focus.

So filming skating has always been a hobby, basically, you’re not earning a lot of money on it.
I had the skate dream, like every other kid did. And I gave up on mine. I think by the time I was about 16 or so, when I had my first knee injury, and I was like, ‘oh, injuries are a thing and that would prevent me from making money in this dream world. So I should probably figure something else out.’ My peak was turning am for Media Skateboards on their last breath! Didn’t make it far, and so ever since then, it’s always been a hobby, but I’ve continued to want to document just because I need to do something creative. I need to have some outlets.

So it’s just a way to be fulfilled.

Gerardo Peniche, front board pop-out. Ph. Tadashi Yamaoda

If I had to guess what your day job was, I’d say a fireman because you have so much Super-8 footage of fires burning and being put out. Do you want to tell the readers what your actual day job is?
There was a rumour after the premiere that I was actually a secret arsonist, haha. In Oakland specifically, there’s a lot of old buildings with a lot of old wiring and things catch on fire. And that would be another thing I was always looking for… I documented a lot of fires by just always having an eye on the horizon. And so when I saw clouds of smoke, I would go find it.

Oh okay…
And that’s the thing: I had all these things in the back of my brain, you know, look for this, look for that, and when it happens, get the camera and document it. But my day job: I’m a software product manager. I kind of sit in between the business, design and engineering teams. With the business team, I find opportunities, or maybe with a support team, I find problems that we need to fix. Or through data I might notice some problem, and then I work with the design and engineering teams to solve the problem. So it’s coming up with new features, laying them out with the designers, and then writing out all the requirements for the engineers on how something should actually work.

Oh that’s cool, and also sounds way over my head… Then also you run an Instagram account @the_built.environment. Do you want to talk about that a little?
The built environment essentially started off as just a general interest in sculpture and architecture. And I just posted photos of things that I saw that I found engaging, and then over time I started mixing more and more skating into it. And at this point now it’s kind of like a Pathways collection, from other videos and magazines. So I just seek out these little moments in videos that fit the Pathways concept. They’re either, you know, modern architecture, modern sculpture, whatever it may be, and I’m posting photos of the thing that they’re skating, who designed it, the history behind it, and then have the documented skating to go with it. I think one really interesting thing by digging into this stuff a little bit deeper is that you find that we skate so much stuff that’s actually designed by the same people and so that’s something that’s always interested me.

Yeah these designers. Like, who are they?
Yes, ‘who are these designers?’, and then you start to find that so many of these places that we hold near and dear are designed by the same people. I’ll give a fun example: there’s this guy Jim Miller-Mellberg, and he’s more of what I would call an industrial designer. He designs park equipment like benches, trash cans, water fountains, but then also has all these concrete playground sculptures. So through the ‘60s to early ‘80s he was designing all these different playground sculptures out there all over the country, and his benches are all over the country. They’re easy on the eyes. And so I have seen so many clips on a Jim Miller-Mellberg obstacle that I would say by count of unique locations, he’s probably the most documented designer ever.

A Jim Miller Melberg playwall sculpture. Ph. Brett Nichols

In skate footage, yeah… That makes sense.
Yep, and not only the spot itself but in the background too. There’s his stuff in the background of so many clips, and it might be hard to find a clip that shows it because of maybe the angle they’re filming it, but that that banked ledge down stairs in Miami, there’s a Jim Miller-Mellberg playground sculpture in the background. There’s the spot in Manhattan where people ollie up onto the ledge and then do tricks over a gap onto those colourful circular pads…

There’s a Jim Miller-Mellberg sculpture in the background. It’s a long list. And then let’s talk tricks: Chad Muska does a roll-in on one of his curved basketball hoops in This is my Element. I filmed on a number of the Miller-Melberg concrete playground structures in both Pathways. Cairo Foster ollies his most common concrete sculpture, the dolphin, in The Reason. There’s that famous red bump to table that I think Cooper Wilt had tricks on in Time to Shine, and that’s the most ubiquitous obstacle of his. They’re these benches that have slightly banked fronts and backs that I’ve seen in so many different videos from multiple locations. The list of obstacles and clips could go on and on.

Wow, that’s amazing. In another life do you think you would have studied to be an architect?
Yeah, I mean, it might have been a better decision. You know, I originally thought I was going to get into Political Science, like to be a professor. I did research trips; I actually went to East Timor, which is a small country in Southeast Asia. I went there for research, and I actually got to hang out with their then-President and Nobel Laureate, José Ramos-Jorta. I also taught skateboarding there. I brought a bunch of skateboards to this small country and taught kids to skate. And so I totally thought my life was going to be about being a researcher, and then when I actually went on that trip, I realised that I enjoyed everything about the experience except the research. I had to go into government offices and dig through documents and it was way less interesting than teaching all these kids to skate and experiencing this really foreign culture. So after that trip, I decided that it just wasn’t for me. This was right after I graduated and I just had to figure something out. So I kind of just fell into the tech world because I live in the Bay Area, and that’s kind of the common job to get. And over time it became something that I was interested in. But at first, it was just sort of out of necessity.

Josh Paz, backside tailslide. Ph. Tadashi Yamaoda

I see. Let’s talk about the music in these videos. How did you discover it or know about it?
Pathways 2 is mostly very early synthesised music and jazz fusion, a nod to the electronic-heavy Japanese videos it’s inspired by. Broadway, on the other hand, is all over the place. There’s a few old movie theme songs and two songs from theatre organs, the instrument played in the first shot of the video. For both videos a bunch were found through playlists. YouTube has automated playlists, so say you come across a certain song, and then on the right column, there’s an automated playlist you can get, and it just kind of goes into a vortex. And I would just open tabs and go into a playlist, I’d play a song for three to five seconds and then go to the next. I’d say I found a song to use every 1000. So yeah, I spent a lot of time trying to find songs, haha. Some of it was music I was into, so not all of it was found through this method. Also there were some songs found through pure serendipity where my friend had something playing on a speaker when we were skating in a parking lot or something and I was like, ‘Oh, my god, this is perfect. What is this?’ I had a few people recommend songs too. Chris Jatoft found a song on a Lyft ride! For the most part though, it was just me getting buried into these playlists and eventually finding songs that worked.

So you premiered these films in September 2022 at Vladimir and then you had the local Bay Area premiere in late November. Obviously when people read this, these two videos will be on our website, but aren’t you making a booklet to go with it? And this will include a DVD/DVDs?
Yeah, I am making a DVD and I have a full magazine that gets into a lot of concepts… It’s kind of a lot of the things that we just talked about, but there’s definitely some in-depth topics in there that we’ve not discussed. So that will come when it comes. You know I’ve got a full-time job and busy life and I realised that there was a decent amount of work left to do to make that happen. Also working with Cosme, the designer, on the magazine, working with his schedule as well as he’s a full-time professor beyond being a talented designer: it’s going to take a little bit more time. And you know I’d rather just take my time and get it out when I get it out. And I know that I’m doing this backwards, like, not the traditional way to do it, usually you do the hardcopy first, and I am aware that that’s going to mean probably not as many people will buy it, but ultimately, that’s not exactly the goal for me. I just want to create something that people will put in their collections. I myself have been a skate video collector forever and I want people to have this in their own collections. So I’ll probably do what I did with the first Pathways, which is: I actually sent those DVDs to skate shops all over the world and to friends. I would send friends a box of them and just have them give them away to their friends. So that’s probably the way that we’ll do this one as well. If you’re reading this interview, and you want one, send me a DM on Instagram and I’ll figure out how to get one into your hands.

Chris Jatoft, frontside air to bank. Ph. Tadashi Yamaoda

And following up on what you said at Vladimir in Croatia, are these two videos really your swan song?
I don’t know. I thought for sure they would be because I have been, as I said, continuously documenting and being documented skateboarding for what has been about 25 years, or a little longer, and so I was like, ‘oh, man, maybe I should just retire to a mini ramp and a curb or something.’ But as I’m wrapping up, and nearing the end, I’ve got all these ideas swirling in my head. At the same time, it’s a personal sacrifice to work on these projects; it’s almost like a second full-time job that costs money. I do my full-time job and then I finish it, then I edit for, you know, 1-3 hours a night, and then the weekend rolls around, and I film one day on the weekend, maybe one day in the middle of the week, and then maybe, you know, four or five hours editing one of the nights on the weekends. So it’s a bit of a personal sacrifice. So I’ll definitely say that I’m going to step away from it for a little bit and just kind of see how I feel. And maybe there’s another project, maybe there won’t be, I don’t know yet.

Okay, well I can live with that answer. And it fills me with a bit of joy compared to talking to you when we were in Croatia.
Yeah, you mean when I told you that there is no way that I’m going to do another video, ha! Yeah, I mean, if I were to make another project, it would probably have a little bit less restricting of a concept. I still think no matter what, I would try to do something that’s visually engaging. And you know, I’m not going to suddenly start taking trips to SoCal to film at some rail spot at an elementary school. That’s not going to happen. Yeah, but at the same time, if I were to do another project, it would be a little more open ended I’m sure. I still have a giant catalogue of aesthetically pleasing spots I’ve yet to capture. We’ll see…