A video can make or break the credibility of a company. There’s no coincidence that Flip, Zero, and Girl are among the top-selling board companies in the world.
A company can have the world’s best skaters at its disposal, but without showcasing their talent, no one knows.
Videos are a revenue-generating promotional tool that can reach many people. And a good skate video can springboard a small or new company into the spotlight, or maintain a popular company’s position at the top of the heap. Either way, good skate videos are good for business.
Coming up with a list of videos was a daunting task. In fact, several lists were cross-referenced just to make sure nothing was left out. What follows are ten of the most influential and memorable skate videos of all time-in no particular order, of course:
1. Powell-Peralta: The Search For Animal Chin (1987)
In 1987, very few companies were organized enough to collect footage, edit, and release a video-Powell-Peralta did it almost every year. And why not? At the time, they had amassed a team of skaters who were already skating at the next level. With these videos, Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, and Tommy Guererro were catapaulted to superstardom. For many fans, the epitome of these videos was The Search For Animal Chin. This was the first Powell-Peralta video to include a “plot” and feature acting. Alhough it may be a bit hokey, it remains one of the most classic videos of all time.
2. H-Street: Shackle Me Not (1988)
When H-Street started in 1986, people didn’t know what to make of it. “At the time, no one was really starting companies, least of all skateboarders,” explains H-Street Cofounder Tony Magnusson. After a year, H-Street released its first video, Shackle Me Not. Skateboarding from Matt Hensley, Ron Allen, and Danny Way brought the company some success: “After that video premiered, the difference was like night and day.” Sales went up, popularity soared, and H-Street quickly garnered a cult following. A follow-up video was released a year and a half later, called Hokus Pokus. That video caused H-Street’s popularity to snowball even further. “We had a marketing campaign leading up to it, and had increased distribution,” says Magnusson. “And we already had a following from the success of Shackle.”
3. Santa Cruz: Streets On Fire (1989)
In 1989, street skating was quickly gaining popularity, as can be seen in the title for Santa Cruz’s Streets On Fire and Natas Kaupas’ breakthrough part. Like Animal Chin, Streets had a plot, but it was done on film, giving an entirely new feel to skate videos. NHS General Manager Jeff Kendall explains: “Both Wheels (Of Fire) and Streets were all done on film. The Powell videos had come out, but they were all video. The videos looked completely different on film. Scott Dittrich was the guy who filmed it, and that was his forte. He was coming from an Endless Summer surf-documentary-film background, and he took that feel to skateboarding videos.”
Streets also featured a claymation dream sequence and was narrated by Jason Jessee.
Honorable mention goes to Santa Cruz’s Speed Wheels video, Speed Freaks, for being the first “wheel company” video. It featured skaters from several different board companies, providing a better cross-section of skateboarding at the time.
4. Blind: Video Days (1991)
Mark Gonzales saw what Steve Rocco was doing with World Industries and wanted in. He left Vision; recruited Jason Lee, Rudy Johnson, Guy Mariano, and Jordan Richter; and created one of the most memorable videos of all time. It was a good indication of what was to become of street skating. As innovative as it is eclectic, Video Days is a staple on almost everyone’s top ten list.
5. Alien Workshop: Memory Screen (1991)
Memory Screen gave an entirely new feel to skateboarding videos. Editing effects and video parts that were somewhat choreogrraphed were both relatively new elements for skate videos, as well. Random footage of strangers and time-lapses gave this video a refreshing break from the trick-after-trick monotony. This video also had a peculiar, yet fitting soundtrack-specifically the inclusion of then-new indie-rock band Dinosaur Jr. Neil Blender’s video and Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis’ audio went so well together, Dinosaur Jr. soon became known as a skate band. The release of Memory Screen helped to establish Alien Workshop as an atypical, eclectic skateboard brand; and garnered attention for the fledgling Midwestern company.
6. 411 Productions: 411VM Issue #1 (1991)
411 Productions changed the way videos were made. No more than a dozen videos were released each year until this company came along. It set out to do what a magazine did, only in video form. What’s more, 411 did it every two months. This helped fuel the fire for larger companies to produce their own videos and helped smaller companies get their riders’ footage seen by a greater audience. This changed the skateboarding world by keeping skateboarders up to date with tricks they otherwise wouldn’t have seen for a year, if at all. 411 helped the “rest of the world” catch up to the skill level of the pros, and sure enough, three or four years later, skateboarders from every state and around the world came up, as evidenced by today’s diverse crop of pros and ams.
7. Plan B: Questionable (1992)
In the early 90s, well-known pros Danny Way, Matt Hensley, Mike Carroll, Rick Howard, Sean Sheffey, Rodney Mullen, and more all left their sponsors to create Plan B. In 1992 they released their inaugural video, Questionable. Newcomer Pat Duffy’s debut part literally took skateboarding to a whole new level. Plan B as a company is proof of the importance of the talent on your team. Alhough it was only around for a few years, Plan B released four videos from 1992 until 1997, all of which are still talked about to this day.
8. Girl: Mouse (1996)
Not suprisingly, Girl videos are some of the most highly regarded videos ever. Part of the credit goes to the team, but there’s even more to these videos. The Girl and Chocolate videos not only display the talent but also showcase the personality of the company, and in turn, the personalities of each of the teamriders-no doubt an added bonus from director Spike Jonze. Girl President Rick Howard explains the impact the videos have had: “Skating is obviously what we love to do-making these videos is always a new challenge. The fact that you can turn these two things into a promotional tool is just a bonus.”
9. Toy Machine: Welcome To Hell (1996)
Toy Machine’s third video was a hallmark of skateboarding’s history for several reasons. It was the first video to feature a girl (Elissa Steamer) skating street. It was also one of the first times East Coast skaters Mike Maldonado, Brian Anderson, and Donny Barley were shown off to the rest of the world. And Jamie Thomas took handrail skating to an absurd degree, setting the trends for years to come. Ed Templeton explains the impact skate videos can have: “Any time you create the best team and are able to document it, then you will have a great video.”
“The impact for Toy Machine was big-in sales, popularity and credibility,” says Tum Yeto Owner Tod Swank. “I think it advanced skateboarding yet another notch.”
10. Anti Hero: Fucktards (1997)
This video captured the ethos of a company perhaps more than any other. Fifteen minutes, five skaters, and no music give Fucktards a raw edge and capture what Anti Hero is all about. What’s unique and refreshing is that this video can be appreciated for both the quality of the skating and the lack of time put into the actual production.