First things first. I’d never really thought about interviewing skateboarding’s legendary photographer, filmer, director, and editor Spike Jonze—for whatever reason, it had never really crossed my mind. But it happened, and it happened effortlessly on my part because I didn’t have to go to Spike—Spike came to me. Well, actually his publicist did.

Okay, it was one of his publicists for Columbia Pictures, hoping I could hook up some sort of publicity for Spike’s upcoming film, Adaptations, to be released in December. The publicist said he was calling on behalf of Spike, who really likes TransWorld SKATEboarding, and wanted to invite all of the staff of the skate magazine to a screening of the film.

I ended up missing the screening because I got stuck in traffic, but that’s another story. After a string of phone calls, e-mails, and relatively frustrated apologies, I was able to swing a telephone interview. Then I had to determine what the hell I wanted to ask Spike. Fortunately, TransWorld filmer Jon Holland brainstormed questions to ask.

I think where the interview occurred is pretty funny: Spike called me from his cell phone on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Tokyo. I was enroute to a wedding in the Middle-Of-Nowhere, Arizona.

Here is Spike Jones uncut—as interviewed through the power and glory of cellular-telephone technology from Room 628 at the Clarion Hotel in downtown Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, September 21, 2002.—Saba Haider

Considering you’re both in the same industry, do you think you’ll ever work with Jason Lee again?

Probably. It would be fun to. Back when we did the Blind video, we used to make short skits with the video camera, and I think it would be fun to (work with him again). It’s cool to see him doing so well. It was cool to see him in Almost Famous. I thought he was really good in that, and every movie I see him in it seems that he’s getting better and better.

How did making skate videos build a foundation for what you do in Hollywood?

Uh, let’s see. With skateboard videos I coordinated it all—produced it, shot it, edited it, basically I did everything. I think that knowing that you could make anything happen is pretty liberating. Working with people like Mark Gonzales was amazing. When he had an idea, he’d just go do it. Anything’s possible, and I guess that always stuck with me.

Do you read TransWorld SKATEboarding?

I try. I pick it up on the newsstand whenever I see it. It’s huge now, and it’s so crazy that skateboarding is so huge now. When I worked at TWS, it (the magazine) was in its thin days—I think it was like a hundred pages back then.

It’s about 500 pages now.

Is it really over 500 pages? Back then it was very tough to get your photos in the magazine because it was so thin. There were so many great photographers and such a limited amount of space to run the photos.

How come you never mention TransWorld SKATEboarding magazine in your interviews?

I do when … I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to … is that true? I find that hard to believe. Well, if that’s true, then I guess I better get my act together.

How has growing up around cameras shaped you as a filmer, editor, and director?

I guess I’ve always been into taking pictures and shooting on video. I was never afraid to pick up the camera, shoot stuff, and make mistakes. And that’s how I learned the most, by making mistakes and trying to figure out what I did wrong. I guess that’s probably a good thing.

Is pro skateboarding a fast track to Hollywood? Is someone better off making skate videos than going to film school?

I don’t know. I saw Steve Berra the other night—he seems to be doing really well. He just wrote a script, and a lot of people seem to be interested in making it. And Jason’s doing really well. I don’t know if it’s better than film school for me.

I know I definitely got a lot of experience when Ias shooting skateboard videos. I never thought of it as leading to anywhere else. I learned a lot as I was doing it, and it was really exciting. I had a lot of fun—getting to skate every day with Jason, Mark (Gonzales), Guy (Mariano), and Rudy (Johnson). At the time, it was getting to skate with people I liked, and I loved that.

Do you still skate at all?

I skate a little bit. Not enough, but I’d like to. Girl (Skateboards) has a park, and I was going down there a bit when it first started. If I skate, it’s with my brother Sam, or Rick Howard, or sometimes with Jeff Tremaine. But I should be skating more.

You’re currently working on the Girl video. What aspects of the video are you working on?

Ty (Evans) and Rick (Howard) and everybody have been shooting the skating for a while now. I think we’re getting close to finishing. I usually just help out on the stuff that goes between the skate parts. Less narrative and more little mood pieces. Like the Mouse video, I guess. We did one shoot maybe a couple of months ago, and it’s maybe going to be a heavy visual-effects piece. Unfortunately, we haven’t even started the effects. When I get back in October we’re going to shoot some more stuff.

How much of your time is that taking?

Time? I don’t know. We haven’t really gotten that into it. We’ll do about five or six shorts, and each one takes a few days. We rent film cameras and do it all in a few days, as opposed to going out and filming skateboarding every day and some days not even getting anything.

The last skate video you played a part in was 1999′s Chocolate video. What was your involvement in that video?

That video, Rick (Howard) and I figured that stuff out. I did the story part with him with the guys on tour, and also the old men at the nursing home. I helped edit it, and I worked on the stuff that goes on between the skate parts, which is basically the way it has been on all the Girl videos.

What’s more important, filming style or editing style?

I’m not sure. I think they both go together. I think when you look at somebody who does it well, like Ty’s (Evans) stuff, the filming and editing are all one aesthetic—so they’re all related.

Which do you prefer, filming actors or skateboarders?

I don’t think that I prefer either. It’s always fun. Sometimes it’s hard, but I enjoy both things. Shooting skate videos—a lot of it could be fun, trying to get everyone together, and finding a spot. You pick up someone at their house, and then they go pick up their friend, then someone needs griptape, and then someone’s hungry, then you finally get to a spot, and then you get kicked out before anyone actually lands anything. So days could go by without getting anything usable. But on the other hand, while it may be more time-consuming than shooting actors, it could also be fun. With movies, too, in terms of movies you could be having a lot of fun shooting something, but there are times that it gets really stressful.

Of the projects you’ve worked on over the years, which have you found to be most inspiring or stimulating?

It’s hard to say. It’s hard to put preferences on them. The two movies I’ve done have probably been the hardest. I just finished a movie called Adaptation that comes out in December. I’ve been working with Charlie (Kaufman) the writer on it for about three years. You’ve got to keep plugging away at it, and that’s probably the hardest thing.

I’m not sure about how much you follow skateboarding now, but do you recognize any up-and-coming talent among skateboarding’s filmers today you reckon could make it in Hollywood?

I thought the Flip video was really well done. I don’t know who shot it, though. Ty’s stuff is always really good. I’m a little out of it, though.

Photographers?

Again, I don’t know them, so the names don’t stick with me, but the photography in TWS is amazing. And it’s gotten a lot better. Of course, there are all the guys from before, like (Dan) Sturt and O (Barthoulameu) and Grant (Brittain) who are all great, but I think nowadays it looks more varied. When I look back through my photos, everything looks the same, and nowadays things look more varied than everything I shot.

How about any skateboarders you reckon could pursue a successful career in acting?

I guess the guys I know. Rick (Howard) obviously is very funny, and Mike Carroll is really good. In the Mouse video he was really good. As an old man he was great in front of the camera—really funny with ad-libbing and everything.

I’ve always loved filming Mark Gonzales, and I’ve done a couple of short films with him. He is totally unique in his own person. Keenan Milton was a really great actor. He was always really alive in front of the camera, and I always wanted to film him. Stevie Williams also has a lot of swagger and charm.all the guys from before, like (Dan) Sturt and O (Barthoulameu) and Grant (Brittain) who are all great, but I think nowadays it looks more varied. When I look back through my photos, everything looks the same, and nowadays things look more varied than everything I shot.

How about any skateboarders you reckon could pursue a successful career in acting?

I guess the guys I know. Rick (Howard) obviously is very funny, and Mike Carroll is really good. In the Mouse video he was really good. As an old man he was great in front of the camera—really funny with ad-libbing and everything.

I’ve always loved filming Mark Gonzales, and I’ve done a couple of short films with him. He is totally unique in his own person. Keenan Milton was a really great actor. He was always really alive in front of the camera, and I always wanted to film him. Stevie Williams also has a lot of swagger and charm.