Since the release of Rhythm's Genesis (97), Ty Evans has unquestionably pushed the confines of the "skateboard video" in drastically new and different directions with pretty much every fresh release he has directed. His work at TransWorld—from The Sixth Sense ('98) to Modus Operandi ('00) can best be summed up by comparing The Sixth Sense to Modus. In two short years, he shifted TWS' semi-annual video releases from a hodge-podge hour-long footage dump to some of the best videos of all time (Chomp On This ['02] included).
After moving over to Girl in the early naughts, Ty signed his name to Yeah Right! ('03), Hot Chocolate ('04), Fully Flared ('07), and Pretty Sweet ('12)—joining Spike Jonze, Rick, and the rest in producing probably the four biggest videos of the decade. Along the way, following an initial sponsorship through Panasonic, Ty's passion for applying new camera technology to skateboarding all but hijacked his interests. In '07, he produced the very first HD skate video part featuring Daryl Angel. In '08, he released the very first Blu-ray skate DVD with The Final Flare.
Now, after testing the waters with bigger camera systems, aerial shots, and high-end Steadicam in Pretty Sweet, Ty is poised to release the first 4K (3840 x 2160) Ultra HD skateboard film ever through his and Curt Morgan's company Brain Farm and Mountain Dew's Green Label Films. We Are Blood—set to premiere this August—is a five-continent travel opus maximus showcasing the worldwide skate brotherhood and a cast in the hundreds in the most high-end production "film" skateboarding has ever seen.
The logical conclusion (or new beginning) of Evans' near-two decades of producing skateboard videos, we sat down with Ty and Paul Rodriguez (the first skater to sign on to the project some three years ago) to get the full story on skateboarding's first official blockbuster. Grab some popcorn.-Mackenzie Eisenhour
Interview with Ty Evans
When was this project first discussed?
Well, basically I had met Curt Morgan around six or seven years ago. I was a fan of his work and he was a fan of mine. Curt had made a couple of really big snowboarding films. One called That's It. That's All. ['08] and another one called The Art of Flight ['11]. He ended up starting the production company called Brain Farm, and Brain Farm was basically the company with the most progressive camera equipment and newest technology.
When was this?
We originally talked about the idea when I was still doing Pretty Sweet ['12]. I had just started on that so I told him I wanted to finish that project first. But once Pretty Sweet was done, I knew that this was the next project I was going to do. I ended up partnering up with Curt and Brain Farm not long thereafter and we started going into preproduction. I spent the whole first year just kind of wrapping my head around all these cameras and equipment and how to use all this stuff. Not only figure out how to use it but how to use it specifically for skateboarding. Filming skateboarding on its own is very complicated and a lot of factors have to be taken into account.
So all of that took a year?
Yeah. Pretty much. There was a year of that and then we also had to figure out like, "Well, who's going to be the main skater in this thing?" I started talking to Paul. He was my first pick. I hit him up and he came by my house and I had all this stuff up on my wall—diagrams and notes and photos, all this stuff—and I tried to explain to him what I thought the film could be and how he could be in it. I gave him the whole deal and he just looked at me and said like, "This is perfect. I don't want to do another video part. I want to do something bigger. I want to elevate skateboarding in a different way than a video part. Sign me up, I'm in."
"Working on a project of this scale has been mind opening as far as what's possible with filmmaking and skateboarding. People like Ty keep pushing it further and further. It's amazing to be a part of it."—Chris Colbourn
So you had your lead?
[Laughs] Yeah. So right there that was the first piece. Paul was on board. Now we just had to figure how to get this thing done. Luckily Paul had some really great relationships too—Mountain Dew being one of those. So we ended up talking to Mountain Dew and they were just starting to push their project called Green Label Films. It was perfect timing and Green Label Films came on as the backers. We had a lot of great ideas and it was going to take a lot of money to do it and they were willing to be a part of that and support the film. For Paul, myself and Brain Farm it has just been a really great relationship working with them.
When was the first real filming trip?
So from the time we got Paul and Green Label Films on board, that was more or less the first year, two years. Then it wasn't until only a little over a year ago that we got the film fully funded. I did the first real trip in April of 2014. I had been filming here and there before that. But that was more just going out with a Red camera. Once we had the full funding, we could start hiring crewmembers and had money to do trips and all that stuff. So I really was only filming for about a year.
To me, when I first heard about it, this really seemed like the logical extension of everything you had done up to this point.
Yeah. It's been awesome. There has been a progression since I started. When I started making skate films, it was just a kid with a camera and a backpack. Then you start learning some of the filmmaking aspects of it. Back in 2008 I signed with a production company as a commercial director and I started directing commercials. I started learning that world and learning how all of this stuff works. By going into that world I was able to bring some of that stuff back to skateboarding. I'm not going to say I'm the only guy that has done it—there are tons of guys out there that have done it. But at the end, there's a progression to learning this stuff and to go out and make a film now of this caliber is crazy. I would have never dreamed that I'd be jumping in helicopters filming skateboarding.
Can you draw a line between skate films and skate videos? Is this officially a skate film?
No. I don't think there's a line. At the end of the day, it's still just about grabbing a camera and going out with your friends and having fun skating. Whether you're using a million-dollar camera system or a 500-dollar camera, it doesn't matter—you're still making skate videos.
What does We Are Blood mean to you?
I think that the theme "We Are Blood" is about traveling the world and showing what we do as skateboarders. It's about showing that brotherhood that we all have as skateboarders. To show those stories that we have all experienced of meeting new people and sharing this love for skating. It's about traveling the world and skateboarding.
It seems like a super eclectic cast in the trailer. There's even an [Anthony] Pappalardo sighting in there right?
Yeah man. That was the thing. There were no rules making this film. The one rule of making this film was that there were no rules.
Or the one rule was that you ride a skateboard.
Totally man. Whoever wanted to come out and film, we would turn the camera on. That was a really cool feeling. Whoever wanted to be a part of it could be a part of it. When we would go on trips and I would hit up everyone I could think of. I would hit up millions of people. And the guys that wanted to come were the people that are in it.
From a technical standpoint, what new applications did you feel were most successful? What were you most pleased with?
I think I was most pleased with actually just making this stuff work because no one has ever done this in skateboarding. When we went to China, I think we had like 25 cases of equipment to check in when we got on the plane. It was nuts. Then you get to the hotel and you have to build all of this stuff and put it together. Then you get to the spot and you have to unload all of this stuff. Make sure it's all safe.
Paul was saying you guys were traveling around with like two million dollars worth of gear.
Absolutely. For all of this to come together, then for the skater to get their trick, and for you to get it how you want it, and for the five other camera angles to also get it how they want it—that's a great feeling. That was the part that I was most pleased with. There are just so many things that can go wrong.
"Anything, no matter what it is, Ty's got the vision. It's been sick and time consuming, but I didn't want it to end. I'm psyched to see the finished product come out. We had a lot of fun.
It must be a different experience for the skaters too.
For sure. For them, there was a lot of downtime. I think the number-one thing that was hard for them was that if two or more people were skating the same spot. Let's say the first guy finally gets his trick. That usually gets the next guy really hyped to try to make his trick too, like right afterwards, like, "I got your back!" We can't do that with these cameras. We would have to sit there and download the footage on one camera after a make that takes like 45 seconds. That's what would kill the guys sometimes. I could see the skaters get frustrated sometimes for sure. It was challenging but luckily all the skaters that were a part of this film understood that we were trying something different. They could see the bigger picture. I think it was just a matter of getting acclimated to that stuff.
Paul made some good points too how all these different ways of capturing skateboarding are rad for fellow skaters, but might also help people who don't skate see skateboarding in a new or different light.
Absolutely. Ultimately, I've been making skate films for the past 20 plus years, and it's always been "skateboard videos" that are showcased in skateboard shops. That was where you would get the videos. I've always been under the idea that I would love to share skateboarding with the world, and especially those that don't skate. If a kid that doesn't skate happens to see one of the films that I've made, and that gets him hooked on skating, then I think that it's working. The films are about skateboarding and for skateboarders to watch and get stoked on, but at the same time, I don't mind it bridging that gap.
On a technical level, what does "skateboarding's first ultra high definition movie" entail? What is a 4K camera for someone who doesn't know?
So basically when we first started making skate videos it was standard definition: 640 x 480. Then, when we first switched over to HD there was 1280 x 720, which was the smaller HD. Then we went full HD, which is 1920 x 1080. And now there's 4K Ultra HD, which is 3840 x 2160. They actually have 4K televisions now too with that high a resolution in the screen. We actually shot We Are Blood at closer to 5K and some of the cameras shot in 6K. We've been lucky enough to have a relationship with Red and they've been really supportive. They let us use their Red Epic cameras that shoot at 5K and their Red Dragon cameras that shoot at 6K. So we shot this whole film at this huge resolution and then we're going to master it at 4K. So yeah, it's the first 4K Ultra HD skate film ever mastered.
It's broken down by location right?
Yeah. The film is all location based, which was a really great stress reliever for the skaters, because these guys didn't have to worry about putting their own parts together. It was more just, "Come on these trips and let's have fun" A good chunk of the film was filmed locally, here in LA. Then we also got an RV and did a whole US trip for seven weeks, went all over the US. We flew to China and spent three weeks in China. We went to Dubai and spent a month out there. We went to Barcelona and spent three weeks out there. We went down to Brazil and skated with those guys for three weeks.
What were some of the companies that provided cutting-edge equipment?
This film would have never been possible without all of our amazing partners. A lot of this equipment had never been used ever, even outside of skateboarding. We did a partnership with Shotover Camera Systems. Also with Freefly systems, they have the gyro-stabilized handheld gimbal system called the MoVI. Then on top of all that, we would always have to rent this ludicrous amount of camera equipment. Over the years I've become friends with Michael Mansouri who owns Radiant Images. He would give us the most amazing support for whatever we needed.
"To be a part of this project is just insane. Ty and Brain Farm are making things next level! Just seeing how much effort everyone is putting into the filming and skating makes me stoked. The tricks and different kind of filming in this film are going to blow your mind!"—Chase Webb
What's next? Where do you go from here?
You know, it's crazy. I'm 41-years-old, and we're still doing it. When we were little 18-year-old young'uns, I never thought that I'd be jumping fences in my 40s with some teenage kids. But Jon Holland, who helped me edit this film—we talked about this last night—skateboarding is the fountain of youth. Whether you work in it, whether you're a pro, whether you own a company—skateboarding is the fountain of youth.
Paul was saying that you might graduate to Hollywood blockbusters. Would you leave skating?
It's funny, because once I departed Girl and started making this film; I think a lot of people felt like I was leaving skating, but I never saw it that way. This was just the next incarnation of what these films should be in my head. So I'm going to keep going up that ladder and keep making these films. I want to keep making these bigger and better. This film was a huge endeavor for me. Wrapping my head around something of this caliber has been the most stressful thing in the world—but also the most rewarding thing. I think going through this film has only made me stronger. So going into whatever's next I have my head on a lot tighter and my vision is a lot clearer as to what these films can be now.
When's the premiere?
August 13 is the premiere and then it should be available for download and in stores shortly thereafter. Physical copies will be a Blu-ray DVD combo pack. Then you can buy/download on iTunes, Amazon, PlayStation, Xbox, and all that good stuff.
Interview with Paul Rodriguez
What does this project mean to you? You've pretty much been involved since the start right?
Yeah. On a personal level it was just something to break the monotony of just putting out another video part after another video part. I feel like I've put out a lot of video parts over the years and I hate to say it and admit it but after a point it just stopped being motivating for me.
This was before you heard about this project?
Yeah. And then Ty hits me up and it's funny because the way he described it was exactly the same thing that I was feeling. For him it was like, "Okay, I've made a million skate videos. I like them. They're good. It was motivating but as a filmmaker I've gotten to a point where it has lost its luster." So we were both kind of feeling the same thing on two different ends. So he started describing this film and what he wanted to do, what he wanted to get out of it and I was like, "Man, this is perfect. This is exactly what I need."
What does the title We Are Blood mean to you?
To me, it's addressing what it is that unites us. It's hard to even put into words, but what is it that keeps us coming back for more? Why did I start doing this when I was 12, and now, here I am at 30 still just as in love with it? What is it that makes me able to go to Brazil and meet a kid from a favela who loves it just as much? You don't even have to speak the same language, and it may be someone that without skateboarding you would probably never even be meeting each other but through this common bond you end up clicking with that person, all because of skateboarding.
How different was it filming for this, obviously with all the technology, versus filming for a regular video? He's got the drones, the super high-res cameras, virtual reality, et cetera…
Oh man. Yeah. It was way different. We were rolling around every day for this with approximately two million dollars worth of camera equipment. We took them to China, Barcelona. They went to Brazil but I didn't go on that one, and then a road trip across the US that was like seven weeks long. And luckily we had no problems—no close calls or sketchiness. Nobody tried to rob us, I think because we were with a really big crew. Not only were there 10 to 15 skaters at any given time, there were also another 10 to 15 people along to just help the crew. We had IT tech dudes with us all the time. As crazy as this equipment is it's always having problems. So they had dudes there to service the equipment at all times. Then they had pilots who fly the drones, other cameramen, producers, grips—we were rolling really deep.
Was it different filming with all these extra bits?
It was way different. I mean, obviously the end result of all this equipment is so epic, as you'll see in the film but the behind the scenes, that equipment is a pain in the ass too [laughs]. I can't lie. Every time we got to a spot and had to hop a fence, it was like, "Everybody, grab a bag!" I mean, it took 20 to 30 minutes just to get in to any spot and set up. Then sometimes you would get going, you would want to film a line, but the crazy rigs that Ty was using might not be working so it was like, "Hold on." Then you'd have to wait. It was challenging for sure. Especially when you're already trying something that is pretty difficult. There were plenty of times where I got frustrated, but I just kept telling myself it would all be worth it when we saw the end result.
This seems like the ultimate conclusion of Ty's style. Like some people might look at this and think somehow all skate videos are heading in this direction. Whereas really, this is specific to Ty's near-decade affair with all of these technologies.
Absolutely. I would agree with that 100 percent. By no means are we trying to say this is the new way for everyone or whatever.
Not everyone is going to need two million dollars worth of equipment now to film a skate video?
[Laughs] Yeah. No. Of course not. This is not only about showcasing great skateboarding, but also showcasing what's behind it—the purpose of skateboarding and why we have this connection to it and to each other. Of course I don't expect every video to be made like this because honestly the way skateboard content comes out these days online, nobody really wants to sit around and watch an hour-long film every time.
This thing is also geared a little bit toward people outside skateboarding too right?
Yeah. This is ideally something for the whole family. Maybe a kid can sit down with his parents and be like, "Here. This is why I do this. This is what we're doing when we go out on the streets at all hours." I'm sure there are a lot of people who have parents that don't really understand or approve of skateboarding. This could be a little stepping stone to show them how positive and dedicated we are. How creative we are.
Where does Ty go from here? Have you guys talked about another one?
I don't know. I think we all love skateboarding but maybe Ty's at that point where he's graduated. Maybe he's ready to go into actual filmmaking at this point. I don't think he'll ever leave skateboarding but he's turning from a caterpillar to a butterfly.