Good filmmaking, like good skateboarding—is something you can never control completely. You can set the stage and light the fuse, but you can never wrest absolute control. Instead, one must always leave the door of unintended consequences ever so slightly ajar, lest some unforeseen mutation emerges from the chaos. For that single mutation might just be the next cornerstone.
Thomas Campbell knows good filmmaking and Thomas Campbell knows good skateboarding. His latest oeuvre and perhaps his magnum opus—Y.O.D.—seeks to capture a lifelong love affair with skateboarding—but also specifically skateboarding in 2018—as it exists right here and now, in full ATV/unhindered glory—on 16mm film.
Due out this fall, and self-funded—Y.O.D. or Ye Olde Destruction will feature some of skateboarding's most legendary riders and most creative artists/photographers—all caught through the distinguished lens (and lenses) of some of skateboarding's most prolific filmmakers. The concept itself is rather simple; two groups of skaters hit the road—each split into a respective car. Along the way, they are unleashed on a selection of spots—mostly DIY or skating the cars themselves. With the film's climax arriving when both crews/cars meet up for a grand demolition derby finale. Content to set the stage and light the fuse on all fronts, Campbell aka T-Moss is just now discovering the scope of his love and the nature of its latest mutations. On the eve of his final editing phase, we sat down for a quick Q&A. The future is the past and it is here again.
You mentioned that you were developing film now that was shot years ago, and how it didn't always look the way you were picturing it. Can you talk about that process?
Filmmaking is always fascinating. The longer I've been doing it, the more I realize you almost have to look at it and let it tell you what it wants to be. I'm just kind of sitting here—I thought I had an idea of what it was going to be this whole time. And now I'm looking at it and I'm like, "Oh. It's not that." It's not that it's bad. It's just the natural path. Since I've been making it, I've been seeing some of it. But, now that I'm really looking at everything and editing I'm like, "Okay, it has like a different rhythm." If I thought it was going to be 140 BPM, it's really 127 beats per minute.
Is that one of the selling points of film? You still get that window of unpredictability whereas something digital is more binary, less organic and more exact?
I just feel that film transfers a lot of emotion. As a medium it works well in that way. Skateboarding has so many layers of emotion and tension. I always equate it like this; film is kind of like a dancer. It meets you out in the middle of the room to dance with you and it's doing a lot of things to help you with the dance. I feel like with digital you have to dance all the way over to it, and then to all the dancing as well. I'm not like a huge digital hater or anything—the more time goes past I feel like the digital tools are becoming more and more dynamic too. But this film is probably towards the end of me being able to work with this kind of medium.
The equipment is almost extinct.
The people that fix the film cameras are retiring and dying. There aren't people that are coming up behind them to learn that craft.
Was there a specific catalyst to this project?
When I was a kid, growing up I came from a period where it was—I started skating when I was five, I'm 49 now. I started when I was five in the '70s. That kind of moved into the early '80s—skating ditches and I had like a mile and a quarter downhill run to the place that I worked. I was skating hills and Del Mar and Upland. Then those closed and we were skating backyard ramps and street skating. But I come from this period where you skated everything that you could skate. Backyard pools or whatever. My perspective on skateboarding has always been "whatever." One of the reasons I stopped working in skateboarding was because of the divisions that happened.
It got really clique-y.
Yeah. In the '90s with the tech vs. vert and hesh and fresh and all that. There were all these rules and I was just like, "Fuck this." This isn't what I think skateboarding is. What I thought skateboarding was to me was Mark Gonzales, Neil Blender, John Cardiel, Julien Stranger, Tim Brauch and Phil Shao. Dan Drehobl. People who are down to skate whatever. I think all the stuff that's happening in skateboarding today is awesome. I'm not talking about the corporations or industry or any of that. But the approach of the new kids seems far more unhindered. Somebody like Evan Smith can just skate however he wants.
There aren't those parameters placed on him like "Don't grab your board. No feet on the ground" or whatever?
Yeah. And he does not give a fuck. It's the best. He's fully creative and wildly talented and unencumbered. When I think of skateboarding— this is seriously a punk rock activity—it shouldn't have parameters. Nor should film really. But I'm just really excited about modern skateboarding. This film is about celebrating where we are now.