Josh Stewart brought us some great videos like the „Static“ series and is currently working on finishing part IV, while being the man behind Theories of Atlantis Distribution which promotes brands like Polar, Palace or Magenta in the US. It gives us a good feeling to see him doing his thing, people like him keep skateboarding on the right path. Though he seems to be busy with a million things a day, he found the time to answer our questions about the upcoming release and skatevideos in general for our last issue. Enjoy the full length interview!
[Interview: Stefan Schwinghammer | Photos: Pep Kim]
Hi Josh, you’ve always had a lot of different skaters from different places in your videos. How do you choose the guys you work with?
Well, it’s kind of been different for every video. But pretty much it typically comes down to my meeting someone and really liking their personality and or seeing their skating and feeling inspired for some reason. A lot of times I have just liked a certain city and then sought out to find a skater from that scene who best represents that city or area. That’s how the Paul Shier part came about. Same thing with John Igei. I went to London and Washington DC and was super inspired by the city itself. Both of those cities have something really creepy and ominous about them. And it just fit the vibe of how I wanted Static to feel so well that I became determined to find a skater from that city that would embody the feel of that city or scene. Igei fit so perfectly. I traveled to Washington DC while filming for an old Tampa skate shop video called „World Market“. And I just became obsessed with the city. And then I started traveling there a bunch to film with local skaters and Igei was so incredible and his style was so dope. He was like the physical embodiment of the gritty, eerie vibe of Washington DC. And now I look back at that part and am shocked by how talented he was. I can’t believe more opportunities didn’t open up for him.
And by which criteria do you choose the places you film at?
Again, it’s been different for every project. In Static II we traveled all over the world and in hindsight that was a bad call. I made sure to travel to the cities the skaters were from. London, DC, NYC, etc. But we also went to places that weren’t really relevant to the skaters or the project which I kind of regret. Static III I wanted to film most of it in London and NYC and we also did some travel through Philly and the ‚rust-belt‘ cities of the US. I wanted the whole city to have a backdrop of brick, iron and rust. I always think it’s important to film skaters in the cities their from. It wouldn’t make sense to film an entire video part with someone and not include spots from the city they’re from. But when you’re doing a video with skaters from NY, SF, Florida, London, Paris, etc, it becomes a crazy shuffle trying to make sure and include as much of their hometowns in their parts. You can only do so much until your bank account runs dry.
If I am working with a skater on a part, I’d want to distinguish for the audience what it is that makes that skater unique
Some skaters like to film at their local spots while a lot of companies send their teams on trips around the world, e.g. to China. What’s your point on that?
It really depends on the skater. I mean, there are a lot of skaters who the city they’re from doesn’t really seem to play a role in their personality. But, ultimately, with Static, I feel like the spot is incredibly important. And I think it’s really important for a skaters part to feature spots and textural elements from the city they’re from. Especially when it’s a city or skate scene that has a lot of character or is super unique. If I’m a skater filming my video part or if I am working with a skater on a part, I’d want to distinguish for the audience what it is that makes that skater unique. How do you distinguish his personality and style apart from the other 20 million skaters out there? Very often my favorite video parts stand out to me not because the talent of the skater but because of their personality and the way that their personality and story are communicated by the filmer/editor. So, to me the spots and environment a skater films in is hugely important. But there are skaters who transcend that. Like I can watch Mike Carroll skate China and still be intrigued because I already know his personality and he will already have my attention because I grew up watching him skate around the world. I’d prefer seeing him skate SF because that’s what I associate him with and where his story began. But when a newer skater pops up these days and he’s skating spots in China that have no character or texture to them. Just a clean marble perfect playground, they may as well be filming in a skatepark. It robs the video part of much-needed personality. The skater already has lost me because I already am disconnected from his personality because he’s disconnected from the environment in which he’s skating.
I read this about you: „In the process of making his Static series of skate videos, Josh Stewart faced down armed guards in Egypt, dodged a terrorist bombing in India, and risked life and limb against the IRA.“ How dangerous is filming a skatevideo?
Haha……hmmm, that sounds like you stumbled onto some dramatic nonsense that I wrote about myself. Haha. Yeah, I used to use working on skate videos as an excuse to travel to crazy places and we’d tend to get into some sketchy and crazy situations. And traveling with Kenny Reed he would love to purposefully get us into sketchy situations. But the crazy thing about skateboarding in weird, sketchy places is, that people tend to react to us very positively. It’s crazy, even in sketchy bad neighborhoods in the US, once people see the skateboards and the cameras they tend to be really hyped on what we’re doing. The worst reactions are usually from rich, comfortable people who have created a sheltered life for themselves and can’t stand anything that’s different. As for Static IV I’ve pretty much filmed the entire thing in NYC. Every night out skating in NY you see just the weirdest and craziest shit. NY is filled with maniacs, it’s great. Once a few years back I was filming with Puleo and these full on east New York gangster dudes walked up on me and started asking about my camera and how much it cost. Puleo skated up to have my back and the dudes tripped. One of the guys curled out his tongue and he had a rusty razor blade wrapped up in his mouth. He said „You wanna get tied up?“ and he made the sign with his hand of cutting my throat. I was like „ummm….no“. Then Bobby said „hold on, I’m gonna jump over this thing for you guys“. And he skated a block down the street. And I started tripping. This dude had just pulled a razor blade out of his month and said he was gonna cut my throat. Then Puleo skated back and ollied this bump-to-bar. And the thugs started going crazy, running around in circles screaming „HELL NO!!!!“. All of a sudden they were our best friends. They offered to be our body guards and gave us hugs. It was bananas. That’s the best part of NYC. You never know what the fuck is gonna happen.
A few years back I was filming with Puleo and these full on east New York gangster dudes walked up on me
Talking about Static IV, I heard you went to London, I saw the Eifel Tower in the trailer. Which other cities have you visited and who did you work with?
Haha… yeah, well, Static IV started while we were still working on Static III. So we filmed a lot in Paris and London. And I managed to make it back there once again about 3 years ago. But it’s been really tough to afford getting back there recently. There are several skaters from London and Paris that I filmed with a bunch for Static IV. But it’s still up in the air who will end up with parts and how much they’ll have in the video. It’s mostly down to if I can afford to make it back there again. So I prefer to keep everything confusing so people don’t know what to expect. Because, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really even know what to expect yet.
A video is a hell of a lot of work and stress. What is your motivation to do it?
I ask myself the same question all the time… Nah, there are several things that motivate me. The selfish part of it is, that the feeling of being at a premiere of a video that I’ve made, is one of the most fulfilling feelings I’ve ever experienced. Being able to see and feel the reactions of the audience to something you’ve poured your heart and soul into is addicting. And every video I finish I swear is the last one. Then I’ll be at the premieres and the audience will go „ooooh“ or „aaaaah“ and I am like „fuck!… I have to make another video“. But then the other motivation is when I skate with someone who’s skating has a magical quality to it. Like Quim Cardona or Jahmal Williams. I’ll skate with them for one day and it’s so inspiring and so special and I just can’t help but feel compelled to want to work with them to present their skating to the rest of the world.
Continue with part two on the next page.