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In Skate S.D., Tony Hawk's 900 Films Dives Into Skateboarding & The Art Of The Skate Film

In the upcoming documentary Skate S.D., 900 Films is diving into the history and influence that San Diego has had in shaping the world of skateboarding. "900 Films has a special perspective on skateboarding as the company was founded by skating legend Tony Hawk,” says Jared Prindle, executive producer at 900 Films. “As Tony Hawk's production company, we do a lot of content based around skateboarding. We love it. We come from action sports. We skate and we understand it in ways that people who aren't involved really don't understand it.” 

That perspective is driving the visuals in Skate S.D. Skateboarding is a lifestyle and a passion for many that go beyond the skate park; it's a way of life, an art and capturing that essence and bringing it to the screen is as challenging as it is visually stunning. “Skateboarding is so visual you tend just to associate it with the moving images,” says Cameron Sanchez, director of photography at 900 Films. “But the stories are just as compelling. To put all those together would be the best thing to happen for Skate S.D.”


The 900 Films team is using Sony FX6 cameras as their main workhorses for the documentary, and that choice wasn’t arbitrary as Jared Prindle explains, “Sony and skateboarding have had an incredibly long history together. When Sony came out with the VX series, skateboarders just were drawn to the camera. It was perfect. And nearly every skate video for a decade and a half was shot with that series. And that same passion and dedication is something that we feel with Sony's new line today.”


You can draw a straight line from the Sony VX series to today’s Sony FX6 and FX3 cameras. That lineage and the continuation of the design philosophy that made the VX cameras so popular with skating filmmakers makes the FX6 and FX3 natural fits for the 900 Films team. “The FX6 is our main workhorse camera,” says Cameron Sanchez. “Normally we outfit it with the 12-24mm GM. And then we also use the FX3 for more of the skate style shots. It's smaller so it's easier to maneuver. When I'm shooting skateboarding I think the nuances really shine through when working in sync together [with the athlete].”  

The goal of any skateboarding film is to highlight the skills of the athletes, and for the filmmaker, doing that can be a bit of a dance. And like any dance sometimes you have to make it work even if you get a little crossed up with your partner. “I personally love shots where I'm fully engaged with the skater,” says Sanchez. “Those are the shots that I strive for, but skateboarding is very unpredictable. So much is out of your control. You have to make it work at the exact same time that the skater is making it work.”


In the final analysis, making a great skate film is an immersive experience for the 900 Films team. “When you're talking about skate films,” says Prindle, “you're usually talking about documenting the top skaters, performing their best tricks. There's a lot of emotion there because if you skate yourself, you know the difficulty of what they're going through and sometimes the agony. There's a lot that the skaters are putting themselves through. There's a chance of them getting quite hurt. And there's that moment when they succeed. So we’re kind of feeling like we’re going along on the ride with the athletes.”

Skate S.D. is being made at a unique time in skateboarding’s history. From early days associated with young hooligans hopping fences to thrash drought-emptied swimming pools, the sport has evolved to become part of the Summer Games. “With skateboarding now in the [Summer Games], people are thirsty for something more than just a contest,” says Prindle. “They want to know where skateboarding came from. They want to know its history. And there's a lot more to skateboarding than just the contest. I mean, any skateboarders will tell you that. And that ‘more’ is something that we want to tell.”

Skateboarding evolved from surfing and every surf town in the US had elements of early skateboarding. The success of films like Dogtown And Z Boys and Lords Of Dogtown brough the stories of skating’s origins in Santa Monica and Venice Beach to broad audiences, but the huge impact that the San Diego skateboarding scene had on the sport is less well known and that’s one of the things that made the 900 Films team so energized to make Skate S.D. Prindle explains, “We start the documentary around 1974, where some huge events that happened in San Diego changed the path of skateboarding forever. They didn’t know it at the time, but that put the skaters in San Diego in the driver's seat to steer the history of skateboarding. Most people who live in San Diego really have no idea and that’s the story we'd like to surprise them with. With this Skate S.D. we hope to get them excited about the history of the sport and how its trajectory changed and how that happened in their backyard.”

Skate S.D. premieres this fall. See more on Instagram @900films.   


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