Photo by Jonathan Mehring
There is always the one skate video project that dominates rumors and anticipation above all others. For the past year-and-a-half, that project has been the Supreme video, which we now know will be called “cherry.” We sat down with its creator, Bill Strobeck, to preview what we’re in store for without giving too much away.
Supreme has been around for twenty years and never had a full-on skate video. How did the idea to finally do one come about and how did you get involved?
My Cinematographer Project part had just come out [in spring 2012]. Kyle [Demers] saw my section and seemed hyped on it. He had recently started working for Supreme, and was wondering what everyone else has always thought: “Why has Supreme never done a video?” Them wanting to do one would always go back and forth a bit, but ended up not working out every time. Kyle asked me if I could do a little something for the shop. First it was supposed to be just a commercial. Dill was in town at the time and they wanted me to skate with him and Tyshawn [Jones]. We ended up making the “buddy” commercial and then Kyle asked if I would be down to make a full-length. The rest is history.
How did you pick the skaters who ended up being in it?
It was mostly who was already hanging out at the shop, like the guys who set up boards there, and some others who I had been working with at the time. Some of them were working on other videos, and some people got hurt. There were a lot of things that came into play later in terms of who was able to be in it. Also, it’s a shop video where there wasn’t a real team, but a team sort of got created along the way of making it, and I’m hyped on that.
Why has it taken you so long to make a full-length of your own?
Well, I need security. I live by myself in Manhattan and everything costs a ton of money here. I have to work for other companies to support myself, so there was no time to do a full video on my own.
Another brand once asked me to make one for them. I tried doing that for a minute, but it ended because they canned their whole skate program. I’m glad my first full-length is for Supreme.
Photo by Jonathan Mehring
There’s a certain crew of kids that assembled over the course of filming the video. A lot of them ended up riding for Fucking Awesome. How did that crew get involved?
While I was working on the Transworld part, they flew me out to L.A. It got cold in New York and I needed a few last-minute clips. That’s when Dylan did the switch backside flip over the table and Dill did the nollie full cab. We were running schoolyards pretty hard, and would always bump into Sage [Elsesser], Aidan [Mackey], Na-kel [Smith] and them there.
I went back out to L.A. while filming for “cherry” and saw that they’d always be hanging around Supreme. I’d see Na-kel doing hardflip backside 180s on the sidewalk in front of the store, just fucking around. After a while, I figured I’d ask, “Hey, I’m filming this video. Do you guys want to try some shit?”
We’d go to little spots around the neighborhood, but after a while, I’d end up on sessions with them and Alex Olson or some other pros. Na-kel would be doing gnarly shit right out the gate. I heard he was good, but in person I was like, “Whoa.”
You feel youthful hanging around those kids. Go skate with them, and you’ll see that they’re funny and have good energy. I feel a little jaded, so it’s fun to skate with people who aren’t.
They seem to be a real focal point. That new ad for the video in Thrasher is just a picture of Tyshawn.
Initially, we picked out a group of great, established dudes who we thought were fitting for the video, like Koston and AVE. Down the line, I ended up skating with the kids way more, and eventually knew they were perfect for the project. They’d be the ones ready to go skate first, so I just focused on them. It’s funny, the pros would be the ones showing up to the session later on, not the other way around.
Where did Tyshawn come from?
The story I heard was that Ty [Lyons] met him at a skatepark in The Bronx. He asked to see Ty’s board to mess around and did a kickflip down a set of stairs or something right away. Ty told him he worked at Supreme and to come and get a board whenever he wanted. Tyshawn was just like, “What’s that? Where is it?” Down the line, he showed up and asked for a board for his uncle — who is actually the same age as him — because supposedly he was weird about asking for himself.
When I met him for that commercial, he was super quiet. Now, he’s the goofiest, craziest one who talks the most shit. He’ll express himself real openly. His personality is super rad and his style is already developed for his age. When he nollie flipped into the Courthouse maybe eighth try, he looked good doing it. There aren’t a lot of 13-year-olds who look natural on a skateboard.
What was the filming process like?
If you’re out with one of those kids, you’re out with four of them. Some of the older guys understandably wouldn’t vibe with that. Whoever was on the sessions is in the video. I do wish there were certain people I could’ve got in it, but it was just who made the effort. I’d call people and get no answer sometimes. After three or four calls, I had to give up and be like, “You call me.”
If Sage is the one hitting me up, I’m going skating with him. When Koston was in town, he’d hit me up every day, so I’d skate with him. That being said, the video is packed with all types of heads.
Did you reach out to any of the original Supreme guys from when the shop was first starting for the video?
Yes, and they were all down, but it was tough. They have lives. Some of them are getting up at six in the morning and working all day. Others hardly skate anymore. I really wanted Jeff Pang in there and I know he could have done something rad. It sucks, but he ended up breaking his collarbone while we were filming for the video. I still got him out one day and that was fun. I can also respect how a lot of those guys who haven’t skated in a while wouldn’t want to go on a session with a bunch of 17-year-olds jumping around and landing everything.
Photo by Jonathan Mehring
How did some of the newer names like Dylan Rieder get involved?
Supreme definitely has a certain side of it that people have come to expect, but for me, it has always had a fashion vibe to it. Peter Bici is the perfect example from when the shop started. He’s a really good-looking dude and did Calvin Klein ads, but still ripped on a skateboard. I think that’s where Dylan and Alex come in. Also, they’re my boys and fit perfectly with everyone else in the video.
Dylan is just a great skater. He’s a super hero. Look at the photos in his recent Transworld interview. Watching him in person is way gnarlier than seeing anything he could do on video.
Over the course of you guys filming, it seems like people started skating L.A. a lot more like New York. You’d see way more random cutty stuff on the street than in past years. Was that a conscious thing you tried to do when filming out west?
It was the same thing back in the day when Ricky Oyola and them were doing it. Dudes in L.A. and S.F. started doing more pole jams and weird slappies.
Those kids like to be creative. They’re going to think of shit that other people aren’t doing, which is refreshing. I can explain it in terms of Pappalardo and Wenning when they were doing the crazy nosegrind pop-outs. They didn’t do it first; Jerry Fowler was the king of that first. They just got creative and added their twist to it. Pappalardo would do it with a shove-it out in the middle of the ledge behind him, or Wenning would switch back 180 into one. They just blew it up into something new. I remember thinking “These kids are onto some shit and it’s getting me psyched.” Same deal here, they seem to look to older stuff for inspiration.
Would you put them onto older parts or would they go about it themselves?
Aidan asked me the other day “Have you ever seen Ethan Fowler’s part in Tincan Folklore?” — like, not even from A Visual Sound. I don’t remember the second Stereo video at all. I know for a fact nobody told him to watch Tincan Folklore. I got psyched that it wasn’t the popular Stereo video; it was the second one that people always forget about.
That’s not to say they don’t watch new stuff. They know tons of gnarly new skaters that I’ve never heard of, and they all like different skaters from one another. They get a little bit of everything.
Photo by Jonathan Mehring
You filmed a lot of Photosynthesis, Mosaic and those sort of projects, which are considered definitive VX1000 videos. Did you ever consider using VX for this project?
I filmed the Transworld part in HD, and wanted to stick with it for this. I was used to it already. I look at VX footage now and I personally think it looks dated. Obviously, I still like some things about the VX, like the sound, but I don’t think it looks better anymore. I was the first one, in maybe a 48 Blocks interview, to say “Fuck using HD, I’m sticking to the aesthetic I’ve had.” Eventually, I found my aesthetic with this other camera.
I’m not trying to make it look old. I like all the stuff people make with VHS and VX now, but I don’t want to make this video look like it is from another time. The video is meant to represent what skateboarding is like right now. Maybe in ten years, people will look at “cherry” and be like “Oh, that’s what it was like back then.” To me that Thomas Campbell film [A Love Supreme] has that feel: “That’s what 1994 was like.”
Was it hard getting people to take a video for a shop seriously?
I think once they started hearing what others have done for it and seeing coverage in magazines, they knew it was for real.
The last few months are always when people start going apeshit. Around the time of the first deadline, Dill was busting his ass day after day. I found out that we had been given an extra couple of months to film, but decided not to tell anyone so they wouldn’t fall back. Dill showed me a photo of his wrist, and I realized I had to tell him in good conscience. He would send me clips every day of either some sick shit he was working on, got on film, or just him killing himself, so he seemed relieved.
Photo by Ben Colen
Did you have to keep your aesthetic in line with past stuff Supreme has done, or was it all you?
All the guys at Supreme have been super cool about everything, just letting me make it the way I envisioned it. There was no “we want this or that.” I’m psyched they trusted me and didn’t put any walls up. It made everything flow perfectly.
I think people have preconceived notions of the video. I’m sure some of that is partially right, but there are a lot of surprises in it. Videos like Penal Code and Eastern Exposure 3 came up as what we had in mind. Those videos were sick because there was no limit to who or how many different people could be in them. Dudes now have clothing sponsors, and I sometimes had a feeling those companies were getting weird about certain things, but this is a shop video. Supreme is still a skate shop where people go to set up a board or get a bearing.
Your stuff from the past few years has been a bit different than what most expect of skate clips these days. Did you preserve that direction for this video?
I like skateboarding, but I really love the personalities around it. There is a lot of personality stuff in “cherry” that caters to somebody who doesn’t skate. That said, it is still a skate video. You get an idea of who these people in “cherry” actually are. Their personalities are special, not only how good they are at skating.
The video wasn’t about doing the most epic shit. They did what they wanted to do, and what they thought looked cool. If someone looks cool doing some psycho trick, it counts for just as much when they do a big ollie.
The “I’d rather watch Gino push” thing…
Yeah, or Reese or Huf do an ollie.
It’s hard though, because you see two seconds of a trick on video, versus in real life — having been there for the entire session and remembering everything about it. You lived it, that’s the funnest part. No one but you and your boys will ever truly know how gnarly something was.
Are you nervous about the reception since the video has been speculated on so much?
Part of the excitement for me now is waiting on the reactions from everyone else. I bet New York is going to judge the hell out of the video. That’s fine, I like a strong opinion. I remember people saying it was a tough crowd in New York for the Pretty Sweet premiere, but this is different. I’ve seen the video like 2,000 times at this point — every time I have to re-export it, I have to re-watch it again to make sure nothing is wrong. I think I’ll be living through everyone else’s first viewing of it now.
This is going to be the first video of all those kids. People will remember what they were like when they first came on the scene. They’re going to grow up, be totally different and way better at skating in five years.
I think I speak for everyone when I say I appreciate you guys not taking four years to get the video done.
Yeah, they’re putting it out at a good time. Spring is going to be a great time to pop that “cherry” and go skate.