Photo by Manuel Schenck
It seems like yesterday that we were blowing on cassette tapes and using t-shirts to dust DVDs off. Even shitty 240p YouTube videos feel like they weren’t all that long ago. Technology has evolved at a downright sketchy rate over the past couple decades, and it’s fun to watch society transform in its effort to keep up. The ways in which we waste money, photograph our own genitals and ingest media have changed drastically, and both we, along those in charge of doing the creating, have found ourselves adapting alongside them.
Skateboarding’s past couple years have been defined by the Vimeo auteur’s surge in popularity. Guys like Johnny, Peter, Nick Von, GX — without sponsorship from a larger company or any real promotion — have been able to go out, film their buds and throw original, quality edits up on the web for anyone to see. Skaters meritocratically recognize what’s tight and show these things enough love that it has gotten to the point that these guys are actually turning their creative side projects into full-blown careers. They have not only shined a light on lesser-known scenes, skaters, spots and tricks, but in using the tools at their avail, upheaved the traditional means by which a skate video is made and watched. The industry has been forced to keep up with them, and shit, even hire them.
Ben Chadourne has been on a serious tip lately — belting out HD edits of the Blobys, the Converse team and most recently, the Bobby Worrest/Hjalte Halberg edit for Nike SB, a love letter to skateboarding’s greatest plazas by two of the best ever to skate them. And Chadourne, with his admittedly useless art school degree, taste for Rod Stewart, and familiarity with the state of New Jersey, couldn’t be more on-brand for this site. We FaceTime audioed all about it while he paced up and down his street in Bordeaux, watching the people pass by and being self-conscious about his English, which is nearly perfect.
What’s the last trick you learned?
Damn, I haven’t been skating that much anymore, that’s not good. I don’t know. Fuck. I’m doing the same. I’m working on my v flips because they’re trendy now.
What’s your favorite trick?
Fakie flips and ollies!
You’re from Bordeaux?
Yeah, it’s like a little Paris. It’s southwest, forty five minutes from the coast, three and a half hours train to Paris. You can refresh really easily compared to Paris; you can escape. That’s why I stay here.
What are a couple of your favorite French films?
You know this movie called L’Argent? It’s five short films in a movie, from different French directors. I like that, and La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz. I like Raymond Depardon as well.
When did you start skateboarding?
I started at a skate spot called Malraux, it’s like a skate plaza. I started with guys who were way older than me: I was 13 and they were around 20. They helped me out all the time, gave me boards and stuff.
Weren’t you sponsored?
Yeah, I used to ride for Nike SB and 5Boro. The first time I came to New York, I was 16 and I went to Tombo Colabraro’s house in New Jersey — the big skater house with the Ax Throwers, Andrew [McLaughlin], Willy Akers, Danny Falla.
Photo by Sebastien Michelini
How did you link up with 5Boro?
I was skating in Bordeaux and one guy from Chill Magazine who made videos came to Bordeaux to make a little edit. When he went back to Paris he talked to Luigi Gaydu, who used to work for 5Boro in France, and he was like “there’s this kid in Bordeaux who’s pretty good, maybe we should give him boards.” They were giving me boards and I really wanted to meet all the crew, so I finally managed to go to the States.
What were your first impressions?
I was really stoked, it was a new playground for me. As a kid, I didn’t see the differences between Europe and New York. New York was like, big buildings, cars everywhere, but I didn’t really see the difference. I was just following the 5Boro guys and trying to film tricks. But I was so impressed, of course. I had never been so far before. In the first four days, they just brought me to Steve Rodriguez and left me with him. He was pushing so hard and I had to follow him for an entire day. I was like “wow, is this the test to find out if I can join the team?”
What was your interest in filming and how did you get started doing that?
I have always been intrigued by those guys who come on trips and film. I had already been filming and taking photos because my father was a painter. He did photography and design, and had a darkroom at home. When I finished college, my dad told me, “you should go to cinema school.” I was like, “no, I want to be a lawyer.” I wanted to do what my friends were doing, they were all going to law school or to be doctors or something like that. I went to law school for a year and I wasn’t really into it. I was pretty depressed. So I quit and went to cinema school for three years. I wanted to do commercials, but I was also practicing filming with my skateboarding friends.
In my last year of school, I heard that somebody was leaving DC Shoes in France. I saw the guy and he was really stoked on what I was doing, which was really bad, but it was good money. I could pay my rent and make a living out of it. I worked for them for two years, and then I stopped and slowly started working for Converse in France. It’s just natural. I wasn’t really sure I could make a living out of filming, you know? But it worked out.
Photo by John Coulthard
Do you feel that you are a better filmmaker because you went to cinema school?
No, actually, it’s funny I was just thinking about it. I’m editing this Sage piece. I was doing color grading stuff, and these are things that I learned on the internet. Of course I learned stuff from school, but more like art history, film history, physics, mathematics. As far as technique and editing, no, you don’t have to go to cinema school. The only thing, for doing this job now, is that you have to show your work, respect time, and have a sort of professionalism.
So you’ve been with Converse for a long time, no?
Yeah, since January with the global team, but I’ve been with them for maybe four or five years. I started doing edits for Converse France, and then Converse Europe. Then, they came to Europe for the One Star World Tour. I met everybody and we got along. They were looking for a second filmer because Richard [Quintero] couldn’t do all the work. So I put out as many ideas as I could and it worked out.
Have you always skated with the same people? Is it still the same group of friends that you were filming when you started?
Yeah, I’ve kind of always filmed with either the Polar dudes or the Blobys, the guys from Paris. All those guys are the crew I film with — Kevin, Paul, Vincent, Greg, Roman — all those guys from “Oh Yes.” “Oh Yes” is from our trip to Milan and Rome. It’s an expression for when you’re stoked — “oh yes!”
What videos and skaters inspired you when you were growing up?
The Sorry video is the most powerful video for me. I watched it so many times; it really made me want to go out and skate. Ali Boulala, Geoff Rowley, all those guys from back in the day. Those guys from The DC Video too: Josh Kalis, Stevie Williams, all the plaza skaters. Mark Gonzales, Dan Drehobl, there’s so many — it’s hard to make a list. Jake Johnson is my all-time favorite.
Photo by Paul Grund
What’s with this Hjalte and Bobby edit?
Basically, Bobby and Hjalte came to me and they were like we want to do this part, a shared part, and we want you to film and edit the thing. It sounded like a really fun project. We started by doing a trip in Paris, then Barcelona, then New York City and Washington DC. It’s Hjalte and Bobby skating the world: mainly Republique, Pulaski, Universitat in Barcelona….a lot of lines. It was really fun to do.
What are some of the things that you have coming up?
I’ve been doing a commercial for the Sage colorway, so I spent ten days in New York City filming Super 8. It’s going to be a little part, just cruising around New York City, kind of jazzy. We filmed amazing tricks, and when you think that it’s filmed in Super 8, it’s crazy. Sage is one of the most impressive skaters I’ve ever filmed with, that’s for sure.
Then I have another thing. We went to Israel in June for two weeks and I am making an edit for TransWorld. Then we are going to Australia and New Zealand at the beginning of November with Converse. So you see, I am busy. I really try to be aware that I am lucky. I’m so lucky.