If you poll a graduating film school class, chances are, someone ended up there from a childhood of watching and making skate videos. Not only a document of skateboarding in action, skate videos can lead to the development of an artistic voice that transcends the genre itself, sometimes even to filmmaking’s highest stage. Bing Liu — whose Oscar-nominated 2018 documentary, Minding the Gap — is just such a skater (and a Peabody Award winner, too.) Here’s a look into five parts that influenced his work.
Arto Saari — Flip: Sorry (2002)
For my all-time favorite, I’m going with Arto’s part in Sorry. The Velvet Underground portion with Tom Penny is sort of an intro hand-off, but I include that in the part. When I started skating in 7th grade, somebody gave me a dubbed version of that video on VHS, and that was the video that I played “until the tapeheads on my VCR broke.” Arto’s part, to me, was getting to that last dessert at the end of a great meal. Anytime I’ve watched it since, it just holds up. He comes off as a really humble dude, and I really like his photography. It’s clear he worked his ass off for that part. “Rock ‘n Roll Suicide” is probably my most-sung song at karaoke. I learned how to play it on the guitar. It really stuck with me.
Middlewestern — Intro Montage / First Part (2002)
There’s this local video called Middlewestern that came out in 2002 out of the Chicagoland area. It’s a montage video and I love how the intro flows into the first part. Greg Piloto, Steve Fauser and a really young Neen Williams are all thrown in there. It’s artfully filmed and constructed — clearly done by someone who is really adept with cameras and editing in the early 2000s. It really represents what it meant to grow up skating in the midwest, and was a big influence for me.
Greg Piloto is from Rockford, IL [Ed. Note: Bing is also from Rockford], so I got to skate with him before he started traveling more and picking up sponsors. Even so, this one is less about the skaters and skating, and more about the midwestness: loading docks and crunchy grinds. Also, it speaks to what was considered “artsy” at the time. Sunsets and landscapes with a Sufjan Stevens song that flows through it. It was very much of the era, smack-dab in the middle of the local crew types of videos that were coming out. I consider it a petri dish era for that type of stuff. All the full-lengths that I made were montage videos because of videos like this.
Louie Barletta & Jerry Hsu – Osiris: Subject to Change (2003)
This part is obviously two guys who are friends skating together and having fun.
It’s fun, but they also get gnarly. I know Jerry Hsu grew up in the San Jose area — I’m not sure if it was the same for Louie — but they skated a lot of San Jose spots that reminded me of a lot of the stuff I grew up skating. An industrial area with a random angle-iron ledge, things like that. You didn’t see a lot of Asian-American skateboarders and Jerry was very much one that I looked up to. It was one of the first times, for me, in the post-Zero/Jump Off a Building-era that a video or a part could be fun. There’s much to say about how skateboarding is built on seeing something done and realizing it’s possible to you. That’s how you learn tricks a lot of the time. When you translate that into seeing someone that looks like you, it’s a whole different thing. It almost makes the experience more real.
Gou Miyagi – Heroin: Video Nasty (2013)
It was mind-blowing when I first saw it. It really re-defined skateboarding for me. Not just because of the tricks but also the presentation of the skating. It was clear that he had planned things out, the filmer was involved, and the song was very deliberate. It was so…non-western.
He’s kind of polarizing, to a certain extent. I remember showing the part to one of my friends who had never seen his skating, and he was angry — he was actually upset. This might speak more to the personality of individual skaters, who are often very opinionated, viewing the part. He was like, “What’s up with this knee-slap thing?” I think it’s cool. It’s fresh. It’d be one thing if he took himself super seriously, but you can tell that he doesn’t. There’s an obvious tongue-in-cheek-ness to some of it. But not all the way tongue-in-cheek. There’s also such a discipline and grace to what he’s doing.
Jordan Taylor – WKND part (2017)
This is such a feel-good part. It’s so genius that they use home videos of him as a kid and it totally translates to how he skates as an adult. He has this child-like joy and energy that’s a lot of fun. The mix of that with a sketch that tells a story was great. At one point, there’s even this stop-motion animation that made me think of Toy Machine videos. It’s the vibe — the energy and feel of a part — that attracts me to it.
There are so many clips of him with people or people watching him and congratulating him, running after him when he lands a trick with their hands raised. The first clip, I think, is him doing a 5050 going down a bank on a handrail, but the middle part — it’s a double-tiered handrail — and afterwards, as he’s rolling away, he does a really solid kickflip and one of his friends runs after him with his hands in the air in total celebration. That type of session is my favorite, and the footage completely represents that. There’s a youthfulness at its core and represents fun with your friends. And the song [Fine Young Cannibals – “She Drives Me Crazy”] is fantastic.
There are not a lot of things that I’ll watch over and over again, but I just know that part will make me feel good.
Previously: Andrew Reynolds, Cyrus Bennett, Jacob Harris, Jamal Smith, Paul Rodriguez, Gilbertt Crockett, Ben Chadourne, Tom Knox, Louie Lopez, The Chrome Ball Incident, The Bunt, Lacey Baker, Andrew Allen, GX1000, Brian Anderson, Gino Iannucci, Josh Kalis, Sean Pablo, Wade Desarmo, Chris Milic, Chad Muska, Hjalte Halberg, Danny Brady, Bill Strobeck, Aaron Herrington, Jerry Hsu, Brad Cromer, Brandon Westgate, Jim Greco, Jake Johnson, Scott Johnston, Josh Stewart, Eric Koston, Karl Watson, Josh Friedberg, John Cardiel, Pontus Alv, Alex Olson, Jahmal Williams