It has been said that for every great skateboarder, there is a great filmer behind the lens. It is also true though that some of the greatest skaters often elude the camera. Clay Shank has always struck me as the kind of skater that would be hard to film, but Samuel Coodley has managed to capture his skating, as well as a deeper glimpse into Clay’s imagination and essence in “Journey to Skate Boulder”.
Before this project I had never met Sam. He left a day before I did, but before leaving Sam stopped by my apartment to pick up some supplies for Clay. The genuine smile and look of enthusiasm in Sam’s eyes was apparent. When we got to work Sam’s dedication showed immensely. His ability to fluidly change with new ideas, angles, and locations exemplified his professionalism. Accomplishing this project in such a short amount of time is outstanding, and throughout all that madness I never saw the stress get to him. I hope to work with Samuel someday in the future, but until then I will be enjoying his work for years to come.
So where have you lived throughout your life?
-I was raised in Portland, Oregon. After eighteen years of grey skies, I migrated south to Arizona where I attended Prescott College and crafted a degree in Film Production.
What was it that got you into filmmaking?
-The local video store near my house had “Five Movies/Five Days/Five Dollars.” Almost every week I would rent five movies and make a point to see at least three or four in a given week. I began following box office patterns and wrote amateur screenplays, and have been making short videos since middle school.
-Clay and I both came to Prescott College in the Fall of 2008. We were both in Melanie Bishop’s fantastic Screenwriting class but only began making projects after we had both graduated from Prescott College. One day we took a hike up Granite Mountain and by the time we came back down we had decided we would put together a short film. After shooting the video in a single day and editing it over several more, we had made Challenge Yourself at the Skate Park and were both committed to reuniting on a more ambitious project down the road.
What was your favorite part about the first project between you two, “Challenge Yourself at the Skatepark”?
-Working with Clay. For me as an independent filmmaker, used to juggling a lot of tasks, it has been a tremendously gratifying experience to work with someone who has a bold vision, understands narrative function, and pushes for perfection. I’ve written and directed projects that I also acted in, so for me focusing exclusively on nailing the composition and framing of a given shot without worrying about continuity or blocking is a real gift. That project showed me how inherently cinematic a sport like skateboarding is, which certainly nudged me towards collaborating with Clay for our new project.
What was the total production time of “Journey to Skate Boulder” from inception to final product?
-After we finished Challenge Yourself in February we immediately began talking about making another narrative skate video, only we wanted it to feature natural landscapes and lack any music. Over several months we created other constraints for ourselves like having no dialogue. Clay scoured the general area we filmed in for the best landscapes so when I met up with him for a week, we were able to film and edit and create a first cut that is honestly very similar to the video we dropped online this week. We’ve met once since to make some minor polishes, but Clay and I can say with pride that we did almost the entire project over the course of a single week.
Whose idea was it to strap you on top of a car?
-Originally I was supposed to be riding shotgun…
As filmer and editor what were your intentions with this film?
-I was already invested from conversations with Clay during pre-production but I came to a place he was infinitely more familiar with so I just aimed to create the best footage possible. A lot of scenes Clay had visualized in his head so I just shot whatever he asked me to, trusting that his vision would become apparent in the editing room. It did. With editing, I was focused on making each transition work. Once we had a rough cut, my attention turned to finding any moments that we could shorten or polish.
Was there ever any question as to whether or not there should be any dialogue or music, and why did you go without any?
-I think at first we just wanted to make a skateboard video without music. So many skate videos, good and bad, are a series of tricks set to a song. When the subject is talented that can be a really efficient way to show a shitload of tricks but we really wanted to work on making a narrative that involved long stretches of near-silence. The original idea involved sequences of dialogue when Clay’s character is in civilization, but somewhere in developing the story we thought the video would feel more elemental, and universal, if there was no dialogue. It forced us to rely on visual communication which I strongly believe Journey to Skate Boulder is better for.
Seeing it first hand I know filming this project was not luxurious at all. What was the most difficult part for you?
-Clay is a very athletic person and keeping up with him while wielding an expensive camera involved some creative scrambling. Also a long stretch of the video was filmed over the course of an overnight camping trip, so I had to be conservative using the three batteries for my camera.
Whose idea was it to strap you on top of a car? Have you done that before? Did you enjoy it on this occasion?
-Originally I was supposed to be riding shotgun filming Clay, and only the first shot would have been on the roof of the car. Once we filmed it it was so obvious that it was the best possible angle to film this particular hill bomb, so I stayed up there for the rest of filming. I have rode on top of cars before but not always with such a strong wrap. I wasn’t in any danger and I really enjoyed it for a few reasons: I was able to use a shoulder mount (thanks Sam Greenberg!) that made it easy to keep the camera steady, the landscape was breathtaking, and I knew throughout the hill bomb that I had never captured more visually impressive footage.
Are you attracted to smaller independent films or could you imagine doing major motion pictures?
-Don’t get me wrong, I love working on narrative features, and won’t feel like my life is complete until I’m creatively involved in the creation of one. That said I think the most valuable way to use video right now is to provide a tool, which can be a multi-faceted tool, a voice, or even a weapon for worthwhile causes and organizations. There are too many problems in this world for me to ignore documentary filmmaking, and the technology has become so cheap and democratized that I don’t see much of a reason to go to Los Angeles.
What was it that got you into filmmaking?
-The local video store near my house had “Five Movies/Five Days/Five Dollars.” Almost every week I would rent five movies and make a point to see at least three or four in a given week.WARNING:This video showcases many illegal activities. Since making it public, law enforcement officers have tracked me down and confirmed that I broke many laws during its creation, including the use of an off-road vehicle on protected lands. Skateboarding is illegal on the rocks shown in this film and punishable with severe fines. Some of these locations are sacred historic sites, and all are pristine locations of otherworldly beauty. Skateboarding can be damaging to these areas and offensive to both lovers of wilderness and certain religious groups. When considering skateboarding off-road please take the time to consider the laws of the area, the sentimental value of the location, and the damage you may be doing. As always, when traveling in wilderness areas, please practice Leave No Trace principles and remember to respect both those who came before you and those who will come after. -Clay Shank