I started skating when I was 18 in my senior year of high school. I understand that’s pretty late for many people, but there was something about the rawness of street skating that attracted me to it. Not many people understand how expressive and artistic skateboarding can be, you’re using the concrete to articulate your feelings through pure speed and motion. The best skaters are the ones who’s lines are not consistently planned, but rather improvised and flow with the natural dynamics of the city and its many street obstacles.
I have always felt that Chris Thiessen‘s skate videos epitomized that same ebb or flow. He’s a very talented filmer and I recently had the opportunity to speak with him about skateboarding and how it relates to art.
Your latest skate video Hellawood has a lot of lo-fi camera angles and production work. It’s very artsy and the editing style that you utilize is not what’s commonly seen in skate videos. How are you influenced by art in terms of your filming and editing process?
I think I utilize influences from videographers and videos that I like and enjoy. A lot of my favorite videos are from the nineties. I like the feel videos from the nineties have, they weren’t super produced, but they have a rawness to them. For instance, Dan Wolfe’s Eastern Exposure, it’s a video with a lot of pushing and raw street skating. Toy Machine and Alien Workshop videos during that time were amazing too. Toy and Alien are companies that have always had a strong artistic feel and it shows in their videos from that time and in their videos now. So, a lot of the influence on Hella’wood and the way I produced it was inspired by videos and companies I love from the nineties.
What forms of art impact how you conceptualize and plan your projects?
Video and music
Do you deliberately choose certain subjects (ie your favorite skaters) for your videos?
No, it’s more whoever I’m usually hanging out with. The last two videos that I’ve done have featured my friends. It’s just having fun with friends and working on a project together.
Have you worked on different concepts, scenarios and even storylines that you would like to capture on film?
Well…not so much scenarios or story lines, because when you go skating it is usually just barging a spot and getting what you can with whoever is skating. Which is a good thing because its rad to see how stuff turns out afterwards. Plus you can come across stuff while you’re out and about that is visually interesting, like in the city. But, having a concept is good because it motivates you. Like, it you have an idea of how you want to do something it gets you hyped to work towards it. With Hella’wood, it was not a huge project that we worked on for a year or anything like that. It was me realizing that I had a sufficient amount of footage sitting there not going towards any projects so I thought it would be cool to put it towards a short film. Instead of making it into a predictable skate edit, I thought it would be fun and unique to mess all the footage up and tweak the video out. I think I worked on it for two weeks and that was it since I already had used almost all the footage going into it. I wanted to do something different and have fun with it. There were no guidelines on making Hella’wood look perfect, just messing it up with music that I like and having a good time working on it.
Skateboarding and art seem to naturally mesh because it’s usually the most flashy or unique and visually appealing graphics that make kids want to purchase certain decks. Have you seen any kind of merging or cross sections between the skate and art scenes in Atlanta?
Yeah, I know that the art and skate scenes usually intertwine with each other as far as people being friends and everything, but I am honestly not that familiar with the art scene in Atlanta (laughs). So I cant really answer that question.
Which artists and musicians influence you the most (or do you even look to these realms for inspiration)?
I’m listening to a lot of Japanther and old Rolling Stones stuff right now. Artists that influence me are videographers and artists in the skate world mainly… Jon Holland, Chris Ray, Kevin Barnett, Greg Hunt, Bill Strobeck, Josh Stewart, Ty Evans, Jason Hernadez, Ed Templeton, and so on.
Do you ever go to a skate spot and then drop by a super trendy art gallery afterwards to enjoy food, wine, and art ala the Gonz and Chris Pastras?
Nah, haven’t really done that before. Although when I was in high school, my friends and I were in Tampa for the Tampa Pro contest and after skating the city, we went to a party/art show and there were original paintings by Ed Templeton there. Ed and Toy Machine are a huge influence to me, so that was rad to see as a youngin’.
What projects do you currently have in the works?
Just little things with my friends right now. I want to do a fall time edit with my friends in Atlanta.
Any last words?
Click here to watch Hella’wood
Click here for the trailer to Meanwhile (another Thiessen flick)
(*The skaters featured are Candler Woods, Kris Markovich, Ryan Fitch and Rhett Freeman. All photos were taken by Christy Chaffin and Aaron Smith).