Interview by Farran Golding / Portrait and photography by Norma Ibarra
In our era of post-blockbuster skate videos the statement that “your friends are your favourite skaters” is a unifying ideal.
Take the now revered companies whose teams evolved from tight-knit groups (Isle, Palace, Polar), the crews-turned-brands-in-their-own-right (Bronze, Dime, GX1000) or scene videos mythologising hometowns miles away from your own (Will Rosenstock’s Old Dominion and Sean Lomax’s Cottonopolis are my recommendations in this category). We might not have any personal connection to whomever is rolling away from a trick, know a single face in their celebrating audience or even have a clue what the person behind the camera looks like but when real friendship emanates then a video’s impact is amplified by relatability.
There isn’t a second of screen time where this isn’t the case in Credits: Vans’ first all-women’s video by Shari White starring Una Farrar, Fabiana Delfino and Breana Geering (with a supporting cast of Clara Solar, Helena Long, Dayana Young, Poppy Olson, Beatrice Domond, Adelaide Norris and Cher Strauberry). While women’s full-lengths have been around long before skateboarding began an overdue address to its gender imbalance, Credits is an even greater milestone as the first video backed by a leading brand with women on both sides of the production.
Instead of bringing in an already established filmer (as other brands often have/do), Vans gave Shari full creative control and, through an organic culmination of her relationship with the riders and own distinct vision, our culture as a whole is better off for it.
Before the video was up I already was eager to speak to those involved so, over the course of a couple of evenings, I hopped on the phone with Shari, Una, Fabiana and Breana. We talked about their time working on Credits alongside everything from their influences, VX appreciation and injuries to local skate shops, activism and unsung women in skateboarding history. Here’s the first of those conversations.
I left my job but I told them I would be back in six months. As it went on, I never ended up going back
You grew up in Queensland and now you’re living in Vancouver. What’s different about your skate scene nowadays and the one you grew up with?
I grew up on the Gold Coast which is like a stretched out, suburban area so I guess the main difference would be it was quite spread out, at least when I was there. It was just skating skateparks so that’s how I knew people. Comps would happen, or whatever. Here, there’s really one main downtown skatepark that everyone goes to, there’s just one skate shop, Antisocial, and everyone kind of knows each other. It’s feels more tight knit.
I read that you filmed a little a bit as a teenager but it was through Kristen Ebeling and your role with The Skate Witches which lead to you properly picking up a camera. While working on SRSLY and THX, did you become more passionate about making videos or was it cemented as soon as you got a VX in your hand?
It was gradual. When I first started skating with Kristen, she was the only other girl I knew who would go out and skate street. For a few years it felt like she was someone close enough I could hit up and be like, “Yo, do you want go film?” or skate street.
I’ve messed around with HD cameras, and have a bunch of friends who are filmers, but I’ve never filmed with VX. Is it a steep learning curve?
I don’t know as far as the difference goes. I think it was the best camera to learn for how I wanted to film. The reason I got a VX was because Kristen and I were filming parts for a SK8RATS video and Shane Auckland films with a VX. I wanted to film in that exact same style, being close and taking certain angles, because HD is a different style of filming. It’s more relaxed and has an entirely different feel.
Would you say you have to be more intentional when you’re filming with a VX?
I didn’t see it like that. It wasn’t like shooting a film photo versus shooting a digital photo. With tapes and stuff, it didn’t really bother me. I was never super cautious of how long I was pressing record for.
Any strict rules to preserve the tape quality?
Oh yeah, for sure. If someone lands a trick I’ll only go back once and film it on my phone through the eye piece and that would be it.
Ride on switch 5050. ph: Ibarra
Am I right in thinking those two Skate Witches videos overlapped with you working as a screen printer?
Yeah, I worked at the screen printing shop for about three years. I kind of did everything. Some weeks I would be in the office all week so that was pretty chill, just emails and creating orders, but I’d clean screens and all that as well. I was doing Monday to Friday for a while and then I asked my boss if I could do four days a week instead. Through that, I was able to have longer weekends and take trips to Seattle, L.A. or wherever. It was pretty easy to get time off too.
At first were you fitting filming trips in around work or were able to get stuck into Credits right off the bat? Was it a strange change of pace?
Vans gave me full support so I left my job but I told them I would be back in six months. As it went on, I never ended up going back [laughs]. I didn’t think a whole lot about it, I’d been so on many skate trips before. I guess it was a bit weird when I came home and I wasn’t super busy, in between trips, but I was just enjoying skating and hanging out.
Credits began as a smaller, travel-based video? Who put forward the idea to flesh it out?
At the start when Vans asked me it was a six month-long project to make a montage-vibe video and we had a few locations set out. I think it was New York, S.F., Montreal, Miami and Barcelona.
When we were in New York on our very first trip, our TM, Frank [Mare], kept dropping the word “part” and I was always like, “Hmm. This is a montage video though?” And bring that up again because it was starting to stress people out in a way, the thought of, “What? I have to film a full part in six months?” When we went to S.F. we had that sort of stress again and we still only had six months. After Miami we had a bit more footage and even though prior to that the girls hadn’t wanted parts, they were now thinking, “Whoa. I want to film a part now.”
Being in the middle of this project and starting to see the footage they were getting, they were more excited and talking, like, “We should put in more work and put out full parts. Now is a good time to do it. Not a lot of women have put out parts recently.” Like, Nike did that Gizmo video [last year]. So, as it went along, I think they got more excited.
Then after Miami, for whatever reason – maybe some scheduling with other peoples’ trips, we couldn’t go to Barcelona within the time frame of the six months anyway so at that point we’d extended it. We went to Barcelona, got a whole bunch of footage, came back and I put everything down [in a timeline] as far as how parts would go. I looked at it and saw that it was almost there but everybody needed some more time, like one more trip or an ender.
It was a group decision. Everyone thought we should keep going. Frank, myself and everyone talked to Vans and, I guess, they were maybe a little hesitant but they saw it had the potential to be a full video.
We ended up going to Melbourne in February and that was our last scheduled trip. Una was hurt for a lot of it, so she had a couple of extra trips to L.A., then we had one final trip in March because Cher [Strauberry] had just got on Vans so we could include her in the video as well.
The credits crew in Australia – all photos by Norma Ibarra
Clara Solar and Shari: the calm before and the storm that followed…
The U.K’s Helena Long boardslides down under
Lofty frontside shove by Clara and a shared appreciation for sunflower yellow with Frank
When I knew it was going to be parts I directed it towards making sure I had all the pieces of the puzzle when someone was doing a trick and for each person individually.
Does the end result reflect what you originally had in mind? Or did you go back to the drawing board once it became a bigger thing?
Yeah, I would say when we realised we were going to do parts. Because we’d been talking about it even in Miami. That was when I started thinking about it and making sure I was shooting enough B-roll for everybody. When I was thinking of it as a montage, I was trying to shoot based off of the locations but when I knew it was going to be parts I directed it towards making sure I had all the pieces of the puzzle when someone was doing a trick and for each person, individually.
You’ve referenced Yuri Murai’s Joy and Sorrow series, [Meow Skateboards founder] Lisa Whitaker’s videos and Jacob Harris’ Vase and Atlantic Drift as influences. In what ways have they fed into your own work?
I didn’t say Joy and Sorrow was an influence, I think that was more when people would ask me about women’s videos so I’d give a shoutout to a creative women’s video. But my influences for filming specifically is anyone who films with a VX, I guess. For editing, I really liked Vase and how it went back and forth between 16mm and VX. They shot random things and 100% of the video wasn’t just about skateboarding.
With Super 8 there’s either some instant nostalgia or it just elicits a different feeling.
I said that recently too. HD footage is very there and happening right now whereas Super 8 is instantly nostalgic for sure.
Was having full say over the video a blessing and a curse?
Yes [laughs]. It’s definitely a blessing to be given the opportunity to do whatever you want but it can be hard at times. I feel like things are easier once you have some feedback or direction.
On that note, was it daunting to be making something that’s the latest in Vans’ timeline? That linage from Propeller [’15] to No Other Way [‘16] to Spinning Away [’18] to Take It Back [’19] and now Credits?
Yeah and that didn’t hit me until after Barcelona. I wasn’t really thinking about it for some reason, I just thought, “I’m making this video”, since it was just going to be something shorter at the start too. When it took shape as a full-length I started to realise it was going to be a big deal and that’s when it was stressful [laughs].
You, Fabiana and Breana were already friends but how has your relationship changed over the course of working Credits?
It builds trust. Every relationship changes the more time you spend with somebody. Just getting to know each other in every way, good and bad, through it all. We’re not just hanging out at the skatepark and having a good time, we’ve been through people struggling to get tricks, having bad days, getting hurt and just supporting each other through everything.
Shari charges a bluntslide for a cameo appearance on the other side of the camera in Credits
Being the person with a camera generally makes you the de-facto leader of a group. What position does that put you in when you’re working with your closest friends but you’ve also got a deadline to meet?
I didn’t necessarily feel that way, as like a leader. Everyone was responsible for their own parts and skating.
Not many instances of dragging the crew out of bed and to spots then?
That was Frank’s job [laughs].
I really liked the soundtrack. Was it reflective of your own taste in music or the riders? I think it’s a given filmers always know better than the skater when it comes to song selection so did you have to deny any requests?
I chose every song and it was all the style of music I listen to. I listen to more punk usually, but I’d pick things which I thought somebody in general, who doesn’t like punk, would enjoy as well. I used their picks as inspiration, listen to them and try and find something along those lines.
The camaraderie between you all really translates throughout Credits. Aside from that aspect, what do you hope people take from it?
I hope it inspires street skating amongst women because it feels like the world is going more towards the Instagram side of things. Working on parts is an exciting thing and I’d like to see more of it. With dudes, parts are coming out left, right and centre. You guys have so much content to relate to so for me, or for all of us, it would be cool to see more women making parts that are relatable.
You guys have so much content to relate to so for me, or for all of us, it would be cool to see more women making parts
Let’s wrap this up with some quick fire. Favourite part and favourite full-length video of all time?
Alexis Sablone’s Welcome to WKND part gets me stoked. The music, animations, filming and editing are all sick. Then enjoi’s Bag of Suck. I watched it a lot when when I was younger, it’s just super fun.
Top five videos, ever?
With The Apple by Daniel Dent, where’s terry? by Chance Swainson, Lotties Skateshop Must Be Stopped, Frog’s Dustin and, it’s just a part, but BOB from Quasi.
If you could spend a day filming with any one skater, in any one city, who would it be, where and why?
Alexis Sablone in New York because she’s the sickest and I really liked that clip she did with Josh Stewart all in one night, or it at least seemed like it was.
Go-to motivation for a make on the next try?
Check out Shari’s part in The Skates Witches’ SRSLY and keep up to date with the ‘zine @theskatewitches.
Get stuck into the rest of our Credits interviews: Una Farrar – “A VX was always the end goal.” / Fabiana Delfino – “Just get out there and film.” / Breana Geering: “If I be myself, I think it’ll be okay.”
More for the Vans fans: Rowan Zorilla Interview: “I hope that’s not my first and last trip” / Andrew Allen Interview: “I’ve always tried to be thankful for the opportunity.” / Elijah Berle Interview (2019)
Other articles by Farran Golding: Andrew James Peters Interview: Mentors Heroes & Monster Children / Lightbox: Gino Iannucci by Ben Colen / Bobshirt Interview: “For every era, that’s the golden era.” / Mark Suciu Interview: “I think it’s very natural to film for a standalone part.”