Josh Stewart Static IV Interview

Will Harmon

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Interview by Will Harmon
NYC Premiere photos by Sem Rubio

So how many years in the making is Static IV?

It’s a little complicated, because I actually was filming some of the guys for Static IV while we were still working on Static III. So there’s footage in the video that is seven years old. But the majority of the project was filmed between 2010-2014.

Can you tell us who has full parts in Static IV?

Well, I still think it’s better to just watch the video without knowing what to expect. But I guess the cat is well out of the bag at this point. Shit, the cat is out of the bag, out of the house and squished road kill in the middle of the street. I’ll just tell you that Jahmal Williams, Steve Brandi, Yonnie Cruz, Aaron Herrington, Vivien Feil, Quim Cardona, Kevin Tierney and many many more are featured in this project.

How do you decide whom you want to do video parts with?

Well, there are a couple of people who I set out from the beginning to work with. Like Quim and Jahmal. I knew that they would act as foundational anchors to this final piece in the Static series. They have two of the most unique and incredible styles out. And they personify the aesthetic that makes up the ideal vision of Static. I also always try to tie in a skater from my hometown of Tampa Bay and considering Steve Brandi is one of my best friends and he’s NEVER had his own full part, it was a no brainer. Steve also has become one of my favourite styles to watch on a skateboard these days. Then there are others who I met along the way while working on the video and whose personalities and styles are just so strong that I end up having to include them. It’s weird because I don’t think I’ve ever had to ‘go looking’ for skaters to feature in a Static video. It all seems to happen organically. But ultimately I just want to fill the video with skaters who offer something unique and who embody the idea of a true street skater. And I also want to show that this style of skating, that many mistakenly associate with only the East Coast of the US, is actually a global phenomenon. So I try to involve skaters from across the US as well as around the world.

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Is the new vid filmed entirely in VX or is there HD?

The whole video is a combination of VX-1000 and 16mm footage. I’m not specifically anti-HD but I think that VX showcases street skating, in the style of a Static video, the best way. And the Static series has been VX from the beginning and I think it lends itself better towards creating a classic ‘east coast’ vibe.

Can you tell us a bit about the Theories of Atlantis site for those that don’t know?

Theoriesofatlantis started out as just a little blog site where I curated a little web store to showcase independent skate videos from around the world and also write stories about my stupid conspiracy theories. But it slowly morphed into a full web site where I would showcase interviews, little web videos, etc. focusing on the skaters I tended to work with and the web store developed into a pretty extensive source for underground/independent brands and videos. And eventually some of our friends like Vivien Feil, Pontus Alv, Paul Shier, etc. started their own brands and we offered to help make them available here in the US. And the next thing I knew we turned into a full on Distribution Company. So now we distribute Polar, Magenta, Theories, Isle, Hopps and Traffic and we specialise in underground, skater-owned brands, magazines, DVD’s, etc.

I know you’ve lived in New York since the end of Static III, is the new video primarily New York footage?

Yeah, after Static III and moving to NYC I found myself in no position to be able to afford to travel any more. So just by default the video ended up being about 80% shot in NYC. But the whole aesthetic of the project is based on the weird vibe of the underground train systems, mostly of New York; so shooting here pretty much became a necessity anyways.

How do you manage to live in an expensive city like New York filming skateboarders for a living? Do you do other commercial work?

Yeah, when I first moved here it was a big shock after living in a city like Tampa, Florida for so long. So I initially got a job in a restaurant for a few years and started taking on freelance video jobs whenever possible. But that turned into an almost full-time job. NYC has a lot of opportunity for videographers, so after getting my name out there a little bit I found myself pretty much working full time for Vice, HBO, Red Bull, Ride Channel, etc. It was a huge help in allowing me the freedom to still work on Static. But it meant that I was only able to film late at night most of the time, and only in between jobs. So that had a lot to do with why this new project took so long to complete.

What other places did you travel to for the making of this vid?

It was mostly New York. But once you see the video you’ll notice that I put in some time in San Francisco, London, Paris, Florida and LA. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel to Paris and London at all during the last few years of filming so I had to rely on help from some local filmers to keep it current.

What percentage of the new video is your footage vs. contributors? Who helped you out?

It’s frustrating for me because ideally I would film 100% of the video. I think it’s important to do so in order to keep the flow consistent and the filming style looking the same throughout. But, with limited funds for travel and my constant struggle with throwing my back out over and over again, I had to rely on the help of several filmers. I’d say I filmed at least 65% of the video. But I definitely had lots of help from Ryan Garshell (of GX-1000 fame), Jeremy Elkin, Joe Bressler, Andrew Petillo and then some pick-up stuff from guys in Europe like Ben Dominguez, Jacob Harris, Jean Feil and Yoan Tallandier.

Aren’t you touring around premiering the vid? Can you tell us all the places you are going to?

Yeah, I figured this was probably the last time I would be involved in a video project of this magnitude. And considering how much time/energy went into this one, I wanted to ride it out and enjoy the experience as much as possible. There are probably going to end up being over 50 premieres once it’s all over with but I’ll only personally be attending the premieres in NYC, Boston, Tampa, Miami, LA, Philly, London, Paris, Bordeaux, Rome, Copenhagen and Tokyo.

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What skate vids/ skate filmmakers get you hyped these days?

Over the past few years I’d say that out of everything I’ve seen I’m always pretty stoked on anything I see from the Peter Sidlauskas, who does all of the Bronze video stuff. And Pontus Alv’s edits always get me really stoked. I just love when someone creates a different feeling than you’ve ever had watching a skate video. I was pretty stoked on the Lenz 2 video and Magenta’s Soleil Levant project as well. But my favourite full-length video I’ve seen in the past couple years was probably Eleventh Hour.

Who are your influences?

I think we all pull our strongest influences from when we were a bit younger. Maybe because we weren’t subjected to as many videos back then and we had more time to enjoy and study them? I don’t know. So Stacy Peralta’s work in Powell Peralta videos and Mike Ternasky’s work in H-Street videos and the first Plan B Questionable video are what initially sparked me on making videos. But overall the biggest influences for me have been: Mike Hill’s early work with Alien Workshop, Dan Wolfe’s Eastern Exposure 3, Jason Lee and Chris Pastras’ A Visual Sound, Dan Magee’s work with Blueprint videos, Joe Castrucci with Photosynthesis, Aaron Meza’s work in the first two FTC videos, and of course Spike Jones with Mouse and Goldfish.

What do you think of people using helicopter drones to film skateboarding?

Haha……I usually am stoked on anything when it’s the first time someone does it. That intro to Pretty Sweet shot with the helicopter was incredible. But it just has to be the right application. And used sparingly. I think people expect me to hate on anything that’s not a VX edit. But I love innovation and creative approaches to making skate videos. But it just should be tasteful and not a distraction from the skating. I see a lot of filmmakers showing off their technology and their expertise and ignoring the idea of creating a flowing, smooth project that puts the skateboarding and the personalities in the foreground. So it just has to be balanced and not just a big show-and-tell of expensive equipment.

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Without making this a total spoiler, is there a particular trick in the film you are particularly proud of that you filmed?

Hmmmm…..there are so many. Considering this video was a seven-year long journey, there were a lot of moments over that huge span of time. For me, the battles and triumphs working with Quim and Jahmal were significant. Probably the trick that most people will consider Jahmal’s ‘best’ was something he landed easily within a short 10-minute filming session. But as he was trying it my camera started glitching so I borrowed Daniel Wheatley’s VX which he said had never given him a problem before. Jahmal landed it so smoothly and I was so hyped. But when we watched it somehow every attempt looked great but on the one try he landed it the camera’s CCD chips had gone bonkers and it looked like it was filmed with an infrared underwater effect: completely unusable. Then Daniel said the camera worked fine ever since that night. Somehow the only trick that the camera EVER filmed like that was that one try that Jahmal made the trick. So we went back multiple times with a new camera. But Jahmal works spontaneously. If he has to go to a spot planning to do a certain trick it usually doesn’t work. It has to just happen naturally, like freestyle jazz or something. That’s kind of explains his spirit I’d say. But I was determined to get the trick so he tried it over and over and got super broke off because the rails intertwine with each other so if you bail it’s inevitable that your shins and knees are gonna get blasted. Then one night we happened by the spot and he gave it one last try. And thank god he made it. That was such a relief.

After Slap forum rumours and looking at Jeremy Elkin’s Instagram, unfortunately the cat is out of the bag, can you tell us a bit about what premiered after Static 4?

Hahaha…..I love that you called out Elkin. I gave him shit for that as well. Yeah, I knew that it would be impossible to maintain the secret after the first and second premieres. Everybody loves to Instagram everything and post secrets on the Slap boards as if the secret was their own. I begged everyone at the premieres to keep the secret for me so that other people could enjoy the surprise. Well, just in case some of the people reading this HAVEN’T had the surprises ruined I’ll answer with a slightly cryptic reply. Basically, the way I ended up releasing it was pretty much the only way I could include all of the skaters I wanted to include and also the only way I could give both Jahmal and Quim a last part. They both deserve it and it wouldn’t have been right to put either of them in the middle of the video.

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Is this it for the Static series?

I’m afraid it has to be. A big side effect of making skate videos for over 20 years is that it takes a big toll on the body. Carrying that damned Bolex 16mm camera around all day ended up being too much and it tore this gasket in my shoulder called the “Laboral” and I have to have surgery on it soon. Both shoulders have that same tear. And my lower back is just a mess. I threw it out countless times while filming Static IV and would be laid out for a month or two barely able to walk two blocks without collapsing to my knees in pain. I will definitely continue to film and make short projects. But the Static videos are massive endeavours and I would rather end the series then have to half-ass the next one and leave people with a bad taste in their mouths.

What’s next for Josh Stewart?

Oh boy…..not that question. Haha. I just want people to watch Static IV and not forget about it in a week the way everybody does to every other video that comes out nowadays. So, I’ll continue to promote the video and find ways to make sure everyone sees it. And I’ll start focusing much more attention on Theories of Atlantis and try to do the best job I can with it and our own brand ‘Theories’. And I’m sure I’ll be doing some smaller projects with the brands we distribute here and there as well. And who knows, maybe I can start working on that documentary project I always planned to do one day. But for now, I’m gonna take a little break.

Cheers Josh.

Upcoming Static IV premiere dates can be found here.
London premiere info see below:

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