Last month, Levi's Film Workshop and GIRL Skateboards partnered to create something amazing in conjunction with Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The result: "Unbeleafable," a 3D skateboard video extravaganza, directed by none other than Ty Evans, the super progressive skate filmer who has working with GIRL on numberous projects, and is responsible for some of the most visually striking skate videos ever created, including Lakai's "Fully Flared."
We caught up with Ty just before the premier of "Unbeleafable" to hear about how it all came together. Just yesterday the video was released on YouTube in full 3D, so you can get the experience at home. The video features skate legends Erik Koston and Mike Carroll, as well as young guns Vincent Alvarez and Cory Kennedy, and others from the GIRL fam. Watch the video above, and read on for our exclusive interview with Ty Evans.
You worked with M83 for the soundtrack to this video, and you’ve worked with him in the past for the epic “Fully Flared” intro. What to you makes a good song or the right song for a video?
There’s so much emotion you can portray with any type of movie image—when you combine that with music it’s magical to see the two come together and compliment each other. With M83 there’s so much emotion and heart in his music. You know, he asked me what I want this song to sound like, and I was like, “It should sound epic, and melancholy, but melancholy more on the happy side, and compliment the skating with all these really cool slo-mo 3D shots... dude it should just sound like the stuff you make, I love your music!” [Laughs.] I love the song, it’s amazing.
How did you come up with the title and concept for this video?
When you see skateboarding in 3D it’s definitely jaw dropping. It looks so amazing. I shot my first 3D skateboarding piece about a year ago, and when I first really saw full-color stereo 3D on a 3D TV it blew me away. It’s unbelievable looking. I mean, 3D for some things is gimmicky, but it’s great for skateboarding. You think about skateboarding, it’s just these montage shots and it’s amazing to see it in this new dimension and see it look crisp and good and how nice 3D looks and not how shitty 3D can look.
It’s a play on words of course, you know the title “Unbeleafable,” but then the main concept of this whole thing is these guys skating these objects that feel like they’re in an outdoor environment, but maybe it feels a little bit fantasy and fake, you know there’s thousands of leaves falling in the air. Skateboarding in 3D looks great, but we needed something that was gonna carry it even more and give you more depth in 3D.
From a tech perspective, how does this compare to Hollywood production, like “Avatar”?
It’s the exact same kind of technology they used in Avatar. But yeah James Cameron and the whole crew—Avatar is what spear-headed this whole movement. If that movie never happened then this wouldn't be happening right now.
So there's some level of influence there?
I went and saw “Avatar” and was just... I saw it on IMAX 3D. I went with my buddy who had been in prison for the last 8 years and had been out for a week. And that was the first movie he went to see. He was like "Damn fool! These movies are crazy now, dog!" I was tripping.
Aside from him, I was watching it and was like Holy Shit. I couldn't believe how insane it was. And the fact that a year or so later we have the same tools to be able to shoot some of that stuff. Granted, of course, ours doesn't look anywhere as nice and pretty as “Avatar”, but its insane to me that a year later we're shooting 3D skateboarding on these insane rigs. You look at the set, it’s a really big set with a lot of fuckin bells and whistles.
Whats it like to actually direct a skate video, rather than just go out and film skating in the streets?
The last couple of years I signed with a production company called Super Studio and I've been doing my commercial work with them. And it’s really great to do stuff outside of skateboarding because I learned so much about a proper set. When these type of things arrive for skateboarding, now I can do it correctly and direct it as a director should. It’s definitely a learning process, but I have my skateboard filmmaking where I direct skate videos, then outside of that I have my commercial work where I direct commercials. Both of those worlds merge and I think its great because I can understand where the skaters are coming from and make sure they're comfortable with all this other stuff that’s going on. And the non-skateboarding commercial world, I can understand how everyone works in that world and make sure they're comfortable and everyone is getting along as one giant organism.
I want to keep doing non-skateboarding stuff and just soak it up as much as I can. And right now I want to learn as much as I can. That’s why I'm doing all this 3D stuff. It’s a whole new world to learn and I love learning this stuff. I jump at anything new to learn in a heartbeat.
Seems like there is a whole other school of skate film making that resists new technology and wants to keep doing things the old way.
There's two mindsets for sure. And my mindset is progression. I want to keep learning new stuff. And there's the other mindset where you keep repeating what works which is great too. To each their own, but I like progression and I want to keep progressing.
What was the experience for the skaters like in making this film?
It’s insane for these skaters to come on board. It’s like mind-blowing how much pressure these guys have while doing this stuff. Their call time at 7am and they show up at 7 and they sit around from like 7 to 1 in the afternoon. And I'm like, okay, now we've got everything ready for you guys to skate. These poor guys, they give it their all and it’s like, as soon as "action" is called they go for it.
I think they definitely enjoy it, but I think they're in the heat of the moment as well, like “wow man, we're making this really cool project". I think you can compare it to one of these skaters getting one of their hardest tricks for a video part. Something like this will be memorable. And it isn't going to be on the Internet and gone tomorrow and forgotten. I think that's the key with working with these skaters, helping them reach their goals with skateboarding in their video parts. But also things, making things that they can look back on from years from now and still be proud of it.
You’re pretty hands on with building ramps and helping to set everything up for the skaters—is that stuff important to you?
I really like the feeling of working. I really like manual labor. I really like the feeling of tearing out your backyard and putting a new one in. I get that same feeling by doing these things. Those ramps that you see in the photos, a lot of them I borrowed but I also had to rebuild them to make them work, so I had to repaint them and build all the ramps.
I really love doing hands-on stuff. I like people helping me do it but love helping make it happen too. I know as a director, you're supposed to sit there and direct everyone but if I could I would have been behind the camera. If I could, I would have been blowing leaves. If I could, I would have been doing everything. I love the feeling of getting stuff done.
A lot of this video reminds me of Rick Howard skating in the woods in Mouse.
Yeah, the woods. It’s totally the 3D updated version of that, with leaves falling.
Was that a direct inspiration?
For sure. I think you get inspired by everything. Originally, I was going to have it be a city environment where you're skating down the streets, sidewalks and stuff. And we realized to do that it would just be astronomical to produce a set like that. We streamlined it and I was like, “Let's make it outdoors. A throwback to the Woods skit from Mouse
We're all taking pieces from everyone's inspiration and making our own thing. It’s so funny how people nit-pick about that stuff. I remember some Mexican production company ripped off the “Fully Flared” intro. I think it’s rad that they redid it. People were like, “Are you going to sue them?” And I was like, “No, I think its great.” Who's to say that we didn't watch a bunch of different things before we made the “Fully Flared” intro and got inspiration from something else? Which we did. Everything is inspired from something when it comes down to it.
Skateboarders can be hypercritical and protective of the culture. It’s seems like you have a little more open-minided, positive vibe about what you do.
They're really critical and hold skateboarding dear to their hearts, which I totally get. I feel the same way. When you get a little bit older, its kind of... like, I don't fucking care anymore man. Like, if a fucking rollerblade company wants me to do a commercial for them and it’s a rad concept, who's to say I wouldn't do it? And I know there’s so many people out there who would be like "What? You're fucking crazy? Its skate or die or nothing." It’s all about making cool, fun stuff and having a good time. Who's to say parkour is not cool? I remember skating at a spot and seeing these dudes come and do parkour while we were skating in the spot. And everyone was laughing at them and making fun of them. And I'm like, “Who’s to say someone driving down the street isn't looking at us and saying the exact same thing?” A bunch of dudes on skateboards.
It’s all relative. And it’s so funny how people have their own really solid opinions about stuff and that's their reality. I think as you get older, your opinions kind of...you kind of see the world a bit differently. I'd like to say I've opened up my eyes a lot more about stuff.
What was it like working outside on a skate project with these people who are outside of the skate—like Levi’s and MOCA?
I think it’s mind-blowing. The fact that something like skateboarding is inside the Museum of Contemporary Art? Its mindblowing to me. And the fact that a place like that is taking skateboarding, graffitti, street art and opening their arms to it, and opening all these other people’s eyes to it is awesome.
It’s like, these people are bringing skating to the masses. As much as I dislike the X Games, so is the X-Games. And all this stuff, now that I'm older, I realize it does help skateboarding grow. There's some kid in the middle of the U.S. that would never see a Thrasher, would never see the most underground skateboarding video at that time. But the cheese on the mousetrap was seen on the X Games or was this thing I'm doing with Levis and MoCA or one of these reality shows. And then he discovers the cool stuff.
As far as working with major corporate sponsors like Levis or even MOCA, it’s a blessing in my eyes. These people have these huge resources to help elevate skateboarding. Skateboarding is the cool club. And everyone wants to get in.
It’s crazy that skateboarding is in the Museum of Contemporary Art. I went to opening of Art in the Streets and it was insane to see MOCA members who have no clue about skateboarding just walking around with their jaws completely to the ground, floored by how amazing our stuff was.
What are you looking forward to next with progression, technology and film technique?
I would love to keep doing bigger projects and commercial work. Even a feature, if that came later on down the road. Just learning this whole film making aspect. I love everything I have learned so far and I want to keep doing it. I would love to keep doing more 3D stuff, more commercial 3D work if that’s out there. Anything I can do to keep progressing I'll keep doing.
And then at the same time I want to stay in skateboarding and keep doing all the skateboarding stuff. So I have that Chocolate film that we've been filming for the past 3 1/2 years now. And we're getting towards the end so that should be finishing up soon. And I just want to keep bringing skateboarding to the masses so that kid in the middle of the U.S. who hasn't even seen skateboarding, I can turn him onto skateboarding. Twenty years down the road, I can meet that kid and he could say, "Hey, I started skateboarding because of something you made." That would be the most rewarding thing ever.