chrome ball incident and hunt filmwork sit down for conversation.
Alright Greg, so word is that you’re currently working on a Vans video. How’s that shaping up? Anything you can tell us yet?
Yeah, I’ve been working with Vans for about a year now. Not much I can say but we’ve been on lots of trips and are stockpiling footage so it’s definitely happening. I think with a team like Vans you have to take a different approach. Of course, the skating needs to be epic but there’s also a lot of history there so we’re still figuring all that out. It’ll be good.
Standard intro: how were you first introduced to skateboarding and what was the first board you ever had?
My step-mom gave me my first board on my 12th birthday: A Valterra Meltdown. I remember her saying, “Somehow kids go uphill on those,” and I was completely baffled.
My first real board was a Sims Jeff Phillips tye-dye graphic.
Now you’re originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan… correct? What was that scene like growing up? Were there a lot of skaters from up there?
Yeah, Ann Arbor was one of the best scenes in the Midwest back then. The whole town is like a giant college campus full of incredible spots. Back then, there was this guy named Goose who kinda took me in and basically taught me how to skate. He rode for Dogtown and Thunder at the time. He was a pretty intense dude and I think maybe I was the only kid who would put up with him… but that’s how I learned.
I recently saw him in SF but later lost his number and never called him back. Sorry Goose. What’s up, man.
Now I remember reading a story somewhere about you and Sheffey (when he lived in Grand Rapids) driving cross-country from Michigan to SF when you were super young and staying at Thiebaud’s house. Did you know Sheff or Jim at all before this trip? Skating with top pros on your first trip to California had to be incredible, what memory still stands out the most from all that?
That whole thing was the result of Goose.
We were all at a demo or something… this was back when Sean still rode for SMA and had the Buckwheat hair. Goose introduced himself to Sean there and later on came up to me and said, “Hey, we’re gonna drive to California with Sheffey. He wants to see the U.S. and I told him we can take your car!”
I’d just bought a 1979 Toyota Tercel for $800. There was no radio and my step-dad had rigged the muffler on with a clothes hangar. Plus, I was only 16! But what’s insane is that my parents actually let me go! The entire trip was completely surreal. Sheffey couldn’t drive but we still made it in 36 hours. We arrived in the morning and that day skated with Natas, Jim, Julien, Jovantae, Tommy, and a bunch of others.
What probably stands out the most is me breaking my chin open at the Sears curb and having Tommy, Natas, Jim and everyone else huddled around me to look at it… it was like watching Sick Boys. Natas took me by a hospital and I had to follow him skating down all these hills with blood all over my face. It was epic!
The following week, we went down to stay at Natas’ house in LA. It was definitely the turning point for me as I’d met Greg Carroll and got on Venture. Once I returned home, there was no question that I was going back.
Obviously a trip like that would’ve had to given you the bug, how long was it afterwards that you moved out West permanently?
I moved to SF a year or so later, the day after I turned 18.
That had to be an eye-opener to be dropped right in the middle of everything, already with a few connections in the skate world. Were you moving for the sole purpose of “making it” in skating or just to improve your quality of life? How were you supporting yourself out there at first?
I never really thought of going pro at first, I just loved skateboarding. And I was sponsored and living in SF so I was psyched.
It’s funny because I was going to school part-time and had a morning job six days-a-week… but I think that’s when I was skating my best.
You quickly started making a name for yourself around SF and down at EMB right before that spot really started blowing up. I remember you being the first person I ever saw do nollie noseslides and kickflip frontside noseslides in early ’92. Is that about the time Jim approached you to ride for Real?
Jim started flowing me Real boards when I moved to SF. I also kinda knew Rick Ibaseta and a couple other guys so that made skating EMB a little easier at first. Plus, this is before it blew up there so I got in kind of early. But definitely my saving grace was James Kelch. James always had my back and I think he really hyped me up to Jim and those guys at Deluxe… at least that’s what he’d tell me. I was from a different world than a lot of the EMB heads so having James there really helped me mix-in and skate with everyone. He was definitely the mayor of EMB. Thanks Kelch!
I love asking Bay Area heads this one: of all the classic spots in the City… like EMB, Black Rock, Wallenberg, etc., which one was your favorite back in the day?
The best spot wasn’t actually a spot but the line from Black Rock to EMB. You’d come up on Black Rock first and because the ledge was so long, you could hit it a few times. Then you’d ollie the steps and head down California Street to Brown Marble and session there before going to EMB.
The Safeway curb was also pretty epic. Danny Sargent sessions!
Were there any famous spots like that in particular that you hated?
To be honest, I don’t think I hated any spots. I was from Michigan.
(laughs) Now that Family project you had going with Jordan Richter… was that through Deluxe? Tell us a little about that. Was that supposed to be Jordan’s company? What was the story behind that thing and how come it never got off the ground?
Yeah, Jordan was around SF during the summer of ’92. I think I was filming for the first Real video and Eric Pupecki had also just moved to SF and was really standing out. He frontside flipped the Gonz gap, right? Or he almost did? I can’t remember.
I know he at least kickflipped it.
Anyhow, I don’t know how it happened but the idea was to try and start a new company with the three of us out of Deluxe. The name was going to be Family but after a couple months, it just kind of fizzled. I think Jordan split town or something.
Well, I think it all worked out for the best because after that, you found yourself on that classic early Stereo squad. A Visual Sound is such a classic video. What was it like filming that one? I know Jason and Dune were both very hands-on. Did the riders know going into the project that the video was going to have such a certain look and sound to it?
Yeah, after the Family thing, I got a call from Jeff Klindt asking if I wanted to ride for Real or Stereo. I’d skated with Dune and Jason Lee a couple times and really liked them so I chose Stereo.
It was amazing being around Dune and Jason then… they were both so charismatic and really cared about everyone on the team. I remember Jason being so passionate about the video. He’d always tell us of all these creative ideas. It’s funny because all of it happened exactly as he’d described.
I was still in school part-time so I’d often miss skating and I think I got kind of depressed (laughs). I wasn’t very focused. In the end, I was really proud to be a part of the video but a bit disappointed with my skating. I knew I could’ve done more... but whatever, no regrets.
Who’s part is your favorite?
Mike Daher had my favorite part, for sure.
Now I know you turned pro right before Tincan Folklore came out, did that serve as extra motivation to film? I’ve always loved your part in that one, the amazing ledgework and unique trick selection. Were you more pleased with the final outcome this time?
Tincan Folklore was a totally different experience from A Visual Sound. By that time, a lot of us were kinda on our own trip. I’d often go just on my own filming missions with Mat McGrath or Mark Whitely. I don’t remember filming for very long but I was stoked on my part because I’d filmed a lot of the super-8 stuff and sat in on the edit… that was fun. But I never thought of it as anything more than a creative project.
Going pro really had nothing to do with it. Things were very different then, at least with me. I didn’t think much about the future.
I know this must’ve been asked a thousand times but was that the only time you’d ever skated through that Burger King? So classic. Who’s idea was that?
No, I think I might’ve done it before. That was off Powell Street, right by my apartment. I remember wanting to skate through a bunch of different places for that video. Mat and I also filmed skating thru the San Francisco Centre Mall but we didn’t use it.
Do you have a personal favorite between the two Stereo videos?
I prefer A Visual Sound. Mike Daher is one of my all-time favorites and Jason had an amazing part. Plus, we had Tobin Yelland, Gabe Morford, and Ari Marcopoulos involved. I trip out on that now. It was one of those things where everything kind of fell into place and you know it’ll never happen again.
What did you think about J.Lee’s part in Tincan? If a skater wanted to do that today (and the company would allow it), would you have any qualms about including something like that for someone’s part in a Greg Hunt production?
At the time, I thought it was kinda funny. But as for now, I don’t know… shit, I’d probably leave it in but maybe not as the ender.
So Tincan seems when you really started showing a marked interest in the filmmaking process. I know you had been doing photography and artwork, was this just the natural progression? What made you decide to give up your board shortly afterwards and make the transition to behind the lens? Was your heart just not as into your skating anymore?
Yeah, around that time was when I got really into photography and filmmaking. I think it was a natural progression in a way… and after Tincan, Stereo started to lose a lot of its charm for me. Aside from Matt Rodriguez, I was feeling pretty disconnected. Skating for Stereo had been an amazing experience so I decided to simply leave it at that and move on. I still loved to skate, especially in SF.
It’s funny because I had a Transworld interview come out right after I’d quit and people were like, “You should’ve at least waited for the photo incentives!” and I was like, “No, that’s exactly what I didn’t want to do”. It was never about that.
Now I know the first few projects you took on were a few Transworld videos with Jon Holland. That had to be an invaluable way of cutting your teeth in the world of skate videos. Was there anything that surprised you about making videos that never dawned on you as a rider?
At the time, I didn’t know anything about computers or editing and I can’t believe they gave me the job! But Ty and Jon were such great teachers. I remember going down there for the first time when they were editing Modus Operandi. Ty was working on Mike Carroll’s intro and he was like “Do you want to edit for a while?” and I was like “Uh, yeah… sure,” and so he showed me a couple things and left! I was terrified! I’d never used a computer like that. All the clips and the huge timeline were so intimidating. But I somehow managed to edit a little bit of Mike’s intro and later, Ty came back and was like, “Yeah, this looks awesome” and didn’t change anything. That was so fucking cool of him.
Transworld made two videos a year then so right after that, Jon and I were deep in it. Confidence in your creative choices as an editor is something that takes a while to build but Jon was always there for me. By the time we did Sight Unseen, I was feeling pretty good about everything.
I never compared it to when I was skating because making videos had completely changed by then. They were two totally different eras.
So the DC Video is a pretty gutsy undertaking for your first solo venture. Already with so much hype behind it when Danny Way essentially comes along and takes the whole thing up yet another level. What was your initial reaction to Danny’s Mega concept? Was it clear from the beginning that you’d need a helicopter? Had you ever shot anything at that scale before?
We wanted the video to end with something epic. The Mega Ramp was Danny’s idea and I wasn’t really involved in any development beyond the scheduling... but I’ll never forget when I first saw that thing. I couldn’t believe it. We were just laughing… it was so insane!
Filming that ramp is kind of tough because it’s so big that there are only a few good angles. I knew we’d need a helicopter for the ending shots and looking back, we should’ve had two. I’d done one commercial with Danny a while before with a helicopter but on that last day’s Mega Ramp shoot, I was in way over my head.
By the time we filmed Danny’s second part with the rainbow rail, I had it a little more dialed with having an 80-foot crane for the overhead shots. Plus I was able to be there for all that stuff where as I couldn't shoot sometimes during the first time around because I was editing.
Was the DC Video difficult to produce since the brand has such an established, Helvetica-fueled identity or did you find it was actually easier since they’d never had a video before? Who came up with the intros and skit ideas? And did you have any idea that Rob and Big Black had the potential to become such a phenomenon?
I didn’t really think about the brand identity. I was lucky that Ken Block and I really got along so there was never any drama with that stuff. He trusted me and basically let me do what I wanted.
As for the skits, I came up with most of them. Dyrdek came up with the security guard idea and I found Big Black and set up most of the shoots. I wasn’t surprised at all that the Rob and Big thing blew up. They are so funny together! It was easy to come up with good material for that.
Along those same lines, how was it creating Mind Field with Alien’s long-tradition of strong visuals? I imagine there is some pressure to make things “alien workshoppy” but were you ever worried about losing your point of view in all of it or perhaps even falling into parody?
Yeah, that was on my mind, for sure, but there was never any pressure. Mike Hill was very hands-off with a lot of what I did, which at first kind of surprised me. But I think by letting me do my thing, it all just naturally ended up the way it did. Mike and Chad Bowers created all the titles and visuals while I was in the next room editing. The three of us would then watch edits and discuss the music. It was a very simple dynamic. By that point, I knew Mind Field was going to be its own thing.
Gotta ask… did you ever see the Quartersnacks Mind Field re-edit that made the rounds there for a little bit?
I’ve never seen it. I don’t watch the videos I make after they’re done, so I have no interest.
Now you and Heath seem pretty close. Did you know going into Mind Field that you were filming his last part? Was it explicitly stated by him at any point?
Well, I think of Stay Gold as his last part… he 360’d the Mega Ramp!
But no, it never occurred to me that he’d be done this soon. I mean sometimes we’d all be talking about the future and he’d say something like, “Five years! There’s no way I’ll be skating in five years!” but everyone says that.
What a lot of people don’t know is that Heath finished his Mind Field part early and went straight into filming for Stay Gold. This was months before we’d even started editing. So I think two videos back-to-back really took a toll on him.
A curious observation, how come no Berrics or Fantasy Factory footage in either Steve’s or Dyrdek’s parts? That couldn’t have been a coincidence.
Maybe those guys knew to not even ask me? I don’t know. There’s no conspiracy, it just never came up.
Talk a little about Dylan. I know he wasn’t the easiest to deal with during the filming for Mind Field. Did you have any idea where his head was at when the idea for his Gravis short came up? How did that promo come to be and how long after Mind Field did you guys start filming? Did you realize at the time that this was a different kid and he was “in the window”? Easily the best part of last year, in my opinion.
It was a bummer because Dylan and I became close when he first got on the Workshop. He was so good and everyone knew he’d have one of the best parts in the video. But then he just started to spiral downwards and by the time I was editing, you couldn’t even get through to him. He was just a shell.
It’s funny because we’ve never really talked about this but I know he was deeply upset over letting us all down. Everybody was bummed but really more worried about him. I’m just happy he survived, to be honest. It’s hard to see someone so young losing their grip on life. So once he came out of that, I think he was just on a mission to make it up to everyone.
After Mind Field, I started working for Analog and by that time, Dylan was just ripping. After about six months, he was the only person who really had a lot of footage so that’s how it ended up turning into a Dylan solo video.
And yes, we all knew he was in his window. It was an amazing thing to witness. Dylan filmed half of that part within blocks of his house. It was insane. He impossibled that bench in NY twice in about 10 minutes. And that was a re-shoot. He was incredibly focused.
How do you go about trying to balance a skater’s wishes and input in regards to editing versus your own vision and how you feel their part fits into the video as a whole? That’s gotta be a very difficult position. Do you try to get the skater’s final approval of his part or is that sort of thing even possible? I remember reading somewhere that Kalis maybe wasn’t as happy with his Mind Field part as he wanted to be. How do you go about dealing with these types of criticisms from skaters?
That’s always the hardest struggle because ultimately I’m making the videos for the guys who are in it. I’ll do everything I can for them but at the same time, I feel it’s also my responsibility to look objectively at their parts and give them my honest opinion about footage, music, and everything else. Each guy is different to work with. Some are totally hands-on and others are just like “Yeah, whatever… just hook me up!”
I was definitely bummed when I heard Josh wasn’t into his Mind Field part because he and I had put so much time into it. Years before, he was upset over a line I cut from his DC part and I totally understood why afterwards. So with Kalis In Mono and Mind Field, I gave him more control over what went in. It's really hard balancing everything during that process and when people are bummed on their parts, it’s the absolute worst thing.
In recent years, I’ve started to worry that maybe skate videos were making things too complicated for their own good. That maybe we’re overthinking this with the multi-year shoots and crazy technology. Are these epic productions just a symptom of the larger skateboard industry of today? Whatever happened to companies putting out full-length videos every year? Are those days gone or are these the type of clips that the internet is for?
I feel like the only real complication is how long the big videos can take to finish. Nobody wants a bad video part so things just end up taking ages. Everybody has such insanely high standards for themselves and each other nowadays but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s just a skateboarding thing. I mean from the very beginning, we’re completely obsessed over learning these tricks, out in some dark parking lot by ourselves, so it all totally makes sense. The intensity of these videos is just a result of that.
As for the future, things are definitely changing but I don’t see full-length videos ever dying. I think the web is perfect for the smaller stuff but as for the big videos, I think we are far too mental and creative to ever give that up. Everything will soon be through the web anyhow, so that whole argument will eventually be over.
So as we bring this thing to a close, it’s definitely not uncommon nowadays to see kids out there manning the death lens with hopes of becoming the next Ty Evans or Greg Hunt. Do you have any tips for the beginner filmmakers out there?
Yeah, do pushups! These new cameras are massive.
Just work as hard as you can and trust your instincts. That’s about the best advice I could give... nothing happens easily.