As skateboarders here’s one thing we can all agree on: This years “One In A Million” contest sucked. But what happened?
It seemed like skaters were pointing the finger at the director and “creative tyrant”, Alex Klein, who was apparently responsible for most of the format changes and reality TV style production. And after all the trash talk, we figured he would be in hiding in some small cave, unresponsive to any inquiry’s but to our surprise he got back and was down for an email interview. It ain’t the phone, and some of the important questions Alex kind of glazed over quickly, but he was surprisingly nice and receptive about the whole thing. Read on… and If you missed Colin Read’s OIAM stories check them out in part 1.
Q & A WITH ALEX KLEIN – OIAM’S DIRECTOR
How do you think OIAM turned out? Would you consider it a success?
I’d say it was as popular as a Koran burning in Afghanistan.
Do you feel embarrassed?
You want things to end happily, but it is what it is. Hopefully some of these guys go on to have careers in skateboarding.
How do you feel about some of the hate you have received online?
I don’t read it. I live in New York City. If I want to be surrounded by ranting illiterates I’ll ride the subway.
What was your vision for OIAM this year, and how was it different than last year?
Last year seemed to work really well because the skating was strong and Forrest Edwards’ mouth was actually a NASA engineered meme generator. It didn’t matter if you loved him or hated him, you would always tune in to see what he said next. This year I knew it was highly unlikely we’d have Forrest part 2, so the big question was: how do you make a show about 11 very normal dudes somewhat interesting? Eliminations seemed like the obvious choice just because it creates some inherent suspense at the end of each day.
Ironically this backfired when the most popular skater was eliminated on the first day. That said I was surprised at how angry this made some people. For me the entire “reality show” aspect of the contest—judging, board breaking, sad music as the skater walks to the exit– was a parody of American TV culture and not to be taken seriously. No one was actually sent home; after getting their board broken* they’d walk right back inside and set up a new board from the pile of product the sponsors gave them.
If you got eliminated it just meant you would sleep in a different section of the House of Vans and skate and film with the 5Boro team until the end of the week. Everyone still got to hang out, enjoy New York City, eat free pizza and get footage. Did it suck to get eliminated? Sure but it’s a contest not Make-a-Wish. One person wins. That’s how contests work. If you don’t like it then don’t enter contests. Lots of pros never entered contests and it worked out fine for them.
Why do you think things started to fall apart?
I think all the contestants are talented skaters and good dudes and I hope they all go on to do great things in skating. That said, one difference I noticed between this year and last was that in San Francisco the guys were in bed, lights out at midnight every night. The next morning they were up at 8am and ready to skate by 9am. No one even really drank unless you count the night Forrest drank a bottle of Chardonnay by himself.
This year I would split around midnight, but from what I heard everyone was skating, partying and staying up until 4 or 5am. While it’s great they were having fun, if you’re getting five hours of sleep and then skating in New York City all day nonstop, you’re going to start hating life after about the fourth day. The first four days were a nonstop stoke-fest. Even through the barrel jumping contest everyone seemed to be having fun.
“It’s a contest not Make-a-Wish”
Then on the fifth day everyone fell apart. Just bad attitudes all around, talking shit to the camera crew, complaining about being filmed. The guys filming the show are all super nice dudes, really mellow. They’re working long days to try to make the show look amazing so that these guys can shine. Yet all of a sudden certain contestants started behaving really lame towards them.
Everyone was stoked, we smoked the piece pipe then the next day came around and it was all bad again. Basically everyone refused to be on camera. That day I only brought out one cameraman so as to keep it mellow, yet the contestants would turn away and skate off if a camera was pointed at them. The day after was the same. There was basically no way to finish filming the show. Everyone just completely stopped participating.
At that point I’d made a bunch of concessions and still no one was willing to meet me even part way. If there had been a couple of guys that were cool and had said, “Look, it’s not a big deal, it’s just a few more days, let’s make the best of it,” we for sure would have had finalists and a winner. But that didn’t happen.
“There was basically no way to finish filming the show. Everyone just completely stopped participating.”
Did you talk with the kids and try to reason with them to get involved again?
I tried to converse with a couple of them and point out that not finishing the show would really be hard on the sponsors, aka the people that paid to fly them out there. Nobody cared. I tried to appeal purely to their self-interest and point out that finishing the show in a positive way would help out their skateboard careers. Again the uniform response was, “We don’t care about getting sponsored or the industry. We just want to skate.” That’s a totally valid stance to take in life, but then winning this contest and getting sent to the Zero van for a year probably isn’t for you. At that point I pretty much decided to end the show in NYC as opposed to flying three guys out west for the finals.
At the end of the day it’s One In A Million, not one in eleven. When we crown a winner we’re effectively telling his new sponsors “This guy is a warrior, he will represent you well.” Turning flow for a company is only going to get harder. No one is going to care if you’re tired or don’t feeling like riding in the van six hours to your second autograph signing of the day. It only gets more intense, and the winner of OIAM should be up for that challenge.
What’s with the ridiculous judging?
If you took the judges seriously then the joke went approximately 36,000 feet over your head. Imagine your head where it is now, then imagine a 757 flying through the stratosphere, because that is where the joke is. If all you want to see is raw skating, there are approximately one million free video parts online for you to watch. One in a Million is the only show of it’s kind. Does it have its flaws? Sure. But at the same time I don’t think it’s heresy to experiment and try new ideas. People beat on OIAM like it owes them money. The problem with that is that if sponsors decide that innovative skate shows are too volatile to produce they’ll stop supporting them. If that happens we might never find the next Forrest Edwards. Just typing that sentence sent a salty tear down my cheek.
“If you took the judges seriously then the joke went approximately 36,000 feet over your head.”
Are you just saying the reality TV show elements weren’t meant to be taken seriously, to cover up how badly it was received?
No. Every single day we filmed, I would tell everyone “Remember, we’re just putting on a show. Don’t get too caught up in it.” I would probably repeat that a dozen times a day. The judges got it. None of them ever won a reality show and they all did fine with their careers. However certain contestants started hating and that attitude eventually spread to everyone. Remember, getting eliminated meant you got to skate and film with the 5Boro team for the rest of the week. Win or lose you’re still getting a free trip, a bunch of product, and a great opportunity to launch your career. That shouldn’t bum anyone out. It’s kind of like how Louis CK says, “everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”
Do you think it was the kids fault for ruining the show because they agreed to come on and weren’t complying with how it ran?
The show ended because the contestants didn’t want to be on camera anymore.
But it seems how the show was edited the kids get the blame in the end, as being uncooperative and spoiled. Were they completely to blame, as portrayed in the final episode?
In truth parts were worse but my goal was to present the ending for what it was. Beyond that I’m not trying to trash anyone individually. Hopefully all the contestants achieve whatever they’re after in skateboarding.
PART 3, COMING SOON…
Photos courtesy of: Nathan Perkel
Words: Ian Michna
(Check out his website with more OIAM photos here)
Special Thanks: Colin Read & Nathan Perkel
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