Emerica is one of a handful of skate brands that makes videos with an identifiable voice. It’s easy to spot an Emerica clip, the video direction of which all started with This Is Skateboarding in 2003. And until last year, one of the people who did the most to shape Emerica’s video style was Jon Miner.
When I started talking with Jon I was expecting to hear something like a grand philosophy on skate videos and how This Is Skateboarding fit into his oeuvre. But instead Jon told me how at the time he didn’t consider filming to be his career. He was actually a sponsored skater, and filming the Emerica team with Mike Manzoori was kind of just a really great day job. Or maybe the best day job.
Since Heath Kirchart was a big name on the team back then, why did he have the first part in the video instead of last or second to last?
Heath wanted to have first part. I think he just looks at it like, if you’re in a video you want first or last part, those are the best positions to be in. I think [Mike] Manzoori [Sole Tech filmer/editor] and I were both thinking of having Chris Senn as the first part.
I don’t know how happy Heath was with his part. I don’t really know how he feels about that stuff in general but I got the sense at the time that he wasn’t very happy with it. I think only because that part immediately followed his Sight Unseen part and that was a tough act to follow. I could be wrong but I remember when they were working on it, him and Manzoori edited that part, he wanted to stretch out his footage as much as he could. If you look at it some of the slo-mo’s are pretty slow, and the tricks are kind of stretched out.
Was there ever a discussion about anyone besides Andrew Reynolds having the last part?
I don’t think so. I think that was always pretty clear that it was gonna be Andrew. I can’t think of who else it would have been.
What happened to Heath after the slam in the beginning of his part? Did he go to the hospital?
That was when I first started filming with Heath. I wasn’t really filming that caliber of skating so I was like, whoa this is just how this dude rolls. But he took that slam and shook it off, he was fine. Watching the footage he was so stoked, like laughing hysterically, ’cause he got this golden slam and he got out of it clean. I think he had a black eye but he didn’t break any bones. He felt like he got his best trick for his video part. That stood out so much to me back then. I just remember him being so excited afterwards.
This Is Skateboarding set the tone for most Emerica videos after it, with the green tinting and heavy rock music. Where did that stuff come from?
Well, the green was already in place. That was something Yogi Proctor developed. He was the art director at Emerica. Over the years the green kind of changes hues, I don’t think there was ever a real exact science behind that. Over time it felt like the green was used to connect the viewer to the brand whereas other parts were more focused on the individual skater.
As for the music, I don’t think that was a specific plan to brand Emerica with a certain genre. I remember the Kids in Emerica video that followed This is Skateboarding and the first edit had the opening montage edited to NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton.” We did a premiere with that version but we couldn’t get the music license cleared. Right before This Is Skateboarding was Menikmati and Sole Tech got sued for one of the tracks in that video. They didn’t want that to happen again so all the music we used had to be legit.
When you were working on This Is Skateboarding, was skate filming your career yet?
I was still trying to be a skater. I didn’t really take my career as a video guy that seriously. I did to a certain extent, but I wasn’t looking at it like this is how I’m gonna build my career. I was thinking more like, I’m getting paid to film skateboarding, this is awesome. I was sponsored by a company called Adrenalin. I was filming Chris [Senn] for the Emerica video but we were also teammates on Adrenalin. I was trying to balance the two at the same time. That whole video was such a different skateboarding experience for me.
What about filming the video felt different to you?
It went from filming with my friends to working on this blockbuster picture with all these movie stars. I filmed Chris’ Jump Off A Building part and that was honestly between 5 and 10 different times going out skating. Whereas his This Is Skateboarding part was much more missions. Like meet up with Atiba [photographer], go to this school, try this gnarly trick down a huge set of stairs. Everything was premeditated.
Was that “skate mission” mindset part of the reason the video title is so straightforward and kind of serious?
I can’t really speak to that. I remember when [Justin Regan, former Emerica brand manager] told me about it my initial response was like, that sounds pretentious. But it’s also a simple statement. Like, this isn’t rollerblading, this is skateboarding. It was open to interpretation. It could mean this isn’t the X Games. This is true raw skateboarding. It’s also one of those marketing things where you want to put the word skateboarding in the title so if it ends up on a shelf somewhere it’s like, “We’re looking for a video about skateboarding. Oh look, this is skateboarding.”
What was your relationship like with the kids on the team back then?
I got to know Herman and Spanky pretty well, then Leo got on the team and we started working on Kids In Emerica and I remember thinking those kids were so mature for their age. They were so smart and witty. I’ve dealt with kids over the years and they were very unique. I remember they invited some girls over to hang out at the Emerica house and it was Erica Yary when she was a teenage girl and one of her friends. I remember all of us watching like, “Look at ’em, they’ve got girlfriends. It’s so adorable.”
What’s with all the kickflip shifties in the video?
I don’t know, that trick was popular at that time with those guys. Kickflips and frontside flips, it seemed like they were all really good at those tricks.
If you’re skating with Andrew Reynolds you gotta have good kickflips and frontside flips.
Yeah, those kids looked up to Andrew and Heath so much. And those guys clearly have a very specific way that they kickflip. Around that time, that’s how you would do a kickflip. You’d flick it. Before that, that wasn’t a thing. Everybody had a different way of kickflipping. I remember in some Transworld video Jim Greco is describing what mob is. He says it’s a bicycle effect where you kick down. I remember that being a thing, if you don’t flick it then your kickflip is mobbed.
There’s a clip in the DVD of Andrew working on the video at a computer. How involved was he with editing his part?
Andrew had experience with working on other video parts and he had a real passion for it and had an understanding of how it worked. Back then Andrew was hard-headed about how he wanted to be portrayed and he still is to this day. But when he would leave I would sneak in and tidy things up. Just sloppy edits and stuff where he would put some generic dissolve, I would delete it and make it a cut. It’s interesting to think about how much more involved skaters used to be in the making of their video parts. I feel like that’s changed over time. Maybe because however skaters market themselves now has evolved. Video parts were it back then so there was so much more focus put on the video part.
At the start of Andrew’s part, the camera cuts out before he finishes a line with a huge kickflip. Did you know the camera messed up right away?
I felt it before I even looked at it. We were filming that line for hours and there was a long period of time that passed where he didn’t make it to the last trick. So much time went by that by the time we finally got to the kickflip the lighting had changed dramatically. I was trying to compensate for that but I was panicking. If you watch the footage of the attempts, that’s the only time it happened, and of course it was on the one that he made.
I remember feeling loose on the whole thing. Like he skidded on the kickflip manual, but I guess we’re gonna keep going. But that was so painful for that to happen. That seriously hurt the soul. I turned my camera off and sat by myself for a while. We tried it for a while afterwards but at the end of the day he was spent.
In the original edit of his part we weren’t even gonna show it but I was like fuck it, let’s throw it in there. It’ll be cool when it goes black, that’s where we can pop his name up. It’ll be something interesting, something people will talk about. But to be perfectly honest with you every time I see it it still hurts. Even after all this time, I watch it and I’m hoping that it doesn’t go to black. But it does.
Nowadays do you ever text Andrew and apologize for it?
Nah, he didn’t care. He could see how upset I was. The crazy thing about that is there’s another line that he did at the same spot in his Stay Gold part. He does a switch tail on the bench and then a backside flip down the stairs. So the same thing happened with Manzoori filming him doing that line there. We were joking about it like don’t worry, that’s not gonna happen again, and it fucking happened again. We were like this is on some kind of haunted burial ground.
After the video came out Aaron Meza [filmer] asked me if we faked it. That would be insane to fake something like that. It definitely ties to the title of the video, This Is Skateboarding. We’re not this perfect Hollywood production crew. We’re a bunch of skaters out there with video cameras and we make mistakes. So who cares, show it. At the time skate videos were starting to step up with heavy production quality, but there was a level of rawness to This Is Skateboarding.