For as long as I’ve been skating, there have been hundreds of companies that have come and gone. And while board walls and clothing racks are always changing, the trucks that shops keep in stock have pretty much stayed the same.
Today three American truck brands sponsor the majority of the pros and amateurs that we watch regularly. And in the history of truck manufacturing, we’ve never even heard of an international truck brand really taking off. Which is why it’s so interesting to hear about Film trucks, a startup based out of Lyon, France.
Film was started by Jeremie Daclin, the founder of Cliché , with the aim to create a successful truck company based in Europe. Jeremie is trying to help make it possible for European pros to financially live off skating, and to offer the everyday European skater affordable products without overseas markups.
So far, in the three years since Film has been around, they’ve slowly grown and gained more recognition.
For the last ten years, there have been three truck companies that have pretty much dominated the skate industry, why is that?
Well, it has been like this for a really long time, and nobody really wants to change it. It’s crazy because everything in skating used to be about the big companies, but nowadays it is the really small board and clothing companies that people think are cool. When people don’t know you, you’re cool. But as soon as people know you, you’re not cool anymore. But with trucks, the three big companies are here and they don’t change. But, I try not to look at what others are doing because I want to be myself.
So when you were starting your company, were there any issues from the already established truck companies?
You want me to talk politics? [laughs] The thing is, Film is really small in the USA, so I am not big enough to scare people or other brands. I’ve never had a company call me and try to scare me. Maybe one day that will happen, but you see these boxing gloves I have? I am ready [laughs].
Another crazy thing about trucks is that all of the companies, in one way or another, belong to this one person at the top. He owns part of Independent and Venture, and he owns some shares in DLX so he owns some Thunder too. He has the market, and those brands could fix the prices in their favor, and all of that. But I don’t think about that, I’m just doing my thing.
So for the most part, this is something people won’t talk about?
Yeah, because for some people who know, it is good for them to not talk about it. But slowly, there will be more new truck brands. I hope so. [laughs] That is what I have been trying to do.
Does any of this affect your sales in America?
I don’t really know. I’m selling in such low numbers, so it doesn’t really affect the big companies yet. It’s like Pontus Alv [founder of Polar] at first, they found him funny because he was the crazy dude doing his own skateboard company. Then, slowly, he was taking a share of the American board market.
The other thing is that all those big industry companies are far away from Europe and France. In my city of Lyon, I will not meet anyone from any other major skate company. So I am far away from all of those industry problems.
Is it nice not being in the middle of the industry?
Of course, it is nice being away from all the gossip and all the pressure.
What was the impetus for starting Film Trucks?
It’s a long story, but I can make it short [laughs]. More than 20 years ago, I started Cliché skateboards to bring money back to European skateboarders. Skateboarding started to grow here in Europe, and now skateboarders are worldwide. You can be a pro and live off of skateboarding all over the world. The industry changed, but back then to start a skate company you had to know someone in a woodshop and someone who was doing computer stuff. Back then it was not that easy to find.
Nowadays, every kid knows how to use Photoshop or Illustrator, and in a few clicks, you could make your own boards and your own company. But a truck company is way harder. That’s why there are only like three main companies. I have always been into gimmicks and all the little details of the trucks, so starting a truck company seemed like a good challenge.
What is your day-to-day role as the owner of Film?
My everyday routine is to wake up early with my kid for school and head to the office at 8am. Then, I do invoices, emails, packing, and go to the post office to send orders. Usually, I go skate during lunchtime. I’d rather go skate and exercise than go to a restaurant. It’s good for you and your brain. In the afternoon, I go back to the office and work again.
Even on the weekend, I go to my office. I’ll send a few emails and then I’ll take my board and go skate. Maybe I’ll come back with some friends, have a few beers, send a few more emails. It’s all mixed together. I really enjoy it because I don’t feel like it’s work. Even if it’s hard money-wise, I’m still super happy about it because I never had to make a resume or go to a job interview in my entire life. I’m 48.
So you have your hands in everything?
Yeah, of course. I am the only one. I am doing everything [laughs]. I have some computer dudes, but I am in the middle of everything. It’s what making a company is about – it’s a lot of work. A lot of people just think you get a T-shirt at $3 and sell it for $35 and you do Instagram, and you send your friends some shirts and that’s it. But that’s only 10 percent of your day. The rest is boxing stuff, being behind the computer, dealing with problems, blah blah blah.
It’s cool to work for your own company because you don’t feel like you’re going to a job every day, but it’s also not cool because you’re always thinking about it. Even on the weekends, you go to the office. But working in skateboarding is not working. I can go skate whenever I want. It’s not a job it’s a passion.
Before you started Film, what trucks were you riding?
I was switching between Independent and Ace. Back in the ‘90s, I was skating for Tracker trucks and after that I was skating some Ventures.
When you were skating those other trucks, did you notice some things that you wanted to change or make different?
Oh yeah. For example, the back of the truck near the pivot cup, from my experience, needs to be really skinny because when you tailslide it grinds on the curb and slows you down. Also, the height of the truck, I knew I wanted more than a mid truck. Independent is 55mm high and Film trucks are 53mm.
You know the golden ratio? I hide a little logo in the truck at the golden ratio. I also put the parking blocks on the baseplate, because I am ready to slappy.
How much does it cost to produce a truck?
The hard part about trucks is that to get a new shape for the trucks, you have to get a 3D mold of the hanger for every size you want. Every mold is about $6,000-7,000. You also have to pay for the mold for the baseplate. The same base plate goes on every size. You could do just one size but usually, you have about four sizes. So you need four molds for hangers, plus the base plate mold.
So it is absolutely a big investment and it’s a lot of work.
Where are your trucks manufactured?
They are manufactured in China like pretty much every other brand but most of them are afraid to say that.
“All skateboarders benefit from having small brands
and small companies around.”
Do you think that there is a stigma about things being made in China?
Yes, there is. I’ve been to the factories a few times. The factories I am working with are really clean and really nice and they are really nice to the workers. I’ve seen some woodshops in Mexico, California, China and I can tell you that the cleanest ones are in China.
And because of the price, I know I can’t work without China, so since the beginning of Film Trucks, I’ve been working with the 1% For The Planet Program. With the 1% Program, I give 1% of the money Film makes to a non-profit organization of my choice. Last year I donated to WWF, but I pick a different organization every year.
Why is there sort of a stigma around working with Chinese factories?
I don’t know, but distributors are receiving boxes straight from China, with product drop-shipped to them.
Besides the price for the molds, is there anything else that stops a new truck company from popping up?
Yeah, there’s the price of the mold that’s for sure, but it’s also more of an industrial process. You really need to make them in a good factory with the knowledge of trucks and everything. It is a way harder process.
Shoes are also very expensive to make and you can’t just use a blank shoe. But we are seeing lots of independent shoe brands like Last Resort and State. Do you think that maybe we will see a renaissance of small truck companies?
I’d like to say yes because right now there is a wide range of skateboarders and they are very open-minded and they deserve more than just a few truck companies. It is the same thing for shoe brands. We need more than just the major companies. To represent what skateboarding is today we need a big range of brands. The small local brands are important because they are pushing the riders and holding events and doing more local stuff. All skateboarders benefit from having small brands and small companies around.
Why does each truck brand use a different size chart?
Because every company wants to have the worldwide size chart for everyone. It’s crazy because for wheels we use millimeters, and for the boards it’s inches. So it’s two different systems of measurement. But for Film, I put all the size info, in centimeters and inches, under the baseplate so it’s way easier for skate shops to understand and sell.
Before, every skate shop had to line the trucks up on the board to see if it was the right size. And then at the end of the day, there’s one big truck paired with one small truck.
What will Film do that other truck companies are not doing?
I really want to see the trucks more as a board company. Like getting lots of artists to put their designs on the trucks and collaborating with other companies. You can do lots of interesting things on trucks, more than just the silver color.
But it seems like people just want to skate silver trucks…
Yeah, we do a lot of silver trucks and then we also do little projects where we make fun things and work with friends and artists. Like how you can make team boards and also have some boards with whatever guest artist you like. For example, I am doing a collab with Ed Banger Records, which is an electro music label in France. You can do some interesting work on trucks.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of European countries become new hubs for skating. Do you think we’ll eventually see countries in Asia become hubs too?
I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Before skateboarding was mainly in California, but then there was Zoo York that made it popular on both coasts of America. Then that happened in Europe, and now it’s becoming a worldwide thing. It’s not California centric anymore. In any city, if there’s asphalt you can pick up a board and become good and be recognized with the internet.
To be picked up by a famous brand you don’t need to have your video in Transworld anymore. It makes things different because you need to put out a new clip every week to be pro nowadays. Before Guy Mariano went ten years between parts and there was no footage in between. Now people are forgotten in two weeks. In pro contracts, you need to post so many Instagram posts each month. It’s a new world.
“In any city, if there’s asphalt you can pick up a board and become good and be recognized with the internet.”
In Film contracts, are you giving riders a mandatory Instagram quota?
Hell no [laughs]. The thing is that back in the day it was all about photo incentives. Transworld cover was $1000, Thrasher cover where you can see the logo was $5000, double-page Transworld was $2000, interview in the big Euro mag was $5000. That was before the Instagram post. But slowly Instagram became bigger than the magazine. It’s kinda sad to see the incentives go that way, but c’est la vie.
Has it been tough to be the boss of some of your friends over the years?
I don’t know about being a boss [laughs]. The thing is that for me the most important thing is skateboarding. Even as the team manager, you can do whatever you want and go party, as long as you wake up the next day and go and skate. If, for example, the partying or the drinking takes over the skateboarding, that is not good.
Did you ever have to talk to people about how they’re partying too much and they need to skateboard more?
Yeah, I had those tough discussions. But you can’t complain about people if you do worse than them. As long as your partying, but not too crazy, you can talk to the people and tell them, “It’s okay to party but don’t party too much.” You have to be an example to others. Show them, “Yeah I partied and drank but I woke up and am still skating.” When you’re skating, and it’s not just talking, the riders will respect you more than a random dude telling them what to do.
If you were going to seriously try and expand to America and use a third-party distributor, would you be able to match the American truck prices?
I can match Venture’s prices, which are the lower-priced trucks. In Europe, we are able to sell at a lower price because we sell more directly to the customers here, but in America with shipping and all that we would have to sell at a similar price to Venture.
Did the pandemic impact production at all?
Of course. The production has been slower because you need masks and all of that. Additionally, there are more and more skateboarders, and people are getting boards to cruise around the city or whatever. So production has been a bit slow, and consumer demand has gone up. So that’s a production problem.
There’s no big shipping right now, so trucks have become the most expensive component of a skateboard. Every truck company increased prices because of the creation process and shipping. Now, Film is doing really well because of the price, the quality, and because of the team. And also because of the great dude behind it [laughs]. But it’s all working well.
“Every truck company increased prices because of the creation process and shipping.”
How important do you think the distributor’s role is for a company like Film?
It is super important. Here’s an example to show you how important it is – because it is harder to produce stuff in COVID, major American truck companies are selling product to the shops in America because to them it is their direct market. That means they don’t have to pay for extra overseas shipping costs. American companies don’t really sell in high volumes to places in Europe, because it goes through a distributor, and after shipping so they make less of a profit because margins are so thin. So for a skate shop in France, during COVID you could only buy five sets of Spitfire because there is a large demand in America and they keep it all for the American market.
For Film, Lots of shops want our trucks because it is hard to get trucks from anywhere right now. I am selling the trucks to the shops in France first, and then all around Europe and everywhere.
What do you think that truck companies could do better?
Maybe prices because they are kind of high.
What is the price difference between a set of Independent trucks in Europe and the price of Film trucks.
It’s between $5-10.
So Independent trucks are like $80 for a pair in Europe?
Yeah, those American brands are very expensive with shipping and all of that.
So how would you get people to switch from Ventures to Film?
I think that people are keen to try some new board company, but they really stick to the truck brands. However, because I am in Europe and when I distribute to shops in Europe, I am cheaper so maybe people will switch. That’s what happened with Cliché back in the day. Cliché was cheaper than American brands in Europe back then. Now, Film trucks are cheaper than Ventures or Indy.
You seem like you have slappies down to a science at this point.
Yeah [laughs]. I am kind of old now so I need to make use of my skateboarding with age. I don’t jump anymore. The good thing with slappies is that you can do three meters long crooked grinds or other long tricks and keep doing them when you’re old. From my point of view, the most important thing in skateboarding is to keep learning new tricks, and that’s the thing with slappies is that you can always learn them a new way.
Do the trucks matter for slappy grinds?
Not really, but you need to skate wide trucks. It’s really the size that matters. Most people are skating wide trucks anyways.
If you could put any technology what would you put into the truck?
I don’t know. A truck that always locks into backside smith grinds.
Before Film trucks, was there ever a European truck company?
I don’t really think so.
So you are the first.
Yeah, I think so [laughs].
Between Cliché, Film and everything else you’ve done in skateboarding, do you feel responsible for the boom in European skateboarding?
I’m doing my things and I’m not the one to claim it [laughs]. I’m not the one to claim “Yay! I did this and I did that.” It’s all different groups of people doing things, and all together we did this.