If you Google “How to make a good skate video,” the results you’ll see include a Jenkem satirical article, a Jeff Won Song green screen video, and a Masterclass article titled “Tony Hawk’s 14 Tips for Filming a Skate Video.” Following any of these will most likely yield a video that’s borderline unwatchable, and that’s because it’s nearly impossible to develop an easy formula to make a memorable skate video. You just know a good one when you see it.
A good case study for this is to look at Cooper Winterson’s catalog of videos. \m/, Ether, and Heady Mental have all left an impact on the indie skate video world and underground skate scenes. Cooper’s latest release, The Sex Emo Promo: The Video, is no different.
The video doesn’t showcase the level of skating you’d typically associate with a “certified classic,” but it has racked up a ton of views regardless, and like most of Cooper’s prior projects, it will probably go on to influence a lot of future videos and filmmakers. So while we wait for Cooper’s next video, we thought we’d pick his brain about cameras, emo music, and his crew of friends.
Are you vegan?
[Laughs] No, I’m a pescatarian.
You seem like someone who would be vegan.
Not totally off [laughs]. I don’t eat mammals. I eat fish and dairy, which I have been doing since I was like 12.
You put out your video \m/ like 10 years ago now, right? Did you think people today would still care about it?
I honestly didn’t, and it’s still bizarre to me when people come up and tell me they loved that video. It feels like a lifetime ago. It’s weird how long I’ve been doing this because it’s not my career per se. That might change shortly, but more to come on that in the future.
I mean, if you make something, it will inevitably get a response. People are going to watch it and someone is going to be stoked about it.
You’d have to try to put the effort into making a skate video that every single person hates [laughs]. Actually, that would be more of a feat. It would be cool to make a skate video and literally have every single person who watches it hate it.
“It would be cool to make a skate video and literally have every single person who watches it hate it.”
Do you think you could make a skate video that 100% of viewers hate?
Now there’s almost a part of me that wants to try. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this, but when it comes to things like picking music I’m like, “What is going to be a song that I like and everybody is going to hate?” I’ve sat at my computer thinking that. Even more so when I’m working on my own parts.
So much of skate videos are just stale now. I would rather watch a video and be confused by it rather than watch something and know exactly why I don’t like it or why it’s boring if that makes sense. Not to say that skate videos are inherently thought-provoking because it’s basically just glorified sports photography, but for all intents and purposes, it’s nice to watch something and feel something other than boredom.
What are some of the worst skate videos of all time, and why?
Off the top of my head I’m not really sure. The cardinal sin for me is if it’s boring, and if it’s really boring, then I probably already forgot that it even exists. A “bad” video is at least entertaining in how unfortunate it is and therefore becomes something worth watching.
You used a lot of emo music in videos before it was popular. Do you think people jacked the style from you?
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s all my fault. Fuck all y’all, I’m claiming it. That’s my serious answer.
No, I’m just kidding. It’s not really up to me to decide that.
Well when you started using emo music, were other people doing it?
I don’t know. I’ve thought about this before though. It’s in the zeitgeist now, but it is interesting, I will say that [laughs].
I have to give a lot of credit to people like Ben Kadow and Stu Kirst for showing me a lot of music and steering my direction. Ben is someone I’ve known since high school. When I started hanging out with Ben, he reacclimated me to all that punk stuff that I liked when I was younger; Discharge, Void, and stuff like that. I found Cap’n Jazz through Stu.
Stu and Ben are more on the radar than me, or more “famous” than me, so I’m sure a lot of people are also pulling from that realm of skateboarding as an influence. If you want to talk about a percentage of influence I’m a fragment of a larger part of music in skating.
So it’s hard to say if people are biting you because you’re not a huge name – but for someone like Strobeck, would you say people are directly biting him?
When something in skateboarding, fashion, music, or whatever becomes trendy or popular it’s not generally because people are consciously copying it. They’re just seeing it and it’s logged in their memory and when they go to do that thing it becomes part of their reference point on how to do it.
I don’t think people go out with the intention of copying Bill Strobeck, but people also don’t allow themselves the ability to consciously think about their influences. They’re not sitting there filming a trick thinking, “Hmm, if I film this way is it going to look like Bill Strobeck? Should I do that intentionally or do something different to delineate myself from that?” It’s a conscious subconscious dilemma.
I copy people all the time. I’ve said this before in other interviews, but I’ll put it on the record as many times as I need to, when I started filming I was literally just copying Aaron Randi. He just made shit that I really liked and I started thinking about it a lot and it started resonating with me and I just wanted to do that.
Whenever I want to criticize someone for copying I always try to hold off and think back to that. You just have to figure out what you like and you’re going to copy people on the way. You’re never going to make something that is 100% original, ever, and that’s fine.
“You’re never going to make something that is 100% original, ever, and that’s fine.”
What goes into editing a video when you have clips of someone who is skating at a high level and someone who is just learning kickflip?
Everything goes into the video. I think I literally used every single clip that hasn’t been used elsewhere. No waste. It’s all about whoever is around and involved. If they want to be a part of it I use it. It has nothing to do with how good people are because I don’t really care about that. I think that shows in my history of videos. Everyone is really good at skating now, so displaying simply difficult skating is just not what my goal is.
As a skate videographer, why do you think Ty Evans used to make such good work and it all looks sterile now?
I think there’s maybe a level of expected “professionalism” that comes with getting to that age and the amount of time spent on a career that could breed a desire to make videos in that way.
On the other hand, it seems that people simply grow up into much more boring and redacted versions of themselves. Probably because they care less about the thing itself, and more about just having to do it because it’s a job or because they’re consumed by the routine of it. So their own opinions become shielded or blinded.
So what is Sex Emo? Is it a company, a skate team, or what?
It’s basically a group chat [laughs]. More or less. Everyone that’s in that video has some sort of contribution to Sex Emo. We’re just a group of friends that makes stuff. I can’t take a lot of the credit for a lot of it. I made the video, and that’s my contribution so far. A lot of the content is made by Ed Fisher, Weston Kearl, Aiden Yobear, and Jaren Morganelli.
In reality, it was a bunch of different things before it was Sex Emo. We made a shirt that said “Ned’s Place” a few years ago. We were just like, “We should start a company called Ned’s Place” [laughs]. So Sex Emo is just kind of another iteration of that. It’s us just coming up with stupid fake brand name ideas. This one just happened to stick and now we’re doing it.
Getting stuff like T-shirts and lanyards made was just another facet of the joke. We would joke about how funny it would be if we made lanyards, so the next logical step to that joke is to actually make them. Now the lanyards exist and that’s even funnier [laughs].
What is “emo?”
Emo historically is a weird word. In the late ’80s or early ’90s, people started using the word to delineate meathead hardcore from the more emotionally intelligent or thoughtful type of hardcore. Less aggro anger, more disdain-for-the-world anger. But even someone like Ian MacKaye, one of the pioneers of the genre that is considered emo, has that infamous quote of him going, “What the fuck is emo?” and just completely criticizing the term saying, “Isn’t all hardcore emotional?”
There’s this whole thing throughout the ’90s and in the early ’00s where there are people being called emo who don’t want to be emo, and then you have people who want to be called emo who are being told they’re not emo, so the whole thing is a shit show from the beginning.
So basically, your question is unanswerable.
You’re in two bands, Aspartame and Pique, are they both “emo” bands?
Yeah, why not [laughs]? For me, when I hear the term, I have a specific set of associations that I tag along with it. That’s like Boilermaker, Mock Orange, Boys Life, and At the Drive-In.
You filmed with a VX1000 and HPX, is there a decent alternative to skateboarding’s most popular cameras?
Not really, because the widescreen sensors are all too big for the original death lenses [MK1 and MK2], and those lenses aren’t built for that aspect ratio anyway.
There’s the Canon C100 or C300 cameras and they’re essentially built like mirrorless photography cameras but they’re geared towards video more directly in the way that they’re shaped and all that. There’s something about the way that those sensors process skating that is unfavorable to me. The HPX renders footage in a way that feels way closer to home for people who grew up watching VX1000 videos.
Having rocker zoom is definitely up there in terms of essentials for filming long lens properly. There’s something about the stability. Also, the depth of field on the shotgun cameras is a lot better for any kind of sports photography because it’s a lot deeper, and you get more in focus. A lot of those DSLRs are full frame sensors, so you get a lot more shallow depth of field even at mid-range apertures like f/5.6 or 8 or whatever. You would want a shallow depth of field from like a narrative standpoint – if you’re making a short film – because you want to play with focus, but when you’re filming skating you want as much as possible in focus because it’s constant motion and it’s unpredictable.
So if you could only use one camera from now on what are you going with?
The VX1000 will always be my favorite. All of the cliches are true, which pretty much boils down to the format. Standard definition is better for skating because you’re dealing with vertical subjects. If skating was laying down, then 16:9 HD would work [laughs]. A lot also boils down to fisheye stuff, but I will also say, I always feel like I can be more creative when I’m filming long lens with a VX1000 for some reason.
There’s something interesting about the way that I’m able to frame shots with a VX1000. I think a lot of it has to do with the minimum zoom focal length. It doesn’t go fully wide angle as much as the HPX does, for example. The HPX all the way zoomed out is a little bit awkward in terms of focal length.
You know a lot about the technicals of filming skating, did you go to school to learn about videography?
I went to school for photography and got my BFA, and now I’ve been working as a photographic printer for just over seven years at My Own Color Lab. If anyone is interested in color or black-and-white darkroom printing, definitely give us a call.
You skate for Glue, right? Does your Glue sponsorship come with any obligations or contracts?
I do actually have some contracts with the clothing brand Noah and with Krux trucks, but they’re both very open to leaving it up to us as skaters to do what we want and not force anything.
With Glue, there are no contracts or anything at all like that. Stephen [Ostrowski] and Leo [Baker] are trying to build it up and the goal is that if it becomes a big thing they’ll be able to support everyone who is involved. For now, it’s just a board company with a group of friends basically.
The goal for Stephen and Leo is to make whatever the fuck they want. They’ve both been in positions where they haven’t been able to be themselves in more obvious and less obvious ways. They wanted to have control over something and put something out in the world that they want to contribute because nobody else is doing it – or at least how they want to do it.
“We always like to blame companies for becoming shells of their former selves, but I can’t even imagine how hard it is to be in that position”
Do you think when brands start to get too popular they start losing control over it?
We always like to blame companies for becoming shells of their former selves, but I can’t even imagine how hard it is to be in that position. Like, if you have an extremely successful, inventive, and individual brand, then you get to that point where you want to uphold those standards but don’t want to be repetitive.
You basically have to reinvent yourself every five to 10 years if you want to be relevant. And that’s hard to do without also being seen as “trendy.” I can see why a lot of companies end up doing a recycled version of what they’ve done for 20 years. It’s their way of not falling into doing what’s trendy, and just sticking to themselves. It’s hard. You have to reinvent yourself but you also have to be yourself. It’s nearly impossible in a lot of cases.
And when you’re an established company – it’s not just a brand. You have people’s lives you’re supporting. So many different people who work for you. You have a whole conglomerate of people to make sure you’re not going to tank this thing, so taking risks at that point is also like not always the best idea. So you end up with this recycled version of things that you are known for but you aren’t necessarily improving on or are just repeating something that is stale.
With that being said, if VF Corp wanted to buy Sex Emo, are you selling?
[laughs] Yup! Selling the fuck out baby! That’s my final answer.
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