Every time I see footage of China I wonder the same thing. Are all Chinese architects undercover skateboarders? The marble ledges are bountiful and no crack is too wide. It’s hard to figure out where the skatepark ends and the streets start. It is no wonder Amerigo Brini‘s video, Fear and Loathing in Shanghai is full of skillful ledge tricks and smooth lines.
While they may not have to deal with complex bondo jobs, they have had their hands full navigating ongoing Covid-19 issues. This may come as a surprise to you, but not every country is back to maskless hangouts and packed-out crowds going into 2023. China is still caught in a battle between stopping the spread and opening up their country.
Amerigo brings a creative perspective with his new video, choosing to contrast the homie-oriented night skating filmed before China’s recent lockdowns with small-crew day skating during the lockdown restrictions. I know none of us want to hear those words again, but it is cool to see a filmer working within the parameters of Covid and making something unique. We chatted with Amerigo to get a better understanding of life in Shanghai, his video, and the skate scene at large.
Q&A WITH CREATOR Amerigo Brini
Your video feels like an action packed blockbuster movie. Who are your filming influences within skateboarding and outside of skateboarding?
Im glad to hear that my work gives you this impression. One of my biggest influences within skateboarding has always been Baker 3. I love how they captured both the skate and the lifestyle, that’s the feeling I try to create in my work, with a more ‘cinematic’ look. Outside of skateboarding, I would actually have to say my editing style is largely influenced by commercials. They’re short, but the structure can be complex and exciting, keeping the viewer engaged the whole video.
Sometimes it feels like the skate video formula is stale. Are there any influences skate filmers can take from Hollywood produced movies?
I like when someone tries to add a “story” or a concept to the video like Shorty’s ‘Guilty’, but honestly, I find it more interesting when the skate video is structured like a documentary, such as telling the story of a famous spot or skater.
There is a lot of night filming in this video. Why is that? Are there any keys to getting the perfect lighting at night?
Shanghai is a perfect city for skating during the day but at night not so much. Usually after 10pm they shut down most of the city light, but I still wanted to show that side of Shanghai skateboarding anyway.
For night filming, the more lights you have the better in my opinion. What I like to do is to use a few small LEDs, one on the camera and the other one hand held. If I need an extra light, I usually ask some friend to hold one (easier to direct) or place it where I need with a small tripod. Its cheap and quick.
“Living in China often feels like you’re not fully in reality.”
Drawing parallels to the classic book, how is the nightlife in Shanghai? Other than skating, what kind of things do you get up to when the lights are down?
I came up with the title ‘Fear and Loathing in Shanghai’ as I wanted to express what a surreal experience it has been living in Shanghai during this pandemic. From the weird policies, sudden changes in the city and absolute madness of going through the lockdown together. Living in China often feels like you’re not fully in reality. Shanghai used to have a really sick nightlife scene, and so many people moved here for both skate and nightlife. But it has gotten worse with stricter drug policies and COVID restrictions. In the past few years we mostly spent our nights chilling in front of Family Mart, a convenience store, I’m sure Shanghai nightlife still has a lot to offer but that’s basically what we did most of the times.
Do you think dropping acid is a good way to get through a heavy editing session?
[laughs] Never done acid, but I’m sure it would give the edit an interesting point of view.
You brought up how a lot of the filming happened during Covid. Was the experience similar to the US, where Covid shutdowns made unskateable spots available for the first time?
When Covid first hit in 2020 Shanghai was surprisingly chill and we were able to skate every day. It was nice because there was less security and less people around.
If you want to know more about our experience skateboarding in this time I made a documentary. Unfortunately while I was shooting for the new clip, positive cases began cropping up even with the strict Zero Covid Policy, so they began to crack down on Covid even more and that was not chill at all. It started with random, smaller lockdowns of one block or building for days or weeks, and then in April there was a city wide lockdown. We ended up all trapped in our apartments for 60 days, so it was impossible to skate.
The music you use is pretty unique, how did you pick the soundtrack for this video?
The hardest part of the post production for me is always finding the right tunes. I spent like a year finding these 3 songs. I really like music with no lyrics that accompanies the tricks but doesn’t distract, something that puts you in a mood without stealing the spotlight of the clip. Also recently I find it hard to watch a skate video if I don’t like the song [laughs]
I noticed the sprinkle of security altercations in the video. How is skateboarding received in Shanghai and how is the security presence there?
Years ago it was a paradise, you could skate anywhere. Nowadays security is getting tighter. A lot of famous spots are a bust but luckily in China every month few new spots pop up, so there’s always something to enjoy before we get caught. In China, there are security guards everywhere, some don’t care, some will shout and point fingers but we never feel unsafe.
We are a couple years post skateboarders becoming Olympians. Has the infrastructure surrounding Chinese skateboarding seen a boost in support from the Olympics?
I guess so, in the past few years they built a lot of new skateparks for the national team to train for the Olympics. I think it also made skateboarding more accepted by parents and now you can see more people with a skateboard. Im not sure how much it helped street skating though.
Do skateboarders in China still have to move to America in order to make a living through skateboarding? Are there any full time pro skaters in China?
There are a lot of very good skaters in China but I don’t personally know anyone who makes a living just through skating. From what I saw, if you want to make a living with skateboarding for the long run, you have to start your own business like creating a skate brand or opening a shop.
“There are a lot of very good skaters in China but I don’t personally know anyone who makes a living just through skating.”
What excites you about the skate scene in China? Are there any other filmers or skate teams there that you like?
Best thing about China are the spots, I remember when we found Hongqiao square, it looked like it was made for skating, with banks, stairs, manny pads etc, we were speechless. Even though I left China I still enjoy following the Chinese skate scene. I really like the Avenue & Son crew and as filmers I like Lulu, Nankin Joe and Maomao.
Have you ever had to bondo a spot in Shanghai or is that unnecessary since it all looks perfect?
Not really, there are so many spots that if one gets ruined its not a big deal, there’s probably another one even better nearby.
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