Back in the day, it was pretty normal for skate videos to take forever to come out. Some of you will remember Lakai pushing back the release of Fully Flared more than a few times, for example. Nowadays, with the need for constant content, it seems like brands just decide on the fly when the filming process for a video starts and ends.
Shinpei Ueno of Tightbooth Production is the antithesis of that approach. He’s been working on Lenz III, arguably his magnum opus, for nine whole years. To put it into perspective, the US has had three different presidents in that same time span. With a 90+ minute run time, meticulous editing, and a captivating soundtrack, you can tell that Shinpei poured his entire heart and soul into this video.
We wanted to talk to him more about the process, and also find any excuse to hang out with him while he was in town, so we met Shinpei and the Tightbooth crew at the famous Max Palmer Fountain in Manhattan to talk Lenz III and his future plans for the Lenz series and Tightbooth.
Q&A w/ creator Shinpei Ueno
How many tapes do you think you went through filming this video?
Maybe 400, 500 tapes? We’ve been making this video for nine years. I’m not sure how long it took to upload all of them. The other filmers and crew broke off into teams while I directed. There was so much footage everyone couldn’t look at everything, but we were working on it every day.
How many VX1000 cameras did you use throughout the nine years?
We went through maybe 30 or 40 VX1000s to make this video. There were a lot of times when the camera broke in one day. About 20 of them broke from people crashing into them, and the rest broke because they’re just old cameras.
So if this was the last VX Lenz video, is Lenz 4 going to be HD?
Yeah, the VX is done. This is the best and most high quality we can do with the VX, so this is the end. Maybe we’ll use the FS5 next. I’m still thinking, I still haven’t found the best option. There’s still not a perfect 16:9 fisheye solution.
Since you’ve loved the VX for so long, have you ever thought of making a Tightbooth VX1000 sex toy?
[Laughs] Good idea! I need one. Not sure what Sony would say though. I do have a friend who works at Sony and he came by my office. I showed him all the videos we’ve made with the VX and he was pretty shocked that we were using all the VX’s logos and stuff without Sony’s permission.
Did the people at Sony like it or hate it?
They weren’t mad but they weren’t really happy either. So in the opening for Lenz III, we took out the Sony logos and replaced them with TBPR (Tightbooth Production) instead.
“We went through maybe 30 or 40 VX1000s to make this video.”
How did you fund the video over the span of nine years?
The money came from making and selling clothing, and then we use that money to make the skate video. Just doing skate videos, we’re not going to make money, so we need to make and sell the clothing to keep making the skate videos. We had a few sponsors for the premieres, but the video is all Tightbooth money.
Did Nike give you any money to add that Yuto Horigome clip in the vid?
[Laughs] No, no pay from Nike.
If an energy drink company told you that they’d help fund the video but you had to wear their logo on your beanie, would you do it?
I think you can tell just by looking at me but, I don’t have any logos anywhere. No logos [laughs].
Do you think skateboarding drives fashion or do you think fashion drives skateboarding?
No question, skateboarders influence fashion. I think skaters are the most fashionable people. Skaters create new items specifically for skating – it’s a kind of art. Skaters definitely are influencing fashion. I think people should just wear what they like. I make and wear what I like. I don’t really think about what other people are wearing anymore.
Let’s say Louis Vuitton or another top fashion brand hit you up. What would be your quick pitch to them?
To make a Louie Vuitton skate plaza. When Gucci approached me about collaborating, we started with talks about making a skate section. If I was going to do something in that world I wanted it to be something that could give back to skaters.
There were some problems with that project, so the skate sections never got made, but if another offer like that came I’d say make a skate plaza.
What’s changed over the last decade in Japanese skateboarding?
The younger skaters are absolutely ripping. That’s why the video took nine years! We waited nine years for this new generation of skaters.
There are some really young kids in the video. Do you ever feel kind of fucked up for filming a ten-year-old eat shit over and over again? Is there ever a moment where you say “fuck, this is wrong”?
I’m not filming any ten-year-olds besides Kotora. His parents are super supportive of his skating and said, “Whatever happens, happens, just make it look good.” His parents are really supportive that way. And because he’s so young, when we go skating late at night, we have a guardian permission slip from his parents so the cops won’t pick him up. His parents saw the video, and his mom cried. Most of the skaters with full parts had their parents at the premiere.
“I do have a friend who recently got fined $20,000 for skating in Tokyo.”
Did anyone get arrested while you guys were filming or get any tickets or anything like that?
There were a lot of run-ins with cops but it didn’t get to the point where we had to pay money. I do have a friend who recently got fined $20,000 for skating in Tokyo. But it’s not just Tokyo. All of Japan is crazy. You can just be holding a skateboard and if they see it on the security camera, the security guy will come. At most of the spots, you can only get about two tries in.
Don’t come to Japan! I want to leave Japan! I want to check out Barcelona. New York and London are great too.
Do you think there needs to be any more skate parks in Tokyo?
That’s a hard question – if there are more parks it’s gonna get even harder to skate street. Japanese people are really very negative towards skateboarding. The older you get the more it leaves a bad impression. Something funny – after the Olympics – I was out skating street and someone came up and said, “You guys skating out here in the street is causing trouble for the Olympic athletes so stop skating out here!”
What do you want people to take away from this video, and what did it mean to you to make it?
In Japan, we look at American skating as if it were a textbook. I wanted us to make something as cool as that [American skating]. On top of that, I wanted to show these spots that are only in Japan and also the Japanese way of skating these spots. The VX and MK1 fisheye is the best combo, so no matter what, I wanted to make something cool with that. Also, the soundtrack was all made by people close by and friends. I wanted to make this whole thing just within our community.
“Making a 90-minute skate video will make you go crazy.”
What’s next for Tightbooth?
It’s hard to think of because we just finished this big project but I wanna go to different countries and film some short clips. And I’ll say this – we’re not making a Lenz IV! Making a 90-minute skate video will make you go crazy.
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