We interviewed Ty Evans at length for issue #121, but due to space constraints, we couldn’t fit the entire interview in The Mag. With that said, we’d like to present you with the full-length transcript of the interview — along with a full-screen gallery and a few extra photos — for your reading and viewing pleasure.
You’re in a crazy place.
Yup, I’m in Kabul, Afghanistan, right now.
How crazy is it?
Definitely gnarly, for sure. Feels really raw. Life’s pretty hard here, but I think people are trying to make it better.
Are you visiting there through Skatistan?
Yeah. I want to involve a skateboarder from Afghanistan in my film, so I came out here to hang with the Skatistan guys and try to figure out what’s even possible.
Are they your guides? Are they helping you navigate and get around and telling you what to do and what not to do?
Yeah. These dudes have been helping me a ton. I contacted [Skatistan founder] Oliver [Percovich]. He’s not here right now, but Brandon Gomez is here and in charge and he’s been amazing with helping orchestrate everything. It’s been amazing, man. It’s been a life-changing experience. I never thought I’d be coming to a place like this for skateboarding.
Let’s talk about the film you’re working on. Almost right after you finished Pretty Sweet you jumped into this Brainfarm project. After filming and editing for five years, why not take a break?
I did take a short break like right after Pretty Sweet, but then we did this Red Bull commercial with Sheckler and basically a bunch of the [Brainfarm] gear was out here in LA, so I had a chance to grab it all and go out with a bunch of the guys for like a week. I went out with like P-Rod, Torey [Pudwill], [Sean] Malto, Nyjah [Huston], and just kinda shot a bunch of stuff. It was pretty hard ’cause it was raining every day and it was a lot to take in to learn all this stuff. But those dudes were super patient and stoked to come out and be a part of this new project.
What’s the working title?
The working title has some issues. But the idea of the film is the connections within skateboarding and showing how all these different skateboarders around the world are the same. I would love to have the title reflect that.
You mentioned the gear. And in talking to you in the past, that was a big factor for you wanting to start this project—access to all this stuff. When you talk about the gear, what’s different in shooting this project with Brainfarm, gearwise, than Pretty Sweet and Fully Flared?
With those videos, we just used the standard stuff you use to film skateboarding. And what’s great about this project, now that I’ve signed on with Brainfarm, is that I have access to really amazing tools, whether it be remote control helicopters with cameras on them to full-size helicopters that you get inside and fly around in with a camera system—all the latest and greatest stuff that’s out there to use. What Brainfarm wants to accomplish is pushing the boundaries of filmmaking and that’s what I want to accomplish as well. Doing something new and bringing something new to the table. I think that’s what this whole past year has been—access to all this amazing gear. And it’s definitely hard because you need to be on the same level as the skater and understand what’s going on in their head, and if you’re using all this new equipment you need to know how to film it correctly and do it fast and proficiently. You could have the most insane, expensive piece of equipment, but if you’re stopping every five minutes to figure something out or fix something, it defeats the purpose. Some of those things with gear problems … a five-minute wait can turn into like an hour. If you do that you’re dead in the water. All this stuff I’ve tried to strip down and make as simple as possible, as fast as possible, and proficient as possible.
It seems like when skaters start working with new things, they change it. They figure out a way to make what’s out there work for them. I know you’re working with these giant Red cameras and maybe a Phantom and some stuff I don’t even know about—custom equipment. Is there stuff you’ve had to do and fabricate and build to make this gear work better for you and for skateboarding?
Yeah. It’s not just skateboarding or me. Everyone kind of tailors their equipment to what fits them best and to what they’re filming. One of the main things I’ve been filming with is called the Cineflex Camera System. It’s a camera that’s in a ball that has a bunch of gyros stabilizing it. That’s what you usually see underneath a helicopter. We had my buddy make a mount so it can attach to the front or back of my truck. And I’ve been driving around shooting with that. It looks insane. There are all these tools that open up new doors. I went to SF, hooked up with a bunch of skaters up there, and shot guys bombing hills, doing tricks in the hills. I’ve never been able to film like that before—having a stabilized long-lens camera and then going as fast as you want, wherever you want. Down a hill or not down a hill. It’s a different dynamic using some of these tools to film stuff in a different way. It’s pretty cool, man.
In that instance, is there someone driving and someone operating the camera?
Someone’s driving and I’ll be op-ing the camera while sitting shotgun. It’s super fun, man. It feels like a video game or something.
Who are the main heads that are involved, skatingwise?
P-Rod has been the main skater involved in it. It’s been great. He’s been going out with me a ton. The film isn’t a Paul Rodriguez film, but it’s definitely skateboarding through Paul’s eyes. There are plenty of other people who are in the film as well. I’ve been going out with a bunch of different guys: Sean Malto, Shane O’Neill, Torey Pudwill … I want to have every type of skateboarder in the film. It’s almost like back in the day when I used to do the TransWorld videos, and we’d have a select group of guys who we’d pick for these films who would usually never skate together. It was pretty cool grabbing guys who normally don’t skate together and pulling them out on sessions.
You said Paul was the main focus, but it’s not a Paul movie. Will we see the traditional three-minute parts from people, or will this follow some other format?
Definitely no three-minute parts. It’s more about these individuals in skateboarding and the stories that go along with them and the locations that go along with them. But there will definitely be sections of the film that have a ton of skateboarding in them.
Other than equipment and budget, what has working through Brainfarm allowed you to do that you couldn’t have done on your own?
Well, I know you said just equipment and budget, but that is really, really important—what they are bringing to the table with that.
Some people believe that this equipment just materializes somehow and everyone has access to everything they want, but that’s not the case, is it?
No. Let’s be realistic, 99.9 percent of skateboarding films have always been shot with the same cameras over the years. Back in the 90s it was the Canon A-1. Then after that—toward the late 90s and early 2000s—it was the VX 1000. And the last five or so years it’s been the HVX 200. HD cameras, you know? All those cameras were a couple thousand dollars, and people could purchase those themselves. Now we’re stepping into this world with these really high-end cameras that are insane, ludicrous amounts of money. In order to have access to those kinds of cameras, you need a lot of money or some kind of backing. With Pretty Sweet, I was able to use some of those [high-end] cameras, but a lot of that was just through friends who happened to have the cameras and were kind enough to let me borrow them. As a favor, you know? Going into this film, I have access to all these tools that I’ve always wanted to use. Any of the newest camera equipment, we have access to. Brainfarm and I have relationships with a lot of people who are pushing these new technologies, and they want to get it out there and into our hands, which is awesome.
I know you asked what else do they bring to the table besides the gear, but just to be able to have that is insane. And that’s one part of the equation. The second part, with skateboarding films, is that you can only get them seen by so many people. You make a film for a company and it’s most likely gonna be sold through skateshops and sold online through iTunes, and that’s it. But I’ve always been in the mindset where I would love for skate films to be seen by as many people as possible and thus grow skateboarding. I think Brainfarm has that same idea. They want as many people as possible to see the film that we make. The reach of this film will be a lot broader than any of the films I’ve done in the past. That’s another one of the great things that Brainfarm brings to the table.
Is there something Brainfarm has done that might be a good example of what to expect?
They’ve done other films and commercial work in the past. But their big main film was Art Of Flight, which is a snowboarding film that I’m a huge fan of. I’m an avid snowboarder and I love watching that film. But I think this film is going to be totally different than Art Of Flight. I know there are a million people out there who say they’re making the Art Of Flight of skateboarding, but this film is not the Art Of Flight of skateboarding.
I like the idea of delivering this work to a wider audience. Are there things you’ve run into through that direction where you’ve thought, “That would be the wrong way to go. That would be too mainstream and we have to keep this thing more skate.” Or are you just relying on the storytelling to do that for you?
I think it’s a slippery slope. It’s a give and take. How much do you want to give in order to reach that ultimate goal? You go with the flow, and you choose your battles. This whole last year has been me learning how to use all these cameras and getting the ball rolling. And now the film is really starting to happen. As of now, everything’s working out great.
You mentioned the real connection between skaters everywhere and that being the lynchpin that’s holding the film together. What have you found out? I mean, I know we have a feeling that we’re all connected, but what are some of the things that you see connecting people in, say, Santa Monica to people in Afghanistan?
I’m discovering stuff as I go along, but we all know about that common bond we share. You meet a dude who works behind the counter in a liquor store, and he says, “Hey, I used to skate.” And you have that instant bond like you know each other. Showing that is definitely challenging. I’m trying to figure it out as I go. It’s gonna be hard, but I would love to be able to show that connection, tell some stories, and also show some amazing skateboarding.
The storytelling part is something I’ve heard you mention a few times. There have been little bits and pieces of that in your videos, but there’s never really been a beginning-to-end arc. Is this another big learning curve for you, or do you feel like it’s something you’ve always had and you’ve just been trying to express somehow and this is a chance to do that?
This film has been in my head forever. But at the same time, there is a learning curve. I’m kinda learning a lot of this as I go. No one knows what this film is going to be until it’s finally done. We’re trying to take a more structured approach to this film. And it’s challenging to show some of that stuff. It’s easy to go film a bunch of skateboarding, throw in a song, add some slow-mo to some slow sections of the song and some fast stuff to the fast parts of the song, and call it a day. This is a bit more to dive into, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. Some of the films I’ve done in the past have had elements of that, but nothing of this scale.
Is there something you look to—your favorites—that you try to draw influence from?
Yeah and no. I’d like to make this thing our own genre. The best way to describe it would be an action sports film/documentary hybrid. Skateboarding is funny, man. Skateboarders don’t like change. They like their things exactly how they’re supposed to be. If you introduce anything new, they have a knee-jerk reaction to it. With skate films, these guys wrote the formula twenty-plus years ago and we’ve all been sticking by it. It’s hard to not stick to that formula.
We all have expectations about the way things are supposed to be. What strikes me, though, is that when Stacy Peralta and Craig Stecyk were making those first skate films, they were working with equipment that no one had ever worked with, too. They created that skating-plus-music format but there was an arc to it. It seems like you might be in that same spot now—you’re doing something that hasn’t really been done before and working with gear that hasn’t been used too much for skateboard films yet. And the only way we can see that it’s happened before is with 25 years of hindsight.
It’s exciting, fun, scary, different, unpredictable … it’s all that stuff mashed into one. It’s been a cool ride so far. I didn’t really know what this was going to be like. I still don’t. I mean, I’m talking to you on Skype right now from the middle of Afghanistan. It’s crazy. A couple days ago I was up in a helicopter flying over Dubai looking for skate spots.
It feels special to be able to do this. I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to make these skate films for so long, and now it’s to a point where it’s still going and the scale of them is getting even bigger. It feels like skate films in general hit the ceiling years ago. It feels good to maybe be able to break through that ceiling.
Speaking of breaking through the ceiling, do you think the high-five count in this film will be higher than Pretty Sweet?
Definitely higher. It’s gonna be all high fives and no skateboarding. [Laughs] You know what’s funny? I don’t give a fuck what what anyone says about that shit. I might be dead tomorrow, but at least I fucking made Pretty Sweet. At least I made Fully Flared. At least I made that shit and it’s there on the books. I’m not making these films to satisfy every single skater out there because it’s not humanly possible. There are guys who like it, guys who don’t, and guys who don’t care. That’s it.
If you’re out there only looking for strong references to tie your work to, you end up following someone else’s path.
Absolutely. Everything’s a fucking remix. I guarantee when this film comes out, it’ll be dissected piece by piece … this is a copy of this and that’s a copy of that. People are fucking insane, man. Get it through your head. Everything’s a remix. There’s no such thing as originality.
If you decide to only stick with a certain catalog of music or if you stick to a certain format, it satisfies a lot of people because they think they know what a skateboard video is supposed to be, but that’s as far from original as you can get at this point. To do something new you have to challenge the audience a bit.
Absolutely. It’s so frustrating sometimes. People get so worked up over it and I don’t even care. It’s like some production company in Mexico did a commercial that was similar to Fully Flared and people were like, “Check this out! This is so gnarly!” It doesn’t make sense to me that people get so worked up over some of this stuff. It’s easier to sit there and criticize something than it is to go out there and do it yourself. Something like Pretty Sweet took five years of my life to make. I don’t know if those people think that I go out and film for a couple days and then go on vacation with my family or something. When I make these films, it’s like, I’m in the middle of China and seeing an email video of my kid taking his first steps. Every Saturday and Sunday I’m out filming because those are the days businesses are closed, but that’s also time I’m not with my wife and kid. I’m forty years old and I’m still doing this. I think it’s pretty funny that people get so worked up with all that shit. It’s like beyond easy to criticize something.
It’s good and bad, but I think that’s also a big part of what connects skaters to each other today. They have an opinion and they care a lot about this stuff.
Yeah. But people say that they want to see a raw skateboarding video. But what is your vision of raw? Is raw throwing a VX 1000 in your backpack and skating around all day? Well, guess what? I’ve been doing that for the last twenty years. Maybe you do that for twenty years and you can be raw. I don’t know. Who cares, man?
The heat’s been turned up, too, because everyone can hear everyone else talk today. But sometimes that voice seems a lot louder than it really is because of social media outlets and their ability to give voice to anonymous critics.
That’s just the world we live in now. I look over and all these motherfuckers are sitting at the goddamn lunch table with their phones out. We would go on tours and dudes would be sitting there, not talking to each other, but commenting to each other through Instagram. Shit is fucking crazy.
Are there some people who you’ve always wanted to shoot with but you haven’t been able to?
I’ve hit up some dudes and sometimes they’re kind of nervous. Like, “I don’t know if I can go out with you. I don’t know if I’m good anymore.” Or I’ve heard this one: “Oh, you only want gnarly tricks. Sorry, I can’t go out with you, bro.” That sucks.
Do you have to do a little bit of selling?
Totally. Dudes are hesitant. What is it? Is it going to be cool? Am I going to look wack in it? Is this thing gonna suck? I mean, I get where they’re coming from, but at the same time a lot of people have really stepped up to the plate and been stoked to be a part of it, which has been pretty rad. I know there have been dudes who were hesitant to go film with me, but they come out and we film something and I show it to them. Let’s say we film a trick on the Cineflex, and they’re just like, “Whoa! That looks really different than anything I’ve seen before. This is rad! Let’s go film. You want to go film tomorrow?” And that could be the same dude who was like, “I’m not filming with those crazy cameras.” There are dudes who are set in their ways when it comes to skating, and then there are dudes who are open minded. There are a ton of guys that I’ve been hitting up and I’ve been getting great response … I’ve gone out with a ton of people that I’ve never been skating with before, and it’s been awesome. And there are a lot of guys who I haven’t been skating with in years that I’ve been filming with again. It’s been cool. It’s had that energy that it’s something different than a normal skate film.
Is there stuff you’ve seen people working on in the last year or year and a half that you’ve been excited about?
Yeah! That Magenta SF edit with Ben Gore. I think it was all filmed VX 1000 fisheye. It was sick! It was them surfing the hills. That was fucking awesome! That thing was so sick, man. It’s funny. At a certain point, it doesn’t matter about all the gear and all that stuff. You know what I mean?
I would love to do another Chomp video. For that I really wouldn’t have any of the set rules I’ve had to follow for some of these other films. The type of video where you don’t have all the rules are so much easier to make. You can just go out and make a skate film.