Spikes Take On Things

First things first. Id never really thought aboutinterviewing skateboardings legendary photographer, filmer,director, and editor Spike Jonzefor whatever reason, it had neverreally crossed my mind. But it happened, and it happenedeffortlessly on my part because I didnt have to go to SpikeSpikecame to me. Well, actually his publicist did.

Okay, it was one of his publicists for ColumbiaPictures, hoping I could hook up some sort of publicity for Spikesupcoming film, Adaptations, to be released in December. Thepublicist said he was calling on behalf of Spike, who really likesTransWorld SKATEboarding, and wanted to invite all of thestaff of the skate magazine to a screening of the film.

I ended up missing the screening because I got stuck intraffic, but thats another story. After a string of phone calls, e-mails, and relatively frustrated apologies, I was able to swing atelephone interview. Then I had to determine what the hell I wantedto ask Spike. Fortunately, TransWorld filmer Jon Hollandbrainstormed questions to ask.

I think where the interview occurred is pretty funny: Spikecalled me from his cell phone on his way to the airport to catch aflight to Tokyo. I was enroute to a wedding in the Middle-Of-Nowhere, Arizona.

Here is Spike Jones uncutas interviewed through thepower and glory of cellular-telephone technology from Room 628 atthe Clarion Hotel in downtown Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday,September 21, 2002.Saba Haider

Considering youre both in the same industry, doyou think youll ever work with Jason Lee again?

Probably. It would be fun to. Back when we did the Blindvideo, we used to make short skits with the video camera, and Ithink it would be fun to (work with him again). Its cool to see himdoing so well. It was cool to see him in Almost Famous. I thought hewas really good in that, and every movie I see him in it seems thathes getting better and better.

How did making skate videos build a foundation forwhat you do in Hollywood?

Uh, lets see. With skateboard videos I coordinated itallproduced it, shot it, edited it, basically I did everything. I thinkthat knowing that you could make anything happen is prettyliberating. Working with people like Mark Gonzales was amazing.When he had an idea, hed just go do it. Anythings possible, and Iguess that always stuck with me.

Do you read TransWorld SKATEboarding?

I try. I pick it up on the newsstand whenever I see it. Itshuge now, and its so crazy that skateboarding is so huge now. WhenI worked at TWS, it (the magazine) was in its thin daysI think itwas like a hundred pages back then.

Its about 500 pages now.

Is it really over 500 pages? Back then it was very tough toget your photos in the magazine because it was so thin. There wereso many great photographers and such a limited amount of space torun the photos.

How come you never mention TransWorldSKATEboarding magazine in your interviews?

I do when I dont know. I guess Ill have to is that true?I find that hard to believe. Well, if thats true, then I guess I betterget my act together.

How has growing up around cameras shaped you asa filmer, editor, and director?

I guess Ive always been into taking pictures and shootingon video. I was never afraid to pick up the camera, shoot stuff, andmake mistakes. And thats how I learned the most, by makingmistakes and trying to figure out what I did wrong. I guess thatsprobably a good thing.

Is pro skateboarding a fast track to Hollywood? Issomeone better off making skate videos than going to filmschool?

I dont know. I saw Steve Berra the other nighthe seemsto be doing really well. He just wrote a script, and a lot of peopleseem to be interested in making it. And Jasons doing really well. Idont know if its better than film school for me.

I know I definitely got a lot of experience when I wasshooting skateboard videos. I never thought of it as leading toanywhere else. I learned a lot as I was doing it, and it was reallyexciting. I had a lot of fungetting to skate every day with Jason,Mark (Gonzales), Guy (Mariano), and Rudy (Johnson). At the time,it was getting to skate with people I liked, and I loved that.

Do you still skate at all?

I skate a little bit. Not enough, but Id like to. Girl(Skateboards) has a park, and I was going down there a bit when itfirst started. If I skate, its with my brother Sam, or Rick Howard, orsometimes with Jeff Tremaine. But I should be skating more.

Youre currently working on the Girl video. Whataspects of the video are you working on?

Ty (Evans) and Rick (Howard) and everybody have beenshooting the skating for a while now. I think were getting close tofinishing. I usually just help out on the stuff that goes between theskate parts. Less narrative and more little mood pieces. Like theMouse video, I guess. We did one shoot maybe a couple of monthsago, and its maybe going to be a heavy visual-effects piece.Unfortunately, we havent even started the effects. When I get backin October were going to shoot some more stuff.

How much of your time is that taking?

Time? I dont know. We havent really gotten that into it.Well do about five or six shorts, and each one takes a few days. Werent film cameras and do it all in a few days, as opposed to goingout and filming skateboarding every day and some days not evengetting anything.

The last skate video you played a part in was 1999sChocolate video. What was your involvement in thatvideo?

That video, Rick (Howard) and I figured that stuff out. I didthe story part with him with the guys on tour, and also the old menat the nursing home. I helped edit it, and I worked on the stuff thatgoes on between the skate parts, which is basically the way it hasbeen on all the Girl videos.

Whats more important, filming style or editingstyle?

Im not sure. I think they both go together. I think whenyou look at somebody who does it well, like Tys (Evans) stuff, thefilming and editing are all one aestheticso theyre all related.

Which do you prefer, filming actors orskateboarders?

I dont think that I prefer either. Its always fun. Sometimesits hard, but I enjoy both things. Shooting skate videosa lot of itcould be fun, trying to get everyone together, and finding a spot.You pick up someone at their house, and then they go pick up theirfriend, then someone needs griptape, and then someones hungry,then you finally get to a spot, and then you get kicked out beforeanyone actually lands anything. So days could go by without gettinganything usable. But on the other hand, while it may be more time-consuming than shooting actors, it could also be fun. With movies,too, in terms of movies you could be having a lot of fun shootingsomething, but there are times that it gets really stressful.

Of the projects youve worked on over the years,which have you found to be most inspiring orstimulating?

Its hard to say. Its hard to put preferences on them. Thetwo movies Ive done have probably been the hardest. I just finisheda movie called Adaptation that comes out in December. Ive beenworking with Charlie (Kaufman) the writer on it for about threeyears. Youve got to keep plugging away at it, and thats probably thehardest thing.

Im not sure about how much you followskateboarding now, but do you recognize any up-and-coming talent among skateboardings filmers today youreckon could make it in Hollywood?

I thought the Flip video was really well done. I dont knowwho shot it, though. Tys stuff is always really good. Im a little outof it, though.

Photographers?

Again, I dont know them, so the names dont stick withme, but the photography in TWS is amazing. And its gotten a lotbetter. Of course, there are all the guys from before, like (Dan)Sturt and O (Barthoulameu) and Grant (Brittain) who are all great,but I think nowadays it looks more varied. When I look backthrough my photos, everythin
g looks the same, and nowadays thingslook more varied than everything I shot.

How about any skateboarders you reckon couldpursue a successful career in acting?

I guess the guys I know. Rick (Howard) obviously is veryfunny, and Mike Carroll is really good. In the Mouse video he wasreally good. As an old man he was great in front of thecamerareally funny with ad-libbing and everything.

Ive always loved filming Mark Gonzales, and Ive done acouple of short films with him. He is totally unique in his ownperson. Keenan Milton was a really great actor. He was always reallyalive in front of the camera, and I always wanted to film him. StevieWilliams also has a lot of swagger and charm.