Sébastien Abes about the double award winning skateboard movie Indonesi'am. Interview by Xavier Lannes.
When you think skateboarding, you think about California or New York or Skatepark of Tampa, hopefully Europe. Ultimately, China is coming up with a strong scene, so strong that even Woodward has decided to set foot and plant a park other there. But you never go to Indonesia to skate!
Well, that’s what Sébastien Abes and his acolytes at Anagram Skateboard have done.
The result is a 25mn movie that won several skateboarding awards. They were crowned by Element Skateboard as the “Best Full Length Film” and by The Skateboard Film Festival as the “Best International Skateboard Movie”. The Skateboard Film Festival is a collaborative effort by some of the industry’s most respected entrepreneurs, filmmakers, photographers, and skateboarders. It was brought about to promote independent film making in the skateboard community at large.
It is open to the entire public by way of video submissions, and there will be several categories by which each film maker can submit his or her video short or full-length movie. Videos are carefully selected by a panel of judges and some 40-60 will be shown during the film festival weekend. You should go and see the movie below, it is definitely refreshing. Plus, now that it is the rainy season everywhere in skateboardlandia, that’s a good time to see free fresh quality movies over the internet. If you like the movie, do not forget to post a message at the bottom of the blog for Sébastien, I sure will forward him all encouragements and critics alike.
The interview was done in French and then translated into English. For the French, the purists or the braggers, the French text will be available in a couple of days... In this interview, Sébastien talks about how hard it was to find spots in Indonesia and how they were about to be devoured by hungry alligators while skateboarding. BTW, I don’t think that Mark Rogovski ever skated in Indonesia, but you never know with those reptiles…
Here is the movie:
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Sébastien, Do you work in the skate industry?
I have been doing skateboard for about 20 years, I love that. I have also worked in video for the past 8 years. I shoot, I create video skins, I edit, I am a director and so, I am interested in shooting skate movies from my own perspective. That is my personal project. I also work for skateboard brands. People ask me to shoot in a particular way and I don’t add my personality. I also like shooting stuff outside skateboard, like in fashion, but I am much more into skateboarding. I have realized clips for Reef, Quiksilver, Laird Hamilton and Jart Skateboards; they produce their boards in Europe. I live close to Biarritz which is a crossroad for surfers, so it is easy to catch them and produce a surf video.
How did you prepare for the Indonesian film?
I got hooked up with my buddies at Anagram Skateboard, they offered me to do a skateboard movie in Indonesia and I accepted. Going to Indonesia to do a skateboard movie is something quite odd because usually people go where the infrastructure is, where the spots are. But we decided to go and meet the locals to see if it was possible to find skate spots over there and to do something original with nice images and especially to show the contrast between the European and the Indonesian culture.
What is Anagram Skateboard?
That’s a French Skateboard Company from the Gers but we met in the Basque county. We got along pretty well because they have a vision of the skateboard culture which is very original: they try to do things differently, to create and that was what I liked about them and what pushed me to work with them. At first Anagram was very local, but now they are pretty well know in France. They have a strong team and a positive way to do things. They manufacture their boards in Canada and not in China and that shows how serious they are about quality.
How did you finance the operation?
I got a deal with the company I worked for and they produced the movie. I took vacations. We pooled all resources with the skaters that had sponsors so we could pay for the plane tickets. Anagram Skateboard could only help with the missing funds because they do not have a big market and they could not pay for the whole operation. But at the end, we juggled with the money and everything worked out fine.
What is Lonesome Star Entertainment?
That’s the company I was working for. It still exists, but two years ago, I quit to creating Smogfilms my own company with three partners and now we are trying to make the company run with our own resources. Lonesome Star is working in the Surf business in particular and in all boardsports in general. My boss, Bruno Débauché, let me go to do the movie and I returned with a completed film.
How many of you were involved in that Indonesian trip?
We were 6 skaters: Niels Inne, Bastien Duverdier, Benoit Stevenot, Ludovic Massonau, Jean Matthieu Vincent who is Canadian and Romain Jorda….. There was also Kevin Metallier, a photographer and three people from Anagram. We went there because Anagram had a contact, a Frenchy who has double nationality and who could help us organize everything. He showed us the best spots, the places where we could skate he brought us to Bali, he organized everything.
Is he living in Bali or Jakarta?
Guillaume lives in Bali. His father is French and his mother is Indonesian but he moves all the time between Bali and Jakarta because his parents live in Jakarta.
Is Guillaume the one with the awesome skatepark in Bali?
That’s him and his brother, but the skatepark does not exist anymore. The place belonged to the city and they had to give it back.
Does Guillaume still live in Indonesia?
Yes, both him and his brother still live in Bali. They are trying to set-up a skate brand. They are as active as ever in the Indonesian skateboard business.
How long did you stay in Indonesia?
We stayed a total of one month in Indonesia and 6 days in Bali. That was what was needed because it was hard to find spots and in the movie, I explain why there are so few tricks scenes…
Yeah! You got into trouble with local police!
When you go into a new country that you know nothing about, you don’t know how people will react. Fortunately, we got help from local skaters. Sometimes we had to give money to local enforcement and they let us skate and sometimes we did not quite know how to handle it, so it was kinda hard . On top of that, there was the harassing heat and the nasty weather which does not help for skating and finally, we had to move from one spot to another all the time and that’s like mission impossible because you take the cab and there’s traffic everywhere and it takes forever. That’s a pain.
More trouble apart from the cops?
Indonesia is a Muslim country but we did not run into any kind of extremism. Of course, we saw people with the Hijab, but most of them were up to date, very modern, some chicks were even wearing mini skirts.
Is there an extended skate scene in Indonesia?
You can’t say that there are a lot of skaters, but that’s because of the way the Indonesian society is divided. You have a lot of very poor people and some affluent people. No middle class. All the skaters are coming from rich parents because they are the only ones that can afford to buy a skateboard. Curiously, there are a lot of skate shops. We even went to a contest not only with people from Indonesia, but with other people from all over the world. So, yes, there are skaters, but they don’t have the same level as the Europeans, and we Europeans don’t have the same level as the Americans. But I was really happy to see that the skateboard scene is thriving and buoyant.
What was the material you used to shoot the movie?
A Panasonic HGX200, like Ty Evans and a mini 35 which is an adapter where you can put different kinds of lenses and therefore have the same focus as in a movie. The adapter makes really nice images.
In the movie, there is a special dedication to the beauty of the image and that makes it totally different from any other skateboard film and therefore, very interesting. On top of that, what I liked is the fact that you are relating a story… We are used to see skate videos where there is no storyline, where there are only tricks and I am not saying that’s bad, but it’s just that it is only for certain kind of people. That is very true that my purpose was to do a nice movie in a foreign country with beautiful images…
You definitely have you own way when it comes to color processing. That is magnificent. Are the colors in you movie natural or do you have some kind of treatment or editing secret?
That’s the editing! I always try to do this when I edit my movies. I try to homogenize all my clips’ images so that, for example when there is a beautiful prevailing orange there should not be a dominant blue after that. I like that uniformity and a certain picture environment so the images have a soul, because when you mix beautiful images with beautiful music, it gives you a special emotion. That’s what I like to do: to really give a soul by itself to the editing and the images that I treat.
Is it that image treatment that gives its authentic cachet to the movie?
That’s the way I shoot it. I used a maladroit kind of filming…
But it’s done on purpose; it’s filmed like a voyeur…
Yes, it’s done on purpose. For example, I use odd angles, I take cover, I use free hand and at the end that gives a special style to the movie. The spectator is like a witness. You are here, you witness the scene but you are not into it, you are detached from the action.
There is an amazing scene in Bali, in an old attraction park…
This place was truly amazing. To go there, we had to take the cab for 45mn. The park is close to the beach but it is so forlorn that we had the impression to have landed in a no man’s land, we felt like Indiana Jones. There were abandoned temples everywhere, like a lost city that once hosted a great civilization. So, we skate everywhere to try to find spots and suddenly, we hit dozens of crocodiles. Suddenly we were tripping, because we were skating on top of an unstable bridge about to fall and down below were blood and crocodiles everywhere. We had no idea where the crocodiles were coming from, but they were alive and kicking.
How many hours do you have in stock?
A lot! I shoot whatever I can: the surroundings, the trips in the cabs, people around the skaters. I try to have a lot so I have a lot of choice and then I edit my movies like a jigsaw puzzle but to do that you need to shoot a lot, so I have gigas of hour of skate.
Do you shoot in analogue?
I would like to shoot with films but it is too expensive. I’m used to work in digital so that’s what I will keep on doing. I don’t have enough money to use films, maybe Super-8, but there’s not a lot of things you can do in Super-8. You can’t shoot a good trick in Super-8.
How did you learn about the Skateboard Film Festival?
A friend gave me the link, I looked at it and I though it was very interesting, especially the fact that there was a lot of different movies coming from so many different countries. I think doing festival like this is an excellent idea it helps people to evolve.
You won the Best International?
Yes, what was interesting in that festival was all the categories : the films had to fit into one of the 7 categories, sponsor me (5 minutes maximum), shop video (15 minutes minimum), feature film
(over 20 minutes), creative short (under 20 minutes), documentary (any length) and finally International (any length). There is also something called wild card which is a 30 seconds maximum commercial of any favorite skateboard company containing these 3 props: cell phone, car and a tree. At the end, I am happy I won the best International award; it is a recognition in the skate business.
What did the award bring you?
Just something to add to my resume, it did not bring me more. Only a couple of people like you contacted me. I did not have anyone asking me to come and work for them. But I definitely loved the award and it is definitely a recognition and an incentive to keep doing new films.
You live in Bayonne (close to Biarritz), in the Basque County in France, how is the skate scene over there?
We have skate parks, but not the one we would like to have. The Cote Basque is the French California. There are a lot of companies from the skate and surf industries, we have Volcom, Element, Quiksilver etc… so there should be more skate infrastructure but there’s really nothing top notch. Those companies have their own private mini ramp and they often do private parties but that’s it. What are missing are the street spots. When we want to skate we have to go to Spain. They actually are building a nice skatepark in Irun, on the Spanish side of the border
The last word?
This movie is really the one I enjoyed most to do. When I watch it, I see it has a soul. It is a movie that defines me. I would like to do another one with Anagram Skateboards, but going in another country where there is no skate at all…