A Conversation with William Strobeck on Supreme’s “cherry”
In the months leading up to cherry, the general populous was surprised that Supreme would bother with making a skate video. After all, this area of the Internet is likely more familiar with the brand as a fashion outpost influenced by skateboarding rather than a place to buy decks or bearings. In the wake of the film’s release though, it’s easy to see just how much Supreme fits in. Or maybe it stands out; if ever there was a video that would shift perceptions and create new opinions about skateboarding, right now, in 2014, it has to be cherry.
It’s a bit ironic that of all the anticipated full-length video releases over the past few years, Supreme’s offering is, for once, the least exclusive. Directed and captained by none other than William Strobeck, the film has a way of capturing relatable subtleties of skating, yet does its best to champion the people – some skaters, some outsiders – that make street skating and city life so interesting. We were given the opportunity to interview Strobeck as he returned from traveling to promote the film, where the filmmaker detailed his decisions in editing, filming with Paulo Diaz, and his plans for the future. Enjoy the conversation below, and be sure to pick up cherry on iTunes if you haven’t already.
How does it feel to have cherry, your first full-length video finished?
[It] feels good, my heart is full. The feedback has been beyond positive [and I’ve] been getting hit up everyday by people about it.
Did you notice any way that the different crowds reacted at each premiere?
Yeah, [they were] all different, I liked that. A lot of people reacted to the same stuff in the video.
In Japan I had a translator, which was interesting. I’d talk, then the translator would talk… then the crowd would laugh. Pretty funny, I liked it. Overall it was positive, and [it] seemed liked everyone loved the video, so that’s great.
What’s the culture of filming like in Los Angeles versus New York? Which do you prefer?
I prefer NY just because I like to skate down the street. If I wanna stop for a [second] and get water or something, it’s on every corner. I prefer the scenery in NY as well. With L.A., if [you’re] with the right person at the right spot, it’s equally as good I guess. Also: you just get more done in L.A. in a quicker amount of time. [I’m] very productive in LA.
Did you work with any contributing filmers for the video?
Overall, I filmed most of it. But yeah, there were times when I couldn’t be in L.A. and was filming in NY, so I had a few people go out for me a lil’ bit. [The person] who helped the most was Logan Lara.
Was it tough streamlining such an eclectic group of dudes in the same video, especially considering your mention of cherry prominently highlighting personalities? Did that affect your choice to divide the video into sections rather than individual parts?
No, the reason why it’s a scramble of footage is [that] I really like to see clips next to certain other clips – like in a certain spot – and when editing to music, it becomes even more noticeable where something belongs or fits.
Like for example: Sage comes in and out of the video all the way through. It’s like one long video part, he isn’t just at the section (some might say) is the “kids” section. I really just think it’s one long video part from beginning to end for everyone in it – that’s how I look at it. I made it hoping people would watch it like a movie from start to finish.
What prompted you to include that clip of Anthony Pappalardo and that other gentleman on Water Street? That seemed like a pretty polarizing clip and it seems like people have hung onto that one a bit.
That clip got a funny reaction at every showing of the video. It’s really 30 minutes long, I just took 20 seconds of it. You see how Anthony and I are talking in that section? That’s how we act with people in general, basically because it entertains us. That guy just happened to be in Downtown Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy, so [the area] was empty – no one was around. He ran into us and asked us to smoke weed, so the clip just unraveled from there. Call us dicks for it, but that was real life – that really happened. I was just documenting it.
That dude was trippy: he took a Greyhound across the country to meet a girl he met online, who ended up not answering when he got to town. He was into Evanescence (the band) and was involved with World of Warcraft. Those are the type of people you’ll meet lurking around New York City, and I wanted to show that other side of skating.
I was reading your interview with Quartersnacks and you mentioned that Supreme has “a kind of fashion vibe to it.” Do you perceive Supreme as a skateboarding brand making a skate video or something else entirely? Not that all brands should be ‘boxed in’ per se…
I think of Supreme as its own entity. It’s just such a strong solid company that has stuck to its guns since day one. It is a skate shop overall but I don’t look at it as just that. It’s a bunch of things mixed together and presented in the right way… always has been.
Who did you end up filming with the most for the video? Did you get to film enough with everyone that you wanted?
Yeah, I got to film enough. I would’ve pushed the deadline [back] if I didn’t feel comfortable with the footage I was sitting on. I got to a certain [point] and I was like: okay, I think I got it, it’s a wrap.
I think I ended up filming with Tyshawn Jones the most, or if anything he was out skating with me the most… even if we weren’t filming. The courthouse [on Centre Street] is such a bust that it’s hard to get stuff done. We had to go there a lot during this video, [but] he did a good job.
Was there ever a conversation about involving other people in the Supreme family? They have a store in London, and a bunch of stores in Japan – both of which have renowned skate scenes.
Yes. I wanted to include everyone, but I was so focused on everyone here [in the U.S.] that I couldn’t travel overseas. I asked the London kids to film and send [the footage], but it didn’t pan out. Also I didn’t want the video too long. If I had got some stuff, I [would’ve] put it in. Lucien Clarke came to New York, so he made it in.
On that note, what was the process of filming with Paulo Diaz like? That segment really cemented the raw and organic vibe that cherry seemed in pursuit of.
Yeah, he’s definitely fitting for sure. [He’s] just one of my favorite skaters ever. The story about him being in the video is: I had heard he was coming around the L.A. shop a bit here and there. So, I asked [Jason] Dill if he’d try to get Paulo to film something for the video; I was in New York at the time. Then, I went out there for the winter and met Paulo. He was just down to go out: I’d go pick him up, bring him boards and shoes from Supreme, and he’d just be so psyched to skate. It’s like he was waiting the whole time to film for cherry. I [would] suggest things and he’d do them, he was down to be around and I wanted to document every moment. I had a lot of fun with Paulo.
It seems like this video was being filmed for a while, and I’m assuming that most of the main skaters involved were pretty productive. Is there leftover footage to go to other projects, e.g. Bianca Chandon or Fucking Awesome?
There is a little of leftover footage, but I think I didn’t use it for a reason. I used all the stuff [that] I felt strongly about for cherry. [There’s] no need to just spit out more stuff since the final project is out.
What was the spot searching process like? How would you describe the split between you and the skater suggesting spots?
A lot of these people are good at finding spots they felt were appealing to the eye, and more importantly, wanted to skate. I would suggest tricks sometimes and really work with the person on trying to get what I thought was best for the video. It was a real collaboration for sure. For example: I told Paulo to do the manual airwalk, and to nollie [over] the homeless lady. He did it and I love those clips a lot, it’s what I wanted to see him doing in the video.
Would you ever do another full-length skate video or do you see skateboarding as necessarily moving away from that?
I would, I think. I think it’s important that kids get DVDs, hard copies, still. Companies should keep making [videos in] that style. It’s nice to have something to hold, collect and look at. Skateboarding is moving away from that, doing stuff online – every day, all day. It’s so disposable, [it] seems like no one cares about the art of it. Everyone puts so much work into a full length, just to put it online? I guess exposure is good for a company, but I feel like I wanna hide work now. [I’d rather people say] like: “did you find a copy of that video,” “do you own a copy,” or “can I come over and watch it?” That’s the style I’m going for.
Also: one day, I will make a full-length non-skate movie. I got the itch.
As far as your portfolio is concerned: you seem like a person with a bunch of endeavors; invested in other interests outside of skateboarding. Moving from cherry, do you want to focus on more “core” skating cinematography or something else?
I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and following my heart and working with the people that I’m down for and that I like. It’s funny, more than once people in my family are always like: “you should shoot the X-Games, there’s a lot of money involved.”
I mean, can you really see me shooting that? Hell no, I’m looking at this from an artist’s standpoint, as this is the work that I’ll be leaving behind. [This is] for people to see when I’m gone; what people will have known me for. I’m hyped cherry is in there now and not an X-Games reel. Basically, you are what you leave behind.