90% of skaters consider the “Video Days” as their favorite video, but their second video is as good. As the first. It was a catalog of technical tricks for the modern days. A.V.E. called it his favorite skate video to watch before going skating during his Propeller part. Here is Socrate Leal, the creator with a legendary portfolio of skate videos, as he explains us the process of it.
Hey Socrates, tell me a bit about you, and your skateboarding background ?
I grew up in the suburbs of LA in an area known as the South Bay.
3.5 miles to the west is the ocean. 3.5 miles to the east is South Central. I started skating at 6 years old on a board my cousin made me.
For years I didn’t do much cuz I didn’t know much so I left it for a while.
Then in ’86 I saw a kid ollie for the first time. I was blown away and started skating again.
In ’88 I started competing in CASL (California Amateur Skateboard League) with my brother. He was better and won more comps.
I bought a video camera in 1990 to make movies. All my friends wanted to be on SK8 TV on Nickelodeon.
So I filmed them. Among them were Eric Ricks and Daewon Song.
Eric got on Powell and Daewon got sponsored by World and Rodney checked out my footage. In 92 I started filming for World.
The Blind guys used to hang out with the World guys back then. Then I met them and started filming them too.
“I also learned from Rodney who had experience in video making since the Powell days.”
As the first blind video « videodays », the promotional blind video « Tim’s & Henry, Pack of Lies » had a huge impact on the street skating in this period. What impact did it give you?
Well, Video Days had a big impact on me definitely. I remember wanting to film lines like they did.
I liked the idea of putting together difficult tricks in a line on video. As far as my personal skating style I gotta say I tried emulating the Gonz after that video.
I even tried being weird like him. I grew my hair out and wore the craziest gear I could come up with.
His vert skating also influenced me. I used to skate vert a lot back then.
But the way he used to flow down the street and have fun by seeming to do anything that came to his mind appealed to me the most.
I got to the point in my skating where trying to get better and learn tricks just to show off wasn’t my goal anymore.
I took that from Gonz’s style. My only problem is that I could never be at his level of talent.
So when I tried to free flow and do my own thing it looked more like I was covering up for my lack of tricks.
I just didn’t see the point in learning these hard tricks when I could have more fun cruising in and out of tricks that came easy to me.
And it was this fluidity of tricks filmed in lines that I wanted to film skaters do. I started to work with riders to come up with lines like that,
to show their individual styles by doing tricks that were easy for them all in one run on video. And they were into that too.
We all were into trying lines at that time. I think that video influenced us all the same way in that respect.
And even to this day I still skate like that. I like putting together tricks I already know how to do in a run as if I’m being filmed.
When I’m done I get the same satisfaction I would get if I beat myself up trying one difficult trick all day long except without all the stress.
Pack Of Lies was my first lesson in video making, filming, editing and audio work. The audio was horrible in that vid. I learned from that video.
I learned by making those mistakes. I also learned from Rodney who had experience in video making since the Powell days.
He knew so much about how kids would react to footage by which tricks to place first or last and what goes in the middle.
So that video was more of an influence on my video-making than an influence on my skating.
Besides, by that time skating had passed me up so far that I couldn’t do any of those tricks even in my dreams.
Back then, promo videos weren’t sold in skateshops, and very few videos with only 10 minutes of skateboarding. Why did that video never come as a full length video?
They wanted to come out with a new Blind video after Video Days. But there wasn’t much footage of the whole team.
Tim just turned pro and they needed to get him seen.
So they decided to come out with a promo to showcase Tim and Henry who had enough for full parts.
I think Rocco came up with the name.
Whether he knew it or not that title aptly applied to the promise of a full length video that was in there at the start.
I think New Deal had come out with a promo before though.
And maybe one or two others too. So it was cool to just come out with it all short and cheap.
It was the new style of making videos. We didn’t have premieres back then and so they didn’t have to be a certain length.
Also, videos would get boring after too many of the same tricks being repeated in a video.
Plus, videos that short were cool to just watch and get psyched to go skating right away.
Every video is a promo when you think about it. They exist to promote the riders to increase product sales.
The entertainment value was just there because of the good skating and other random clips.
I think they called them promos because they supposedly promoted the upcoming full length vids, which in this case never came out featuring that particular Blind team.
So that became Blind’s video until What If.
“I heard one girl even tossed a skater’s salad after he skated for hours in the warehouse. So nasty.”
How did you proceed for the filming? What video camera did you use?
The camera I had first bought, a cheap 8mm Canon E51, needed repairs just when Rodney first called me in to film.
So I used my friend’s Sony Hi8 until Rodney got fed up with his demands for free product and let me use World’s Sony V101 instead.
That camera was sent to SF with this other filmer, Mark Eaton to film Spencer, Jovontae and Chico.
Then I bought a Canon A1 Digital, which was actually a Hi8. It was just called a digital because of the digital effects it could produce.
That one got taken from me right out of my hands by a street gang in West LA.
So they let me use the old Blind camera, a Sony V801 Hi8 which had a loose lens barrel from the Blind riders filming themselves and dropping it.
I used to have to hold it in place with one hand while holding the camera in the grip with the other hand, which sucked when I had to fall.
You could tell it was messed up by some of the footage that moves and jerks during the lines.
Later, Rodney was cool enough to buy me a replacement camera for the one I got robbed of, a Sony V701.
That one got stolen from the World van in SF during the 93 contest.
All those Sony Hi8s were great for setting it up to shoot in different conditions. I used to set the color levels up a bit and raise the auto exposure for shade to sunlight lines.
I shot mostly in manual mode except in those shade to sunlight shots. We had these cheap Kenko fisheyes that were only .42x.
When did you realize the footage from the Pack of Lies will be anthology?
That was made here after Globe bought Dwindle and all it’s brands.
Globe had a production company called Whyte House. And they came up with the idea of making the box set of all the Blind videos.
What was the mainline for the editing? And what did you use to edit it?
I used the same setup Spike left behind. It was a Sony Hi8 VTR and a Sony 3/4″ VTR with an RS422 controller.
That’s it. The titles were taken to a post house and I would insert them into the master later.
They bought a Sony 3/4″ player later on to edit from the 3/4″ transfer tapes instead of the Hi8 tapes.
It was also the way we added music to the master. We recorded off the fly from a CD player and bumped it up from tape to tape until the final edit.
Linear editing was so hard. I had to map out on paper what I wanted to do and roughly how long it would take in order to fill the music.
I used to make edits on a tape first, write down the order of clips and running length in time code on paper and then cut the master to that once the music was in place.
I wish I could find one of those sheets cuz they looked a lot like non-linear timelines look today, roughly.
Where did the choices of UMC’s for Tim, and Black Sabbath for Henry come from?
Tim and Henry both wanted to use those tracks. It was what they were into at the time.
Henry’s part was prepared in a certain order that he wanted the tricks seen. Tim just let me do it my way.
But, when we laid down the Sabbath song, dropped the clips to it and then watched it I noticed how well the tricks fit to the music’s changes.
I just fine tuned it here & there a little bit. But, it was freaky to see how it fit the music by running straight off Henry’s list
and letting it play in the rough edit. It was meant to be that way, to that song.
The single trick sections and line sections all going with the changes in the song just came out like that, pure happenstance. So sick.
Do you remember stories from back then that nobody knew from that video?
One time at these banks in San Diego I got stuck on a rock while filming Henry. I ate shit so hard the lens on that broken camera flew off.
I was so pissed I yelled and tried to jump kick the warehouse door next to the banks. I remember I wanted to smash that door in cuz I was so mad.
But instead I just barely hit it. It was funny to see it on video. The guys wanted to keep it all in there. I was so embarrassed by it I didn’t want it to go in.
But, then I thought if someone else was filming and that happened I would think it was funny and I would put it in there. So I just let it go in.
We used to hang out at the World skatepark a lot back then. They had triple stack bunk beds in one of the bigger offices of the warehouse.
Riders used to watch porn and shit. Sometimes girls would come hang out and party with them.
This one local dude was like a pimp and would bring girls he knew to the park. Then later he’d ask for product.
No one even saw it like that. We just thought it was cool that he brought them. So they would hook him up. Now thinking back on it it was pretty sketchy.
Then a rumor started about one of the chicks having HIV. Everyone was alarmed and stopped bringing unknown chicks to the park.
I heard one girl even tossed a skater’s salad after he skated for hours in the warehouse. So nasty.
Brian Lotti had this VolksWagen wagon. They used to call it “Mom’s Taxi”. Brian used to get bummed on that.
I heard someone banged a chick in there while it was parked outside the warehouse.
We had a closet full of product that Rodney would put in there for the guys. And they broke into it and took all the product.
They broke into the World headquarters in Torrance and wrote graffiti all over the hallways. The riders were just up to trouble all the time, setting shit on fire in the warehouse
and writing graffiti everywhere. They were just doing what skaters did, destroy, not a big deal I guess.
Sometimes after skating we’d hang out and listen to Sal Rocco tell the craziest stories where quotes like “When I pulled out corn on the cock” came out.
He always had funny and scary drug dealer stories and stories of random sluts. That dude was so nuts but so cool to hang around.
Those days were so fun. It’s funny to think how it was all just a year and a half of our lives. Yet so much went down.
This interview has been made in 2009, and only published in 2017 in Love Skate mag printed issue #1, If you wanna know more about Socrates Leal and the World Industries era,
Chromeball Incident did a great interview here.
Interview by Babas Levrai / Scans by Chromeball Incident