When you started filming The Way Out, did you know what you were getting into? What was your initial intention with the film, vs what it has turned into? Yes. I wanted to make something that accurately conveyed the length of time that the film was shot in, which was a two year period of my life; early 2014 to early 2016. I wanted to slow things down a little bit, things are a bit too fast these days.
I wanted to focus on the relationship I have with friends and how we interact with the environment – whether that bond be love, hate, anger, doubt, struggle, obsession, solitude; whatever the emotion or world I was experiencing, I wanted to honestly communicate it as much as possible.
It being largely a visual narrative, transcending words with actions and mannerisms was senior to any plot, so, using the least amount of words as possible was definitely a goal. I wanted to honestly communicate through the actions rather than words.
Nevertheless there was a plot, which was the documented struggle to create the piece while remaining sober in the 11th and 12th year of my sobriety. Struggle was a key component.
I don’t think anyone expected a film like that, and that the whole industry was pretty moved and inspired by your blunt perspective on things and your pure commitment to skateboarding. What is the most important piece of feedback you received, and how did it affect you? Thank you. Everything said to me in regards to the film, whether it was good or bad, affected me, and I remember everything – I appreciated most of it.
The reaction was largely positive – there are a few people that reached out to me, artists I really respect, family and some of my idols in skateboarding. I can not lie, it felt very nice.
As for the people that had not so nice things to say, that’s up to them to have their own interpretation. I am happy with the outcome, I feel anyone is entitled to dislike it as much as they want to.
After releasing a big creative project I’m super attached to, I often feel super clear-minded, like I purged something. Can you relate to that? On a spiritual level, being that the film was so much about suffering and the struggle of the human condition, what has The Way Out given you / taken from you? Yes, I can relate, to a certain extent.
It temporarily emptied me out of energy and expression, I felt fulfilled, temporarily, but at the same time, inspired to create another film and work on other projects – so in essence it acted as a catalyst. Tobin Yelland and I have been talking about working on a few things together, we recently went out and shot a bunch of stuff, I really like his work.
One of the things ‘The Way Out’ gave me during the time of making it was a strong bond with my crew, mainly Joey Sinko, especially toward the final 6 months of the movie. His cinematography is phenomenal, he worked with me on co-directing some of the segments, he would assist me with editing as well.
Whatever vision I had for shots, he would always deliver the vision pretty much to a ‘t’, he captured vital shots and emotions critical to the piece. We even bounced ideas for shots and cuts off of each other on a improvisational level and a couple stuck, they actually turned out great. Joeys a good guy, I would/will work with him again. Also working with Soap and Aleks Lewandowski was great.
Having three different cinematographers that have three different filming styles really helped to paint the different pictures of the various emotions during the two years. Everybody put their hearts into the project, including Jeremy Klein, who did a bunch of amazing stuff for it. I like that we were able to show what it’s really like out there when we are out in the streets. We’ve been best friends for years and the film shows that.
It feels amazing to make a film with such a true original, someone I’ve looked up to for such a long time, and having Ron Chatman for one day on the session was great! Another great I have always looked up to.
Your new board brand, Hammers USA, is throwing it back to the late 80’s, early 90’s when most boards were silk screened by hand and graphics were not so commercial-looking. What are some of your favorite board graphics from back in the day, artwork that may have had an impact on you as a young skater? Yes. Hammers USA offers product that is all made in the USA. I do a lot of the art, but Brian Degraw recently did a graphic and he will be doing some more for Hammers USA in the future. He is a very talented artist from my neighborhood back east. Check out his stuff @bdeegee.
Francis Picabia, my friend Francois Haroldson and Brian DeGraw are 3 cool artists, check out ‘the handsome pork butcher’ by Picabia – it’s really cool.
I like so many graphics from back in the day. It has been a big goal of mine to have that one meaningful graphic, not to do a bunch of series, but it’s hard to have that one that sticks with you through time.
A graphic has to mean something. I’ve done some readymade-esc stuff in the past, and also ripping a image you love – a book cover, album/ movie cover and slightly altering it with your own layout or company signature. And although it looks great and is really fun because those images bring up so much good feelings inside you because of what they mean to you, it’s still not half as satisfying as creating totally original art, like the most recent one I created and separated myself.
Or, printing one of Brian’s originals like ‘Blu reed’. I really want to try to stick to originals. Not saying I’ll never use a pre-existing image again, sometimes those images are just too great to pass up, I’m just saying I love originals.
Like Gonz (original Blind) and Vision and Chris Miller art, and Neil Blender did on their pro models, those are all soo great, and soo nostalgic to me! It’s crazy because it followed nothing and was soo original.
But I also love early early McKee, all Jeremy Klein stuff and every Jesse Martinez, Todd Congelliere, Ron Chatman Jef Hartsel, Jason Lee and Rocco. There are too many! Julien Stranger sma decks, it goes on and on.
There was a really great article on thrashermagazine.com about Neil Blender’s decks, he narrated the whole story, and it was really great. Check it out please.
How often do you skate? Who do you usually skate with in DTLA? I skate approximately 5 days a week, I love it and I’m constantly watching things that inspire me to skate, films, older skate movies, etc. Listening to a lot of music all day inspires me. I draw influences from lots of different experiences and inspirational people. I usually skate with Jeremy and sometimes Ron, but I like skating by myself too or with whoever I’m on a trip with or session with.
Has there ever been a time when skateboarding felt like a job? Never, only on horrible portrait shoots, I hate those.
I like having experiences shot that are actually occurring when there is a lot of struggling going on, they are way more genuine and the truth comes out. I like watching people do really dangerous and life threatening stuff, because that’s when their true style comes out. They have no time to fake anything – being captured that way is the best. I like shooting natural light and I love film.
What do you think you are accurate about? Everything I just told you is accurate at this moment of my life and in this conversation.
Have you ever told yourself something that’s not really true? Told it to yourself so many times over the years that you really think now it’s true? Yea, when I was high a lot, as soon as I was loaded, I would lie and tell myself that I was gonna get clean – and I said this a lot. I told myself that lie so many times and after I would go on long binges and want to get sober I would continue to tell myself this for a while and then it finally stuck. Thankfully, the lie became truth. It was difficult at first, but after a while I was struck sober kinda, well it took a lot of work actually for the first few years, but I have maintained my sobriety for close to 13 years now.
Can you talk about your direction for your upcoming hardcover book / anthology of paintings? How far into it are you? I am in no immediate rush to put this out. It will be a collection of drawings, paintings and mixed-media art pieces that will be shown in a hardcover book – no major release or party or show, most likely I will put it up for sale on my store when it comes out. I’ll make like 100.
Keep up with Greco’s latest on HammersUSA.com