Lost Ghetto Kids – an interview with Director Randal Kirk
MA: Parental Advisory has an innovative ‘structure’ in that it combines narrative elements in the form of music video-type sequences with sequences of ‘tricks’ being performed by the DGK riders. How did you come up with this concept?
RK: Early in development, DGK and I knew we wanted to tell a story that captured the heart and soul of the team’s riders. DGK is a unique brand in that all its riders have been dealt bad cards in life. Skateboarding became their golden ticket out of that life. They wanted me to make a movie out of their stories, but at the same time not to out-stage the skate sequences shot by the team manager and talented skate filmer, Brad Rosado with the VX1000. When Brad’s skate footage collided with my work, shot by my rockstar DP Vallo, absolute magic took place! (Magic and some chaos).
In The Skateboarding World, the idea of having skateboarders reciting lines and acting out scenes is dangerous territory; the idea alone can be hated on. But we were all Gung-ho on making a ‘skate movie’ so acting was mandatory. It was clear that the skateboarders wanted to do as little acting as possible so we had to find common ground. In the end I was shocked by their natural acting instinct, and how they delivered their lines in a very natural way.
We decided to portray kid versions of each rider, and after a ton of research and several interviews, I wrote scenes that had the DNA of the riders in them. I put the kids (the mini versions of the riders) in situations where they were without skateboarding, so we could see their actual personality; stripped down.
As an artist I strive for originality, and so I think it’s important for me to see where other artists have succeeded and failed. A big part of the creative process is watching films of the same genre and seeing what I can do differently. So for a month I locked myself in a room and watched every cult urban film you can think of from “Belly” to “New Jack City”, to “White Men Can’t Jump”. Then I went back and revisited all the great classic skate films which have revolutionized the style in skate filmmaking like; “Video Days”, “Search For Animal Chin”, “Yeah Right”, and “The End”. I was really fond of how “The End” gave a cinematic feel while it still managed to remain abstract and catered to the personality of the riders. In Parental Advisory, I pay homage to several of the greats while adding my own style. For example I referenced “New Jack City” in the Marcus McBride opening, when we go through the factory and leads up to DMX.
MA: Was directing Parental Advisory like directing a string of music videos? What threads the story of these skateboarders together?
RK: Parental Advisory is a ghetto fairy tale that takes place inside the mind of the DGK rider Baby Scumbag aka Steven Fernandez. It starts off in a dream state, showing Baby Scumbag partying like a famous rapper in a smoked filled room with his homies and a pack of beautiful women. Near the end of the film The story arcs into more nightmarish themed elements in the club scene where mini Jack Curtin hallucinates and sees a Dali-esque Skeleton girl followed by Steve Williams’ scene where he gets shot by Beanie Segal. Then in the final act, I have all of the the antagonists (cops, robbers) frozen and the skateboarders navigating through them to reveal them overcoming the conflict. We end in Baby Scumbag’s room with him waking up to his friends summoning him to go and skate. As Scumbag looks around his room, we see where he got all of the images/ideas in his dreams from.
Each piece has its own unique style tailored to the personality of the Skateboarder. Just like a music video is heavily stylized to bring a song to life, I used a lot of hip hop beats to motivate my edits. The individual stories are abstract much like a music video but as a whole they tell a story. Some scenes have little or no dialogue like Rodrigo Tx’s, while others where completely dialogue driven like Stevie Williams’ part. First and foremost, this is a skateboard movie; the viewer is watching the film to see the skateboarding. I did not want to out-stage the action so pacing was very Important. My intros were tools to get the viewer thirsty for the next clip.
MA: There is irony in a lot of moments that you capture: the pistol that squirts water, the kids firing at the security guards with their paintball guns. It creates memorable images, but what is behind this?
RK: I use a lot of visual motifs in this film. No good ever comes from a gun. It protects but hurts at the same time. Violence is never the answer.
In the Stevie scene I wanted to foreshadow the conflict by having mini Marquise Henry cool himself off with his plastic gun, exemplifying the drama that is to come. Once we see him flash the gun at Beanie Segal’s character, “Ronnie”, the audience knows its fake but Beanie thinks it’s a real gun and feels threatened.
Stevie Williams is the hero of the scene, standing up for the kids that are being walked on by the park older locals, just as he was walked on when he was a young kid skating in Love Park. The locals would call him a “dirty ghetto kid” and kick him out, hence where the name “DGK” came from. Stevie takes a bullet for all the dirty ghetto kids in this film.
In the final act, I’m visually communicating how skateboarding is these kids’ ticket out of a life of crime, drugs and death. Skateboarding has saved the team riders from all the harsh realities they could have potentially faced in their lives. Through skateboarding they are now living their dreams and the dream of all the lost ghetto kids on the street.
MA: In terms of ‘the look’ we pretty much stuck to a jazzed up hyper real kinda feel – brash colours, deep blacks, punchy visuals! Knowing that you were going there, what preparation did you do in the production design, wardrobe and location department to bias the grade later on?
RK: Over the years I have developed a glossy look that I have used in all of my videos to glamorize the moment. I felt that it was the appropriate direction to go in this piece because DGK as a brand has lots of bright and glossy colors in their designs, mixed with really edgy/controversial images much like the art I have made in the past. It was the “On Q” video I did for King Fantastic that got me this job in the first place. I wanted all of my shots to have the same raw glossy feel to them. I literally shot at every grimy warehouse I could find! I actually revisited the location I shot my “On Q” video for a few scenes. It was an abandoned Pillsbury factory used from the 50’s. Over time kids have broken in, tagged the walls and I’m sure it has been the venue for many an underground rave. Because the graffiti culture is such a big part of the DGK brand, it enhanced the atmosphere and ambiance that we were trying to convey.
MA: There are a lot of kids in this movie. How was it to work with them in the locations that you picked?
RK: Since this was a non union indie film, from the start, I wanted to cast real kids that skate hard and connect with the DGK brand. Besides the rappers and female cameos, there were NO REAL ACTORS in the film.
Stevie Williams’ mother, Susan Williams, has an awesome charity/foundation called, “Save A Heart, Save A Mind” where she motivates kids and young adults to stay focused on their life goals and share their mutual love for skateboarding. Every kid at the organization is a Ripper! They all have dreams of becoming pro and it shows! It was a great outlet for me to find kids that fit the parts of the film.
I found the rest of the kids at random skateparks and even found one when he skated in front of my car (Mini TX). The kids are true fans of the brand and they are the stars. Their passion for the brand and their love of skateboarding brought them to set every day. I met so many awesome kids working on this film and it was a real heartwarming experience to give back to the kids and celebrate a love for skateboarding. This has been an exciting year for skate videos with “DGK: Parental Advisory”, “Pretty Sweet” and “Bake & Destroy”. I can’t wait to see what the future brings to this sport.
When you are doing something with skating it makes everything twice as difficult because you never know when you’re going to be kicked out of your location or chased away by the cops or if a fight’s going to break loose. In addition, the idea of shooting high cinematic elements mixed in with standard definition seemed a little terrifying in the development stage but everything came together in the end. If the video was all polished and glossy it wouldn’t have been true to the skate scene, it was the raw VX footage that we all grew up with that made everything come to life as one.