With Damn AM NYC just around the corner, it’s appropriate that Motivation 3 is set to be released September 12th. The new film from Adam Bhala Lough follows Dashawn Jordan, Zion Wright, Aurelien Giraud, and Lucas Alves as they chase the dream of winning Tampa Am and eventually turning pro. For those of us with memory problems and short attention spans, Zion and Dashawn placed 2nd and 3rd respectively at LES Skatepark last September before heading to Skatepark of Tampa later in 2016. We hit up the director of the Motivation series to ask him some questions about the film and his background in skateboarding. You can pre-order the film here.
You skated in your younger days but stopped eventually, right? So what made you get into making the Motivation series? Has working within the industry gotten you back on the board at all?
So, the Motivation series really began when I met Steve Berra at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007 as filmmakers, I had no Idea he skated. Our films were in competition with each other and we became friends. As our friendship developed, I had also made this documentary about Lil Wayne. He really enjoyed that and approached me about doing a documentary about skateboarding. At the time, Street League was in its infancy and the berrics was helping to push that along. Steve put together a meeting between him, Rob Dyrdek and Myself and that’s how it all happened.
Oh yeah. It definitely influenced me to buy my son, who is four years old, a board and teach him how to skate. I’ve gained an appreciation for skateboarding that goes beyond even a normal skaters appreciation because I have the point of view of a parent now and I’m passing that along to my son.
This film is more like the first one, focusing on multiple skaters. What was the process of selecting who you would showcase?
Basically we knew we wanted to do a movie on Tampa Am. I met up with Paul Zitzer when we were developing the idea for the project and I said give me a list of who you think should be in this. He gave me a list of about 12-15 skaters and from there we whittled it down to about 7 or 8. We interviewed them on camera to see how they looked and came across on camera. Not to mention if they would even be interested in doing it. A few dropped out, we ended up with the four and out of a stroke of luck one ended up winning. We knew Dashawn would be a contender he was doing so well when we were filming but you know how it is in skating. If they had all lost or not made it into the finals we would have had to work backwards and figure out how to have the movie make sense. Even the story about Lucas is such a powerful story because it’s a Rocky-type underdog story.
This film features Dashawn Jordan, Zion Wright, Aurelien Giraud, and Lucas Alves. Four skaters and only one winner at Tampa Am. What was the most heart wrenching story for you to tell?
For sure Lucas’ story is the most heart wrenching I’ve worked with as a filmmaker in general. There were times during filming I’d have to take a break just to hold back tears. It’s not just sad and tragic but hopeful. He had found a way out in some ways through the grace of his manager who rescued him from his home life with his family.
Working with the skaters or any subject in general, do you find it difficult not to become attached to their stories? Does that ever alter the way you present the story in the end?
Well I do become attached to all their stories. That’s really my style. I don’t inject myself personally to anyone’s story, but I feel attached in the sense that these guys are like younger brothers in a way. Especially with this project these guys are so humble and generous it really made it a pleasure.
How was it working with the skaters and their sponsors on this film vs. the first two Motivation features?
It was really the exact opposite. I had no experience dealing with their sponsors on this film and that in a sense made it a very different tone. Whether they have small sponsors or not, the sponsors aren’t paying them millions of dollars. There’s a feeling that these guys have so much on the line to win and get to a point where they can attract the type of sponsors that will survive and pay their bills by doing what they love. They aren’t at that point yet so it’s a very different tone.
In the first Motivation film, a guy like Paul Rodriguez had a lot of pressure from his sponsors because he hadn’t won a major contest in a while and he was the highest paid skater at the time. His pressure from his sponsors was like “look you gotta win one, we’re giving you all this money” and with Motivation 3 these guys can’t even imagine that they just need to make their rent. Lucas didn’t even have boards. There was a scene that got cut where we were in the pro shop at SPOT and Lucas’ manager had to buy him a board on a credit card cuz he broke his and didn’t have a spare. That’s the major difference.
What was it like having access to the SPOT video archives?
Yeah I mean, first of all that was amazing. I can’t even impress upon you how much footage that is. It was thousands of hours and we had to hire an assistant editor and just told him to look for cool footage. Big tricks, fights, everything and put it on a timeline. That was his only job. The SPOT crew has done an amazing job of cataloging that and there’s a folder for every skater and every clip they have. There’s a folder just for winning runs and so much more organized like that. We owe them a debt of gratitude for that, for sure.
What conscious decisions do you have to make to keep Motivation relatable to both skaters and non-skaters alike?
That’s a heavy one. We try to create some type of a balance. The trick is keeping it relatable to non-skaters, right? Because our core audience is there and they will keep coming back. The question is how do you make it relatable. I think that comes down to storytelling. We’ve tried to create a narrative so that it’s not just skaters talking about skating.
What’s been the best part for you from making all three films?
The best part is definitely traveling and filming with these skaters. Really we haven’t had one negative experience to talk about. Everyone’s been super positive and the great thing about skaters is they are so used to being filmed. Whether its their parents or their friends. I’m not a filmer, I’m more of a documentarian but the relationship between filmers and skaters is great. They make you really feel apart of the team. Whether it was in China with Malto and Chris Cole or in Brazil with our fixer (a guy that shows you around and helps you with places to stay, eat, skate, etc.). Just being around super positive dudes who take you into a part of the world that you would never get to be a part of.
What’s next for you and the Motivation series? Do you plan to tell the stories of the first Olympic skateboarders in history?
We’ve thought about that. That’s 2020 so there’s a little way off. If we continue the series, and that’s still an if. Three is a good number and it’s a lot of work for all of us. But if we do continue it there’s a few ideas in development that will absolutely have an international appeal. That’s what’s cool about skateboarding right now. Brazil really opened my eyes. If you look at what’s going on in Asia, China… it’s really interesting at the moment.