In our world of skateboarding, we’re lucky enough in NYC to have attracted some of the hardest working and most talented filmers out there. Tony Sutton is one of those dedicated people who keeps putting out quality full videos year after year. Still filming on a Japanese VX1000, taking the time to film, rip footage & editing fills up Tony’s schedule pretty easily. With his third full video heaven’s gate recently coming out he took some time out to do a little Q&A with us to learn more about him. Here’s what we learned:
Full Video: heaven’s gate
Name: Tony Choy-Sutton
Hometown: Madison, WI
Current location: Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY
Tell me a little about heaven’s gate, what’s the significance of the title?
Well, the real Heaven’s Gate was a cult of scientists in the 90’s who committed mass suicide together. It was like 40 of them and they all died wearing matching Nike Decades and tracksuits. It’s all pretty bizarre. My friend Zander got me into it and I watched their informational videos and was like “wow, this is fucked up, that would be a sick name for a video”. I just ended up using it because I thought it sounded epic and loosely fit what I was going for. The previous video was called Slow Death so I felt it was appropriate. I think some of my friends were like “Ugh, Heaven’s Gate? Really? Typical Choy.” But in the end no one really cared.
This is your third full video, how did you originally get into filming?
I went to school in Chicago for cinematography and editing, and made a few little HD skate clips, but didn’t really know how to film skating and never wanted to make an actual video until I moved to New York and HOEPHASE came out. It was the second in a trilogy by Matt King and Gene Belanger from Chicago. I love everything those dudes have made, but HOEPHASE changed my life. It was just the perfect blend of everything, musically and visually, really dark at certain points but not too serious at the same time. It just made a lot of things click for me. After I watched it I immediately was like “this is what I want to do, I’m gonna get this VX and death lens, I don’t care how much it cost, and I’m gonna get after it.” Since then I’ve pretty much been trying to make something that could possibly be as impactful as that video was to me at that time. I don’t think I’ve come close yet, but it’s still fun to try. There’s a few things in the video paying homage to HOEPHASE.
Over the years how has your process evolved? How do you bring it all together?
When I was filming spam video I was taking it pretty seriously, like focusing really hard on filming and stressing out if a clip didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. Nowadays I just point the thing at the skater and hope it works out. I feel like I’ve gotten considerably worse at filming as time has gone on, but put more thought into the editing.
Where is the spot in the intro and what influenced the aesthetic of the video?
I filmed the intro shot on a recent trip to Hawaii. I was looking down at the waves churning in and out of that channel and just thought “yeah, that’s pretty metal”. Later on I realized that all three videos start with shots of moving water so it was kind of an unintentional theme that tied them all together. But overall I just wanted the video to look pretty desolate and empty, and kind of feel like a Lil Ugly Mane mixtape, bouncing around from genre to genre. Pretty choppy and shitty, but still somewhat coherent.
Was filming for this video any different from Slow Death or Spam Video?
Yeah, it was a bit different especially at first because I was recovering from ACL surgery and couldn’t film lines, so I would just lay there shooting long lens like a beached whale. Most of us were living deep in Greenpoint Brooklyn out by the factories, and that just kind of became the whole ‘theme’ of the video. We kept it pretty close to home and it ended up working.
Are the skaters in the video your usual crew?
Yeah, luckily for me, all my friends are really good at skating, and just entertaining in general, so I never really had to try very hard to find people to film with. It’s all been pretty natural. I don’t really ever film with people I’m not close with, I don’t think anyone would put up with that.
What’s your favorite NYC skate spot?
I don’t really have a favorite spot. I like skating LES park on a weekday when the sun is out, but that place can also be hell on earth. I like spending time in Chinatown, but never really go filming around there.
What’s your current setup?
I got a Japanese VX 1000 that loves to shut off every 5 minutes or so. There were numerous times while filming for this video when my camera would just shut off during the trick. I had to be like “yeah that was so sick that you just did that! You could’ve died! But you’re gonna have to walk up there and do it again because I wasn’t filming.” It was a miracle if my camera filmed an entire clip. I bummed Sean out a lot with that. He had to re-do so many tricks. Sorry Sean. I’ll get it fixed someday.
Do you have any plans for another video or any other projects coming up?
Yeah I’m definitely going to make more videos. I already started filming again. The whole time I was making heaven’s gate I was like “I’m done, this is my final attempt, I’m so over it”. But the premiere alone was reason enough to make another.
Any thanks or shout outs?
Thanks to everyone who was in the vid, you all killed it, and special thanks to Sean, Nial, and Brad, for finding all the spots, because I sure as hell didn’t do any of that. Shoutout to the BSA, Whole Bitch video coming soon. Thanks to everyone who came to the premiere, and if you actually read all the way to this point, thank you!