Skate shops are one of those places where you never know who is going to walk through the door. Most of the time it’s a tourist, a kook, or just a skater in need of some new gear and you make the usual employee-customer small talk. On rare occasions you get past the small talk meet interesting people that you get lost in conversation with. A few months back at KCDC I met Ben Duffy. Ben and I started talking about skating and film, and I learned about his documentary “We Are Skateboarders.” He was nice enough to bring me one of his last copies and it blew me away. I knew I’d met someone who is dedicated to skating and has an eye for documenting it’s more interesting parts. His latest video shines the spotlight on Anders Nordlow, a very unique skater who pushes it to the next level in a totally different direction than most are used to. He took some time to talk about Anders, his film, and more. Watch Ben’s latest documentary and read our exclusive interview below.
Full Video: Street Boy
Name: Ben Duffy
Years Skating: 13
Hometown: Mahopac, NY
Current Location: LA
What’s up Ben? So this is your first skate-related film since We Are Skateboarders & Ten Years Gone, tell me a little bit about how this project ended up coming together.
Well, I was living in Bushwick, Brooklyn for two years and come October 1st, my lease was up. I didn’t have enough money to stay in NYC, so I made my way to my mom’s house in Arizona. If anyones looking for motivation to get out and make a film, just move in with your mom. I was really freaking out living with her just because of the reality check that I was living with a parent for the first time since I was 17, so over the winter I would just keep on flying to LA with every last penny I had. One of the trips I borrowed 200 bucks from my mom. The first time I went out I had asked Anders if he was down and he was. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work because I tried interviewing him about 4 years ago for Ten Years Gone and it didn’t go so well. He was off his meds that day and he just couldn’t do it. This time around I had the idea to sit with him during the interview so it could feel more like a conversation rather then him being distracted by the camera. I think because he gets a lot of attention on Instagram he had gotten enough of an ego boost to feel comfortable doing something like Street Boy. I had the idea to do a doc on him for years so it just happened to be this winter was the right time. I just finished editing my last feature doc Tin Soldiers and I wanted to wind down by making a short film. Fast forward to the last filming trip to LA, and he gave me 76GB of footage of him. I couldn’t believe it. By that point i had to get the fuck out of AZ, so I moved in with one of my best friends in Little Rock, Arkansas for two weeks and I edited the film in three days.
he gave me 76GB of footage… I couldn’t believe it
How did you get into adding a documentary element as opposed to the typical skate video of just editing music and skating together with some b-roll shots?
I grew out of making typical skate videos after my freshman year of high school. I guess I was just really inspired by my 80 year old film production teacher at SVA who had a life long passion for documentary films. Its the same type of go out and shoot whatever happens style of filmmaking as skate videos, just with story telling… and Anders has a story. The guy is to unique, I think sometimes the skating doesn’t just speak for itself. So it was perfect. Thats my first answer, my second answer would be that I cant film with a fish eye for the life of me.
There’s a lot to learn about Anders, what was it that impressed you most?
Not so much impressed but more happy that he and his family are dealing with his disabilities as much as they can by being as accepting as they can. I think if more families were like that, we wouldn’t have as many fucked up families. I can relate to Anders because we have, without getting too specific, the same diagnosis for mood disorder. It sucks man, but as long as we’re medicated and being productive with a passion, you can get through at least half of the day with a smile. The only problem is, Anders and myself become so obsessive with our passions, for him skating, for me filmmaking, that if were not out doing it, then we feel low. With out support from friends and family, we would be in trouble.
Anders and myself become so obsessive with our passions, for him skating, for me filmmaking, that if were not out doing it, then we feel low
Where did the title Street Boy come from?
It came from the Sixto Rodriguez song called “Street Boy”. I had watched the documentary Searching for Sugarman about 5 times when I was living with my mom , so I had a heavy urge to use his music, which I find extremely beautiful.
What made that track so special?
It’s been around since the 70’s, but I think the lyrics of that song relate to Anders in many ways, and many skaters for that matter. I think at least for many generations, skaters are people who tend to have low self esteem or just don’t necessarily focus on being successful, which in our society, makes skateboarders come off like their planning a dead end life for themselves.
What do you think it is that gives certain people the drive and determination to carve out their own way of doing something, unique to everything else they see that’s already out there?
For dudes like Jamie Thomas, I think it comes from ego, anger, and being thirsty and talented as hell. I think for people like Anders, its just a whole different brain pattern. Not only is it from having a creative mind attributed to the autism, but like Anders said in the film….he messed up his ankles so bad that he had to do things low to the ground. And he likes the reaction he gets from doing weird shit.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to stay on topic for an entire conversation how do you keep the direction of your films on track? Do you go into it with a solid outline or do you feel it out as you go?
Thats an interesting question. I guess it just comes down to years and years of editing. I love to edit pretty much more then anything in life, so when I sit down and edit, I just lose myself in the film and put everything together and it works out. I make a lot of my editing decisions in my head too depending on the project, just during a normal day. I’ll sit at a table for 20 minutes skating with a pen or my hand with my mouth open thinking about how clips are going to go with a song or how I’m going to make one part of the edit flow with the other. The finger skating never stops. I catch myself doing it on dates all the time.
The finger skating never stops. I catch myself doing it on dates all the time
What’s your take on where filmmaking and skateboarding are headed? Any stand out videos recently you are really into?
Where skateboarding is headed, I don’t care at all, as far as ….”oh no what will happen if it goes in the Olympics”. At this point of my life, as long as I can have a nice day skating with my friends, thats all I care about. Filmmaking wise, I guess you can say that I’m heavily disappointed. The skater in me cried when I saw Kelly Harts Santa Monica courthouse manual pad trick just being put out on Instagram for the sake of getting a lot of views. That trick was so incredible, so epic, that it didn’t need to be released on its own. With a trick that sick, you gotta wait and make it the ender for a part (probably last part) in a video. The Vans video [Propeller] was a pure masterpiece in my mind. I am in total admiration for what Greg Hunt does. Skate God bless that man.
Skateboarding is like a girl with the most beautiful face that has gotten plastic surgery and now has huge fake tits
As far as Instagram goes……it makes me sick. Skateboarding is like a girl with the most beautiful face that has gotten plastic surgery and now has huge fake tits. Every day that skateboarding gets more and more popular on Instagram, the more skateboarding is attracting people who go for a girl because of her big fake tits, and not because of her beautiful face. Alright alright, so you and your buddies want to dick around and pop out an iPhone and capture a fun day, fine. But when I hear shit like people aren’t getting sponsored because they don’t have enough Instagram followers, that just makes me want to ……I don’t even know. It’s just so upsetting. How, how could skateboarding ever get so shallow?
In your film you touch on autism a little bit. As much as you hear about skating welcoming everyone, do you think it’s hard for certain people to find a belonging in skating?
You know, part of me thinks the reason why the whole, your a skater I’m a skater, lets skate together, thing has disappeared is not necessarily because skateboarding has gotten so big or cool, but because a lot of skateboarders are quiet people who have trouble with anything more then small talk. Then you have crews, and sometimes you just don’t feel like talking with someone outside your crew because your on cloud 9 with your friends. But every crew’s different. These days, that questions is hard to answer. I think it also has a lot to do with where you are in the world. If your in Little Rock, Arkansas, pretty much everyone’s accepted. If your in NY or LA, not so much.
It seems like sometimes the more you stand out the more you’re less accepted. What was your experience like skating with Anders?
Its an experience. I can’t remember the last time I just skated with Anders, or if I ever just skated with him. When you go out with Anders, you have to be filming. The tricks he comes up with on the spot are just so incredible.
with Anders, you have to be filming. The tricks he comes up with on the spot are just so incredible
What was the response to the documentary and how did that affect Anders?
So far people have been really stoked. I don’t know how it’s affected Anders because I haven’t seen him since our last filming mission but I know he is really grateful I made it for him.
Who has been your biggest influence on the way you make your films?
You know I really haven’t watched many documentaries in my day. When I was younger I would always say that I didn’t want to watch them because I didn’t want to subconsciously copy someones else’s style. Ive always loved Jason Hernandez and Greg Hunt, but I think I’ve done a good job of doing my own thing. Every time I shoot a documentary I have no idea what the hell Im doing and then it just comes together in the editing. Thats the honest truth.
How long did it take to put Street Boy together?
About 5 days of filming and 3 days of editing.
Do you have any projects in the works currently? What can we expect to see next from you?
I’m having trouble committing to the daunting process of making another feature length skate doc, but I have one all written out in my head. I just need to grow some balls.
Until then, where do you usually like to go skate at in NYC?
Chelsea and McCaren.
Any thanks, shout outs or last words for the readers?
Last words……never move to LA.