What can be said about how strange a year it’s been that hasn’t already been said? Covid-19 has affected every aspect of life including production timelines. As the skateboard industry reels from a supply shortage, putting out content related to skating has also suffered. This includes the project we shared with you a few months ago called Humanity Stoked. We sat down with the man behind the project, Michael Cohen, to get an update on how the film has been affected and what the new timeline for the world premiere looks like now. To stay up to date, follow them on Instagram for upcoming announcements and info on their charity auction.
What a year it’s been. On top of everything else that has gone into this film, how has 2020 affected the project?
2020 has been crazy to say the least! It’s been an astonishing and pivotal year for the film, with some great surprises and unique challenges due to COVID-19. After nearly 3 years of production, filming unique b-roll and interviews with over 90 people on location in 15 US states and 3 countries, we officially wrapped production in January of 2020. That was a major milestone and achievement. The aspects of completing the three-year production phase for a film of this size is hard to fathom considering our production team is 100% volunteer-based. Since January, we’ve been deep in post-production, but I did make one exception for a late entry into the film’s cast, and filmed an interview in New York City with Shepard Fairey. Some people know him as Obey from his ObeyGiant art and clothing line. There aren’t many people I would have done that for, but Shepard is one of them because I have so much respect for his work, not only as an artist, but as a human being with a lifelong commitment to activism. What some people may not know about him, is that he credits skateboarding for saving his life in more ways than one. After we wrapped Shepard’s interview in New York City, we returned to post-production work, but COVID-19 made things even more challenging. In the spring of 2020, one of my brothers and my father both ended up on ventilators in the ICU with COVID-19. Sadly, only my brother survived. My father and I were very close and I went into a really dark place during that period. I have to thank my DP and Editor, Ian Gibson for bearing with me and holding down the fort for two months, because I was not in the right mental state to continue editing the film in that state. On a personal level, I also want to express my gratitude for Ray Barbee, Jess and Bam Margera for their support during that horrible time. They were posting my public plea for the hospital to approve my brother and father for what was an experimental convalescent plasma program. Their posts helped us get nearly 20,000 signatures on a change.org petition in 48 hours and forced the hospital to acquiesce. Sadly my father died, but without Ray, Jess and Bam, my brother Scott would be dead as well.
Again, I’m sorry for your loss. Your story is a testament to how special the skateboard community is when it comes to being there for one another. After all that trauma and perseverance, what is the updated timeline for the release? Will it be in festivals, theaters, or online to mitigate current circumstances with Covid-19?
The original plan was for a summer 2020 release in time for the 2020 Olympic games in Japan. In fact, we were about to announce an epic Prizeo contest where two people would fly to Japan to see the skateboard competition and attend a special screening with us there. We were also planning our own screening parties in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, but like the Olympics, every event with large gatherings had to be canceled. It’s the same for film festivals too. They’re moving to an online format, but we’re playing everything by ear now. In the end, the delays caused by COVID-19 means the release will probably be in the Fall/Winter of 2020, most likely on Netflix, Hulu, Prime or HBO Max. We’ll be making announcements on our website www.HumanityStoked.com and all social media @humanitystoked, so follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay informed. We’ll also be announcing an epic skateboard charity auction with memorabilia and experiences on our social media and of course, posting some great BTS stuff.
What is the anticipated running time for the full feature?
We’re trying to get the final cut between 80 and 90 minutes. The fact is, each of the 90 interviews we conducted are all about an hour long, some even longer, so there’s a lot of additional opportunities for people to take deeper dives into those interviews after the documentary. Right now, we’re talking about creating minimally edited versions of each full interview, and making them available online. Ideally, it would be for a nominal fee that would help raise money for charity. Like the film itself, and everything we do, all our revenue is entirely for charity, to help make a difference in people’s lives, especially children in low socioeconomic areas.
Can you tell us a little about this new trailer, and what you hope people take away from it?
Oh yeah, we’re really proud of the trailer and the response it’s getting. It’s really resonating with people on an emotional level. That’s everything to me, because the whole purpose of the film is to inspire people, and for that to happen, it’s got to connect with people on a visceral level. It’s got to impact people emotionally. I think it does an amazing job at conveying that the film is going to inspire people to think more deeply about so many important issues that affect humanity, from racial equality, and rights and equality for the LGBTQ community, environmental issues, what we teach children and ourselves about fear, the importance of art and music in public education and so much more. It’s interesting, so often, at the conclusion of my interviews, the subject expressed how they had never been interviewed like that before and how refreshing the questions and conversations were. I think you’ll see what I mean when you watch the trailer. I’ve really been blown away by the cast support too. The reality is that nobody in the film is obligated to support it in any way, and nobody was paid for their involvement. So when a cast member posts the trailer to their own social media, I know it means they’re proud of it, and that they believe in its power and potential to inspire people. As of today, the cast members that have already posted it include, Tony Hawk, Lizzie Armento, Shepard Fairey (obeygiant), Chad Muska, Boo Johnson, Bob Burnquist, Ray Barbee, Bam Margera, Vanessa Torres, Chris Cole, Brian Anderson, Alec Beck, Sebo Walker, Amelia Brodka, Ron Gallo, Ray LeVier, Chris Koch, Robert Brink, Victoria Taylor (skatemosss) Kelly Wiglesworth, Chris Dyer, Charlie Samuels and more. We’ve also been blessed with wonderful social media support from dozens of amazing internet influencers that aren’t even in the film, but simply believe very strongly in its power to inspire people and its philanthropic ethos, including @i_am_makita, @allonsrider, @liliangarcia, @soyginamendez and dozens of other wonderful people.
Since the film is based partially around humanity helping each other, do you have any words for how people can be active in a time like what we are seeing now?
Absolutely Chris. Really, the first step is understanding that we all have some responsibility related to what’s going on, and more importantly, we all have power. There are so many reasons that lead to inaction and complacency, starting with the mistaken belief that we can’t make a difference. As individuals, you and I can’t change this world, but together we all can. Our collective actions add up and can indeed make a real difference. There’s also an exponential ripple effect in inspiring people, who in turn can help inspire others. That’s what Humanity Stoked is all about. On a practical level there are some great websites like rallyandrise.org, voltedvoices.org among others that can help point you in the right direction. Taking part in protests is also important because it can help bring about immediate change in policies from the people currently in power. Perhaps the most important thing we can all do is vote in every election, on the local, state and national level. If you want to create lasting change, voting is the most effective thing you can do. It’s the difference between trying to bend the will of elected officials, and putting people in power who already share our value systems. If you care about things that affect us, be it the environment, LGBTQ or racial rights and quality, music and art in public education, immigration, or anything else for that matter, I implore you to stop looking at instagram feeds and spend a little time finding out which candidates reflect your value systems, and then vote for them. If you are not sure where or when to vote, or even if you’re registered, you’re not alone. Simply visit vote.org. There you can also find out about voting by mail, which is an important option during this pandemic.
If there’s anything you’d like to add, as always feel free, otherwise I will wrap it up by thanking you and telling people to enjoy the trailer and lookout for the full film.
I’ll say this, Chris. The world is a profoundly beautiful place, yet the problems we face will continue to become more complex over time. As human beings, we’re driven by evolutionary biology to feel safe. By that nature, we tend to think of things in simplified or binary terms so we don’t feel confused. In uncertain times like right now, we are also driven by our nature to behave more selfishly, thinking only of our own interests. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work well when applied to larger social issues that require we all live together in a way that’s fair and equitable. Ironically, our desire to feel safe actually causes us to experience more fear and it’s ugly flip side, hate. That in turn leads to division, and we’re seeing that right now. The solution requires all of us to ask ourselves one very important question. What is more important, wanting to have a point of view and perspective that’s actually correct and fair, or simply choosing to believe it is? The later is the easy way out. It doesn’t require deep thinking, research, nor considering anyone else’s point of view and as such, will never lead to peace and harmony, be it in a relationship, a family, a neighborhood, a society, a country, or the world as a whole. If we want this world to be a better place, it’s time to take a brutally honest look inward and start there.