When you get a message asking if you want to interview Miles Silvas about his amazing 5-minute line you obviously say “Yes of course, when can we make it happen?”. But being the nerds that we are, you also ask “What about Colin Kennedy?” because we all know when it comes to documenting skateboarding it takes at least two to tango. So, being the lucky people that we are both Miles and Colin where willing to talk to us so we can all have a look behind the scenes of the /// One Stop video. Enjoy!
Interview by Roland Hoogwater.
Nice to meet you, man.
You too, man.
Thanks for making time so early in your day for doing this little talk. That’s really nice of you, so thank you for that.
Yeah, no problem.
So, let’s get to it. Can you tell me where the idea for the “One Stop” video came from?
I first heard about it from Colin Kennedy, he told me he had this idea for this commercial and it sounded a little crazy. He presented it to me and I was pretty hyped, it’s something different. He proposed it to Adidas and they were siked and yeah, it pretty much just went through. Colin was having the idea and then we got started with it.
So how long did it take before you guys got actually got started?
He told me about it, he sent me a mood board/presentation on the idea and then we were out in L.A. trying to do do it in the next couple months, maybe like two or three months or something.
For how many days did you try it?
The whole thing was probably three days. Because we went there and then we had to start around midnight or like later in the night because of the people, the city is always pretty hectic, so the later, the better. The streets get pretty mellow at night. The first night we kinda just mapped it out, where we’re gonna go and how it’s gonna work out and then the next night we started trying. It probably took like two or three nights of trying.
How many tries per night?
A lot of tries (laughs). I mean one of the nights I kinda got over it quick, so it wasn’t too many, but most nights it was pretty much a lot of tries, so when it finally worked out it was a big relief.
I can imagine the feeling you must’ve had when you walked down the stairs, like; “fuck, I did it! It’s over!” Must be quite a relief.
Yeah, finally! (laughs)
How much of the line was planned out?
Most of it was pretty planned out. The first night, we just went across the whole course just pushing, see how fast I needed to go for the filmers to follow me. They were asking me what tricks I wanted to do. The whole thing was pretty mapped out. I knew what I was gonna do in certain places because I had three people following me all the time, there was one filmer, there was one guy riding behind us focussing the camera and then a third guy, in case anyone would hit a rock he needed to get their board back real quick. So yeah, the whole thing was pretty planned out.
What was going on in your head during the line? I mean it’s a 5-minute long line, were you stressed?
The first couple tries were a little weird because it was new, but then once you start trying and trying… It was getting a little stressful but I was just trying to stay calm. I was trying not to think too much about it, or try not to think about how far I’d still have to go. It was pretty stressful, you just think about things that you don’t normally think about, like messing up on flat ground. Usually, you just do the trick and don’t think about it but with the line, I had a lot of distance to go so I was trying to stay pretty mellow and just go trick for trick.
How many times did you get to the last trick and didn’t make it?
I got to the end probably three times. It was pretty dark, we weren’t using any lights, but like the natural city lights. I didn’t really wanna try the trick until I got there because I wanted the pressure to make me try the switch back tail. I got to the end one time and I think I did one of the tricks before a little weird so then when I got to the last ledge I just did a switch back 50-50 and then when I was turning around to go to the subway and I hit a crack and messed up. I was like “Fuck!” so then we just redid it and I was like; “Alright, I’m just gonna do the switch back tail from now on when I get there.” I got there one more time, almost did the switch back tail, and then the third time when I got there I did it and we were done.
So you didn’t do the line multiple times?
No, it was the last night, I tried for super long and everyone was getting pretty tired. It’s kinda hard to notice in the video but when I kickflip over the rail, it was an ongoing battle because we kept on getting kicked out by security. So we didn’t have much more time, and during the make, the security is walking towards the rail. I managed to land it and complete the line. When I was done with the whole thing, it was really late, I walked back and right after we watched it back that whole block of streetlights all shut-off and the city got dark, so it was kinda perfect. The whole city stopped.
It was kind of a do or die.
Yeah, it worked out perfectly, we were all pretty siked that it worked out, ‘cus yeah the city went kinda dead after that.
Did you have one pair of shoes for all the nights? Or did you refresh the shoes every night to make them look as fresh as possible?
I think I switched the shoe maybe twice. The shoe stayed pretty new, I had to keep changing my clothes ‘cus I was wearing a grey shirt, you can immediately see when I start sweating. So I was often changing shirts.
Why this shoe for this campaign? was that something planned out?
Because of the name city cup, in the city… Kind of a thing that’s been in skateboarding for a longer period of time.
Adidas and Colin came up with the idea and they just wanted to bring back that kinda like long lines and like city vibes and stuff. And the shoe kinda has like an old school feel. I think they just wanted to put it back in that kinda situation, have the city cup be in the city, do a long line and kinda just have that cruising kinda feel to the commercial.
Is it something that you would do again? Try long lines like that again? Or was that a one time kind of thing?
I’d be down, I mean if someone else came to me with a cool idea for something to do, then yeah, I’d give it a shot. It was fun, it was something different.
It definitely is something different. As far as the music, did you have any say in that? How did that work?
I only saw the line once when I did it, and then I saw like a raw version of it but I didn’t know what music was gonna go in the background. I just talked to Colin and he was saying he was gonna put something kinda mellow in the background. The first time I saw it since I did it was like yesterday, so it was a little bit of a surprise but it was cool, I liked the music a lot.
The length of the line is longer than most peoples parts are so it’s kinda like you dropped a part in one line.
Yeah, it’s funny.
I guess you could say it shows a different side of your skating, you know? Like your in between tricks. Because you do a lot of single tricks in your parts, this definitely showed a different side.
Yeah, it was cool, I’m definitely glad it worked out and got to create the long line. It was a mission doing it (laughs).
Was there ever a moment where there was something weird happening? Like someone setting the trashcan you’re skating over upright again or something like that?
Nothing too crazy, security would kick us out from the rail spot, they were trying to do laps so we tried to be quick. Or just cars getting in the way or random people, one would hang out sometimes by the trashcan, just little things like that. One time the sprinklers would be on at the gap to ledge so we would have to wait for about an hour for it to dry up. Yeah, just little shitty things, nothing too crazy. Sometimes you’d get to the end of the line and then someones there and you got to restart.
How do you feel about the shoe? Do you like the shoe? Normally I see you in thinner Vulc shoes, this shoe is more a 90’s kinda cup sole shoe, with a Kareem Campbell kinda feel.
I like it a lot actually. I’m a little weird with shoes sometimes, having to film a commercial and not really ever skated the shoe before so I was a little nervous. Nah, it skates super good, I skated it brand new out of the box and it was already broken in. Like super flexible but durable, it felt really good. I like it a lot, and the way it looks, it’s pretty sick. I’m siked on the shoe, it’s cool.
You said you are kinda weird with shoes, what are things that you need in a shoe?
I don’t know, my foot’s kinda narrow, and for some reason a lot of shoes that I wear, my heel slips out of the shoe, and I hate when my foot moves around in the shoe. I just like my foot locked in. Yeah, I don’t know, I try a lot of shoes but these were good right out of the box, at first I was nervous to shoot a commercial or something with a brand new shoe. But the shoe fit my foot really well and it skates super well, so yeah, I was hyped on it.
I understand that every skater seems to permanently be on a quest for the perfect shoe. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
Where did the idea for “One Stop” come from?
The idea didn’t come to me all at once. It came together over the last few years, in pieces. As you know, the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that Miles skates in “One Stop” is home to some pretty legendary L.A. skate spots over the past three decades. The first time I skated that area was probably around 1995 and it has been an area I’ve revisited numerous times over the years.
In the last five years or so, that section of Koreatown became a meetup spot for my friends and I for when we wanted to get a late night skate session in. One day, it dawned on me that instead of skating each of those spots as individual locations, I could potentially string together one long line between them all but it would take a certain type of skateboarder to be able to pull it off.
That’s where Miles came into the equation. Over the past three years, I, along with the rest of the skateboard world, have witnessed Miles’ incredible gift on a skateboard via his video parts. Then, a little over a year ago, I was lucky enough to witness his gift first hand when we shot a series of video pieces for his board sponsor, Numbers. After shooting those pieces with him, I knew he was the perfect person to attempt this project with, not only because of his consistency and skill but also because of his temperament. He didn’t seem to get rattled by anything. On top of all of that, I’m a big fan of the oner/long take so any opportunity where I can incorporate that technique into a project, I try to seize it.
How many people were working on this commercial?
We were a very small crew of only five to nine people depending on the night. Most of the time, it was myself, Marc Ritzema (the DoP), Jacob Perry (1st AC), Danny Garcia (driver), Alan Hannon (helping with various crucial roles), Paul Shier (adidas Skateboarding Team Manager), Eric Anthony (adidas Action Sports Senior Brand Designer), and Zander Taketomo who shot still photos with his assistant, whose name was Austin, I believe.
Did you expect to be filming for four nights?
The entire shoot was five nights with the first night being just a rehearsal/walkthrough. On rehearsal night, everyone was equally excited and nervous. It didn’t feel real yet, meaning there was no pressure because we weren’t trying the line yet. Once we started shooting the following night, it all started to sink in.
At first, I was pretty confident that we’d be able to get the line within the first two nights of shooting and then try to up the ante if we were in the mood on the last two nights. By the end of the first night of shooting, I was still pretty confident that we’d get some version of the line by the end of the second night. When it got to the end of the second night of shooting and we still hadn’t reached the final gap to ledge, I started to realize how difficult this concept was to pull off. I reassured Miles that we still had two nights left of shooting so he didn’t need to put extra pressure on himself.
By the end of the third night of shooting, we still had not completed the line and a sense of tension could be felt but everyone remained optimistic, especially Miles, which was amazing considering what we were asking of him.
How did you secure certain objects like the fallen down trashcan (people picking it up etc)
It’s funny you should mention that because that was literally the only thing we had control over along the route. Alan was hanging out in his car next to the trashcan and whenever Miles would make his trick over the handrail, Paul Shier or one of the other guys at our minivan basecamp would radio ahead to Alan to let him know we were coming. Aside from that one obstacle being looked after, we had to deal with the rest of the headaches of the city as they came at us – pedestrians, homeless people, broken sidewalks, lawn sprinklers, and cars.
What were the major difficulties filming? (How did the filmer get up on to curbs during filming etc?)
In terms of filming the line, there were a number of things that made it tricky. Aside from all of the uncontrollable variables such as pedestrians and cars, there was also a handful of sections along the route where the ground was in terrible shape, one small miscalculation meant we’d have to start all over from the beginning. Thankfully, I fell victim to the cracks in the sidewalk only once, which forced us to start over. I felt terrible for doing that to Miles. There were also a few points where I had to step off of my skateboard while filming and either Marc or Alan would pick up my board and sneak around me to place it back in front of me so I could step back on it and continue to travel with Miles. Lastly, one of the things that made it difficult was shooting the entire line handheld without a fisheye. This meant I had to cradle the camera like a baby against my chest. After a few minutes into the line, my arms and legs would begin to burn.
What was the camera setup for this low light situation, and what made you choose that setup?
I knew we wanted to shoot this entire piece handheld and only use available light. After skating in that section of town numerous times, I knew it’d be possible to produce a clean image in low light with a compact, sturdy camera and some fast lenses to accompany it. My good friend and director of photography on this project, Marc Ritzema, has an Arri Alexa Mini package, which was the perfect camera for this type of shot. We met a couple of days prior to shooting and created the best possible handheld configuration with his camera, including accessories. We also rented some Zeiss Super Speed lenses to help us seek out the correct amount of light without adding too much weight to the camera setup.
Did you record audio via the camera or did you have an audio guy present?
One of the only drawbacks with shooting on the Alexa Mini was the fact that it requires a pre-amp in order to record any sync sound. Even with the additional pre-amp, the control over mixing the audio levels is very limited in-camera, therefore, shooting sound directly into the camera wasn’t a practical solution. We also knew that having a sound mixer on location wouldn’t be effective either so we rigged an external sound recorder to my belt and connected it to a shotgun mic that we attached to the camera. It wasn’t the most elegant solution but it ended up working perfectly.
What’s next for you? A one-take full length / do you think this idea could be expanded?
I’m not sure what’s next for me. I’m kicking around a few ideas. A one-take full length would be amazing but I think everyone involved would suffer a complete mental breakdown in the process. However, I do think it’d be fun to try and continue the “One Stop” concept in other cities that have clusters of skate spots between subway/metro stops. Barcelona, New York, and Paris are a few of the cities that come to mind.