Thursday 11 October 2018

Interview with Charlie Samuels

Virgin Blacktop is filmmaker Charlie Samuel's visual diary – one that explores his youth, friendships and love of skateboarding. It is currently doing the festival route.

Why skateboarding and when did you discover it?

Because I immediately fell the first time I stepped on a skateboard - which got me hooked as I felt the pull of respect, then challenge. When the Wizards started skating in the 1970s we were considered social outcasts by the mainstream but to us we felt we had discovered this incredible device of self-expression, not unlike a guitar, that also had a tolerant social sub-culture. We were obsessed with skating — it was our first love. I slept with my first skateboard in 1976, the year of America's bicentennial.

And for those that haven't seen it, how would you describe the film?

VIRGIN BLACKTOP is an uplifting, funny and emotional 50-year time capsule of 9 lives about American unity amongst boys skating across boundaries to become men.

How long has the film been coming? Where did it all start?

Our crew had a reunion in 1994 so we built a skateboard ramp inside my apartment in Manhattan, New York City. The energy and camaraderie amongst us was so unusual and elated that I had to film it with my new Hi8mm video camera. I thought that, if the energy translated well I would cut it for one of my half-hour documentary TV shows on Manhattan Neighborhood Network. I then remembered that others had shot us on 8mm film back when the Wizards were competing in the 1970s so I was hoping that if I found any of it I could add that in too. Not only did I find all of it but the cinematographers, Gail Tipton, Carlos Cisneros, Rolf Taylor, Will Hammerstein and James Oursler were stylistically way ahead of their time - the footage was stellar! So I had to do it justice and bust it out of a half hour cable access show into a real movie. I think VIRGIN BLACKTOP communicates 99% of the feeling of what it is like to form your own community that lasts a lifetime.

Can you tell me about some of the folks you've interviewed for the film?

I mostly interviewed the other 8 Wizards for VIRGIN BLACKTOP - some over a half dozen times each over 20 years. They are all so incredibly different but they are gregarious characters who cemented their personalities because of the confidence and support we gave each other as we ushered ourselves through adolescence in the 1970s. You have to meet them!

Can you tell us where audiences can see it?

5. Mystic Seaport FF CT Saturday Oct 20 @3:45pm
6. Margaret Mead FF @ AMNH  New York, NY Sunday Oct. 21 @4:30pm
7. FilmColumbia FF Chatham NY  Sunday Oct. 28 @12:00pm       
8. YoFi FF Yonkers, NY.  Sunday Nov. 4th @4pm
9. Moments Festival Malaga SPAIN mid-November.
10. Helsinki Finland, 2019 dates unknown
11.Dunedin International film festival, Dunedin, FL Jan 12, 13, 2019