Skateboard grom sensation Asher Bradshaw has been making friends with high-profile skate legends like Tony Alva and Skip Engblom in the Venice, Calif. skateboarding community -- and collecting millions of YouTube fans -- as word of his skatepark prowess has spread. His eighth birthday is coming up in November, and he's already been attracting media attention from all over the place --- including on ESPN -- and is the star of a new documentary film currently heading into post-production. Director Kathy Herndl calls "SHReD: The Story of Asher Bradshaw" a passion project, and after shooting more than 140 hours of footage of Bradshaw blasting out of bowls and blowing minds wherever he rolls over the last 18 months she's taken to Kickstarter.com to try to raise the $100,000 completion funds she needs to finish the documentary and take it out on the film festival circuit.
"I was down in L.A. when the Venice Skatepark opened a few years ago and there was a huge crowd," Herndl recalls. "All of a sudden I see this little tiny kid busting a three-foot air in front of me, and every single person down there is cheering and clapping and shouting, 'Oh my God!' Everybody could see that they were watching something special unfold, and I knew I had to learn more about this kid and where he came from. I eventually met his dad and learned that he'd first stepped on a skateboard just 14 months before that day."
Herndl started shooting within a few weeks of meeting Bradshaw and his father, and the first footage she released -- "6 year old skateboarder Asher Bradshaw at Venice Beach Skatepark" on YouTube -- went viral when it was posted to YouTube in September 2010.
"His dad said to me, early on, 'I'd love to have some of this video you're shooting to show around to try to get some sponsors on board,' so I put a little clip together, which we then put on YouTube. Within two days it was everywhere, and right now that first clip has had about 1.7 million views. The response to this kid's skating has just been incredible."
Bradshaw's already getting used to being called "The next Tony Hawk" -- Herndl points out that Hawk didn't step on his first skateboard until he was 8, so Bradshaw already has a headstart -- but he also represents a bigger story in skateboarding. As bigger and better skateparks are being built in California and across the country, younger and younger skateboarders are rising to the occasion. The amateur skateboarding competition circuit has also grown exponentially in recent years, and places like Camp Woodward have helped fuel grom progression.
Bradshaw was born in 2003, a few months after 13 year-old skateboarder Ryan Sheckler staked his claim as the youngest athlete ever to win X Games gold, and represents a generation of skaters for whom just about anything is possible. This summer he watched, wide-eyed, as 16 year-old Nyjah Huston skated into the record books as the youngest competitor ever to win X Games Street and 14 year-old Mitche Brusco became the youngest skater to land a 900 on the X Games Megaramp. Just last week 12 year-old Tom Schaar landed a 900 on the MegaRamp at Woodward West.
"Asher has no idea that there's anything he can't do and he has no idea of the impact he's having on others who see him out there doing it," Herndl says. "He just skates. He's just out there playing and having fun. It's pretty incredible to see what these skateparks have done for younger skaters and to see the community that builds up around them, to see the older guys encouraging kids as they're coming up. Asher's a real product of that, and he's lucky that some of the true pioneers of skateboarding, guys like Tony Alva, just happen to be locals at the parks where he's been learning."
Herndl says she has a compelling story to tell about Asher and his family, and some spectacular skateboarding footage to share that will make that year-old YouTube clip look like, well, child's play. She's also excited about the prospect of financing her project through the Kickstarter campaign.
"It's a very new and interesting way of funding a film, and I realize $100,000 is a big ask, but if you were to go to a big production studio and ask for that kind of money they're going to want 70 to 80 percent of your project, and at that point you lose creative control over the editing and how the story is told," she says. "This family put their trust in me that I would tell Asher's story accurately, and the only way I can keep that promise is to keep creative control of the film. It also seemed like an idea skateboarders could get behind: Kickstarter is a fan-based crowd-sourcing website and it represents a whole revolution in filmmaking to be able to wrestle that power and creative control back from the traditional production companies."
Actor Wilmer Valderrama (best known for his role as Fez on 'That 70s Show') is on board as the film's executive producer and many of the pro skateboarders featured in the film have been lending their support for the project, which will be fully funded through Kickstarter if at least $100,000 is pledged before November 27 (click here to pledge to back the project). In the meantime, Herndl says, she'll be busy filming the "pint-sized demon" every chance she gets.
"The story's kind of never-ending in a sense... where do I stop?" she wonders. "He just keeps getting better and better."