A collaboration with Airwalk, the Harold Hunter Foundation and NYC skate fixture Alex Corporan, "Already Famous" campaign creative director Mitchell Ware's NYC skate documentary "We Out Here" debuted at The Hole gallery on NYC's Bowery the night of Nov. 27.
"We Out Here" presents the personal stories of skateboarders from the inner city, delving into the problems kids from New York -- who might not normally even step foot in Manhattan -- encounter and the lack of acceptance they feel from their communities. The film is a part of Airwalk's Already Famous urban NYC campaign, created by Ware.
Inside The Hole, a skate-deck installation adorned one wall, and there were glass cases housing Airwalk's limited Already Famous edition One sneaker, but the focus of the gallery was a quote from the late Harold Hunter, illustrated on a bright-yellow wall: "There were mad legends in the room, and I'm a legend, so I had to bust." Harold's spirit touched the entire project. Corporan spoke in the documentary about first meeting Hunter, who grew up in the Avenue C projects, and how he opened up that part of the city to many skaters who would never have ventured there in the late '80s. According to Corporan, Hunter knew everyone in the neighborhood and acted as an ambassador to the Lower East Side skateboarding scene. Years later, we're seeing a new generation discussing their neighborhoods and how they gravitated downtown once they found skateboarding.
Filmed entirely in black and white, the documentary embodies the true punk spirit of skateboarding that the casual fan might not get with the media's depiction of the New York scene. These are real kids dealing with gangs, poverty and being homeless. Skateboarding isn't just their vehicle to avoid the pitfalls of growing up in some of the most dangerous parts of New York; it's a gateway into a community -- a support system. Director Ron Brodie gave his perspective at the premiere: "I think of the black skateboarding movement as sort of a fight club. It's punk rock, and rebellion, and just about anyone is included based off of a hippie-like 'spread the love' philosophy."
The screening itself was anything but a tame event, with cheers shouted at the projection throughout the entire film, often eclipsing the dialog. The audience wasn't heckling or making noise for the sake of being heard, though; it was an intense celebration of their friends and family on the screen. Contrary to the story arc of many skateboarding documentaries, "We Out Here" doesn't have an ending, or a moral. Instead, the movie is a window into the lives of urban skaters whose stories have yet to be written.
After the film concluded, "MTV News" personality Sway Calloway hosted a panel discussion, mentioning that he "...was here as a student, to learn more about the culture." Sway's earnest nature and outsider perspective helped to drive home the narrative of just how pivotal skateboarding can be to those who don't see any alternatives in their lives. In the documentary, Harold Hunter Foundation Executive Director Jessica Forsyth said, "The average pro skateboarder's salary was only around $30,000; that's still better than what you'd make at McDonald's," and that point resonated as she sat beside a panel of skate entrepreneurs who might not have been self motivated without the sport. Wade Yates, co-founder of Trophy Grip, echoed this, saying that he started his own company knowing he couldn't physically skateboard forever, but wanted to have something of his own for his future. "That American dream of nothing to something has been the case with football, basketball, you name it. Now skateboarding is a huge opportunity for these guys," says Ware. "In skateboarding, ability is only a fraction of what it takes; so much of being a pro is based on background story and personality. And these guys have a ton of it."
Forsyth ended the panel poignantly: "Skateboarders are some of the most creative people, who see the world in a way that others don't see yet and isn't always appreciated by the mainstream." While the mainstream might not tap into the pulse of skateboarding's creativity in real time, I was reminded of a scene in the documentary where Corporan was holding a still photograph from the set of the 1995 Harmony Korine movie "Kids." Some of the people in the frame aren't with us any longer, many have gone on to successful careers, but they were all "Already Famous."