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Catching Up with Skateboard Film Director and Former ‘Skate Fairy’ Ty Evans

Visionary skate video director Ty Evans talks about creating fantasy worlds with Spike Jonze, evolving technology, and his pre-social media presence as the Skate Fairy.

Ty Evans. Photos courtesy Mountain Dew Green Label Films and Brain Farm Cinema

Skate video director Ty Evans is possibly the most imitated dude in his field. Almost anyone who has passionately rode a skateboard during the past couple of decades knows his work on classic Transworld Skateboarding videos such like Feedback (1999) and Modus Operandi (2000). With a keen sense for music selection, Evans brought a new energy to skateboarding during a time when it needed it most, and carried it through when it seemed skating was untouchable. And he has consistently spread his fairy dust on videos from Girl Skateboards—alongside Oscar award-winning screenwriter Spike Jonze—using tools and techniques never before seen. He exited the skate industry for a brief time, but not before dropping Pretty Sweet (2012), the most technically-advanced piece of skate-cinema ever.


Recently, Evans quietly landed himself behind the lens again for the feature-length film, We Are Blood, which is being touted as the world's first ultra high-definition skateboarding movie due to premiere mid-August. Shot in China, Barcelona, California, and Dubai, the impressive team of skaters and filmers were given access to restricted places in the latter country and employ some of the most cutting edge camera technology to create what purports to be an epic skate adventure. VICE tracked Evans down at his home editing suite to see what's changed and what's been happening with the self appointed "Skate Fairy."

VICE: I've obviously been removed from the skateboarding world for a minute—I didn't realize you left Girl. When did that go down?
Evans: I worked for Girl for 13 years and it was the most amazing experience of my life. I'd love to work there my whole life if I could, but this opportunity [with Brain Farm] came up and I thought it was time to try something different. I think that making We Are Blood is a once in a lifetime chance, and I had to go for it. But working with Girl has been the most amazing experience of my life and I love everything that those guys have done and I'm so thankful. Of course hanging out with Eric [Koston] has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. He's a good friend and traveling the world with Eric has been amazing to say the least. He's an amazing skateboarder but also an amazing human being—a blast to travel with and be friends with.


Did you know Koston before working at Girl?
Yeah, skateboarding is so small. You kind of know each other and everyone within skateboarding through passing over the years. I think I first met Eric in the early 90s.

You were making films with Transworld then, so you probably filmed with him?
Yeah I filmed a trick of him… I was making videos for Transworld and I finished this skate film called Modus Operandi, and in the process of that I became friends with Rick Howard and the guys at Girl and they approached me after making the film to be a part of Girl so it was just a great natural progression. Eric at the time was filming Menikmati for éS, so he was kinda finishing that up when we were diving into Girl's film, Yeah Right! So Eric finished up then came on a minute later, and once he was done with Menikmati it was on, man. He was sitting shotgun with me every day trying to make up for lost time and just going for it. He killed it for Yeah Right! Menikmati is amazing and captured him at his prime, and Yeah Right! is still at that same time and keeps the candle burning.

Did you go to school for video?
No. I didn't. I kind of always gravitated towards filmmaking and learned how to do it just through skateboarding. I think that skateboarding teaches you self perseverance and I just kind of taught myself filmmaking and the basics of it. I started so long ago that filmmaking has really progressed with all the digital stuff. So I've been lucky enough to kind of progress with it as it went along… it's almost like—I use that analogy with people that fix cars, who started working on the very first cars. They know the ins and outs of cars 'cause they were so basic, and then as things changed they kinda grew with them.


Yeah, that totally makes sense. You've had an amazing career within skateboarding with the videos you've directed and now with Brain Farm. Has there been any significant high or low points that stand out to you?
Yeah, I mean I think ever since I was a kid I always wanted to make skate films and to be able to do it, it's amazing to me. I still can't believe it to this day. I mean, I have a wife and a kid and a house and food on the table all from making skate films. Through the years, I've started doing commercial work and doing commercials and stuff outside of skateboarding and that definitely taught me a lot of things and I've been able to bring that into skateboarding. And it's just a really cool, fun, natural progression learning all this stuff, and at the end of the day it's still just about going out with your friends and having fun making a skate film. Traveling the world and having fun. I think some of my best memories are traveling the world with Eric [Koston]. I've roomed with him a bunch and he's a maniac sometimes [laughs].

You mentioned traveling with Eric. Do you have any favorite places you like to shoot? Inspirational locations or even go-tos there in LA?
I've traveled the world with Eric, man. I mean [laughs], he's so funny to travel with. He's such a rad dude! There's that crazy photo of him flipping off the camera—that's from like a wild night of me and him in Japan. I dunno if you've seen that photo I think they made like a graphic of it that's Frosted Flakes or something. He gets frosted, he gets a little wild. I haven't seen Frosty in a long time man. I remember at the Yeah Right! premiere in Paris, I look over and he's just sleeping. I dunno, Eric's rad man… I think he's a super funny dude and he's an amazing skateboarder and I'm super stoked to be his friend and travel the world and make films with him, couldn't ask for anything better.


You also worked with Spike Jonze. What was it like working on those skits you guys did together with Eric?
Oh, well, Spike did ones before I was there, obviously. Like the Chaplin one [from Mouse], he did that without me. But once I was around, we did the Invisible Boards [Yeah Right!]. Spike's an amazing filmmaker, man. I've looked up to him my whole life and he's been so generous with sharing his knowledge and letting me be a part of everything and including me. I'm so grateful for everything I've learned just being around him. He's such a rad human being and super nice and kind and it's been amazing to be a part of everything and making films with him is just a dream come true.

Are you bringing elements from your past working with Spike and those guys into this new project?
Not really. I think the stuff we've done together with Spike for Girl is more quirky and fun. We Are Blood is more a straightforward film. The Spike stuff with Girl was more of a fantasy world. But I mean, I feel like we all get inspired by working together and there's a ton of things I've learned from working with Spike. I think just through filmmaking and being friends with everyone, you learn things and help each other pass along everything.

What was your role for Chomp On This?
Chomp was funny—it was kind of like seeing your favorite pros with their guard down. I think that's why kids were so stoked on it—It was funny. It was like me and Atiba [Jefferson] and a bunch of guys having fun, being like, "Were going to make our own video"—just joking. Then we started doing it and the momentum started building and then all of our friends wanted to be in it—it just happened organically. It was cool cause all the pros could be in it just letting their guard down and having fun.


What's one of the more memorable projects you worked on over the years?
I dunno, there's definitely been projects I've been proud to be a part of. One of the very first skate films I made was called Genesis (1997)… That was very different at the time, using very different music and editing that I made with Jose Gomez. I think there's been certain films and projects over the years that have been really really fun where a lot of the stuff is just me not knowing if I can even do some of the stuff and just trying it. Boom, you know, let's do it! And then as tech progresses [it's more like], Can I even work this camera? I have no idea. Pick it up and figure it out. So over the years, I think projects like Genesis and Feedback and Modus Operandi… all that stuff, the early Transworld videos and Yeah Right!, and Fully Flared, and Pretty Sweet for Girl and the stuff I'm working on now is kind of just the culmination of everything. And I think each of the films progress as they go, and I'm excited for this one because I think it's going to be something new and different.

I always really liked The Reason (1999) too because it seemed like everyone was at the top of their game. Actually I wanted to ask you about the music aspect, too. Do you think you can credit yourself with putting Muska on to drum and bass music?
No [laughs], I think when I met him he was already into drum and bass, but we definitely bonded over that for sure. I had a tape he would put in his ghetto blaster—we'd go out and skate and he'd be like, "Bring your drum and bass tape."

Sick! Have you still worked closely with music selection in the newer videos too, like Pretty Sweet, etc.?
Yeah, we've just been chipping away at it. It's hard with these films because you have a music budget and you only have X amount of dollars to get a song. So sometimes you can't get what you want, you know. A lot of the times you're doing your best working within that budget.

I was wondering if you're still doing anything with Skate Fairy? Because I checked out the site the other day and it went to some like weird Japanese website.
No, I haven't done anything with that in a long time. It's funny now you know… as the internet progressed, you just want a place where you can put photos and videos. You know, now it's like we have social media and all those platforms, Instagram… and it's super easy and you can do it right out of your phone or out of your pocket. Back then, you would have to figure out coding and stay up till four in the morning uploading these photos. Now it's so simple and basic. That's all it was, basically what social media is now. It was just a way to post photos and video.

Working for a skateboarding brand versus what you're doing now with a production house, what's the biggest difference you find with working from skate industry to film industry?
In 2008, I signed as a director with a production company to direct commercials. Outside the world of skateboarding is a totally different world. Doing that, you get to learn a lot of things and meet different people and from working with them I've been lucky enough to learn a lot of different things on these commercial sets that I can in turn bring to skateboarding and figure out a more simplistic way to do some of that stuff. And, in turn, with skateboarding, it's inherent that you want to do something down and dirty and quick and easy and you can kind of implement some of that stuff in the commercial world as well. So they complement each other.