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Bill Strobeck Made a Lovely Mess

Bill Strobeck took a break from filming sweaty skateboarders all over the world to make an artsy film with famous ladies and his mom.

Last week Bill Strobeck premiered his new short film, "My Lovely Mess," at that Video Syrup thing we told you about. Bill has been fiddling with the old video shooter for a number of years now, getting his start filming some of the most memorable moments in skateboarding over the last 14-ish years. I didn't make it to the screening, but I heard from people who did that Bill's film was one of the highlights of the night.


A couple of days ago he put "My Lovely Mess" on Vimeo, and watching it was the most interesting seven minutes I've spent in quite some time. It's got appearances from acting ladies like Chloe Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne, and Girl skateboard's Alex Olson plays a used car salesman trying to sell a car to Bill via video chat. I asked Bill a few questions about the film.

VICE: What's going on here? What's the concept?
Bill Strobeck: Basically, I filmed a bunch of friends and family for about a year, and then took the footage I liked the best and edited it together. The result is "My Lovely Mess."

The crying lady at the beginning is a strange juxtaposition to the rest of the film, which seems lighthearted and fun. Why did you decide to begin with that clip?
Well, the original ending I had planned was supposed to be that same girl very thrilled and happy and singing a Cher song, which I filmed her doing without her realizing it at my apartment. So she would have been sad at the beginning, then it would have seemed like she saw the film and at the end she was having fun. That didn't happen, but I still like the beginning a lot.

Was she really crying? How come?
She was really crying, but I don't want to say why. Feel free to make up your own reason. The girl's name is Chris Kennedy. She's very special to me, which is another reason I wanted her to start the film off.

What's the idea behind the split screen? The footage on either side complements each other quite nicely.
I knew the film was gonna be short, so I made it split screen. That was my way for it to be short but long. There were three screenings of it the night it premiered, which was nice, because it's hard to pay attention to both sides at once. I figured people would need to see it again in order to get everything they could from it. Even when I watch it now I find myself looking at both sides and trying to see something different each time. Split screen is a bitch to edit, though. Like a puzzle, it has to fit and complement the other side. There are hidden messages in there, too. In almost every shot, actually. It's like a story to me.

Who is that woman you're talking to in the film? Her doll is terrifying.
I know, that doll is nuts. The woman is my mother. Growing up I was embarrassed of her because she is schizophrenic. Also, her face was burned when she was younger, so she had an off look about her. She's had a really rough life. Putting her in the film was kinda my way of getting back at myself for being mean, or acting in any way that wasn't cool to her as a youngster. I think she's beautiful with her big heart, and I believe she made the film. She should be in more films.

It looks like a lot of the film was edited together using old footage. Is that the case? Or did you have this project in mind when you were filming this stuff?
Yeah, so the footage of my mother and the little girl, Naomi, was shot when I was home last summer. The stuff of everyone at the beach and with cowboy hats and other film-looking stuff was shot with a high quality super 8. I wanted to use real film cameras instead of editing in fake film burns on footage shot with high definition cameras. I then used video chats from the computer, and mixed them with the film footage to give it a new style of old and modern. That's what I was going for.

You're probably best known as a skate cinematographer. Do you have a preference between doing artsy stuff like this and filming skating? Are they too different to compare?
Well, filming skating was something I did for fun before it became a job in 1998. It was something I just fell into, and I've been able to see most of the world because of it, which is great. Making films outside of skateboarding is more of a hobby at the moment, but cinema is exciting and fun for me, like skating was at first. Don't get me wrong, I love skateboarding, but I've accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to in that world. At the end of the day any films, photos—or anything I do, really—are all one thing for me. It's everything I've done while on this Earth, and it's what I'll be leaving behind when I'm gone.