Rowan Zorilla (left) and Irie Jean on the set of Joseph (All photos by JT Rhoades)
There are a few things you’re guaranteed to find on a Hollywood film set. When a bunch of skaters, musicians and artists get together to make an indie movie, however, things look very different. Instead of production supervisors on the verge of a collective panic attack, and important chairs bearing important names, you’re more likely to find empty beer bottles, extinguished joints and a director with a shoot-from-the-hip approach to filmmaking.
That’s essentially the story behind Joseph, the first film from artist and skateboard graphics designer BB Bastidas, who describes his movie as a cross between Gummo, Kids and A Clockwork Orange. It’s about life in his hometown of Oceanside, California, as seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old skater named Joseph (played by Vans / Baker Skateboards amateur Rowan Zorilla) as he and his mates get into some shit during one unforgettable summer (you know, like in Kids).
Baker pro Justin “Figgy” Figueroa is contributing to the film’s soundtrack with Dylan Donovan from Sacri Monti, and also appears in the film along with a glut of other California skaters and an 18-year-old model called Irie Jean. With the sole intention of making a good film – as opposed to just trying to put bums on seats – Bastidas and his troop of stoned skaters are sounding the DIY klaxon loud and clear. I called him up to find out more.
BB Bastidas (in the stripy shirt) on the set of Joseph
VICE: Hey BB. Joseph is your first film, and a lot of skaters are involved, so I presumed it was a "skate movie" of sorts. Is that right?
BB Bastidas: It’s a film about kids from where I live in Oceanside, California. It’s not a "skate movie". I mean, sure, pretty much everyone who's making it and is in it skates, but that’s just the culture here. It’s more about the characters than it is about skateboarding, which is just part of the culture in southern California – like surfing. Like, if we were in Texas I'm sure the culture would revolve around football and barbecues, you know?
How did the project come about?
Well, I'd been thinking about doing a film for a while, and it just seemed like the next step for me, as I made a short film for DGK in 2013 and it felt really natural. I've been talking about making Joseph with Rowan for about a-year-and-a-half, then I just got my shit together and now we’re here.
So you cast Rowan as Joseph. How much skating does he do in the movie, and how are his acting skills?
There are a few scenes of him skating. Rowan is a really natural person, and that comes off in the film. He gets better at acting every time we film a scene.
How do your friends feel, being directed by you? Do they shut up when you scream into the megaphone or do they disobey you?
[Laughs] I don’t have a megaphone, but now that I think of it, that would be rad. Yeah, everyone’s pretty easy to work with. Sometimes at the end of the day they start to get kinda over it, so you just need to try and get stuff as fast as you can.
I'd imagine you end up partying a fair bit on set.
I'd say it’s 50/50. Sometimes it’s a party and there's drinking, smoking and all that. But other times I'm amazed how professional they can all be.
Do you film stuff while you’re high, like Dennis Hopper used to?
Well, there’s a fine line of drinking and smoking that can take place before it’s too late and you’re like, "Oh fuck, they’re all way too drunk and stoned to do this." So yeah, I’ll have to sometimes be like, "Hey, put that twist out for a sec," or, like, "You guys need water?" It’s most likely not your typical film set.
I re-watched Thrashin’ the other day, which also has a load of cameos from skaters. Are there any other skate culture movies that get you hyped?
Thrashin’ is sick! I guess I would go with that. Is Kids considered a skate film ‘cos they skate in it? If so, Kids is my favourite.
Yeah, it kind of is. You mentioned to me before that Kids, Gummo and A Clockwork Orange are influences for Joseph. Is your film another case of skaters losing their shit?
I mention films like Gummo, Kids and A Clockwork Orange because of their unique storytelling, rather than mentioning "skate films" like Street Dreams or Grind, because those movies are presumably like, "WE SKATE AND THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT SKATING." Which, in my opinion, is corny. Like in the movie Kids, it’s about some skaters and their daily lives and everyone in between. You know, it’s not ramming it down your throat – the fact that they skate. But to answer the question – yeah, they may lose their mind from time to time.
Figgy, who’s also the guitarist in Harsh Toke, is doing some music for the film, along with Dylan Donovan from Sacri Monti. What’s their sound like?
They’ve both sent me little recordings this week and both sound rad. I give them songs that I like the vibe of, then we meet later and watch parts of the film and try to come to a vibe we all like. I’ve heard rough edits of what him and Dylan have and it sounds similarly heavy and rad. We’re just getting all the songs in line, but after that track is laid, Nato [from The Drowning Men] will play with it, too. He's in charge of scoring the film.
Most of the skaters in your group are really creative – Figgy’s a musician, you paint and design board graphics. Do you think there’s still a relationship there, between skating and creativity? Because it used to be this fringe thing that attracted more creative people, but that's maybe not the case so much any more.
Skateboarding is based on creativity, so most people do other creative things outside of skating. When Figgy’s not on his board he's playing guitar non-stop; most skaters are very creative people in general, so yes, I believe there is a strong relationship there.
So what do you say to people who say that skateboarding is just a sport?
I don’t think skating and sports share anything in common other than the fact that it’s physical.
How has your involvement in skate culture affected your approach to filming something like this?
The attitude of, "Fuck it – I'm going to try this, and if it works, rad, and if I blow it, well, I guess that can be kinda rad, too."
What have been the toughest things to film so far?
[Laughs] Holy shit – it was the first time we ever filmed. It was out of control. First off, I don't think anyone knew what was going on. It was hectic, and the actual scene in the film was hectic, too.
How was it fucked up?
It was a scene where Rowan and Shaun’s characters go buy some weed off Figgy’s character, and the house they go to was just full of the crazy people who'd be at a flophouse. Everyone played the part that day and shit was just hectic. When we finished shooting, it was night time and Figgy was dressed all crazy from filming that day, and he stubbed his toe skating barefoot – I think he'd been drinking all day while filming and was bleeding all over the place. Me and him were sitting in the alley waiting for a friend to come outside to go to a bar, and a cop stopped in front of us and said there was a report of a fight at the bar we were about to go to. And Figgy looked like a crazy person, all bloody. I was like, "Oh shit, there’s no way this cop is going to believe that he's dressed like this for a film and is all bloody from skating." Somehow, we got off the hook.
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