Joe Krolick Captured the Golden Era of Street Skateboarding
As the '411VM' staff filmer, he was right in the thick of it.
Joe Krolick. Photo: Ryan Young
As a kid in Trenton, New Jersey, Joe Krolick loved shooting films. He also loved skateboarding, and it didn't take long to combine the two passions. Like many others at the time, Joe was hooked on the iconic monthly mail-order skate video series, 411VM. But Joe wasn't just consuming the videos, he was creating his own clips and submitting them to see if he could get an in. After countless submissions, he was eventually contacted by Chris Ortiz, senior video editor at 411VM, who offered him a staff filmer position.
The idea of a monthly video magazine may not sound impressive to younger skaters, who can watch whatever footage they want online. But 411VM was the biggest skate video magazine for a reason: the talent on show was unparalleled, and the "411 opener" reels showcased what are still some of the best tricks ever captured on camera. Joe Krolick was right in the thick of it.
I had a chat with him about 411VM, Eminem and the best thing he's ever filmed.
VICE: When did you first pick up a camera?
Joe Krolick: I first picked up a video camera when I was 13. I broke my leg and bugged my mum for a camera so I could still hang out with my friends while they skated. It was a Sony 8mm from the pawn shop; I think it was like $300 in 1993.
When did you start to shoot skating?
I realised when I got that camera and took it everywhere, it just felt like I wasn't good at skating, but my friends were better, so I kind of lived my skating with them through the lens.
Who was in your first skate crew and what did you call yourselves?
The first crew was called Noreaster and had about five or six dudes. We made like four videos – super budget 8mm to VHS, with superimposed titles, then stepped it up to Nintendo Paint titles.
How did you get your break in skate filmmaking?
I went to a demo / benefit called Shred for Mike [Cardona] and filmed some clips and bugged Anthony Claravall [one the main 411 camera guys at the time] to send my footage to 411VM. I thought they would never consider my footage unless it came from a legit filmer like him. I remember making a Mini DV firewire transfer and overnighting it to him in NYC. 411VM issue 30 came out and I had five clips and a credit trick from the tape I sent to Claravall. I was the happiest kid in the world at that moment, even though they were clips from demos.
Your filmmaking platform, Classic Clips, is an insane archive of nostalgic 1990s and early-2000s skateboarding. How did you end up filming so much?
My dream was to work for 411VM since I saw the first issue, so I did everything in my power. I was 17 at the time and lived in New Jersey, which is nowhere near LA, so I kept contributing clips and just kept bugging Chris Ortiz for a job, and when I was about to graduate my second year at college he offered me a job as an editor-slash-cameraman. From there, I got to meet all the skaters in the industry. Ortiz opened a lot of doors for me.
You've filmed a lot with Fabrizio Santos. He was an amazing and unique skater. Do you have any memories of his skating that you’d like to share?
So, Fabrizio I met since he lived in Costa Mesa and road for New Deal. He spoke no English at the time, and I would tag along with [Chris] Ortiz while he shot photos and would film the Breeze. His kickflip nose grind, the first ever done, was probably the second or third time we filmed together. Fabrizio did it in like 30 tries.
Sick. What's the gnarliest trick you've ever filmed?
The Nuge's [Don Nguyen] ollie down El Toro. This was way before Baker; he was a shop-sponsored kid from Oklahoma. He was friends with my roommate at the time, Robert Lim. He got drunk the night before and claimed he could ollie El Toro, so he kept his word the next day. Rolled up once and boom, next try: ollie it, like no big deal.
You have some classic skate park contest footage. Why do you think contest skating was so raw back in the day?
Back then there was no security, no credentials, no press passes. You were lucky to get free admission to a skatepark if you were filming and it could potentially be seen in 411. Skaters took care of themselves. It’s all evolution. Skaters and industry peeps can now make a living off doing what they love. Can you say Olympics?
You filmed the Eminem boxing gym 411 intro. How did that come about?
There was at an event called Brooklyn New York. An east coast magazine called Fridge had an idea to take NYC to Killington, Vermont – which is about five hours north, in the mountains – and do a weekend of snowboarding, skateboarding and music. Deville Nunes and I drove up thinking it was going to be this big skate event. It was about 10 degrees fahrenheit and the skate event was in a small airplane hangar that looked like a four car garage. It was so cold and packed.
Who else was there?
I remember Josh Kalis and Dan Pageau were the top dudes there. That night, Black Star was performing with Eminem as an opener. It was the day his first album came out. I pretty much approached him and asked him to do a station ID. It was in the green room, AKA the basement of the Killington Ski Lodge. There was another filmer, Howie Glover, who also filmed an intro with Eminem. 411 ending up using his station ID of Eminem instead of mine, but they did use my intro with Black Star [Mos Def & Talib Kweli].
Did you film any other celebrities for 411 intros?
Elton John is probably the one that sticks out in my mind, and I'm still in awe that he was nice enough to do it.
411 openers had so many great tricks. What's your favourite 411 opener of all time?
It's a toss-up between Tom Penny’s kickflip backtail and Heath’s 50-50 ollie out at Fashion Island [issue 30 cover]. I didn't film them, but I love them.
You did a behind the scenes video for a skate shop with Lil Wayne. What was it like working with Wayne?
Wayne is genuinely stoked on skating. It's crazy how big he is, and that he’s down to go light up a spot and film a trick for hours when he could be anywhere in the world..
Lastly, do you have any advice for young skaters who want to be videographers?
Film your friends, even if it's with your phone. Keep filming and networking. Do something original and people will take notice.