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Skateboard Documentarian Stickler Discusses Her Craft
(Posted 4/6/2004)

(By Josh Rabinowitz for

In March of 2004, we had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Stickler, the Emmy-nominated writer, and producer and director of documentary films who reportedly has called herself an "extreme documentarian." Her movie "Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator" was recently released on DVD.

One quote from the movie: "It gets to a point where you forget it's a privilege to be a pro skateboarder" -Lance Mountain.

We saw the movie before theatrical release at a 6/19/03 viewing, and our notes indicate the following list of notables covered and/or quoted in the movie: Jason Jesse, Ken Park, Lance Mountain, Jeff Newton, Mark Gonzales, Don Hogan, Kevin Staab, Stacy Peralta, Mofo, Steve Olson, Tony Hawk, Dave Duncan, Brad Dorfman, Michele Chavez, Shepard Fairey, Steve Caballero, Craig Johnson, Randy Johnson, Rich Cook, Harry Jumoni, Tod Swank, Rob Roscopp, Christian Hosoi, Jeff Phillips, Billy Smith, Lou Statman, Bill Silva, Mark Templeton, Jason Lee, Kris Markovich, Mike Vallely, and Carol Leggett.

Following is our interview with Helen from March 2004.

Helen Stickler: Hello how are you?

Josh Rabinowitz: Good, how are you?

HS: I'm good.

JR: I guess the DVD (of Stoked) has already come out?

HS: It came out on February 17th and did really well in its first week, and it's been in Blockbuster [ Video ], Hollywood [ Video ], Tower [ Records ], Best Buy, someone even saw it at Wal-Mart. And you know, any kind of skate shop that wants to carry it can get it as well. So it's definitely getting out there.

JR: Wow. How has feedback been since the public has kind of seen it more?

HS: Feedback has been fantastic. I couldn't have asked for a better response.

JR: That's great. So what's on deck, what's your current work?

HS: My current work? What I'm working on now? I'm in pitch heaven. (Laughs) I'm pitching like 3 or 4 different things to different places, and I'm working on a script, so I'm trying that. But, you know, things are going to firm up in the next month or so. But if they all work out, then I'm really in trouble.

JR: Can you tell us anything about any of them?

HS: No.

JR: Ok. So this must have brought you a lot closer to the skateboard community.

HS: Yeah, yeah it did. You know, I met all those California guys.

JR: Is that what kind of prompted you to want to move out there?

HS: Um.... I just really need a change right now. It's really like I'm just a little bit burned out from a lot of different stuff. I always wanted to go and try out LA, and I'd kind of got to the point where I'd done so much traveling in the last six months that I haven't gotten to see any of my friends in New York. They might not even notice if I just leave now! (Laughs) So, yeah. I mean, I'm going to keep my place here, kind of put one foot on each coast.

JR: So you've really worked on a lot of diverse projects. What inspires you to work on the projects that you work on, because obviously you put a lot of work into the things that you do.

HS: Yeah. Well, I think if there's any kind of common thread, someone pointed out to me that my previous short film "Andre the Giant Has A Posse" has a lot of corollaries with Stoked, in that both had something to do with a skateboarder, but they're both also about, like, image: our obsession with image, image in society, and things like that. And I hadn't really thought about that before.

I guess a project, for me to really get interested in it, has to really grab my attention. And it has to be something with enough mystery in it that I know it will keep my curiosity for a long time. You know, if you get bored of your idea, then you're not going to have the stamina that it takes to finish it. Because all films take really a long time. There's no instant gratification in the world of filmmaking! (Laughs)

JR: I guess not.

HS: Unfortunately. I mean, yeah, with video it's great. You can go out and make little short things for yourself, you know? Put a videocam on your shoulder and have something in a day. And I like to do stuff like that too.

JR: So your next work you expect to be on film?

HS: Um, I have a short independent film that I want to do, right now I'm just pitching stuff for TV, because I haven't had a paycheck in so long. Stoked was just a huge money pit that I'll never see the light of, pretty much! (Laughs). So right now I'm pitching some stuff for television, but there are some other things that I want to do independently.

And I guess the difference between the ones I do for me and the ones I do for them, is, um, maybe how personal it is. Is it something that I feel like I really want to take my time on, and don't want to have to deliver it on someone else's deadline, schedule, or budget. You know, it has kind of a more unknown quality to it. Then I'd be more inclined to do [such a project] independently.

JR: Makes sense. I mean, if you're doing it for someone else, it has to be on pretty tight schedules.

HS: Yeah, you got to know you can deliver.

JR: Are you still in touch with Gator (Mark Rogowski)?

HS: I haven't talked to him in a while. His brother emailed me two weeks ago, and he has seen the movie, because Gator can't see it. But his brother was pleased and thought it was very balanced, and congratulated me on it. So that was nice, it was very thoughtful of him to write.

JR: I really liked it too, by the way (the Stoked movie)

HS: Thank you.

JR: You're welcome. Um, is there anything else that you'd like to ask, or that you want to plug, or anyone you'd like to mention?

HS: Have you seen the [ Stoked ] DVD yet?

JR: I have not.

HS: There's a hundred minutes of extra footage on the DVD: a lot of archival outtakes from interviews that Gator did, and skate sessions that he did that have never been seen before, or at least in their full entirety. FUEL television did a half hour special about the movie so we put that on the DVD, and then there's some extended scenes. There was some really riveting footage that was brought to my attention after the film was finished.

One of the things about DVD is that you can go in there and do these extra scenes where you're not beholden to the pace of the movie. Because the movie is really fast, you know, you can't spend 13 minutes on one scene! (Laughs) So it's cool to able to put that stuff on there.


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