Arts & Life, Movies, Sports

Tricks of the trade

Over ten D.I.Y. skate movies and two talented filmmakers, Winnipeg’s Green Apple video series has captured the raw, dedicated spirit of the city’s tight knit skateboard scene. What started in the early ‘90s as a way for Winnipeg skater Roan Barrion to see him and his friends on video, has evolved into so much more.

“The story of Green Apple started at the front plaza of Maples Collegiate, which was littered with a series of perfectly sized ledges and curbs, and was a naturally perfect skatespot/hangout.  The school administration was skateboarder-friendly (rare in those days), and let us skate hassle free”  Barrion explains, via email.

“Many summer days and nights were spent learning tricks and perfecting them, and much of my early footage came from this spot. The people I chose to film were primarily my friends, with new crew members being recruited along the way.  It wasn’t that important to be a great skater to be accepted into the fold, you really only had to have great character and be respectful.  Those that felt entitled to be filmed, or were not thankful for my efforts following them around under a blazing hot summer sun, usually were not rewarded with footage.”

While Barrion was responsible for the early Green Apple videos, since their collaboration on 2000’s Street Magic, which won the duo the Best Director Award at Winnipeg’s National Screen Institute’s Amateur Short Contest that year, Ryan McGuigan has been the driving force behind the video series’ aesthetic. Barrion left filmmaking to pursue other interests, while passing the proverbial torch to McGuigan, whose footage Barrion had edited to create the award winning short.

“For me, it all started when I began working at a skateboard shop called Boarders Anonymous in St James when I was 15. My Dad brought home a video camera and I started filming my friends skateboard. I was just learning it” explains McGuigan in between editing down the final version of Green Apple’s Video X, which was set to premiere the next day. “I bought a Green Apple video from this record store, it was called Blue Green (1997) and I couldn’t believe Winnipeg skateboarding was in this video. I was like ‘what the hell’? I have to make a video like this. Mike McDermott and Rod Ferens had quit SK8 to ride for Boarders, so that’s when I met Mike. I started filming him and the whole crew.”

McDermott was a few years younger than Barrion and the early Green Apple crew, but was tearing it up enough to get noticed and make it into one of the videos, Daydream. Some of the other Winnipeg skaters in Daydream were Jake Stewart, Kenny Haralson and John Erhart. “We were just a bunch of friends who wanted to get some of our stuff on video for us to watch with each other, the lack of video cameras made it kinda hard” writes Erhart over email.

Along with documenting the growing skate scene, the videos also pushed everyone involved to skate more creatively, work on new tricks and try new lines or gaps. “Back then you were hearing about all the new tricks being done for the first time (here anyway), so we would get amped to go get new shit all the time” suggests Erhart.

“I guess around 1994, we skated an abandoned Esso parking lot on Pembina by the University of Manitoba. I used to see Roan, Frank Daniello, Daniel Golub and a lot of the old Green Apple alumni skating around” says McDermott. “At the time, they were just the guys to look up to. They would make videos at the end of each year. I got good enough to be in one and they had me in my first Green Apple video called Daydream.”

From those humble beginnings, McDermott went pro in 2008 and McGuigan has created his own adrenaline infused editing style that mashes up everything from news reports to psychedelic flashes to trippy visual textures to footage of civil unrest to unabashed pop culture to cartoons to aliens, and this was only in the trailer for the new Green Apple video.

“Ryan has a unique editing style,” adds McDermott. “He would put in these slices of things that would be related to the skater. We’d call it schizophrenic style. We were marketing ourselves, but we weren’t focused on it. We were really just doing it for an inside joke for all our close friends, but it really just helped us market ourselves.”

Right from Green Apple’s early videos, the raw, gritty feel of Winnipeg’s skate scene was captured. Although influenced by Barrion’s videos, McGuigan samples visuals from a wide range of material. The 31 year old filmmaker mentions everything from horror films to UFOs to the paranormal and ghosts to foreign cinema during our conversation.

McGuigan describes his style as taking some footage, a bunch of songs and throwing it in the blender with some LSD and then flipping the switch and seeing what comes out. “The whole thing should not look the same way throughout. It should always be changing, like an experience.

“When I used to watch old skate videos, there seemed to be a formula. I remember being so bored. I wanted them to switch it up. When you watch MTV or MuchMusic, it’s changing every three seconds. It’s like ADD editing. We were in the ‘90s and 2000s, kids have a short attention span. You have to make it exciting. Before you can get bored with a clip, something else is already happening. It’s always something new. It reminds me of a Ramones interview where they said that their songs were too short for you to get bored. I can relate to that.”

Modern Love was McGuigan’s first solo film and was released in 2005 when they were living on the west coast. He would go on to film, edit and direct Supper’s Ready in 2007 and Peep Show in 2008.

“At the time we weren’t thinking about it, we were just having fun” suggests McDermott in between helping customers at the Green Apple store. “Because he made videos that didn’t just pick local dudes, Ryan had a chance to film aspiring amateur skateboarders. He used the Green Apple name on another level. His first film, Modern Love, just indirectly groomed us together. For me, I learned some business sense, just being around the industry and seeing how things worked. He had an outlet, people to focus on and somewhere to be creative.”

“I wanted to show people’s personalities” says McGuigan. “ I felt a lot of skate videos didn’t do that. It was just tricks, music and a couple face shots. That’s where the samples come in. For everyone’s part, I will try to think of stuff that they are into or shit they were inspired by growing up. It’s like branding. You put everything together to form a piece that you slide into the bigger picture.”

After moving back to Winnipeg in 2008 from Vancouver, the duo set out to expand the Green Apple brand, launch a store under the name and continue to showcase and inspire Canada’s growing skate scene. While he might not have as much time to skate as he would like, McDermott is still surprised at where those early sessions in the parking lot have taken him.

“I was just honoured to be in all the same videos as the cool dudes in the city” explains the easy going and charismatic Winnipegger. “ I had no idea I was going to open a store and use the name Green Apple. When I turned pro, I needed something to do, because that had been my goal. It took me so long, I just wanted to get to that status. I soon as I got it, I was like ‘now what?’”

Running a store has proved to be a big undertaking and it’s taken them a bit of time to get the first shop video together, but it will be worth the wait. Along with featuring local skaters, McDermott is excited about killer footage from Toronto’s Paul Liliani and Vancouver’s Russ Milligan. The video is premiering on December 21st at the Graffiti Gallery in Winnipeg and then will be officially released in early 2013.

Along with showcasing Green Apple’s growing skate team, Video X also features an original soundtrack by Denmark’s SYGNOK, Goodiepal and DJ HVAD. McGuigan, aware of the Internet chatter about his latest project has been building since the trailer was released, is both humble and extremely appreciative of the attention that his style of filmmaking has received over the years.

“It just goes to show that you should stay with what you love and everything will work out somehow” laughs the soft spoken, DIY filmmaker.



A couple of his top influences:

1) Stereo: A Visual Sound (1994)

This video, above all, had the greatest influence on me as a videographer. Jazz soundtrack, with skateboarding interspersed with gritty Super 8 clips of life in the city.  The overall aesthetic really resonated with me.  And the way this particular team skated, style and smoothness over level of difficulty.  Loved it.

2) New World Order (1993)

Primarily Hip-Hop soundtrack during hip hop’s golden age. I really identified with this particular team and their style of skating, i.e. technical and smooth, rather than big and fast.  It was a very stylish video from start to finish, particularly in terms of graphics and visuals.  This video also taught me how important proper music selection is, and how it can impact and shape the perception of the skateboarder and his skating.


Anthony Augustine is a music, technology and pop culture writer who spends way too much time in front of the computer. Follow him at: @anthonya

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