Mike Gilbert has been Video Productions Manager of Black Box Distribution for nearly 10 years now. He has given us some of Black Box's best videos, including Fallen Footwear's Ride the Sky and, most recently, Zero's Cold War. He has successfully preserved Zero's trademark style of fast, raw skating throughout the years so we at SkateMore were stoked for the opportunity to sit down and learn a little bit more about his approach to filming, his dangerous encounters while travling and how he brought Cold War to life.
This is The Mike Gilbert Interview
What was your first introduction to film?
I never really had much of an introduction. It all just started with going out with the homies and filming back in the day. There never really was a point where I said, “I want to be a skate filmer”.
Did growing up in Alaska and Colorado inspire your videography at all? What was the skate scene like?
It may have a little and I’m not ever aware of it. Back then in the late 90’s It was a rad skate scene in Anchorage, Alaska. There was a rad shop (Boarderline) that put a lot of videos out. Jason Borgstede and Jesse Burtner were professional snowboarders that pretty much edited them while Micah Hollinger did a lot of the filming. It was like a yearly thing that was taken pretty serious amongst all the local skaters.
Are you influenced by films made outside of skateboarding?
I watch some stuff from time to time that I think “oh that was cool” but rarely does it cross over into the skate world for me. Something that has influenced me lately though is the over produced, over epicness, over slowmo’d of everything in skateboarding. Its just skateboarding, not hollywood. It should not take 30minutes to set up to film a trick. In addition, not everything has to be super duper slow motion to be appreciated. Its just overkill at this point and I want to do the exact opposite.
Cold War | Zero Skateboards | 2013
"There never really was a point where I said, “I want to be a skate filmer”
How do you maintain the style of video that Zero has developed over the years?
Zero has a long legacy of producing just raw, fast paced gnarly skating. No glitz and glamour editing, no super slow mo epic shots. Just raw skateboarding. At this point I've been doing it long enough that its just ingrained in me. I don’t really have to think about, it's just second nature now. Sometimes, I’ll film something and just think “That’s doesn't fit in a ZERO video”. It just might not feel natural or it feels too clean. For the first time in a Zero video, we added some lifestyle shots into the edits for Cold War. That’s a big step for us and we readily had to check ourselves to make sure that those shots still had that natural, fast-paced, not over produced feel. Hopefully that came across.
Do you have a favorite Zero video? Has the answer changed over time?
It has always been Misled Youth.
Misled Youth | Zero Skateboards | 1999
With the success of Road Less Traveled can we expect more documentaries from you in the future?
I don’t know if I’ll be doing anything along the same lines as RLT, but it definitely renewed my appreciation for the story. As I'm getting older and have witnessed a lot of amazing skating, I want to do things that represent the amount of passion and desire these dudes put into the parts. You have videos like Cold War that are just raw fast paced skating that are amazing, but they don’t always do justice to how epic specific things were in an individual' part. I plan on doing a few behind the scenes, documentary-styled features on Cold War. Basically taking certain tricks and elaborating on them more and attaching a human side to it. Maybe some rider commentaries, b sides, things like that.
Tommy Sandoval, Fakie Frontside Flip | Zero Skateboards | Strange World | 2009
"...not everything has to be super duper slow motion to be appreciated. Its just overkill at this point and I want to do the exact opposite."
What was your LEAST favorite destination overall and why?
I don’t want to offend anyone so I’ll just leave that alone.
Was this trip the first time you've been threatened with a sword to leave a spot?
Yeah, I don’t think a sword is often the weapon of choice people tend to go to first in order to remove skateboarders from their property.
Any other good random weapon threats over the years?
Some idiot pulled a gun on us in Mexico City when we were filming for Ride the Sky. It kind of back fired though, because Jamie wasn't having it, went and grabbed a cop, and together they chased him down the street until he was no longer a threat. I was still shitting my pants at the time and couldn't believe that we stayed there and filmed until we got the trick.
The stuff Jamie will go through to get tricks sometimes is mind boggling, but at the end of the day, he’ll get it. I almost think he does better when stuff like that happens. He’s one of those people that thrives under pressure ya know.
Jamie Thomas, Nosegrind | Zero Skateboards | Strange World | 2009
"Zero has a long legacy of producing just raw, fast paced gnarly skating. No glitz and glamour editing, no super slow mo epics shots. Just raw skateboarding."
Why did that dude rev up a chainsaw in the middle of the street? Where was that?
That was in Istanbul, Turkey. We were just sitting in traffic and a dude was walking by with a running chainsaw. Someone in the van hollered at him to come over and hold up the chainsaw so they could get a photo or something for Insta. That’s when he just went for it and practically stuck the thing in the van running wide open. It was a chainsaw rev of excitement and happiness, not of hate. Everyone was hyped, something as simple as that broke up the monotony of being in the van for hours.
Jamie Thomas, Frontside Board | Fallen Footwear | Road Less Traveled | 2013
"The stuff Jamie will go through to get tricks sometimes is mind boggling, but at the end of the day, he’ll get it."
Did you do a lot of camping in the American West?
We did camp a lot when we had the opportunity. When we were in small towns or in the parks areas that’s all we did, but as we went into some of the bigger cities, it became more of a pain to camp then to just stay in a hotel. Its not easy to find camping spots in cities so you end up having to stay on the outside of town and that just because hassle when you are trying to skate as much as possible.
Where were locals the most mellow with skating?
Thailand, regardless of the sword dude.
How did you decide where to film?
I'm still not sure. Its a very democratic process...
Who rode motorcycles and who was in the van?
Jamie, Tommy, Slash and Wiggins rode bikes everyone else was in the van.
Fallen Footwear | Road Less Traveled | American West | 2013
What skater do you think put in the most work / effort?
For Cold War its hard to say. They all worked very hard for their parts. For RLT, Id say Dane or Jamie. They both wanted to be on every trip and skated hard when they were.
Who kept the party going?
The Party? That’s Lannie for sure. Always down, always hyped and keeping dudes motivated.
Do you have a favorite spot from Road Less Traveled?
I'd say it would have to be that mall in Thailand. It had those hubbas out front, the 8 stair rail and then that massive double set. Actually there was a lot of really cool shit there, but it was just so damn hot it was really tough to skate. The bucketloads of traffic didn't’t really help either.
Did you film for Cold War at the same time?
Yes I did, but I definitely wasn't as deep in the trenches as Anthony and Lannie were.
When did you start filming Cold War?
We pretty much started filming for Cold War the day after Strange World premiered. With so much stuff going on in the skate world right now, its really difficult for guys to focus in on one thing. All their sponsors need something from them every now and again, so its one of those things where you have to handle what is the most urgent. Regardless, we are always working on a new project. I guess its just something we do to keep ourselves focused and on track.
Jamie Thomas, Switch Crooks | Zero Skateboards | Cold War | 2013
"As I'm getting older and have witnessed a lot of amazing skating, I want to do things that represent the amount of passion and desire these dudes put into the parts."
What were some of the first tricks you got?
Beats the hell out of me. Too much has changed since then to remember.
What is your favorite part in Cold War?
All of them. Everyone nailed it.
How many hours of sleep do you think Jamie Thomas gets per night?
3 most of the time, 6 at most.
Will you do anything to celebrate 10 years with Black Box?
It will be 10 years soon, but I don’t have any plans. That’s sounds rad though.