Adam Bhala Lough (“The Carter”) returned to the Tribeca Film Festival last week with “The Motivation” an inspiring, behind-the-scenes look at the remarkable legacy of skateboarding, as eight of the world’s best skateboarders prepared for the annual street league competition held in New York. Founded by Rob Dyrdek of MTV’s “Rob & Big,” Street League is where true credibility is fought for and earned, as these professional skateboarders lay it all on the line. Leading up to the contest, each contender must overcome unique challenges—family pressures, injuries, money, fame and their own internal struggles—for a chance to win the big cash prize and coveted title of best street skateboarder in the world. The skaters featured in the documentary include Rob Dyrdek, Nyjah Huston, Chris Cole, Ryan Sheckler, Sean Malto, Chaz Ortiz, Paul Rodriquez, Luan Oliveria and Bastien Salabanzi.
The Source Magazine sat down with director Adam Bhala Lough. Check out what he had to say:
What inspired this project?
It was totally my idea. I was flipping through the channels about a year ago, ESPN, and I came across this skateboard competition that just looked like no other competition I’d seen before. I mean, it was in a basketball arena and it was this personalized course that had been made just for this one competition and it was the best skaters in the world like jumping down ten, twelve stairs, grinding. It was like nothing I’d seen before, so I immediately got interested. I was intrigued as a documentary filmmaker, you know the first thing you do is go online and just start researching. And as I was researching this competition and then learning about all the people involved, Rob Dyrdek, who I’d known about, but never knew he started this thing, “Street League.” And you know, some of the skaters who I’d known about for a long time like Chris Cole, some I just learned about like Nyjah Huston and Bastien Salabanzi and Luan Oliveira, and some who I’ve been fans of for a long time like P-Rod and Ryan Sheckler, I was like, “I got to do a movie about this.” So I sat down with Rob and he’s huge fan of “The Carter,” my Lil Wayne documentary. He was reciting lines from the film. He knew lines from the movie and he was just geeking out on it. So he was like, “What do you need?” and I’m like, “I don’t need any money. I just need access. I just need you to open the doors for me.” And that’s all he did. He didn’t have any other involvement in the film besides just opening all the doors and giving me all access to the competition and its skaters and it was the best possible scenario and the best thing that he could have done.
How long did you film for?
We filmed up until the road to the championship in 2012, which was at the end of August. I think it was eight weeks.
And how was it juggling between profiling all the different skaters in the film?
It was crazy. There were some missed flights. There was definitely very little sleep and just bouncing around from place to place from like all over Cali, driving all over Cali because that’s like where half of these guys are, to Kansas City, to Pennsylvania and then Brazil and France and then New York. So it was a wild ride, but it was a lot of fun. These dudes are super-nice guys. All of them are just so welcoming.
Each skater has such a unique story, which was the most unique?
I don’t know. That really depends on where you’re coming from, you know what I mean? You’ve got some pretty incredible stories. It depends on what you consider to be really unique. I mean, Luan grew up in the favelas in Brazil and some people got shot and had best friends killed and skateboarding literally saved his life.
But then you know Nyjah got his crazy story with his family situation and his family drama. And then Bastien was this legend who was at the top of his game, highly influential with his videos, with the flip video Sorry, highly influential unlike all these guys and he just disappeared and no one knew where he was for years and it turned out he had a bunch of kids and was just chilling in France totally in the cut, didn’t want anyone to know where he was. And then he showed up one day for the European qualifier and he killed it and he won and he got into Street League. The next day he was in Street League. So it was like this crazy comeback out of nowhere, you know. So all these dudes have really incredible stories. I mean even Ryan, Ryan was this like tweener heartthrob, massive MTV celebrity, and now he’s a dude who’s fighting to get his street credit back, fighting to be the best skater to prove himself like, “I’m no joke,” like “I can really skate.” And he can. He’s ill. And so he’s got a very unique story too, like the fact that he’s gone from like being this MTV heartthrob to now being one of the elite skaters who always goes big and earns mad respect for always going big.
Do you look at skateboarding differently now?
Definitely! Before my knowledge of skateboarding really came from New York and Zoo York in particular and being here for 12 years and living with skaters. It was more of a kind of a hardcore perspective, but now I’m seeing it from a different angle of some of these guys are elite competitors. They’re elite. They are sponsored by Nike. They are on the level in the skateboard world, and arguably in the sports world of like a Lebron James or a Kobe Bryant. You know what I mean? Like Eric Koston was on tour with Lebron in China, you know. Eric Koston was playing basketball with Lebron and Instagram-ing that, it was hilarious, these guys are big-time competitors now. And so I have a very different viewpoint on skateboarding now after doing this movie.
If you could direct a Part II to “The Motivation” would it be a follow up, or would you profile a new crop of skateboarders?
I think it would definitely be cool to do a new crop of dudes, but maybe one or two of the dudes are the same like if I did another one around Street League, I could do another one around another competition, or I could do another one around Street League. And if it was around Street League and it was eight finalists again maybe six of them are new, but then two we already know because whose going to stop Nyjah? Only Nyjah is going to stop Nyjah at this point. So he’s probably going to be back in the finals every year for the next five years.
What was the best memory of making “The Motivation”?
The best memory was definitely coming back to New York for the finals, shooting here, staying with the guys at the Dream Hotel and traveling everyday to the practice sessions and to the finals and just being there standing behind the apron where they wait to go in to their tricks. So I was back there watching, that was insane. I basically lived out every kid’s dream, as a filmmaker, yeah. It was pretty sick. So that was definitely my best memory and also just coming back to New York where I lived for 12 years. I moved here when I was 18 and then just 15 months ago I moved to Cali. So coming back was pretty sweet, you know, because this is like definitely home to me in many ways.
Any thoughts on the NY vs. LA skate scene?
It’s completely different. I mean it’s like night and day. When I think about the skate scene in New York City now I’m actually very appreciative of it – it’s amazing that it exists because LA has so many more resources and it’s so much better of a place to skate and then everybody’s there on one side of the river is the Berrics and on the other is the Fantasy Factory, not to mention the weather. It just makes me think that it’s amazing that New York has Zoo York and has a strong sort of world here that exists around skateboarding. It’s pretty amazing that it does given how difficult it is to skate here.
Can you speak about working on “The Carter” with Lil Wayne?
I mean, the experience making “The Carter“ was amazing. I’d never give it up for anything. It’s all love now, I talked to Cortez just a couple of weeks ago. He and Wayne are super-stoked about this movie, about “The Motivation.” And you know, as for the movie, I think it might be the most widely bootlegged and pirated documentary in the history of documentaries. I can’t think of another documentary that’s like been more pirated and bootlegged online…I can go on bit torrent and there are a billion files and it’s on YouTube with a hundred million views on YouTube. Kids have translated it into Portuguese, Italian, French and Spanish, the whole movie they like translated it and put it up. So it couldn’t get out there any more than it already is out there, you know.
I have nothing but love the love for Wayne. I love what he’s doing for skateboarding and I’m still a fan of his music and I will be till he retires, which hopefully will be never.