An Interview with Mark Dunning and Brett Weinstein
There was once an era when the idea of an independent skate video was something of an anomaly. A bold risk and a seemingly inevitable avenue for loosing a lot of ones own money. But we live in a new era where independent skate videos are more abundant than company videos and sometimes are even far more popular. The path has been so heavily trodden that the new challenge is to do something that sticks out from the rest, while also to telling a story that has yet to be told. One story that most of us, even the most tried and true fans of the underground, are not yet very familiar, is that of the midwest. And even less familiar with the city that should be at the top of our skate destination list, the metropolis of Chicago. Video maker Mark Dunning helped shed some light on this scene a few years ago with a rad video known as 'Deep Dish'. And he's done it again with a sequel. We caught up with Mark and one of the stars of the video, Illinois skate rat Brett Weinstein. Here's what they had to say.
How did the original Deep Dish video come about?
Mark: Well, guess I’ll give the long answer…. About four years ago, I was at engineering school in NYC. It sucked. I was over it. I ended up spending my time wandering around the city and skating by myself. I skated financial at night a lot because it reminded me of the loop (Chicago). Over time, I realized all I wanted to do was make a skate video of my own. So…. I withdrew from school and moved home. I didn’t have any real plans on what I was doing. By the time I got home, my good friend Gama (aka Matt Gamalinda) had built up a rad collection of black and white photos. They were all so sick and I wanted to help him get them seen. We paired up and created DEEP DISH, whatever that is.. Together, we released little online zines and web clips. The homies got hyped and we started skating the loop almost every night. Next thing I knew, I was locked in my room, editing for two days straight. I walked out with the first video and premiered it the following night. That’s how it came about. I thought it would be some sort of closure to skate videos for me. Like, maybe I’d grow up or something after. But…. No, that’s not how it works.
Haha…..I can attest to that. Well, then what influenced you to want to start making independent videos in the first place?
Mark: I mean.. I started filming skateboarding when I was thirteen. Everyone that picks up a camera should want to make a full-length video.. Right?... But what I find sick about independent videos and why I still make them is that they are you. It’s all experiences that you lived and captured that you can show in any way you want. Fuck everyone else. It’s like skateboarding. The parts I enjoy to watch are the ones no one else would film. Parts where no one else would think the same way. Independent videos allow that for filmers. They let filmers think for themselves. I think every good video is one that whoever made it would want to watch it. Maybe that’s selfish.. I don’t know…. It’s a tough thing to explain.
One thing I struggled with at first while editing DEEP DISH 2 was that much of it wasn’t filmed by me (I heard you had a similar experience with Static 4&5). Jon Schmoldt really held it down back home. He killed it and kept a steady flow of footage coming in from Chicago. I’m so glad he was a huge part of the project. Thanks Jon. In the beginning of editing, it was weird looking at folders of footage that I didn’t mostly film. I then found that I could piece it all together in my own way of thinking, or I hope so….I wanted it to feel like it was a video from the early 2000s. That’s what I grew up watching and still watch.
Recently, the third video has been on my mind. I’m curious what can be done within a skate video. I’d like to try to communicate some state of mind along with presenting the skateboarding. Skateboarding is a strange world though. We’re all so quick to judge or label something as wack even though what holds us all together is something that lets us be ourselves.
So you live back in NY again and attend NYU right? Why did you decide to start a second project based around midwestern skaters?
Mark: Yeah, I live in Brooklyn and study film at NYU. Well…. Honestly, I didn’t necessarily choose to do a project around the Midwest. Who I chose to do the video around was my friends. They are who I care about. They are who I enjoy skating with. They are who I want to give some exposure to. That exposure is well deserved. That being said, the video being heavily based in the Midwest did play a huge role in why I cared about the project. For whatever reason, Chicago seems to be the forgotten city in skateboarding. Even though it is the third largest city in the country, very few projects have come out of it in the last decade. Until now, this past year seemed to be the year of independent videos from Chicago. Word up to the Chicago filmers. You guys killed it. Anyway, this lack of coverage helped give the skaters’ footage a look of their own. The spots in Chicago are crazy too. I always get hyped putting out footage from spots some people may have never seen before. On top of that, Chicago just feels like home. When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t know what to say. I was born in Victoria, Canada, lived in Hawaii as a kid, grew up mostly outside of Chicago, and live in NYC now. This weird sense of home is something I’m considering messing around with in the next video.. Who knows? Maybe I said too much…. But, Chicago is where I want to be. It’s where my friends are. It’s where I want to document skateboarding.
Chicago skateboarding seems to still be pretty heavily off the radar. Are you stoked on that or would you prefer that it got more attention and recognition?
Brett: On one hand, I love that people have very little a clue about how amazing Chicago is for skateboarding. Naturally, it makes it easier to keep spots to yourself and film something that’s new and exciting. But I always imagine situations like, “Oh man, so and so would definitely do this here. Too bad he probably will never make his way out here”. So in that sense, I think it would be sick for more people to start coming to Chicago more.
Nah…fuck em. Keep it to yourself. Ok, well can you explain to those of us who may not know of them, who are Matt Nordness, Steffen Watts and Tyler Warren?
Brett: So Matt’s our friend from Milwaukee, which is an hour and a half drive from Chicago. Matt is sort of a local legend to all of us, but has never received the credit from skateboarding that we think he deserves. I would put his skill level in the likes of Brian Delatorre and Ishod Wair. Just one of those guys that is so talented and doesn’t go out skating for a day without getting at least a couple really good clips. He blows my mind everytime I watch him skate. Fun fact: He can switch flip up more stairs than I can ollie.
Steffen has been a good friend of mine for a while now. We grew up 10 minutes away from each other, and ride for the same shop, so naturally, started skating a lot together. We have a lot of similar opinions on skating and food, so Steffen and I get down.
As for Tyler, we all met him when Studio skateboards out of Canada came down to Chicago for a week last summer. We would show them around all day, then they would usually split at night to drink/ rest up for the next day of skating. However, Tyler would tag along for the late night sessions. We all thought it was sick that he would kill it all day filming with the Studio dudes, then come out and get more clips with us at night. He ended up getting a good amount of footage with Mark during his visit, as well as giving Mark some unused stuff he had from Canada and SF. I think his part came out really sick.
Do Midwesterners see each other as one group, the same way east coast skaters do? Or is it still sectioned off by state as it is in most areas?
Brett: The skating varies way too much to have any sort of classification for ‘Midwest skateboarding’. One reason I think Chicago is so under the radar is because there aren’t more than a couple crews out here that have that east coast feel in their skating or the footage they are filming. On a typical day, you can go to the new skatepark downtown and see 14 kids trying to hardflip the 8 stair, because that’s what a lot of the kids out here are stoked on. But there are definitely some crews coming out of cities in the Midwest killing it. Shouts out to Gabe Kehoe, Pete Spooner, Jesse Braun, Jim Tumey, and everyone else out here bringing the East Coast flavor out here. That shit gets me siked.
Mark: I’d say we see each other as a group to some extent. Or it may be that the older you get, the smaller the skateboard world seems to be. Whatever it is, our crew has developed close connections to others in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit, and Minneapolis.
Is there anything happening in Chicago or the midwest in general that provides some inspiration to you guys? Like a board brand, videos, etc?
Brett: I’ve always been really stoked on Jesse Neuhaus. He’s been charging through the streets of Chicago for a really long time. He has a board company called Bluetown. Everything he does with it has to do with Chicago, and he has a really solid team of dudes from the city. Other than that, I just try to find as many weird hidden spots as I can while biking around and dog walking. If it’s something I don’t want to skate, I try to share it with the homies so someone sick makes use of it. You kinda have to keep yourself motivated out here at times.
Deep Dish 2 seems to be filmed almost half in NY and half in the midwest. Where do you guys prefer skating after filming/working together in both cities?
Mark: Chicago is my favorite city to skate. The Loop which is the downtown business district shuts down at night. Leaving you with empty marble plazas and much more. Lots of times you get lucky and have very low-bust sessions. I can’t really say but I imagine it being like skating midtown 10 or 15 years ago.. I could keep going on and on about Chicago and the Loop but you should just go and check it out for yourself. You may just have a new favorite city to skate.
Brett, how long did it take for you guys to get your Deep Dish part filmed/edited, from start to finish?
Brett: Well we started filming shortly after the first video, which came out at the end of summer 2013. So we filmed about a year and half for the part and the video.
You've been getting flowed from Polar Skate Co for a while now. What was it like finally skating with the team when they were in NYC last year?
Brett: Skating with Pontus and the rest of the crew was sick. He’s so high energy and likes to constantly keep it moving. Hanging around him for 10 minutes is enough to make you think, “No wonder why this guy gets so much stuff done”. Me and my friend Nico are headed to Europe in July to meet up with Mark, and will be staying with Pontus in Malmo for a few days. It should be a fun time.
Whoa! He's going to eat you alive!
So guys, what would be the best scenario that you would envision happening as a result of Deep Dish 2?
Brett: I just want people to see that there’s sick stuff happening outside of New York and LA. I think it’s really cool that lesser known cities have underground crews that don’t get the notoriety
Mark: I want to keep getting out and filming with friends. I do hope DEEP DISH 2 helps give the skaters in it some recognition. That’d be rad to see. Everyone deserves it. They all worked so hard and put up with some of the shittiest conditions. There’s a clip where Nordy literally rolled away through slush.. Also, I’m living in Prague right now and travelling Europe in July to film for the third video. I’d like to film sections with the local crews. It’d be cool if the video helps get some crews out here hyped to meet up and film. But yeah, I’m just trying to focus on the next video now.
We were given the honor of being able to host our favorite part from Deep Dish 2. The full part of Brett Weinstein. So watch Brett shred the streets of Chicago and then get busy booking your flight for your summer filming trip to the windy city this summer. Enjoy.
Thanks a million to Brett and Mark for your time and for shedding some light on your little known scene for TOA readers.