As we all know, there are swarms of filmers around the world filming on pretty much everything from iphones to HD drones. But there are only a few, a mere handful who develop their own significant style and who's work can be recognized even without being told who filmed the clips you're seeing in a video. Zach Chamberlin (aka Sprinkles) is a shining example of one of these master craftsmen in the modern era. Making a name for himself in San Francisco, Zach has managed to capture some of the most incredible moving images while surfing the treacherous hills at lightning speed all the while staying ahead of the skaters the whole way down.
From the start of the Theories of Atlantis site, I have prioritized showcasing the dedicated filmmakers who have sacrificed their own skateboarding, their health and their financial security to capture important underground skateboarding. But it has been too long since we last caught up with one of these characters so I'm hyped to finally get this interview together with Zach Chamberlin. Zach and I have gone back and forth for nearly a year get these words on digital paper but it ended up timing out perfectly to launch it aong with Zach's newest video offering, the Push Periodical "Partial World Tour II". Released TODAY on Zach's website.
-Interview by Josh Stewart
Where are you originally from and where did you first start skating?
Oregon is where I grew up. A 25 minute bus ride or two micro beers away from Portland. I started skating in front of my house rolling on old school boards (70's or 80's)- from garage sales or neighbors- metal boards with tiny little trucks, they were all for downhill slaloming or some ill shit. One of the first magical moments was looking down my block at a kid skating. But not moving, solely jumping with his board. I didn't understand how he stayed connected. I remember going to this skatepark in Lake Oswego, where kids were doing fly outs off the side of the 6ft quarter pipe to flat. Punk skaters doing big sideways 540's. It got shutdown a few months later after a skateboarder hit some dude over the head under the business garage next door when it was raining.
Haha....that sounds about right. So, what was the first skate video you saw?
I tried to find it after this question but it's in the vaults somewhere. It's called Xtreme boarders. It had two VHS' inside with every kind of boarding. Wind, surf, snow and all those with fucking kites attached too! But the skate section was fully 80's- a posse ripping around the city and they end up in a warehouse stalling cinder blocks and benches or whatever. Watching that made me realize one of the main reasons I love skateboarding. The accessibility of it has always kept me connected. I'm lucky enough to have a board and a front door to walk out of drop it and roll. So many sports and extreme shit people do need too much gear and gas and ego for me. I don't wanna be the first to summit or the last to die but I'm always going to be searching for that higher ground.
Well, then, how did you first get interested in picking up a video camera?
(I got interested) as a child when there was still a fascination of 'why am I me'? When I'd see people's eyes I'd try hard as possible to really be them for a moment. I was just fascinated by how the world can be thought about and seen by other people. Picking up a camera or looking at photos or good films plays with that fun idea. Also my pops always had a Nikon around his neck and I'd shoot photos of animal poop and goat dicks or weird stuff.
When and why did you relocate to San Francisco?
San Francisco is so legend. Once I began to dig into the culture of skateboarding San Francisco became where I wanted to go. Since I was raised on the west coast growing up in rainy Oregon it made the most sense for me to come to SF in 06'. A 'Roomies' episode of 411 in SF with Elias Bingham skating, smashing around old union square at night is unforgettable. Big up who filmed that! It's Basically why I moved to SF. Also Trevor Prescott's Seasons videos I think are like a renaissance to SF skating. When I visited SF -right before moving here- I watched them and I think that really cemented it. Carlos young told me he thinks Trevor was one of the first dudes to get out and really explore everything SF had to skate. Crusty and hard spots that were full of character. He ripped and filmed with a passion so he's a legend for me.
Who were the first guys you started filming with once you moved out there?
My homies from where I grew up that moved here- Bobby Groves is still here! But most have come and left. Bryan Botelho is also one of my oldest friends still here in Oakland. We still skate together. Evan Kinori is one of my oldest skate friends in SF too. Meeting him I started hanging out with Jesse Narvaez the redwood crew, Ben Gore and Matt Field and filming with the homies for Rasa Libre. That gave myself and Ryan Garshell some space to help get guys we knew who were cool on the team. Ryan had been hanging out with and filming Max Van Arnem and Nathan Porter and I with Jesse Narvaez. So they got on as the new guys. I was living on Ryan's floor so he gave me a bunch of clips of those guys and Joel Meinholz. Then I put together my first video with Rasa -The Essence of Freedom...While I was homeless. But with the illest crash pad. Thanks Ryan.
How was it adjusting to filming in SF? I mean, there's the obvious issue of the hills and rough terrain. But did you ever get vibed out by dudes who'd been in the scene for a long time or anything like that?
I was never trying to break into any EMB gangs or put myself across any lines to get vibed out. The only times I see people get vibed out is if they deserve it. As far as the hills go it's harder for me now to push all day on flats than to walk up and bomb/cruise some hills. Especially filming, it's harder to push and keep up with a camera and make it look as good compared to a hill. You ever film Westgate, Josh? He's so fucking sick props to keeping up with him Minor and everyone that films him.
Haha....no, I never filmed Westgate. That's a strange one for you to throw out there, by the way. Ok, well, you definitely have a strong style of your own with a camera. I feel like I can almost guess whenever I see footage pop up that when it was filmed by you. How would you describe your style?
Low....I like to basically sit on my board with one foot to drag if needed and I grab my nose with my left hand to guide/balance and I can use it to stand back up if needed. Lines are the best! I like to put the lens as close to the spot as possible to see the little details but also see the whole spot. Be in front on hills to Point the camera up. Obscure long lens is so fun. Maybe I'm color blind a little because I like pretty vibrant yellows and purples while white balancing. Also the last two years I've been filming left handed sometimes because for some spots it's too hard to wrap my body around and film in front. And maybe shoulder longevity. I just let the skaters roll and film what they will be hyped on. It's a nice bonus when the person watches their clip and they can see that it does the skating and spot justice.
I feel like you might have had some influence from maybe Yoan Tallandier and also from the Japanese skate scene. Would you say that's a fair assumption? What were some of you other influences?
It's no assumption. I have and will continue to give tons of ups to my man Yoan "Mac Davis" Taillandier! He's a wizard and showed me how much of a skateboard you can put in one frame and how close you can do it from! Takahiro Morita has a great skill to see a project and what it needs and carry it out. I respect them and love their work. And also as friends. Tightbooth big up for the years of powerful coverage and perspectives. I just got back from Osaka where I got to skate with a few of them. Tokyo Fatbros Dusk boys and Shelter G'z. Dan Wolfe inspiration from closure, Trevor Prescott (seasons videos) are such a staple influence. You're fishing with this question cuz you've been a huge inspiration. The clean way you put together gritty shit from the static series is dope. And that fisheye 16 is jizm code.
In skateboarding there sometimes seems to be a perfect symbiosis between a filmer and a skater and their work both seems to be best showcased when they're working together. I feel that way when I see you and Ben Gore working together. What's unique about filming with Ben?
He's mad motivated. And I always want to skate. I think since we've been friends for a long time we know what's up without needing to say much. I'm always skating soo good and Ben knows the perfect moment to get the camera out and film me.
Haha......Was it through Ben that you ended up doing so much work with Magenta Skateboards?
They hit me up before Ben even knew and said "bonjour Zach, we want to make you pro but like, you're too crazy like, it would really not help our brand. So I told them about Ben and he was solid for them so we filmed some tricks in between Ben filming me.
How has it been working with them? Sometimes working for someone else forces you to develop in ways you wouldn't have by doing work on your own. Do you feel anything new came from working with Magenta?
Yeah for real yeah! Ben's intro part we did all downhill no pushing. Then Leo liked it a lot and he's a great downhill dancer so he came to SF and we made a sequel Old Whoops New Groove. I think that part pushed me the most. Pushed is the wrong word. Just scared the shit out of me sometimes to bomb. It bombed me a lot. Going really fast pointing a camera is dangerous. I luckily never took any slams in that part. I learned how to film where my ears could hear where the board is and I'd watch for cracks and holes. Leo got his sweatpants ripped off bombing through scaffolding one day. ¡Jaja!
Wow, I'm glad I didn't have to see that......How did "Bright Moments" come about? Was that your first full length project?
First independent full Length. Rasa Libre was first but not as much my own. It just runs with the sprinkles mind set. Walk out the door and start cruising. And maybe film something. Eventually the footy goes together and shows a vibe that is true skating to me.
How long were you and Ben working on that scooter secton?
Two years about I think. Sprinkled between other projects.
Who have been your favorite skaters to work with?
Work fuckin sucks so I just have fun with all the homies and the homies homies. That's everyone in Bright Moments and there is a ton more too. No one got paid to be in the video or was trying to go pro off it. So that's basically the best vibe to me. I'm in Japan right now with the northern co. (May 2017) And we all Paid to be here ourselves. And are all homies since a long time. Thanks for the help with the rooms out here NorthernCo.
Do you have any plans on the horizon for any new projects?
This northern Company trip in Japan with Jesse Narvaez, bryan botelho, Jameel Douglas, tobin valverde, James Sayres, our homie Landro (louie). And then I'm going to France and visiting Richard Hart in Belgium. We are going to do Partial World Tour #2. Antwerp and Portugal.
Zach took a little break from answering questions during his Japan trip and then he caught back up with me once he returned to SF. So, Zach....where are you now and what're you doing?
Now I'm home editing and working on em........And now I'm done.
Haha....sick! Well, how'd it go and when can we check out the edits?
The trips were fucking great and I got to premiere them at Valdimir Film Festival in Fažana Croatia. Thanks Nikola. This interview has been spanned over a year basically. Both pieces are up on my website now. So go check them out at Zachchamberlin.com
Dope! I'm excited to see how it all came together. Ok, well I really appreciate your time with this interview and all of your dedication to the craft of skate filmmaking and all of your great work giving a voice to underground skateboarding. Anything else you would like to mention?
Yeah, another project I'm into is researching everything about hemp- Health benefits of seeds, and CBDs, the ability to replace plastics and aid cement, a strong and recyclable fiber grown with 1/3 less water and dramatically less pesticides than cotton to name a few. I have shirts for sale and will have more info on my sprinkles.bigcartel.com http://www.sprinklesf.bigcartel.com/product/search-for-higher-ground
OK, awesome! Thanks again Zach. Now everyone go watch PUSH Partial World Tour above and enjoy!
Interview by Josh Stewart