Interview with Adam Bhala Lough from "The Motivation"
Director Adam Bhala Lough brought his new film “The Motivation"to the 2013 Tribeca film festival and gave audiences an inside look at eight of the greatest skateboarders in the world as they competed for Rob Dyrdek worldwide “Street League" contest. Adam was gracious enough to sit and talk with Movie Room Reviews and tell us all about the film in preparation for it’s August 6th release.
Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: I saw your film "The Motivation" at Tribeca this year, when I was there.
Adam: Awesome. Thank you for coming.
MRR: I only got to go for about four or five days, and your film was one of the films I chose to see. I'm pretty excited that I get to talk to you now.
MRR: The book that I got with Tribeca...I was reading a little bit about you. It was talking about how an accomplished filmmaker you are and how you've already been nominated for a Spirit Award. You're one of "Filmmaker" magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film. You've won several awards for your film "Bomb the System," I believe. You made films about Lil Wayne and Lee Scratch Perry. You sit on the board of the Sundance Institute's Diversity Committee. Is that right?
Adam: Yeah, that's correct.
MRR: You're one of, if not the only filmmaker to have a feature film and a documentary in the Sundance Film Festival?
Adam: A feature film, a documentary, and a screenplay in the Lab.
Adam: There have been people who've had a feature and a doc at the festival. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's someone else. I know there's nobody that's had a feature, a doc, and a screenplay at the Lab, all separate projects.
MRR: That was all this year's?
Adam: No, that was 2005, 2007, and 2009.
MRR: That's pretty impressive.
Adam: If it was all in one year, that would have been insane.
MRR: [laughs] Let's talk about this new film, "The Motivation," where you focus on the world's top eight skateboarders, I guess you could say. Can you give our audience a quick rundown of this film?
Adam: A quick rundown. The movie is about, like you said, the eight all of the best road skateboarders in the world as they compete for Street League championship gold, $200,000 and the title of best street skater in the world. We chart their struggles on and off the street league courts, their struggles to be the best in one of the most highly competitive leagues in all of action sports.
MRR: Can you give our audience an idea of what street league is?
Adam: Yes, street league is the brainchild of Rob Dyrdek, who is probably the most widely-recognized street skater in the world, noted for his shows on MTV. He's the commissioner of this league, he created this league. What it is, is 24 of the best street skaters in the world from all across the globe compete in various stops, they call them, in various cities across the world. In each city, there's a first, second, third place winner, and the points are tallied up. The final championship in New York City, or in Newark, actually, the top eight from that season compete in a winner-takes-all one-day event, two hours long of the best skateboarding you'll ever see in your life.
There's only a winner, there's no second or third. One guy goes home with the trophy and with $200,000, and it could be any one of them. Once they get to the finals, the point system's irrelevant. The number eight guy, the number eight seed could win. In a way, he had created almost the Super Bowl where a Cinderella team can get into the Super Bowl and beat the reigning champ.
It's "Any Given Sunday" feeling, and that's what's so cool about it.
MRR: The whole film centers around these eight guys and preparing for street league. How did you go about filming all these guys in separate locations, all preparing for the street league? In the film, it all seems to be at the same point in time.
Adam: It pretty much is. We jumped on a lot of airplanes.
MRR: [laughs] Because I'm guessing none of these guys lived in the same location.
Adam: Actually, Nyjah and Ryan live very close to each other. They live within an hour of each other, so that made it pretty easy because we actually were able to split crews and shoot with those guys at the same time, which was very cool.
MRR: These guys were chosen because they made it to that top eight street league, right?
Adam: Exactly. These guys fought all season to make it in. They earned their spot.
MRR: I see. You didn't choose any of these guys, they were chosen for you pretty much.
Adam: Exactly, we didn't choose them at all. They were chosen for us, which is a gift and a curse. It was a gift because we didn't have to make the decisions. It was a curse because we had to get all eight to agree to be in the film, and not only to agree to be in it, but to get access to them. And so, that made it really difficult, because we had six of them right away, but the other two were holdouts. It was really tricky because it was like, we can't do the film with just six of them, we need all eight. What are you going to do? Other filmmakers might pick three, but we decided that we were going to do all eight.
MRR: I think it was cool that you did all eight, because it would be weird if you didn't do two of them. [laughs]
Adam: That was what we worried about. We were like, if we only get six, then maybe we should stop filming with a couple and just do three. But six but not eight is really weird.
MRR: Yes, because especially if one of the two that you didn't pick actually ended up winning, that'd be kind of weird.
Adam: Yes, it would suck.
Adam: It was a nail biter, you could tell, for us filmmakers.
MRR: The movie obviously focuses on these skaters, but I wanted to ask you why you chose to focus a good portion of the film to the families of the skaters.
Adam: Yes, I think that's a big part of my life right now being a parent, that I was a lot more interested in these guys' parents and how they raised them. I find it really interesting, which I think is an idea you can pull out of the film is how you raise a champion, not just how you are a champion as a competitor, but as a parent how you raise a champion.
MRR: Especially Nyjah's story was very inspiring. It was cool to see behind the scenes, I guess, behind the scenes of behind the scenes, almost.
Adam: Yes, absolutely.
MRR: Obviously, since you've been doing film and it's such a big passion of your life, what did you feel about these kids and how much passion they had for skateboarding? Or, not "these kids," these guys?
Adam: It's definitely very inspiring. It's hard in some ways to compare and contrast, but, obviously, I absolutely agree with Chris Cole when he says, sometimes I wish I could just concentrate on skateboarding and not have to worry about kids and families and mortgages and running companies, because I feel like that a lot. I wish I could just concentrate on filmmaking and not have to worry about kids, families, the whole business side of the industry which isn't as fun. I think I related to that.
MRR: I actually related to that, too. I thought that was a pretty inspiring speech he gave at that point in the film. What kind of filming techniques did you have to do in order to film these skateboarders? They were going so fast all the time. Did they ever crash into you guys?
Adam: I do remember at one point Chris bailed, and his board hit my cinematographer...
Adam: ...as he was crouched down shooting. That was a little hairy, and Chris being Chris was super-concerned. He ran up and he's like, "Are you OK? Are you OK?" Then, one time, our guy was on a skateboard, we had a filmer on a skateboard who was really amazing. He bailed really hard with a camera, and he held the camera above his head and he landed on his chest but kept the camera in the air so it didn't smash, and it was amazing that he did that. He hurt himself to save the camera.
MRR: He's got video...? What did you say?
Adam: We have his footage of it, yes. We don't have video of him smashing, but we have his footage from behind the camera.
MRR: He has video evidence. He probably wanted to keep that footage, huh? [laughs]
Adam: Yes, I can tell you it's probably not the first time that's happened to him. These filmers get hurt all the time.
MRR: Can you do any skateboard tricks?
Adam: I can't do a single skateboard trick at this point. When I was a kid, it was a huge deal for me to learn how to ollie.
MRR: I remember that. [laughs]
Adam: I never stepped up my game to kick flipping.
MRR: I don't even think I can go straight.
Adam: I have some filmmaker friends, like one of my producer friends can do a few tricks, actually. He's pretty good. He can kick flip and he can grind on s$%#, he's not too bad. But it's really hard.
MRR: It's so hard. Where I live, skateboarding actually is not that big of a sport. I rarely ever see anybody skateboarding. But that's what I was going to ask you, how big is skateboarding? Do the girls just go crazy for these dudes?
Adam: Yes, they definitely do. Skateboarding's a really big industry. It's getting much bigger overseas. I think it's now the second-most popular sport in Brazil after soccer.
Adam: Yes, and the US among kids under the age of 13, it's actually now the third-most popular sport. It used to be, at least for the kids under the age of 13, it's overtaken baseball. It's football, basketball, and it's skateboarding.
MRR: Is it, really?
MRR: When does this film come out?
Adam: It comes out on iTunes and DVD and VOD and all that on August 6th.
MRR: What else are we going to be able to see from you in the future, do you think?
Adam: We're in the early planning stages of the "Motivation 2.0." I can't really say what it's going to be about, but I can tell you it's not going to be about skateboarding, but it's going to be the same style of film.
MRR: Hopefully that'll be at Tribeca in a couple years, I'll be able to see it, huh?
Adam: Yes, we'll see. We shall see.
MRR: Thank you so much for talking with us today. We really appreciate it. Our audience will have to go out on August 6th and get the motivation.
Adam: Yes, thank you.
MRR: You have a good day, all right? Take care of your son. [laughs]
Adam: You, too.
MRR: Have a good one, bye.