Eddie Martin Interview

We spoke to director Eddie Martin at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest about his new film All This Mayhem, the story of world champion skaters Tas and Ben Pappas, currently on limited theatrical release in the UK.

Seeing as you knew the guys in the film, did you have trouble broaching certain subjects? For instance, you don’t push too far into Ben’s girlfriend’s death and the stories around that. Did you feel it wasn’t necessary to talk in any more detail?

Well, not in the 90 minute film. Obviously their story is so huge, at the end of the day that is what happened, regardless of the details. Literally there are so many details to that story that you could make a 13 episode type show with it, but to condense it into a 90 minute structure, we couldn’t afford to go into every minute detail.

What amount of raw footage did you end up with?

With Tas we did a couple of interviews, I think we did three or four in the end, but with everyone else we pretty much did just the one interview. But it did take time working with Tas, talking about particular subjects obviously was sensitive. As a doco maker, I’m just really cautious about being careful and respectful of the sensitivities of his story, and before we took the film out we showed him a rough cut, just so there were no nasty surprises in there. Not that anything was censored through that.

Some people would say that it helps to be the outside, external observer, but do you think the fact you did know them allowed you to make this film that you might not have been able to make otherwise?

Definitely. Subcultures are a very closed shop, and they don’t let in strangers. So that was one advantage I had – I knew the players, I’d been involved in that world, so it wasn’t like I had to break into a scene. But obviously it took a lot of time to work with Tas and get the trust, for him to be able to tell the story in a…what’s the word I’m looking for? A cinematic way? I don’t know if that’s correct. Really it was about him being able to open up in front of the camera, and be honest, just searching for the truth and getting him to be able to open up on screen.

Being this sort of observer – how do you think skating has changed since the 1980s?

Well, obviously there’s this street shift from vert ramps, but I don’t know if it has really changed all that much. There’s this commercial element, but you could argue that in the 80s it was huge as well and there was a commercial element as well. It just seems to go in cycles, and I think we’ve just come back around to another cycle where it is quite big and commercial. It is definitely a lot broader. When we were young, skateboarding was like an American culture and it was very foreign to our parents. They couldn’t understand what we were doing. Now I think it’s a bit more digestible for the broader public. That’s probably the big difference – you’re not such an outsider freak if you ride a skateboard.

What are your distribution hopes for the film?

We’re focussed on our global digital release, but we have been fortunate and do have distribution deals in place where we’ll get theatrical runs in the UK, in the States and in Australia. That’s very exciting, especially for a little documentary to get that opportunity. As a filmmaker, you just hope that your work will get seen by as many people as possible.

The big kind of message that I want to relay is that a non-skater can enjoy this story, and there’s more to it. You don’t have to be a skateboarder. It is the story of two brothers; it is a story about redemption and addiction, and brotherhood. There are lots of layers in there.

You’ve just done my work for me!