I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with skateboarding. Just look at my high scores in Tony Hawk Pro Skater. Not only do I love fictionalized versions of my favorite sport, I even love documentaries devoted to it. When I heard about Virgin Blacktop by Charlie Samuels, I knew I was in and below we have more information about the awesome project.
VIRGIN BLACKTOP is an uplifting and sometimes heart-breaking coming-of-age story about a super funky crew of suburban New York City kids. When they met in 1977, they had nothing in common except a passion for skateboarding. Despite their vastly different ages, races and economic backgrounds and with their parents hands off approach, they formed a competitive, traveling team of spirited outsiders called the “Wizards”. Now, nearly 40 years later, they remain friends but their lives have followed very different paths, from boardrooms to jail cells.
It took director Charlie Samuels, who makes his living as a professional photographer, 24 years of shooting and hunting down films to put his movie together. Along the way, he married (skateboarding on his hands down the aisle) and became the father of two but he never lost the dream of telling the Wizards’ story. He searched dusty attics for half-forgotten Super8 films, and traveled the country, interviewing former team members. The Wizards are all in their fifties now and, remarkably, all of them still skate. They recently had a reunion and watched the film for the first time. They loved it and Samuels is betting audiences will too.
Says Samuels, “In 1994 I had a weekly cable access documentary tv show in NYC that I edited on my grandfather’s VCR. When I had a reunion of my skateboard team where we built a ramp inside my apartment I filmed it on Hi8 and thought I’d cut it for one of my shows. But when I saw the footage I was amazed that the passion and energy came through so strongly so I immediately thought how I could take it beyond a half hour episode by supplementing it with interviews and a “where they are now” doc. I searched attics, basements and storage lockers for Super8 film of us and found it all. When the best time in your life happens to be documented by some incredibly talented shooters you gotta make a film about it.”
VIRGIN BLACKTOP’s next festival screening is at the Margaret Mead Film Festival, NYC on Oct 21
– Director fell first time on skateboard in 1975, got hooked then practiced alone in a cemetery in 1976 (film named after experience in cemetery).
– VIRGIN BLACKTOP film idea was conceived when Wizards built a skateboard ramp in NYC apt (first ever?) in 1994
– Director fell in love with skateboard lying his head on the blacktop staring at the urethane wheels and loose ball bearings.
– Wizards went on many road trips without parents despite driver (Director) looking no more than 12 (was pulled over by police numerous times and gas stations refused to serve him)
– There are many stories that didn’t make it into the film: Disorganized NESA slalom contest, breaking bottle to protect ourselves from parking spot stealer. Making sandwiches in supermarkets to eat.
– While shooting a scene in Las Vegas we were stopped by the cops for skateboarding, like the old days.
– While shooting a scene in Tuskegee AL, a shootout broke out next to us and we had to ‘hit the deck’.
– Two Wizards (director and star Jamaal) bombed a hill at about 40 mph in 2013 for a scene that didn’t make the cut.
– The film was edited in New York and in Paris, France by an ex-pro skateboard champion David Couliau.
– V.B. graphics are ground breaking. (skateboarders value graphics highly)
– One Wizard skateboard team member died during production.
– Wizards were photographed by fashion photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sander for German Vogue magazine.
– Wizard Jamaal Bey almost died when he was run over by a car at age 5; was photographed by famed Skateboarder magazine photographer Glen E. Friedman; Took 3rd Place in high jump in East Coast Nationals Asbury Park NJ.
– Youngest Wizard Michael Offen had a tested genius IQ; placed 1st in East Coast Nationals Asbury Park NJ 1977
– Wizard Christopher Kinzel taught sailing at 14, attended elite school Chote Rosemary and built a 48-foot steel schooner at age 20 and placed 3rd in slalom at NESA northeast regionals.
– One Wizard became Champion amateur freestyle skateboarder in the world in 1988, then turned Pro.
DIRECTOR Charlie Samuels:
– skateboarded on his hands to the altar at wedding and Wizards were the ushers 2002.
– skated the “Broadway Bomb: you could die” illegal skate race in New York City in 2015.
– is known in his hometown as “the 50 year-old skateboarder”
– launched his photo career documenting skating for Thrasher magazine, Transworld Skateboarding and Action/Sports for mainstream magazines. In 2002 shot the first known “Page 1, top, above the fold” skateboarder for the New York Times newspaper in 2002.
– Director lost 10% of his body weight in the last year of production