Josh Stewart Escapes to LA

TOA Crew - ph Josh Stewart
ph. Josh Stewart
“…she was naked, pissing and giving no fucks…”
When Josh Stewart Puts out a new project, you just have to watch it. AS his  “Static” series confirmS, Josh produces skateboard videos of the highest quality and his mix between vx1000 and film footage has become his unmistakable trademark. In his latest offering, josh brought together a bunch of skaters (among which our friends Leo Valls e Taylor Nawrocki) and escaped the harsh new york winter to go and bask in the Los Angeles sun for three weeks. An unusual destination considering the usual “east coast” aeSthetic we’re accustomed to in his edits, but a decision that couldn’t have been more spot on and showcases “the City of Angels” in a refreshingly different way. After a little less than a month, The result is a 13 minute video available on DVD that includes a special edition of “The TOA Times” (available here),  plus a 9 minute web version done in collaboration with Jenkem Mag that you can view at the end of this article. So read the inteview, watch the video ans support Theories.
Escape-to-la-dvd Escape-to-la-TOA-Times


Chef: Your “Escape from New York” edit also had water in the intro (the mermaid and the bubbles). Water “fetish” or coincidence?

Josh: (Laughs) I think it was just a coincidence but I like that you noticed that. Honestly the mermaids were just the perfect fit for a Florida trip since Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, and that place we shot the mermaids at is a weird little tourist attraction that’s been there since the 1920’s. Florida sits on the largest underwater cave system in the world and that place is the entrance to it. And with the LA piece I just always have been surprised that nobody has made a video project focusing on California surf culture. It’s so rad and it’s part of skateboarding’s heritage. So I was really hyped to use that as the theme of the video.

Chef: The footage suggests that you guys did a lot of cruising and random spot searching. How did the day-to-day spot selection come about?  

Josh: It depended on who we were with. At first, when we were rolling around with some locals, we kept driving to specific spots. Which was rad at first but it got really old being in a car and getting out just to skate one spot. So eventually, we started choosing an area to park in and then we’d all get out and cruise around in different directions to find stuff on our boards. I think that helped a lot because when you’re in a I car you get too picky and you wait until an ideal spot pops up. When you’re on foot you tend to try spots out and skate things you wouldn’t have pulled the car over for.

Chef: There are tons of interviews where skaters have complained about LA traffic. You were a pretty big crew so how did you guys get around LA most of the time?

Josh: We would usually pick one area and stay there for the better part of the day to avoid getting caught in traffic. Then we’d head downtown for a night session or go somewhere like downtown Pasadena to creep for spots. It helped skating with locals like Vincent Alvarez who would help us plan our day around avoiding traffic.

Chef: Does anyone in the crew surf? And if so, is anyone in the film footage?

Josh: (Laughs) Actually, I don’t think ANY of us surf! A lot of us are from Florida but there aren’t really very good waves there. I asked a few local LA friends who surf a little for suggestions of where I might be able to capture some decent surfing. So I just crept up the beach and poached from far away. It was actually really tough because I couldn’t tell which surfers would be good and which sucked. I would just have to wait and see if someone was about to catch a good wave and then pull the trigger. I wasted a lot of 16mm footage filming surfers who were no good or who caught waves that ended up being small and boring.

Chef: Who was the biggest Tarantino fan?

Josh: I would have to say it was myself. I think that’s probably the most influential movie of the past 20 years. And it really captured the LA vibe so well. I wanted to somehow grab some of that same vibe but with my own twist. I really didn’t want to use that opener since it was the Pulp Fiction song but I couldn’t find another surf rock song with even half of it’s energy and power. So I just went with it.

Chef: Who came up with the name and did anyone on the crew do a good Snake Plissken impression?

Josh: (Laughs) The idea either came from Pat Steiner or myself. I actually had wondered if anybody had made the connection, so I’m stoked to hear you did. Well, we did that Florida trip a year before and when we did that trip New York City was buried in snow and freezing cold. So the idea of escaping New York made a lot of sense and stealing the movie title gave us some rad imagery to steal from. And since this was like the follow-up trip it fit perfectly with the John Carpenter series to call it “Escape to LA”.

Chef: On the Theories site you usually have a “quote” section. What was the best quote on this trip?

Josh: I have a terrible memory so if I didn’t write any quotes down immediately I don’t think I can remember any of them now unfortunately. But I would say that anything that comes out of Dustin Eggeling’s mouth is usually pretty classic and quotable. I just wish I could remember one of his quotes.

theories escape to la

Chef: Downtown LA must be pretty wild, especially at night. Any crazy stories behind some of the clips that made the final cut?

Josh: Dude, LA downtown at night is actually VERY similar to the scenes depicted in “Escape to LA”. There are entire areas completely overrun with homeless people and junkies. Like 7-8 square blocks of just tents and encampments filled with them, it’s insane. There’s a 16mm shot of the crew pushing down the street at night in front of that Los Angeles theatre…right after I finished pulling the trigger on that shot we skated past an old lady completely naked squatting in the middle of that street pissing. It was fucking insane. That’s the middle of downtown and a major busy street. And she was naked, pissing and giving no fucks whatsoever.

“I knew it was the last trick of the edit right when he landed it.”

Chef: Favourite clip of the trip and why?

Josh: Damn…that’s impossible to say. So many clips felt like a triumph after doing so much driving and searching to find spots, hopping fences or finding out someone had already done what we had just filmed. Dustin Eggeling’s full cab to switch manny was a rad one because I was so shocked that he did it. Then he did it AGAIN! (laughs) Also a couple of John Baragwanath’s clips were really rad to get. Like those tricks over the rail into the bank because I’ve seen that spot for years and always wanted to skate there. That spot was chaos because it’s a weed dispensary and they were tripping on us for skating there, plus the landing went right into heavy traffic and it was super foggy that night so it was just really dangerous and stressful. And Ben Gore’s 50/50 Ollie out over the fence was epic. Such an incredible spot I knew it was the last trick of the edit right when he landed it.

Chef: Thanks for your time! Anything you’d like to say in closing?

Josh: Skating LA was actually a blast. It was fun to work on a project where I knew people wouldn’t know what to expect. TOA skaters in LA seemed a weird mix but it was a fun challenge to come up with a different way to present it and hopefully present a side of LA people hadn’t seen yet. And it was obviously rad to have dudes like Vincent, Montoya, Cromer and the WKND dudes involved because they are true street skaters that keep LA still looking fresh after all these years. I’d be stoked to do it again.