UNDEREXPOSED: from idea to iTunes

UNDEREXPOSED was an incredible journey. When I started, it was just me, my iPhone and a powerful desire to show the skateboarding industry that there were girls skating at a high level all over the world. I was frustrated by the cutbacks happening for women’s skateboarding and wanted answers. (See “No Room for Women in Skateboarding“)

2-3 years ago, I would have never believed that we would make it to iTunes. The encouragement of the skateboarding community, USC, my family and my friends have helped bring this project to fruition. I am incredibly grateful to be surrounded by such supportive people!

Now it’s out! Get it by clicking here

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For any of you who are interested in a little background story on how it all began, here it is:

The inception of this project came when I was helping Julian Bleecker with Hello, Skater Girl. We spent many car rides and mid-skate lunches discussing ways in which we can bring women’s skateboarding to light.

 

“Someone should make a documentary about all this,” Julian said as we drove to Malibu to skate this great pool (RIP). “You’re right! Someone should!” I said. “Why don’t you do it?” he asked casually. I laughed and brushed it off. At that time, my only experience with filmmaking was that I made “sponsor me” videos on Windows Movie Maker as a teenager.

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Eventually, we tried shooting a few test interviews as a side note to shooting photos for Hello, Skater Girl. But at the time, the focus was on the book and a documentary just felt like wishful thinking.

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I wasn’t sold on the idea until after I heard about X-Games canceling women’s vert. I remember pacing around my parents house the summer after my junior year at USC. I was frustrated and wanted to change the way things were for the girls with dreams like mine. I knew that a film would be the best way to reach the most people. I declared that I would try. After all, it had to be done.

I went to my first “serious interview” with a makeshift iPhone tripod my dad made from scraps he found in the garage and an audio recording app. Needless to say, it was not used in the end product.

When I returned to LA, I borrowed cameras from friends and started with something I at least had some sense of: I met up with the pro women I am proud to call my friends and filmed them skateboarding. I scrambled to rent random cameras from my school and eventually my friend Sam Colen let me commandeer his Canon 7D for extended periods of time.

But as I started doing interviews I realized I had no idea how to capture sound properly. If you can’t clearly hear someone’s interview, I doubt you will sit through a documentary with 1.5 hours of muffled speech.

Luckily, I met Brian Lynch while skating Fontana and started to pester him with questions about filmmaking. Eventually, he agreed to come along on one of the interviews. I think he pitied me as he watched try to sync an external audio device I rented from Annenberg with Sam’s 7D. After that, he offered to come along and help me with interviews so that I could actually capture what people were saying. I warned him that I would be working on this for as long as it took to make a proper feature-length doc on the subject. I’m not sure he believed me at the time but he still offered to come on board as the producer of the project.

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I quit my job working as a writer for the USC Annenberg Public Affairs, dropped my course load, skated less. I wrote many papers, e-mails and sat through meetings convincing professors to let me pursue this as an independent project. I remember seeing the doubt in the eyes of the chair of the Narrative Studies department as he suggested that I shoot for a 20 minute video instead of a feature-length documentary. But I knew that it was time for the topic to be taken seriously. Twenty minutes sounded like just another side project that would do nothing but give a wink of acknowledgement to the girls.

I spent all of my time between classes traveling to interviews, sending e-mail blasts to relevant people I found through search engines. (At the time, I didn’t know nearly as many people within the industry as I do now.) I spent hours in the basement of Annenberg fumbling with Final Cut and logging hundreds of hours worth of footage. I went on editing sprees through Thanksgiving and even Christmas. When I had breaks from school I sometimes edited for over 40 hours straight.

Oftentimes, I couldn’t help but think: “What in the world do I think I’m doing? Will I even finish this? Will it make any sense? Will anyone care?” In those moments of doubt, I would think about the words of acknowledgement and advice I received from the skateboarding community. Despite my naiveté in the realm of film, people within the skateboarding world seemed to believe in me. The comments and shares on the original trailer and the messages of encouragement fueled my mission.

As we approached our self-imposed May 2012 completion date, I showed Brian my version of the documentary. In the first cut, it was obvious that I had a strong background of analytical and argumentative writing and not storytelling. Watching the first cut was akin to a live-action college paper. Although it was informative, it was incredibly boring.

Brian suggested that “my story” should be in the documentary. I was incredibly reluctant. After all, this wasn’t supposed to be about me, it was supposed to be about women’s skateboarding as a whole. I discredited his idea immediately. However, after my Gender in Media Industries and Products professor, Alison Trope, allowed me to do a test screening in her class, the majority of the students agreed with Brian. Professor Trope was a key player in helping me pursue the documentary during my time at USC.

I passed the first version of the documentary to Brian to see what kind of changes he had in mind. After a few weeks, he showed me some of the chapters he worked on. For the first time, I felt like I was watching a real movie. It was really beginning to take form!

We then continued passing the documentary back and forth, editing and revising it as we continued to travel, track down crucial interviews and search for footage from girls from other parts of the world.

The August 2012 Agenda Trade Show soon became our new deadline. This action sports trade show in Long Beach seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the attention of our key audience, the skateboarding industry. We buckled down and finished a nearly-polished version of the film.

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I had nightmares leading up to our Agenda screening. I was convinced everyone would fall asleep, leave in the middle of it, or worse: make fun of my love for Kale.

When the credits began and the lights came up at the end of first screening, no one was slouched over their chair in a deep sleep, no one made a run for the exit. Instead, they watched the credits laughing, clapping, waiting for a Q&A. I shakily made my way to the stage, hoping no one noticed that I spent the whole movie nervously sweating.

The goal of the film was to start serious conversations about the progression of women’s skateboarding. I was in awe of the fact that people stayed for hours after the first screening asking questions and discussing ways to generate opportunities for girls who skateboard. Since then, these conversations have travelled throughout the world and social media sphere as we were granted opportunities to screen the film all over the world.

Today, I am incredibly grateful to be part of a community as supportive and receptive as Skateboarding. There are so many people to thank individually that even the end credits of the film are missing some truly wonderful souls. We are all bound by the love, excitement, purpose and camaraderie that skateboarding has brought to our lives and are compelled to help it grow and flourish.

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THANK YOU to everyone who has ever uttered an encouraging word in reference to Underexposed. Your cumulative support has created the wave that helped us ride this project to the very end. For that, and for all of you, I am forever grateful.

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