Photos by Don Luong
Back in 1993, Ed Templeton started Toy Machine, a skate company that was strange and thought-provoking.
It was characterised by Ed’s unique illustrations, his gallows-humour marketing style and, of course, the succession of amazing skateboarders that rode for the company. In terms of enduring video productions, Welcome To Hell (1996), Jump Off A Building (1998) and Good and Evil (2004) will forever be cult classics. Then came Brainwash (2010), but we haven’t seen a new full-length Toy Machine video for nine years.
The good news is that Programming Injection, a brand new Toy Machine video, is done. The video will premiere across the US in the coming days, before being released online worldwide in a few weeks. With full parts from the entire pro team, cameos from some of the OGs and Ed’s classic subliminal messaging inserted throughout, it’s one of the most eagerly awaited skate videos of the year. So, I spoke to Don Luong, the guy who filmed most of it and edited it, about the two-and-a-half-year filming schedule, gruesome demo tours and which skaters are most likely to blow our minds when the video comes out.
Hey Don, tell us about filming for Programming Injection. Is it hard to put every skater’s footage together in a cohesive way?
100 per cent. It’s like you’ve got to make an ultimate casserole. You’re just given all these ingredients and you’ve got to make them all work. It’s always a process, for sure. It’s nothing too major or mind-boggling, but it’s always a learning curve.
I guess it’s difficult to make a full-length video these days. It seems like there’s an overload of little web clips, but full-length videos are becoming rarer.
For me, [full-length] is all I’ve known. I can’t tell if it’s a blessing or a curse. I go from one full-length to the next full-length. From the moment I started filming skating, the goal was always a full-length. Always. This will be the sixth or seventh one that I’ve worked on and I think that’s pretty special in itself because everyone’s always doing tour edits or mini edits.
So let’s go through the skaters in the video. Who’s got full parts?
I’m excited because we have a new am on the team, Myles Willard, and to me he encompasses the spirit of Toy Machine to a tee. He’s raw, he’s cruisy, he’s not just strictly a handrail skater, he gets down in the alleyways and the urban streets. But he’s getting gnarly, and that’s my favourite: when you can take that creative aspect of skating and make it gnarly. He’s the rookie and I’m really excited for people to see what he’s got.
Leo Romero, whether he’d like to admit it or not, he’s our team captain. He’s always leading the charge, whether it’s trips or sessions and even if he’s sore or not really feeling like skating, he’s still in the van. He’s always on the sesh and a good motivator with good vibes.
CJ Collins is a 16-year-old kid who’s professional for Toy Machine. His talent is obviously undeniable and he brings something different to the team too because he’s a tranny ripper. It’s weird when you’re on a trip and you almost feel like you’re babysitting, but the kid that you’re babysitting has actually been to more places than anyone that I’ve ever known. He’s well-travelled and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I’m stoked because he’s going to be the future of Toy.
Then we’ve got the Belgian Prince, Axel Cruysberghs, Axel Crusher. He might be the most talented. He’s just so easy to work with and he’s a true professional. He knows what he needs to get done and he gets it done. He’s so booked up that if you’re not skating with him, he’s definitely out doing some other cool shit—he’s on a Volcom snow trip in the mountains or he’s with Lizzie in Japan drinking boba. He’s always doing cool ass shit and I don’t know how he pulls it off.
Blake Carpenter is always carefree and seems like he’s on a permanent vacation. His lack of stress is definitely something to be admired. Blake just got off finishing a Nike part for that Trust Fall video. He closed out that video and he’s got an amazing part in this one too. He’s a hard worker. Two projects at once is never ideal for any skater but he came through with some last-minute stuff towards the end of the deadline.
Fuck man, Collin Provost’s probably got my favourite part in the video. Everything in his life is just full force. I can barely keep up with him on my skateboard and I definitely can’t keep up with him at the bar. He’s always firing on all cylinders and it’s kind of psycho. We were in Berlin and it’s the land of the beer garden; you’re drinking and partying all day and all night and then you’ve got him at the van at eight in the morning like, ‘Where’s the first spot? Let’s fucking go!’ I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’ He wallied over a 14-stair hubba in the morning, probably still drunk. He’s just got that crazy natural drive and obviously god-given talent.
I’ve pretty much seen Jeremy Leabres get on the team and just grow with the team since the very beginning. He was couch surfing at my house before he was even sponsored. It’s unfortunate because he went through three knee surgeries while filming for this video: two ACLs (both knees) and meniscus on this last trip. And he came through with a part. That just goes to show how fucking good he is. His perseverance and drive through all his injuries was super inspiring for me.
Dan Lu [Lutheran] is my road dog. If we’re on a trip together, we’re roomin’, we’re hangin’, we’re always together because we have the most similar tastes in not just skating, but in life. Me and Dan Lu definitely had a special bond while filming for this and it was unfortunate because he came back from shoulder or elbow surgery and was on an absolute tear. But he took such a nasty slam onto his tailbone and it just cut his filming short. So the injury bug definitely got the best of us for a few of the guys but it’s a part of the game.
Then we’ve got all the legends: Ed [Templeton’s] got a few tricks, Josh Harmony’s got a few tricks, Billy [Marks] has got a mini showing and I’m so excited to have people see what Matt Bennett has got.
Yeah, I was going to ask about Ed Templeton. I saw in the trailer that you’ve got some of that classic Toy Machine subliminal messaging and Ed’s illustrations throughout. How does the process work between you and Ed on a project like this?
He would come over every few weeks to check out my progress. There was never anything drastic to change. If anything, we were just kind of working together. It was pretty smooth. That was probably the most nerve-racking part: having Ed come over to my house and watching the video. I’m like, ‘Holy shit, Ed Templeton’s sitting on a shitty wooden stool next to my desk and he’s watching this video for his company with me.’ It was definitely a surreal experience. But over the past year I would say we became close friends, which for me, it’s cool that I can say that. So the process was real smooth. It’s a real milestone in my filming career to be able to do a Toy Machine video because it’s my favourite company ever, so it’s an honour.
Your photos are cool. It seems like you guys were on the road a lot.
Yeah, those were all just shot on my point and shoot. We did Germany and China, so there’s definitely tricks from those two countries in the video, but in classic Toy Machine fashion, we did a shitload of cross country trips in the US. We would literally start in Southern California and drive all the way to the East Coast and do demos and skate spots—we’d do months at a time. It was rough but in hindsight, it was so fun. I feel like no one really does those long, gruesome demo tours anymore. I feel like they’re a thing of the past. I like that Toy Machine and Tum Yeto still hold true to that blue-collar aspect of skating. You do a demo and shake the kid’s hand and maybe they’ll buy your board.
Programming Injection premieres October 4th at 8 pm at RVCA HQ, Costa Mesa. If you can’t make it, keeps your eyes peeled for the online premiere coming soon.