Images courtesy of Jonathan Lomar
The Olympics are well behind us now and with it the first year of the awkward dud that turned out to be Olympic skateboarding.
Whether you’re a core skater or a Nyjah superfan, the dry-fit uniforms and underwhelming conclusion probably left you sighing, ‘I mean, I guess.’ We don’t suppose anyone really knew what to expect from skateboarding’s induction into an arbitrarily resurrected Greco-Roman track and field competition, aside from drone shots of dudes ripping a park that would immediately be ripped down afterwards. So in that way, the competition delivered. In the hearts and minds of many skaters, though—and while Yuto won a hard-earned, glorious win (thank god)—skateboarding as a whole surely lost.
There is just something that feels off about the inclusion of something as stubbornly countercultural as skateboarding in the same contest circuit as water polo and spear throwing; something uncanny and unsettling. It lacked a certain authenticity, replaced by quantification of skateboarding, or as Jonathan Lomar, director of the upcoming Oski Documentary puts it, the ‘sportification’ of skating.
The Oski Documentary is a depiction of Oski’s journey to Olympic glory. This is a scary proposition for fans of Oskar Rozenberg, who have seen the sports docs that their dads watch and don’t want to see their favourite skater get made out like Michael Phelps. The sportification of skating is a serious concern for people in the culture. Luckily, Jonathan Lomar is one of those people. Out of curiosity (and a dash of nervous concern), we phoned Jay-Lo up for a Zoom call to get a little more info about the doc, his credentials, and his take on the contentious topic that is the Olympic sport of skateboarding.
Is this Jennifer Lopez?
Oh yeah, I forgot that’s my name on Zoom. It’s an old joke. My name is Jonathan Lomar so my initials would be J-Lo.
Hey, Jonathan. How’s it goin’?
It’s good. Last night I had a spa evening where I tried out face masks and all that jazz and ended up watching the third Harry Potter movie, the Azkaban movie. It was a nice evening. Today I’m in Denmark sitting down with the editor trying to finish up some things.
Is this a very Harry Potter influenced skateboarding documentary?
All of a sudden in the middle of the doc there is a CGI section with wizards and spells!
What’s this doc for? Were you commissioned to make it or is this a passion project?
I always wanted to do a documentary about skateboarding but never really had a good reason to. I wanted to do something that would explain skateboarding, as I know it, to the masses without being cringey or anything. I went down and filmed Oski for two days, and then he went to the States, but I knew he’d be back so we kept in touch. That winter I got a call from a producer who was like, ‘Hey, we are really into Oski, he’s a good skater, and we wanted to do a documentary about him but he said he is already making one with you.’ In my head, I was like, ‘Yeah we only filmed for two days but that’s cool!’ They want to pay me to direct a thing that I was already making.
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Is this looking like a movie or a series?
At the moment it is looking like a series of five episodes, around 25 minutes each. I’m not sure how it will end up, but that’s what we are aiming for at least.
What’s the trajectory for airing?
I am happy with anything, honestly… I’d be happy with YouTube. The producer though is aiming for the big names, knocking on the big doors. I know he’s been talking to HBO, Vice, DisneyPlus. It’s not set in stone, but it would be cool.
I vote DisneyPlus. How’d you meet up with Oski?
I wanted to do something about the Olympics because when they announced that skating was going to be in, I started seeing all of these documentary things like Pushing for Gold and the Nyjah documentary and I was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re going to have a monopoly on skateboarding’ and they won’t really be true. So I started making this Trojan horse that plays like an Olympic documentary, except it’ll be about everything but the Olympics. So then I wanted to find an anti-hero who would compete in the Olympics with the goal of representing skateboarding, rather than winning. The closest guy I had contact with was Oski because the Swedish skate scene isn’t that big and I had met him a few times before, so I just phoned him. I talked to him about the project and it felt like we were already doing the same thing; the same goal, he was just doing the skateboard part and I was doing the filming part.
Did you go with him to Tokyo?
Nah, that turned out to be an impossible mission. I couldn’t go to Dew Tour, which was the Olympic qualifier, either. I ended up spending two or three nights with his dad watching Oski compete in the Dew Tour and name dropping every trick, every skater… just a huge supporter, very into it. As the actual Olympics got closer, I realised that there was really no chance for me to go, I wasn’t contributing anything to the country, there was no real reason for me to go, but I definitely tried. I remember writing to the States during Dew Tour and claiming that this documentary would change the world’s view of society in America or something like that, and they wrote back like, ‘Hey, cool, but no.’
We ended up buying Oski a handycam, so he’s been filming his life at Dew Tour and in Tokyo.
What’s the vision with this project?
I’ve thought a lot about that lately. If I had to explain very quickly and simply, I think it’s about a young skater hanging out with friends and getting dragged into a parallel universe of media frenzies and suit guys trying to quantify skateboarding, and how not to get lost in that. I guess the goal, for me at least, is to make this a thing for the masses to understand, but also for the skaters. My goal is to give a viewpoint on skateboarding from skaters to the big mass, to provide representation. A lot of people see skating in Street League and think that that’s what skating is. If I can open the doors for them to some other parts, it can be something for future generations to see these cool parts of skating and expose a kind of authenticity.
How do you think the media world is doing in representing skating so far?
There’s a sort of split universe with two sides of skating, and they don’t communicate with each other. One of them is this sportified version of skating and the other one has all of these core guys, and they don’t pay attention or even hear about each other. To be honest, it’s pretty shit sometimes. I’ll watch skate things made by the sportified side and think, ‘What is this guy even talking about?’ Or even when I watched the Olympics street section I thought, ‘I’m a huge skateboarding fan and what is this? This is really boring to watch.’ Couldn’t it be the highest ollie or something instead?
Oh, are you thinking like the Dime Glory Challenge?
I don’t know, just something different. Weeks after I went to the Copenhagen Open and it was a working concept. It was sick.
What would you have changed about the Olympics or contests in general?
I would aim for the things you can measure instead of trying to make lists of stylistic things that give points. So instead of talking about these weird criteria, just go for the things that you can measure. Go for the highest ollie, like, fuck the style, jump as high as you can. Or go as fast as you can, speed challenge. Longest ollie, imagine that! These athletes just hauling.
Ah, I think I see. Are you saying stuff in contests is too subjective?
Yeah, kind of. I think if you’re having a contest and making it a sporty thing, have measurable events to make it fair instead of being like, ‘that guy touched his hand to the ground so that trick is worth this many less points.’ Gustav Tonnesen said once that it’s not about how hard the trick is, it’s about how hard you’re trying to do the trick. Maybe it’s easy for me to do a kickflip, but it takes someone else all day, so when they land theirs, it’s equally as impressive as a trick that takes me all day to do. That’s what I think skating is.
I don’t think anyone expects this documentary to be about Oski striving for the gold, but it seems like you might be taking it a step further. Do you think you’re making a documentary just to stick your middle finger at the sportier side of skating?
That’s an interesting question. I’m trying to think of how I can answer without it sounding bad. I think the funny thing about that, is that Oski is actually a really good competition skater. I was almost going to say he doesn’t deserve it but that sounds bad and untrue because he definitely does. He is really good at competition without having to be a guy who practices the same contest runs 300 times and calculates points or whatever. But no, I’m not just raising my middle finger. I want to bring a different voice to the category of these Olympic documentaries. I watched Pushing for Gold and when they tried to talk about skating not being part of the Olympics, they phrased it like, ‘it’s a shame that it hasn’t been in the Olympics before, but we are happy that now they see it as a sport’. That is not necessarily the true story. If you’re going to do skating, you have to do it a certain way and have it be authentic, and that’s what I’m trying to explain in this documentary.
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Did you grow up skating and filming?
Yeah, I started skating when I was around 14 years old. I got into filming because I sucked at skating and I had a douchebag friend that was good at skating so I filmed him. He was the kind of guy where it’s like, he will be blessed with being good at skating but he will also be a really shit person. So I started filming a lot and skating a lot but was never very good at skating. I’m the guy who rolls up to a ledge and the second before I pop into a crooked grind, I think to myself, ‘ah fuck I’m going to slam,’ and then I slam.
Me fucking too, man. Miss the ledge and do the splits. Just humiliating.
But at the same time, I want to have the skate life which means I have to contribute something to the wolf pack, so I film. Not that I don’t enjoy filming.
Is this your first non-skate video project?
Basically. I did a short documentary in film school and that one was kind of bleugh. I made the first Sour video, which made me want to learn more about actual filmmaking. I applied to film school and actually used the Sour video in my application and they accepted me, which was the biggest joke. The first week, everybody in the school had to sit in a theatre together and watch the movies that everyone else applied with in order to get a sense of filmmaker identity. Everyone’s films were black and white, 4:3, academy format, Bergman style movies about life and death, and then BOOM: Sour Solution 1 with a fisheye on a VX. It’s mixed completely wrong and it’s like, Dolby Atmos trying to make the most of these crusty skateboard sounds. The documentary I made there was about a man living in the woods alone, and that was my start.
What’re some videos that get you stoked that you’re maybe drawing on for this doc?
There are a whole lot of things. Post Radical with Rick McCrank was great. They really found a way to talk about skateboarding in a way that’s interesting for both skaters and non-skaters. I really like Endless Summer!
The surf movie from the 60s?
Yeah, that was the first idea for this doc. The first pitch was me doing a voice-over, like, ‘Ah! Look at Oski!’ Like David Attenborough Planet Earth, but for skating. If you combine Endless Summer with the Eternal Beauty of Snowboarding where they do a similar thing, that’s a little bit what I’m going for. I have some other big-name influences that people say in film school because it sounds cool.
What are you most excited about and what’s your biggest struggle?
I’m really excited that I’ve been filming almost every day for half a year and forgot a lot of the material and now I get to see it again and pick the fruits and put them together. I went from being doubtful that we have a story, to now seeing that we have a story that’s interesting. I’m also sort of excited that it isn’t about Oski winning the gold. If he had won, or even just done good, it would have turned the film into something that I don’t want. I don’t want Oski to be winning, I want skateboarding to be winning.
What’s the most challenging thing?
Making a documentary that isn’t just for me. I have to understand that a lot of people don’t get this stuff. I see things and think it’s boring or over-explained, but then I show people who know nothing about skating and they think that those are the parts that they get or value. It’s a challenge to keep the balance. This scene is for the skaters, this scene is for the public, that sort of thing. Oh man and all the fucking bullshit documents you have to get in order to make a documentary for a streaming platform. It’s not like making skate videos where you pick songs and ignore the fact that copyright exists. For this doc, I actually have to get releases and paperwork and whatnot.
When can we expect to see this baby come to life?
I have the paper with the schedule right here and it’s a fucking joke. We are supposed to finish editing by November 1st. It’s the 30th today and I have finished one episode. I don’t know. Let’s say January, premiere… I don’t know. I can’t say for sure. There are a lot of people who would like it to be released now or on a strict schedule. I think I’ll just have to keep disappointing people until I’m happy with it.