Filmer aus Berlin: Francisco Saco

The first time I met Francisco, was when I was going skating with some guys and he showed up as the filmer. He took out his old Hi-8 cam and all I thought was: "Oh, shit, this guy must be really poor, he can't even afford a simple VX 1000 for about 100 Euro on Ebay". Then he was filming from weird angles and did things other filmers wouldn't do. I thought then he must have just started filming and is trying his self out with the old camera he got from his dad. But after we met for a couple of times I found out he's filming with this thing, because he wants it that way, he's filming some stuff a little differently, because he wants it that way. And the following Interview didn't went the way I planned it, because he wanted it that way.

Hey Francisco, how are you?

I’m good, just having an early morning coffee.

So let’s start with how you got into filming.

I got into skateboarding back in Costa Rica, where I’m from. My first exposure to skateboarding was through videos and magazines.  And I remember some older guys, who were like the original skate crew from Costa Rica, called themselves Chepesent (People who are called Jóse are often named Chepe, mixed with the English word represent, so they’re representing San Jóse, the capital). These guys were like the first to make videos of each other skating. I became friends with one of the Chepesent guys, Rafita. He got me into filming and always wanted to do a big project before he passed away. I dug that ‘cuz my thing was always movie making; I had always wanted to make films. So I started filming with him and this really crappy handy cam. From that point on it developed and I bought a DVX2100. I was using it for skate filming but also making short films and such things. But the DVX is a total skate camera…

That’s what people say…

You can make decent films with it, but it’s still a total skate camera. I then moved to Boston for college, to study film, and really got into skate filming there. My first skate film was a mixture of Costa Rican and Boston skateboarding. I always liked this focus on the Costa Rican scene, because it looks so different from US or European skateboarding. It has by far the best scene in Central America, in terms of the level of the skateboarding and how organized and into it people are. The skaters are also travelling more, getting well known within Latin America and outside the Americas even. So, I wanted to document the scene.

So what’s going on in Costa Rica? Is there such a big scene?

Yeah, sure, four new parks have just been built, guys touring around the country, people make their own brands and stuff. Its quite impressive for such a small country.

So, it’s going off there?

Yeah, totally, it’s really booming. And not only is it a trend, but guys are getting really good. Back in the days you had about a dozen good skaters, but now there are so many. When I was there in May, shooting for my own project, I was filming a whole part with two guys within one month. The level right now is incredible.

These guys seem to rip, but what is that project you’re working on?

For the past 2 years I got away from skateboarding a bit, focusing on short films and screen writing and all this. So, when I moved to Berlin I saw how vibrant the scene was and I got the itch to start shooting again. I had this idea to make a skate film, that is not particularly a skate video, but not a documentary. Something in between – an experimental skate video if you will.

With actors and a story?

No actors, but definitely a story. But more like a documentary, a wilderness documentary that you see on TV. The video is an all Costa Rican skate film, with a prominent European part. My idea was to take it from the perspective of a European for example or an explorer from another land coming to Costa Rica and seeing these fuckers ripping! It will be like: “We’re in the Sahara, look at these natives. Observe them in their natural environment!” And then “But here back in Europe…” And then comes the European part from Barcelona and Berlin. I shot the part from Barcelona last summer and the Berlin part is still growing.

Growing Boneless

How do you see your filming as compared to other filmers?

I’m someone sort of outside of skateboarding. My interest right now is not to make money off skateboarding, it’s just a passion. That’s why I shoot in Hi-8, that’s where skateboarding for me comes from, that’s how I grew up seeing it: Skateboarding in really shitty spots in Costa Rica. I don’t want to see skateboarding in HD; skateboarding is still a dirty thing for me. If a skater would come up to me and say I want to film with you but it has to be in HD, I’d do it, I’m not against it, but my priority, especially for this project is Hi-8. I’m a purist; I will always see analog above HD.

Do you see Hi-8 as part of the skate video structure?

In my opinion, the skate video is the original structure, the original format, everyone else copied it: Snowboarding, Surfing, everyone else. Now it’s been around so long it has become something you can play with, because it’s an actual format. Its been around forever. Let’s deconstruct it; let’s play with it. Hi-8, VHS, even digicam, iPhone, GoPro, use anything to make it look handheld and raw again. Back to roots in a way.

What do you exactly mean by that?

So, a usual skate video has parts, every rider has it’s own part, three to four minutes, particular music to show the riders’ personality. Then people started to play with it, like Volcom and their videos, or Alien Workshop. I’ve always been a fan of Alien Workshop videos. It’s incredible how experimental the early ones were. Timecode and Memory Screen, with Rob Dyrdek’s first part. I mean skate videos have been around since the 70’s, so play with it.

So, you wanna create something that probably been made somehow, but hasn’t been around too much?

Yeah, totally. Towards the end of the 90’s skate videos started to have stories, but people hated it. Or they first liked it, but then it was too much. Shorty’s, the Girl-Chocolate Tour, The End… All these videos come from Animal Chin I feel like. I don’t want to have bangers and bangers, I want to create an atmosphere, I want there to be a theme running trough it, so you can notice it in the images, in the story, in the editing. That’s also a reason why I still shoot in Hi-8, because it gives you special feeling.

So, how did you get into skate filming, when you say you didn’t want to be into the skate scene too much?

I think those who can’t skate film. [laughs] That’s definitely my story. I’ve always been into skateboarding, tried skating, got better, hurt myself, then sucked at it. I was just doing it for fun, but I always had filming on the side. I think filming skateboarding is a manifestation of what you can’t do and you want to see guys land tricks and you film it. It’s like you’re landing the trick through them. I also like to film with people I get along with, who have a great style. I can see myself in them. I can’t project myself into someone I don’t like. I got into filming when I was about 18 and my first project came out in 2005.

Did you have something to do with the skate park built in Costa Rica?

No, I didn’t help building it, but I was there twice in May when I was in Costa Rica. Christian Petzold is taking care of it and it’s a really nice park and the town has some good spots as well. The only problem is that its about 3 hours away from the city, in the mountains. And there is always bad weather; it will rain most of the time.

Why did they build it then?

I think the town got in contact with them, which is a really cool thing. The town is called Perez Zeledon. They say that the most beautiful women in Costa Rica come from there and there is a ration of 5 women to each man, because in the 80’s all the men left to the U.S. for work and now there are just nice girls everywhere!

Is the park good?

Yeah, I like it. You see the German engineering mixed with the Costa Rican engineering. It doesn’t fit so good everywhere, but the bowl is good and especially the wall ride tranny is good. It’s definitely worth going.

So, what’s a perfect day behind the camera for you?

I think it was that day when we went there to the park. We took this 3-hour ride, we chilled, hung out, had fun, skated park, skated street, found great spots and got some footage. I mean you take your personal time for the love of skateboarding and you just want to have a good time.

What do you do for living?

At the moment, I’m editing a couple of documentaries.  I also shot a short film last month and am pretty much trying to set up my own small production company and trying to get constant work from it. I used to freelance a bit more, like lighting, editing, artwork on sets…

…the whole thing, you did pretty much everything what can be done on a film set…

…yeah, that’s right. Right now I’m more focused getting more work as a director and writing. That’s what I do more of lately. I’ve recently directed a short film, which was my idea, my concept. I’m shifting in that kind of space.

So, who are your favorite directors or filmmakers?

That’s a tricky one. It’s always changing, I have my all time favorite guys like Stanley Kubrick, Lars von Trier, Michael Haneke, Michelangelo Antonioni, Gaspar Noé, Francis Ford Coppola, Chris Marker, Stan Brakhage. So many guys. But there are more recent guys I admire like Carlos Reygadas, Béla Tarr (I recently got into his films) Tsai Ming-liang, this guy from Taiwan. It’s really tricky, because I’m a film geek. I love film and I love getting into new filmmakers and I love the idea of the auteur. I think it’s a very important concept.

How many films do you have at home then? Can you even say?

I don’t have so many, maybe about 100 or so. I had friends, who are big collectors. A friend from New York had about 2000 DVD and 300 of them were only Asian. He had a big love for Chinese, Japanese… Asian Cinema. Downloading doesn’t hurt the artist it hurts the company. The company gives the artist about 2 Cents out of every film they sell. I don’t have any problem hurting the company


Spin that shit for fun


What do you think of internet clips?

The way I see it, there are two types of approaches to skateboarding and video editing: the more common is one the presents the tricks as they are, probably with some b-roll shots of the skater, doing generic sort of skater stuff. But then there is a more alternative way of presenting skateboarding, which can be more experimental and more avant-guard and abstract. There are so many types of people skateboarding so you got more artsy type of guys and you see other types of videos. The Polar video, the Palace videos, the AWS videos… People can hate on Mind Field, but these little transitions… they put the work in it, man. They made it themselves. Then there’s stuff like the new Blind videos, which I find to be the most boring things to watch, makes you want to blow your brains out out. But then there’s the no frills, all serious and business Baker videos and you want to watch them cuz these guys can die at any point in time, you know? But the internet is totally changing the landscape of the skate video. I feel like if say, Fully Flared would have been produced today, I’d say just put it on the Internet. One part after another…

… like the Trap video?

Exactly, this is a great idea. I like a lot of the internet parts, it’s similar to music: The album is dying, but the single is alive. And that’s the same thing, the skate video is dying and the part is alive. When you look at the sales numbers it’s like back in the 50’s, the single is king, the album is shit. At the moment though, I’m I’m trying to make an “album”, I’m aiming for something complete. I don’t hate on the internet clips, I watch ‘em and like ‘em, but the other day I ran into one of my favorite videos from last year “The Other Ones”. It’s one of the most perfect skate videos I’ve seen in a long time. It’s got the cookie stuff, you know. But it’s not a single, it’s an album.

How do you like the TWS “albums” then?

Man, I grew up with that shit! Sight Unseen… They make great videos. What’s annoying is that they have to make one every year, because that’s how they stay relevant. Some are good, some not so much. Shiloh Greathouse’s part in First Love is one of the greatest parts ever. I wanted to watch the Cinematographer Project and I’ve seen clips of it… and I think its phenomenal… and I saw it as an internet clip. Each part in this video can be it’s own little clip. The one I’ve seen the most is the AWS part. There’s something stuck in your mind when you’ve seen such parts. It may not be skateboarding but something that you can relate to. I’m not a huge fan of skateboarding as entertainment and killing oneself to go as big as possible. I mean you can do that, like the Baker boys do, but they do it with a certain type of attitude that inspires people. Not many people can do that. They are good at it and get away with it. Most videos that go for just bangers and huge tricks to amaze don’t inspire me, its doesn’t tell me to go out and skate. It tells me to not try it or I’ll fucking kill myself. Or if I’m a 14 year old, its telling me that landing these types of tricks is the only way I can make money and get big in the industry. It's horse shit and only half true, but it is what it is.

It’s great that Europe has all these companies which has this contrary aspect to American Skateboarding and that is fucking awesome. Companies like Polar, Palace, Magenta, Radio who are saying “Fuck that” and really trying to branch apart from that.

Do you know Casta from Mexico?

Yeah, they’re friends of friends of mine…

I know Renol [the owner] and he has the same philosophy. He says that they don’t wanna lose their skaters to the States. He created Renol Skateboards and after a while Casta to create their own scene.

Yeah, support the local scene! Did you know that Brazil is the second biggest skateboard market in the world, after the States? All the skaters skate for Brazilian companies, make their own boards with Brazilian wood, make their own shoes, their own clothes, everything. And Europe is close to being just like that too.

Does Costa Rica have its own skate companies?

Not many, but there are a couple. The most well-known board company, National Skateboards, started a while ago. They’re all friends of mine and I’ve filmed with a bunch of them. One of their riders will have a part in my video.  Some other companies are K-ch-t, No Mouse, and Central Skateboards, which is actually Chico Brenes’ company, but it’s for all of Central America, because Chico is from Nicaragua. There is also a small shoe company called Oops. Yeah, Costa Rica is coming along. Its economically the most stable country in Central America.

Well, we are taking for more than an hour now, I have to cut you hear, otherwise I will go crazy editing it. Do you have any shout outs or anything you ever wanted to tell the world?

[lauhgs] Ehhmmm, I hope I can keep exploring. It’s cool that people say “that is an interesting project and we want to be a part of it”. I can appreciate that, because I know skaters definitely give up something when you’re filming them, they’re putting their sweat, time, and tricks into it. Some skaters who are sponsored say that they don’t have time to film on outdated hi-8, that they need to film for their sponsors on a current and accepted format. But there are other skaters who see the alternative side to it. I just want to thank all the people who are believing in the project and saying that it’s worth getting involved in. I tell you something funny… I was in Barcelona last summer, where everyone has their HD cameras and  I thought people were gonna hate on me and say “Fuck this guy, who’s this creeper with a fucking Hi-8?” But no, people were into it and said “Yeah, that’s awesome, dude!” And when they saw the footy they said “Oh, it’s like an old 90’s video, it’s so beautiful”. The more people digging it, the more I can grow with it. I’ll do this thing whether or not people are into it, but seeing that people are down for it is the best thing ever.

Dude, I stand behind your project and thank you for the interview.