Jeremy Elkin | In episode 95 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with Jeremy Elkin the creator, director, and editor of “All the Streets are Silent: The Convergence of Hip Hop and Skateboarding”
Jeremy Elkin’s documentary “All the Streets Are Silent” tells the story of New York in the 90s, a decade in downtown history when hip hop met skate and set off a combustion of energy that catapulted a youth culture to stardom and mainstream appeal. We talk about Elkin prepping at Vanity Fair; finding vintage videos of Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes and Method Man; Eli Gesner’s legendary Zoo York “Mixtape”; the influence of Larry Clark’s “Kids” on the scene, and much more.
Photo Credit: Zander Taketomo. IG: @zandertaketomoRead Transcript
David Hershkovits (00:01):
When the conversation turns to the golden age of downtown New York, most people immediately flash back to the ’80s, when Basquiat, Haring, Scharf, Fab 5 Freddie, Futura, etal, roamed the streets. Well, now there’s a new documentary directed by my guest today, Jeremy Elkin, that makes a strong case for extending the renaissance well into the ’90s. All the streets were silent. The convergence of hip hop and skating, 1987 to 1997, zooms in on the story of how two seemingly disparate communities found common ground wilding out at MARS, the only downtown club in its day brave enough to play rap music. The stories told by the people who were actually there, creating a sound and a look that would go on to shape fashion and music to this day. Listeners to Light Culture will remember me touching on this film in an earlier episode where I spoke with Zoo York’s Eli Morgan Gesner, the narrator of the doc that features icons of the era, like Kid Capri, Jeff Pang, Stretch Armstrong, Bobbito, Keith Hufnagel, Rosario Dawson, DJ Clark, Rodney Smith, Moby, Gino Iannucci, Cool Keith, and many more, including a wealth of archival video with performances by Busta Rhymes and Method Man. So, welcome Jeremy Elkin.
Jeremy Elkin (01:37):
Thank you for having me.
David Hershkovits (02:24):
Let’s start with the present, and work our way back. First, congratulations for the Tribeca Film Festival, and the accolades coming your way, including one by Shepard Fairey I saw, who, besides being a great artist, is a cultural historian and astute observer of the scene. How does it make you feel?
Jeremy Elkin (02:50):
Yeah, thank you so much. That was an honor. He’s tight with Eli, it didn’t, it didn’t seem like that far of a stretch, but yeah, it’s always nice when people recognize for sure.
David Hershkovits (04:27):
I’d like to talk about the genesis of this movie, how you came to this point in your life, and also this story, how that came to life for you having grown up as you did in Montreal, and getting started shooting skate videos of your friends and people in the area, and eventually wound up in New York with this amazing story.
Jeremy Elkin (04:52):
In 2012, I asked Eli to do the hand style for skate videos I was doing, and I had known of Eli through my brother in the ’90s. He was this legendary figure in the New York scene, and um, super inspiring. You know you get the magazines every month, and open them up, and the Zoo York ad was always different because it was East Coast. And so, um, that always hit home, I never, I didn’t see Mixtape until years later, but I just love Zoo York. I love everything Zoo York did. Up until the mid 2000s, I thought it was like that was it for me. And I knew when I did get around to see, Mixtape-
David Hershkovits (05:37):
David Hershkovits (05:39):
Let me interrupt you for a second. Tell us what Mixtape is. A lot of listeners may not be familiar with that.
Jeremy Elkin (05:46):
Mixtape is a skateboard video that featured The Stretch and Bobbito Radio Show as a soundtrack, and it was footage that Eli Gesner, and R.B. Umali compiled because typically a skate video you would have just a track you pulled from the internet, and you’d layer it in with some footage of your friends, or something. But they actually had footage from the studio, Busta, Method Man, and a lot of these guys, right when their careers were starting. And Eli cut it in together, and made each part, each skater from Zoo had a different artist under their skating.
Jeremy Elkin (06:28):
So yeah, it was a skate video. It came out in 1997 on a VHS tape that wound up getting shut down by one of the labels I believe. They didn’t get the rights to anything. They were just using it. But it was kind of like an underground phenomenon in the skate world for sure. Like how did this thing happen? And so when I asked Eli to do the hand styles for skate videos which actually featured some of the original Zoo York guys, like Danny Zupa. We stayed in touch, and I actually ended up moving on the west side of the city downtown, right near where his apartment is, and we became friendly, and over the years, for the two or three years that followed after that.
Jeremy Elkin (07:15):
I was always bugging him to see more of that footage, because I knew he definitely had more that wasn’t in that video. And I had been hearing from people in the community that there was, indeed quite a bit more footage. We were just friends. I wasn’t becoming friends with him to make this movie or anything. It was just sort of natural, and I was at Vanity Fair at the time. I wasn’t out of skating, and he kind of brought me back in, and I just got inspired that he had all these archives sitting around his house.
Jeremy Elkin (07:52):
And so the deal, the arrangement was that if I cataloged them and digitized them, and gave them back to him, that I could maybe make something. And so when I started down that road, it became really clear within the first like six months, that you can’t make a Mixtape documentary without a budget, because all these guys are gonna wanna get paid. And then the labels have to get involved and the samples, and it’s just not, it’s not feasible.
Jeremy Elkin (08:19):
What exists now with the movie is a much bigger history that’s further unpacked of that idea of like a mixtape documentary as a 90 minute feature.
David Hershkovits (08:34):
And when did this element of MARS, and, and hip hop come into it, separately from the skate?
Jeremy Elkin (08:41):
Well, we waited to do Eli’s interview after we did, I think, maybe 20 or so interviews first, and then we did Eli. And up until that point, you had heard about Yuki Watanabe and Rudolph and people in that scene. You hear about MARS. You hear about Trip. In the back of my mind, I was like well there’s nothing on the internet, so it means that there’s probably nothing that exists. If there’s nothing on the internet in 2017, chances are, it doesn’t exist, because it would have been put on the internet. And it wasn’t until we did the interview with Eli that we realized that Yuki, like I just figured Yuki was living in Europe, or maybe passed away, or lives in Japan or something. Turns out he lives down the street, and he actually filmed every single day of MARS. And so we went to interview him, and that changed the movie for sure, because we had Eli’s story, which is basically from when Eli goes to Phat Farm, which is after MARS until the end of the movie. That already existed basically. Like the bones of it existed. MARS was always this little like five minute thing. And now, when you see it, it’s so much of the birth of all that came from the MARS scene, and the fact that there’s that footage is unbelievable, that we didn’t have to take it off the internet, and just pigeon hole it into the movie from a website. You know, the fact that it was these tapes that we were holding, and yeah, it was definitely pretty nuts to go through that stuff.
David Hershkovits (10:14):
what did you feel when you saw it? did you think well now there’s a different kind of movie-
David Hershkovits (10:20):
Because the idea of the convergence, I think, is key to this movie, right? So, it’s not just hip hop and skating, but it’s a convergence. Was it even conceived as a convergence at this point?
Jeremy Elkin (10:34):
I think that word came up when we were looking at all that MARS footage, ’cause it wasn’t as clear looking at Stretch and Bobbito and the supreme materials, and all that Zoo York stuff. It didn’t hit as hard as when you see a line going around the block at MARS, and everyone trying to get in, and it’s culturally diverse, and you just see that blending of neighborhoods coming together at MARS. That’s sort of when, I think the word convergence popped up.
David Hershkovits (11:05):
Culturally diverse, you don’t really make it a point in your film to highlight that. You’re not trying to make a statement about the mixing of the races, we’re all one, or anything of that nature, but it’s obvious at the same time. Was that something that you had in mind, though, while you were making it, that this was an artifact of a period that would be hard to really imagine right now?
Jeremy Elkin (11:37):
Yeah, totally. When I grew up skating in Montreal, it wasn’t like only white kids skated. Everybody from everywhere, all class levels, everyone skated, it didn’t matter. Um, and it was the same thing in New York. I’m sure it was the same in a lot of metropolitan areas.
Jeremy Elkin (12:00):
Honestly it didn’t really cross my mind at all (laughing), until like way later when people started telling me, “Oh my god, your cast is so diverse.” I didn’t even, it wasn’t, it’s just not on my mind. Growing up skating, we never thought of it like that. I think we lived in a bubble, and in that bubble it was super, super mixed, I think. And the whole like Harold thing coming from the projects we looked at all the-
David Hershkovits (12:29): Excuse me, tell us who Harold is
Jeremy Elkin (12:32):
Yeah, sorry. Harold Hunter the skater grew up in Alphabet City, Avenue D and 12th Street, and he was a pro skater for Zoo York, and he was sponsored by Supreme. And he was down with all the- the hiphop kids and the skaters break dancers and everybody, graffiti kids, whatever.
David Hershkovits (12:49):
And he was Black, right?
Jeremy Elkin (12:51):
He was a Black kid, yeah. And, when you look at like thousands of tapes of someone’s life, he’s no longer with us, he passed away in the mid-2000s, but when you look at thousands of tapes and stuff in his life, you get a really good idea of who that person was. Because there’s all these moments, the highs, the lows, hanging out, hanging out at his crib, but also like in the club, and also on the street, and in the office, in the Zoo York meetings. (laughs). I mean, you get a really good idea of- of- of what he was like.
Jeremy Elkin (13:25):
And I’d only met him once, in Montréal actually, but I didn’t know him, but, knowing his brother and having his brother involved, we tried to stay really true to his story and how everyone remembers him, you know?
David Hershkovits (13:41):
Yeah, well, he’s a particular case that I’ve been fascinated by, um, I did meet him and know him very casually, just hanging out, by Max Fish and Alleged Gallery, which was, another kind of place where everyone hung out from that scene back then. And seeing Harold was a fixture on that block, and I was somewhat a fixture as well (laughing).
David Hershkovits (14:03):
I was always fascinated by who is this guy? I didn’t really understand the charisma, because I wasn’t a skater, so I didn’t really feel it in the same way that everyone else has obviously. And even today, his legend continues to grow. There’s a foundation for him that’s very active in raising money for support of people in the skate scene who have needs. It’s kind of a very amazing story at the same time as, it’s almost a side note, a footnote that’s turned into its own story.
Jeremy Elkin (14:44):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. I think even just walking around Lower East Side, you still see pastings of him and graffiti, and, you know, the roller doors, there’ll be murals of him. He was so well loved downtown. I mean, everyone who, anyone and anyone who, anyone and everyone who came to New York I think during that time met him.
David Hershkovits (15:05):
Yeah, he was (laughing), he was amazing. Uh, so Stretch and Bobbito footage, where did that, did you know that that existing already?
Jeremy Elkin (15:13):
So yeah, so yeah, like I was saying, it was under, uh, it was actually in Mixtape a lot of stuff as the soundtrack.
David Hershkovits (15:19):
Oh, I see, so that was already incorporated into the Mixtape?
Jeremy Elkin (15:22):
not all of it, but- but a great deal of it, like the Busta Rhymes for sure, the Method Man, Diamond D, a couple of them. But, it was still super fun to dig up new stuff. You know, we found, I don’t wanna spoil it, but there’s some other artists in there that we didn’t know Eli shot when we were going through it all, so it was wonderful to discover that.
David Hershkovits (15:42):
So Eli was shooting the show? He would go uptown to- to Columbia where-
Jeremy Elkin (15:47):
Yeah, Eli was really tight with Bobbito, who was an A&R at Def Jam. And Bobbito, and Eli actually also was friends with Stretch because of Mars, because Stretch was a Mars DJ at the end. And Bobbito was always in Mars, they connected, and then when- when Mars was over… Oh no, it was way before. Sorry. Uh, forgive me.
Jeremy Elkin (16:11):
During Mars time, they wound up doing their show at Columbia University where Stretch got his start. And Eli was just going up there after the skate session or the office, late night, like 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM and shooting, video of everyone. And Eli was telling me that like he, for the first bunch of ’em, he was taping them in the dark because the guys would come in, they don’t want the lights on in the middle of the night-
Jeremy Elkin (16:47):
… rhyming, you know? And, uh, when Method Man came and when Busta came… I think when Busta, maybe it was like half-half, but definitely Method Man came, they’d turn on all the lights (laughing) in the middle of the show, you don’t think about when you’re watching it but a lot of that footage is really hard to see because it’s so dark. Like Large Professor freestyles up there, and it’s like so hard to see because it’s so dark there’s literally no light source. Like you can’t- you can’t even see a silhouette of someone, you know? (laughs).
Jeremy Elkin (17:14):
but when Method Man came they’d turn on all the lights. You can really get to see him performing, uh, one of his first radio freestyles, you know? It’s pretty crazy.
David Hershkovits (17:25):
Yeah, we should also let our audience know that in those days, you couldn’t hear hiphop on the radio, so therefore they started this show that was, Like midnight to 5:00 AM or something, at the Columbia University radio station, which is still a great radio station, KCR. And, it became a scene where people would come by, hang out, rap. (laughs). I guess the word got out, all the way to Staten Island. (laughing). So- so, f- uh, f- some of the- the Wu-Tang Clan people looked to make the trip.
Jeremy Elkin (18:03):
Well, Bobbito was working at Def Jam, so he had the in on all the new artists, and he would play them for Eli in his car. And so, he’d hear ’em, he’d be like, “Oh yeah, these guys are coming up next week,” or they’re, or, “Yo, these guys, remember the guys we were listening to in the car? They’re gonna be on next week, come, next Thursday, come up.” You know? So I think it was that conversation a lot of the time.
David Hershkovits (18:22):
And- and Eli was just always shooting, he had a camera-
Jeremy Elkin (18:26):
Filmed everything, yeah.
David Hershkovits (18:28):
Crazy, right? Wh- when you think about it.
Jeremy Elkin (18:29):
What’s amazing is that I filmed, almost every single day for like 12 years, uh, making my skate videos, but I didn’t film the kind of things that Eli was filming, like I would, I was really precious with my analog tape. It was the skaters, throwing down to do the trick, doing the trick. He bails, I cut, right? And then, just record, cut, record, cut the whole time, and just to be able to shoot way more, way more skate tricks. But Eli was just letting the camera roll, and that’s the kind of material that you get when that happens, you know?
Jeremy Elkin (19:05):
most skate filmers don’t do that because… now maybe they do, but back then they didn’t because it was way more expensive. tapes at least in Montréal were like $15.
David Hershkovits (19:20):
Jeremy Elkin (19:21):
you get 60 minutes you want it to stretch as- as long as you can, right?
David Hershkovits (19:29):
Sure. We talked briefly about the culturally diverse aspect of the film. I’m curious about the girls, the women, today, on TV you have, Betty, you have, Skate Kitchen, that focused on the girls’ scene. And- and in general, seems to be a growing component of the sport. Were there any girls there, or how was it back then?
Jeremy Elkin (19:59):
I can’t really speak to New York, I know there were a few in New York. There weren’t, obviously not like now. In Montréal there was like one or two chicks who skated, but that was sort of it. it’s very, very different now. Um, it’s definitely changed (laughing) quite a bit.
Jeremy Elkin (20:17):
So we have Rosario on the film, who was neighbors with Harold, grew up, she was younger than Harold but grew up around him. And Beatrice, who’s a Supreme skater right now currently, as well as Ulli, who founded Max Fish. It’s nice to have some representation of women, but yeah, it was definitely a male dominated activity, you know? (laughs).
David Hershkovits (20:42):
Jeremy Elkin (20:42):
Aggressive, it just was super different back then. The attitude, look at a magazine, like a Thrasher back then,there were no women, you know? There was like, it was Elissa Steamer. There was a few girls who skated, but it was definitely not like it is now.
David Hershkovits (21:04):
Yeah. is that something, can you notice when that changed, is that just very much a recent st- story?
Jeremy Elkin (21:13):
I don’t know. In- in the last 10 years for sure, I would say. the late 2000s, I started noticing more girls skating, but it wasn’t- it wasn’t like now where it’s like so mixed. Like you look at a skate park and it’s like (laughing), could be 50-50 one day. It’s pretty crazy now. it’s amazing that everyone skates. Back then, there were a few crews who skated and that was sort of it.
David Hershkovits (21:42):
Well, it was actually disappearing at that time as well, as I recall Eli saying that the New York skaters were going to California because it just wasn’t happening in New York in the same way. I guess there was more money out there for sponsorships and things like that, and, flattened out after this.
Jeremy Elkin (22:07):
Yeah, Keith Hufnagel, Keith left, and Keenan left and Gino, a lot of those guys left, to pursue their dream and skate for a company out there. Because on the East Coast, it was only Zoo York, really. I mean, there really wasn’t another skate company until later. They didn’t really have any options, especially after SHUT was shut down. If you’re talking about the ’92, ’93 area, that’s when- when that all happened, yeah. It was a very specific moment in time, though, because it picked up again a year or two later.
David Hershkovits (22:41):
Was Dogtown a reference for you?
Jeremy Elkin (22:45):
No, I’m kinda embarrassed to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that documentary.
David Hershkovits (22:49):
Wow, you’re so lucky.
Jeremy Elkin (22:50):
David Hershkovits (22:50):
I mean, it’s a great documentary. I think you- you-
Jeremy Elkin (22:51):
I have to see it.
David Hershkovits (22:52):
… you’d like it, but-
David Hershkovits (22:54):
… at least nobody can accuse you of, uh, t- taking things from that (laughing). It’s a very different movie, but I think it does an equally good job of showing a local scene that had global implications, and, you know, coming from a small group of friends.
Jeremy Elkin (23:11):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. No, the West Coast was, not comparable, I think it was like two very different things, the industry was on the West Coast, and in New York it felt more like it was just a bunch of crews that were skating. I think it was two very, very different things.
Jeremy Elkin (23:28):
Because you couldn’t really get seen in a magazine out here in the ’90s, it was like a lot harder. The photographer would have to come in from LA, you know? The media was very, very different then, I think.
David Hershkovits (23:42):
David Hershkovits (23:44):
Your film also touches on the streetwear aspect of what was going on there. Not intentional, I’m sure, in some ways, but it coincided with this, it’s not a focus of the film.
David Hershkovits (24:00):
But I think it’s implicit in the story that Zoo york went on to have this fashion brand as well, making all kinds of clothes that people still do today and, of course, today, that’s even collectible. Supreme as well, starting out back then in a way that nobody could ever really imagine, would turn out to be what it is today. Is there a moment for you, personally or otherwise where that became a factor or an interest for you?
Jeremy Elkin (24:34):
To tell you the truth, I’ve never really been interested in street wear. I’m not a street wear guy, I like wearing friends’ brands or a brand I think is doing something right, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with collecting it. I’m wearing it. I’m not like saving it.
David Hershkovits (24:52):
That probably speaks to the people of that era as well, the ones who were wearing the Supreme stuff were all hanging out at the store. It was a cool thing. Their friends that were working there, so that kind of made sense, but since then, we’ve seen this amazing industry grow up around it and skateboarding is going into the Olympics this year, also a huge development, do you have any thoughts on, on the commercialization of all of this?
Jeremy Elkin (25:22):
Yeah. I’m not a big fan of it, I’ll tell you the truth. when I grew up skating, it didn’t seem, even though it might’ve been the case a little bit for some people, it didn’t appear as though people were getting into skateboarding to make money, and I feel like now, it’s much more of a split. Obviously if they’re good at something, they’re going to want to pursue it, get better and better, get a sponsor, like an energy drink sponsor or a Nike involved. That’s cool. I don’t know. It’s not my thing. I’d rather be involved in skateboarding ’cause you love skateboarding and you like the people and the community there’s a big like graphic design element to me there and there’s a, there’s a architecture element with, skating, finding a new spot, like that’s what’s interesting about skateboarding to me.
Jeremy Elkin (26:13):
The corporate end is not very appealing, so, I mean, people do it. It’s in the Olympics. It’s all good. It’s just not why I picked up a skateboard.
David Hershkovits (26:24):
The graphic design element you mentioned and, and in your film has a very specific graphic design, uh, with typography that you use in oversized way to identify the speakers that, I, I don’t think I quite seen before-
Jeremy Elkin (26:41):
David Hershkovits (26:41):
Is that part of-
Jeremy Elkin (26:42):
That was, a fun one, Jesse Reed, who’s, the founder of Order, Designco and Greenpoint, I brought him on because I knew that he had a relation with Michael Beirut and, uh, who used to work with Massimo Agnelli and we licensed the, the subway typeface, the DOT, I hate the word iconic, but, you know, subway entrance typography, to create a character for each person, rather than just talking heads, kind of nice to see big, beautiful typography accompanying, a scene, everything was, obviously, super thought out, but, the locations were really important, the type, positioning, that was a really, huge part of the thought process that went into the production was getting that right,
David Hershkovits (27:39):
I know you mentioned working at Vanity Fair, was that an influence as well
Jeremy Elkin (27:44):
David Hershkovits (27:45):
Jeremy Elkin (27:46):
When I was there, my office was basically in the design department. It was like just outside of it. When we moved to the World Trade Center from Times Square and the office next to me was Chris Dixon who’s like a legendary typographic designer, and down the hall was Dana Brown, who produced the movie actually. but Chris was like a huge influence on me. He’d just nerd out every day about different, type treatments, and I feel I cared more about the typography back then than I did the actual content. I just got way more involved. I just loved his team, and I loved how, how careful and, and, they were just very like considerate, they considered like every type choice in a way that I hadn’t seen before having worked at other companies.
Jeremy Elkin (28:39):
And, uh, I was able to sort of bring what the magazine was doing into video, and got to hire a motion designer and figure out what we wanted to do for each series and each lower third and, just logo treatments yeah, it definitely came from there. My brother’s actually a graphic designer so my whole life, I’ve been thinking about typography, the movie’s just an extension of all that, I would say.
David Hershkovits (29:07):
But you went there originally to work, or, or to start the video department. They didn’t really have one at the time, right?
Jeremy Elkin (29:14):
Yeah. That was a funny time, I still don’t know how I got hired, if I wasn’t hired for that job, my movie probably wouldn’t exist. But, that job was definitely a turning point, it was in 2013, at the end of the year. I just applied online. I didn’t realize everyone who worked there is like a, it’s like a cult, and they didn’t really let anyone in and, they don’t really like posting online or anything for jobs like that. But I just responded to an ad, one of those like job listings ’cause I was broke, from making skate videos and Dana told me they only interviewed me, but they had like, I think 300 submissions within like two, three days for that open position. Apparently I was the only one who could produce, direct, shoot, edit, do the whole thing and Dana was like let’s try out the skater, let, let’s see if he can hang with us, you know?
David Hershkovits (30:16):
I know, it’s so true and so typical of the magazine industry at that time because as more and more of the internet and digital became important, they, started adding these compartments that they didn’t really even think about before, but they never really committed to it in a way that you would today if you wanted to start something like that, you would need 10 or 12 people, right-
Jeremy Elkin (30:41):
It’s crazy that it was almost 10 years ago, I mean, 2013 feels like yesterday but it was like a while, you know, things have changed a lot since then. Back when I started, we had all these amazing photographers, like Annie Liebowitz and Testino, and they would have either like a friend of theirs or a cousin or they would sometimes hire a crew who would go on set with them and shoot behind the scenes, like, that’s it, like with a Handy camera, whatever, and the hard drive, like the transfer, I don’t even know if it was the full resolution, but, the transfer would wind up on like a print photo editor’s desk, and they’d be like calling tech support, what are we going to do with this? (laughs)
Jeremy Elkin (31:22):
and Dana kind of was sick of having dealt with that. he was dealing with it ’cause he was working with Grayden Carter on a lot of producing movies, helping write, pitching ideas and all that, and he was just used to dealing with video or film he’s friends with a lot of like Hollywood types. I think he was just used to it so Grayden was just like figure it out, and we were getting pressure from Conde Nast Entertainment which is like the corporate arm, to do something more. And so I think, yeah, I was hired as like a bandaid probably, to fix it-
David Hershkovits (31:58):
Jeremy Elkin (31:59):
But then like when I started, I don’t think they, they thought I, I think that they had, or I don’t know what Dana was thinking, but, my gut was telling me that they were thinking I was just going to work nine to five and go home and that’s it. But anything I do, I have to do it, I’m gonna sleep there until it’s right. So, I was first one in, last one out for like the first year, basically. Um, and I think they noticed that and then the second year, they gave me more budget and it was able to hire a team and expand it, but it was definitely a brand new concept. I think I was the first video person at Conde Nast who wasn’t at the corporate, I was within the publication, you know?
Jeremy Elkin (32:39):
but, yeah, shout out to Dana for hiring me-
David Hershkovits (32:42):
And, and you would do celebrity kind of little pieces and things like that?
Jeremy Elkin (32:47):
Yeah, it was all over the place. When it started, like I was saying, like, it’s like Annie Liebowitz’s sister, Barbara was amazing, who would like go on set with her in like Scotland or something and they would send a drive with beautifully shot footage. But it’s just behind the scenes footage or if you’re lucky, it’s an interview. But there’s no concept or thought process or documentary. It’s just I’m gonna shoot some footage and hopefully get paid by a corporation. there was no one who was putting it together, so the idea that Dana and I came up with was like how do we … We were doing covers like four to six months in advance. So it’s like how do we better take advantage of that moment when we have the celebrity for a day or three days depending on the shoot, with one of these big name photographers, if we get 20 minutes with them, what do we do?
Jeremy Elkin (33:37):
And that’s how we wound up making a lot of those videos that went viral. It was totally unintentional, but most of those celebrities had never done that before. So you have Channing Tatum dancing or we had a documentary with Kaitlyn Jenner it just went on and on and on like every cover, it was a different subject and it was a lot of fun to try and figure out, editorially what to do with them, you know?
David Hershkovits (34:00):
Yeah. It sounds like a nice situation that worked out for you. back to the film Kids, isa parallel movie to this, I think. It would be, make a great double feature, and that happened towards the end of, what is it, ’98, you said? Where you, where you shut it off, uh, you gave it until ’98? What year did that come out? ’96 or something?
Jeremy Elkin (34:29):
Kids came out in ’95-
David Hershkovits (34:30):
Jeremy Elkin (34:30):
My film’s ’87 and ’97-
David Hershkovits (34:33):
so that seemed to be like a turning point in a way for those people who had been on the scene, the skaters and their friends and suddenly the limelight, the movie turned out to be a huge success. Everybody was talking about them. How, how did that impact your story?
Jeremy Elkin (34:53):
Yeah, I think it was the moment when, I think Harold, Harold for sure, was trying so hard, is Supreme going to work out? am I even getting paid enough by like a Zooyork or, I don’t even know if he was getting paid by Supreme, but, some of these brand, brands that were like really small, independent labels, like, you know, it’s hard to make a ton of money that way in skating, like it’s just, the money’s just not there and then I think he got a taste of Hollywood with Kids or seen the success of the film and the reach it had and apparently he would like walk down the street and people would just, yell at him like, so I think that probably hit him pretty hard at that time, I think it was like a big impact on a lot of those dudes.
Jeremy Elkin (35:39):
Obviously BC, Jeff Pang and they were all probably getting recognized left and right for being in that movie. Um, Leo, obviously, it’s a huge moment in our story because it’s when Harold like gets into the clubs not Mars, but like a, a club that you normally wouldn’t
Jeremy Elkin (36:00):
Able to get into as like a sweaty skater, just having tried a trick for two hours. (laughs) I think previously it was probably really tough, but all of a sudden he was recognizable because he was playing at like Loews or something. You know? So I think, yeah.
David Hershkovits (36:13):
He’s probably getting free drinks, perks, and girls and whatever.
Jeremy Elkin (36:18):
Yeah. So I think that was a- yeah, that was a huge moment for all of them, I think. For Chloe, Rosario, I mean, yeah. Totally.
David Hershkovits (36:25):
Did you try to get some people that you wish you had in the film that weren’t able to uh, participate?
Jeremy Elkin (36:32):
Yeah. We wish we could have gotten Chloe, she was- we spoke to her, she was awesome, but uh, didn’t work out. It was like wrong timing at the time, this is like two years ago. Uh, and I’m trying to think if there’s someone else. it would have been great to have Busta, we tried for years to get Busta. Very tough. Nas, he loved it. He was cool with it, but he was like I’m- I’m not a skater.
Jeremy Elkin (37:03):
Jay Z watched the movie and loved it, but yeah, we didn’t do an interview with him. You know, sort of at the end of the day, like we’re just a small independent film, we’re not trying to chase Jay Z or something, you know?
David Hershkovits (37:13):
No, I mean you did amazing getting the people that you did.
Jeremy Elkin (37:17):
Oh, thank you. It was super fun. It’s a hunt to get some of those guys, for sure.
David Hershkovits (37:25):
That’s always- yeah, and there’s always more, I’m sure, on your list, are there any good stories? ‘Cause in every documentary, there’s-
Jeremy Elkin (37:35):
David Hershkovits (37:36):
I know you have to change the whole music concept, right? Because of all of the- the money that would be involved and licensing.
Jeremy Elkin (37:46):
Well if you’ve seen- you’ve seen both versions now, right?
David Hershkovits (37:48):
Jeremy Elkin (37:48):
You saw previously and then you saw the final?
David Hershkovits (37:50):
Jeremy Elkin (37:51):
Yeah, so before COVID, or I guess it’s- yeah, two questions, but before COVID, I’ll just answer this one first, we were hoping that an investor would come in and clear some of that music so that we could have the De La Souls and Tribes in there. and it was a blessing that Large Professor came on board to do the score. But up until that point, it was definitely like a scary moment being in a festival and not having clearances. It was like, you know, uh-
David Hershkovits (38:24):
Jeremy Elkin (38:25):
It was a little dangerous, we were just really hoping some shark would come in and fund it. And it didn’t happen, so we just sat tight for a couple months, and we put something together with Large Professor and tried to figure out, it was the early days of like rebuilding the whole soundscape of the movie with Large Pro and- and working on the sound design and developing all, that was really like eight or nine months. But up until then we couldn’t afford to make that movie, yeah. The first one.
Jeremy Elkin (38:58):
we’re super fortunate that it came out the way it did.
David Hershkovits (39:02):
Yeah, I think yeah. In retrospect, things always seem to work out for the best. And-
Jeremy Elkin (39:07):
David Hershkovits (39:08):
In my mind it would have, you know, been too much of a soundtrack of familiar soundtrack where the music kind of takes over uh, the film.
Jeremy Elkin (39:16):
David Hershkovits (39:16):
Sometimes you don’t really want that to happen.
Jeremy Elkin (39:19):
Right. And then you asked about any stories. Every interview has a story, but I have one that you might find amusing. We were shooting- big shout out to Khyber Jones, who was on like basically every shoot we did period. He was like my assistant but also did sound and helped a lot with lighting. There was pretty much the two of us on every shoot. And we were up in the Bronx shooting JR for the Brooklyn Museum, uh, film that we did. This was three or four years ago. And it was right when we were starting film- it must have been the spring of 2018 ’cause we’d only done probably 10 or 15 interviews. Um, and we’re in the Bronx and we’re shooting uh, on the street in the south Bronx with him, and the JR shoot, it was this 60 foot FedEx truck with his- pasted over with his iconic eye on it.
Jeremy Elkin (40:21):
We were just taking people off the street and putting them into the truck to get their portrait taken by JR. And we were doing a- a documentary about that. And one of the people who came in, he called himself the Bronx Blesser, he came in and was super, super cool, and sort of wound up hanging out at the truck, and we interviewed him after, and he said, well you know, we’re right next to the museum of Hip Hop, whatever. I didn’t mention anything about my movie, like nothing. And at the end, he asked me, like, “What else do you guys do? What are you into?”
Jeremy Elkin (40:56):
Whatever, I was like, actually we’re working on another film, this like skate hip-hop film, I don’t know what it’s gonna be, but we’re working on it. And he’s like, “Well how could I help? Or like what can I do?” You know? And he’s just like, you know, old dude with a cane kinda vibe with like the leather and it’s also I should say, it’s like pouring rain.
David Hershkovits (41:16):
Jeremy Elkin (41:16):
sheets of rain, and he’s just like, wooden cane with gold rings just super sick. And he loved JR and he just wanted to help, you know? And uh, he’s like, “Well, you know, I could get you someone. Someone owes me a favor. This woman owes me a favor. She’s Kid Capri’s manager.
David Hershkovits (41:39):
(laughs) Oh really?
Jeremy Elkin (41:39):
And uh, he’s like, “So should I get her on the phone?” We were in Kid Capri’s basement the next day.
David Hershkovits (41:45):
Jeremy Elkin (41:46):
Uh, but that was like totally random. (laughs)
David Hershkovits (41:49):
Yeah, and I love that part, though, he’s so great on camera. His-
Jeremy Elkin (41:53):
Oh he’s amazing. Yeah. That was like, 11 pm in New Jersey in his basement, you know? That was awesome. That was epic to walk into. That was really one of those moments where it’s like, wow maybe we’ll be able to get so and so, or maybe- now that we have him, we’ll get the next person. Or, you know? That was a huge moment, for sure.
David Hershkovits (42:13):
and the stuff that you used from the original mixtape, the Busta clip and Method Man for example, you were allowed to use those? How did that work out?
Jeremy Elkin (42:23):
Got permission yeah.
David Hershkovits (42:24):
Jeremy Elkin (42:24):
Like we got written permission from Method Man and Busta through his- one of his managers. verbal okays Eric Sermon from EPMD showed the film to Busta apparently, through a mutual friend.
David Hershkovits (42:39):
Jeremy Elkin (42:40):
This was like really early. This was like four years ago.
David Hershkovits (42:42):
Jeremy Elkin (42:42):
But it happened at a certain point. getting those sign offs were definitely like a way to- to keep pushing forward, you know? Um, like Willo Perron works with Jay Z, he got Jay’s approval. we’re able to get those- those- those big names sign offs through uh, mutual friends.
David Hershkovits (43:02):
Yeah, that’s really cool that you could- have that, and use that. My God.
When Willo went over to Jay Z’s, I was like, he’s definitely gonna like, have us mute it, or like cut it way down. And he was just like, like respect, you know? Like nothing. No comment. Like, great.
Jeremy Elkin (43:24):
It’s like the best thing you ever- you know, when I got that call, it was like ’cause I really I was ready to shorten it way, way down. In my mind, like it’s gonna have to get cut. Like to three seconds or something mute. And then he was just like, “Yeah, use it.” But I think he’s a historian himself, Jay Z’s amazing, like I’m sure he just saw it. He- he recognized his sound back then and maybe, it sort of helps tell the evolution of sort of, uh, where he came from. And he had never seen the footage. it- might be the first ever club footage of Jay Z, period. You know? Yeah.
David Hershkovits (43:58):
That’s what I’m thinking, I mean I’ve never seen anything, but- so what’s next? I’m sure everybody wants to know. That’s the question.
Jeremy Elkin (44:08):
Nothing concrete. Yeah, I’m not much of a proclaimer. I don’t like talking about projects that are floating around. until it lands, I don’t wanna, come out with some big statement. there’s some things in the works, but nothing-
David Hershkovits (44:25):
But you have some ideas, do you think you would still wanna work in this frame? Are you thinking about a documentary, or a feature film, or just something else?
Jeremy Elkin (44:35):
Uh, yeah, definitely a documentary. I need a little break for sure, from the last like four, five years. Definitely a documentary, definitely some shorts. I mean it’s ongoing. We do a lot of commercial work and editorial work. With my production label.
Elkin Editions. It’s like fashion, art, music, skate, et cetera. It’s ongoing. I mean, there’s always- 10 projects in the works at all times.
David Hershkovits (45:07):
Right, and you’re open to suggestions still?
Jeremy Elkin (45:10):
David Hershkovits (45:12):
Jeremy Elkin (45:12):
David Hershkovits (45:13):
Well Jeremy, thank you so much. I really appreciate all the work you put in to do this, and being able to tell the story, usually we look back to the 80s as this golden age, and obviously the 90s were really amazing as well, and there’s even more to be said about the 90s. I’ve been kind of thinking about it myself on some projects with regard, especially with cannabis, for example. (laughs) I think the 90s was an amazing period in New York with a lot of underground stuff that’s coming to the surface only today as we get, moving to the legal space. So yeah, it’s great to be able to tell another New York Story. I love New York as well. So thank you very much, Jeremy Elkin.
Jeremy Elkin (46:00):
Thank you. Shout out uh, Eli Gesner and Large Professor, and New York.
Jeremy Elkin – When Hip Hop Met Skate