American filmmaking pioneer Spike Jonze has produced some of the most enigmatic projects in recent years, ranging from the surreally beautiful Being John Malkovich to his recent modern gem Her which touches on the important subjects of artificial intelligence and urban isolation. However, Jonze’s directorial origins vastly differ from most of his contemporaries.
From his teenage years, Jonze was obsessed with the culture of BMX and skateboarding. He was an avid reader of magazines on those particular topics and frequented skate parks which ultimately led to his employment at a skateboarding company. During that time, he ended up creating what would become one of the most seminal skateboarding films ever made.
Titled Video Days, Jonze made a promotional video for Blind Skateboards which featured a unique directorial style that has now become his instantly recognisable brand. It features skateboarding icons like Mark Gonzales and Guy Mariano, conducting a fascinating reflection on a vibrant American subculture which has made many teenagers feel like they belong.
In an interview with the New York Times, the director revealed just how important all of this was and the impact it had on his formative years: “When I was 20 years old, I had no plans to ever be a filmmaker,” Jonze said “Me and my friends had BMX magazines and skate magazines, and I was a photographer who made skate videos. There was just no way that would have ever even crossed my mind.”
He would go on to add: “When I’m making stuff the thing that excites me most is not the result but the process, and trying to do something I’ve never done before. I love when me and my friends don’t know how to make something – there’s that risk of failure, which should be there. If it’s guaranteed not to fail it’s something you already know how to do.”
Looking back, Video Days set the bar very high for subsequent skateboarding videos which followed in the footsteps of a film that would prove to be indicative of Spike Jonze’s potential as a top filmmaker in the landscape of modern cinema.
Watch Jonze’s influential short film Video Days in its entirety below.