William Strobeck is a filmmaker. And he’s the kind we need. A creative mind so rooted in the world he documents that he cannot help but document it exactly the way it is. With an attention and attraction toward the colorful world it exists in. Unfortunately, this is a rare thing. He wants you to feel things. But Real things. And he wants it to be fun. And artistic, sure. But born of the reality that it exists in. His most recent film, Supreme’s full-length Cherry is a mash of great music, street energy, grit and humor. We recently found ourselves in Paris at the same time as him and managed to order off in French and talked about the following.
Grab a copy of What Youth Issue 13 for the full interview.
WHAT YOUTH: So since Cherry came out, what projects have you been working on?
WILLIAM STROBECK: I continued working for Supreme and I did an online video and since the Supreme video just came out I think we were just like, “Let’s not do another thing for Supreme right away.” So I made another video called Joy Ride and that’s what I worked on for six months. Sean and Sage kept filming and stuff and they kept getting more and more stuff so I was like, “Let’s just start working on something else and keep it going.”’ Cause they kind of had the momentum after the video came out and they saw what it was about, they got psyched so I kind of just worked with all those guys and within six months that’s what that was.
What’s it like working with such a young crew of skaters? Have you seen them grow up since Cherry?
Yeah. I’ve watched them all grow up. It’s almost like I haven’t had any children because they’re young enough to be them [laughs]. I watch them start to meet girls and go drink and shit and it’s crazy because they’re still younger than I was when I first moved to New York. I look back on that now and I’m like, “Dude I was so young then.” But they’re like six years younger than that so that shit trips me out. But they also are way more advanced than I was at their age than I was when I first moved to New York. It must be just part of the Internet — you see so much more now and you get a lot more instead of…say for example, I had to go out every night to see what was going on and if I didn’t go out, I had the fear of missing out, the FOMO thing ‘cause you had to be there! There was no other way. You couldn’t just be like, “Oh shit, so and so happened last night and just saw the photos. You had to be there to engage with it and understand what actually happened, but now you don’t miss out on anything almost.
Sometimes I think I’m their age too, even though I’m way older. There’s something in me that wants to be their age, but I’m way older and I can tell that I’m older but I also like participating in their shenanigans and shit for fun. They got a lot of energy, they got a lot of youthful energy. For some reason, this crew has a ‘90s energy. They’re not trying to skate like the 90s but that energy from the 90s is there. For example, like, the World Industries kids back then. There were dudes that would go to that warehouse and act crazy and whatever happened, happened. For some reason it feels like that. I’ve hung out with other dudes and it’s a little different. It feels like a lot of other skate crews are like, “Meet at the spot, go skate.” There’s some strategy to their day and you get what you get. I feel like they can take advantage of it too. They’re spoiled by what they’ve been given already so it kind of makes them who they are in a way.
Do you feel like you have to motivate them?
No, they’re pretty motivated. I think they’re pretty psyched to see what gets put out next. And I don’t get to see them all the time cause I’m in New York and a lot of them are in LA. But when they come to New York it’s like, “I’m in New York let me try to do this,” or if I’m in LA it’s like, “Well, let’s try to do this.” I’m not around them all the time but when I am I feel like they’re like — well I’m obviously there to do something so they’re like, “Let’s get down.” And when I’m not, I’ll see them all partying and doing their thing. So I think they know when I’m around they they know they have to do that stuff so they’ll do it, but when they’re not around it they’re just being teenagers. I’m not really a motivator kind of guy. I am when I need to get something done. I’ve been on trips where it’s like, “Dude, up at 11, in the van, let’s go.” For me, it’s always been like, “Hey are you guys up yet? It’s 1:30. Meet me at Tompkins, let’s go skate around see if we can do something.” But I ain’t mad if we don’t get anything. I like that, it feels like how it was when I was growing up and would meet up with my friends and go skate. That’s what I want the footage to come out like, as much as it can. I still want cool stuff but I do want it to feel like we’re just kicking it too, so I want both.
Do you feel like they look to you as a role model at all?
Oh, no. Not at all. I don’t think they see me as that really. I think they look at me as like a big kid. They don’t see me as an adult really, like, “Oh we gotta do it cause he’s gonna get mad, we’re gonna get in trouble!” It’s more like they treat me like one of them. They’ll make fun of me or I’ll make fun of them. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just fun. There’s no walls up, like this guy’s different than us. Who knows what they say when they’re alone but it’s really mellow and fun. It’s cool.
So do you ignore a lot of the new trends and bigger skateboarding? For instance, We Are Blood, did you watch that film?
I did. I actually went to the premiere. Actually, Ty [Evans] hit me up and he’s like, “Dude do you wanna go?” And I was like, “Fuck it, I wanna go see it for sure. I was like get me plus 10 [on the list] I want to get a bunch of people to go.” I went. It was fucking crazy though. I think it’s one of those videos you can easily hate and I think people were like, “Ty keeps doing this and trying to go bigger and make it look crazy,” but I think Ty has stuck to his guns and that’s what’s cool about Ty as far as he made it crazier than what shit anyone talks about Pretty Sweet. And people were saying shit about Pretty Sweet, like it’s too crazy and phenomenal and fuck that shit” but that’s why dudes are in New York and shit cause they’re so anti that and that’s like their thing. I think Ty was like, “Oh people hate it? I’m gonna give them fucking something crazier than that.” I think that’s the biggest it can get dude. What more can you do? You got helicopters, crazy RED cameras and dollies and shit but it’s so next level that I feel like I can appreciate it. I’m not gonna do that, I’m not gonna fucking go on a crane, I’m just not gonna do it. I think that he was like, “Dude I’ll go as crazy as I can.” Cause first of all, no skateboard company is gonna give a budget like that. I think it was like 2 million to make or something. I think it was around that. I don’t think anyone’s gonna want to make something crazier than that but that’s as big as I think it’s gonna get. What was the question? I ain’t gonna be making something like that. I’m kind of sticking to my thing I’m doing now and the style I’m doing. I enjoy making it the way that I do, I don’t want to over do it.
Do you enjoy it more now than back in the day when you were a filmer, when you’d just give the footage away?
I enjoy it more now cause it’s mine, it’s personal. Anything from Cherry on, and even the stuff I did before, just for online stuff that I had done, it’s all personal stuff. That’s why I really enjoy doing it. I feel like I would be doing something else now, something where I would get the same feeling. I mean, we’re only here for a little while. I want to make shit mine because at some point I’m not going to be here anymore and that’s what’s going to be left. I enjoy doing it now more so than giving it to someone because I always felt like it was a job then. And it feels like a job now because I gotta make sure things are done but I like it. It’s like writing a book or something or anything like that. I definitely want to move on and try to do some stuff outside of skating too and see.
That was my next question.
It’s a hard move because I like all the stuff I’m doing right now and I like all the people that I’m working with now. And working for Supreme is fucking beyond man. They’re the coolest fuckin people and they treat me really well and they trust me. I’ve never had to change anything. It wasn’t ever like, “Dude take that out, or do this.” They really trust me and that makes me feel real confident, you know what I mean, as far as what I’m going to do next. But that’s another thing, not knowing whether to make a movie or a short film or something, it’ll be fun and exciting to try something new but I don’t know that world very well, so there’s something in my head that’s like, “I gotta try it first to see.” And I feel like I’m kind of on a roll in a way and I don’t want to fuck up anything. So I’m making this video now and it won’t be out until next year some time but…
Is this full-length, like Cherry?
No, no. It’s like Sickness. It’ll be something like that. Supreme isn’t gonna do another full length. Maybe if they’re around in 20 years and they feel like doing another one. But the last one they did…
With Thomas Campbell?
Yeah! And it wasn’t even supposed to be a skate video, it’s a film, it really represents that time and I feel like at first they were like, “Oh, we tried to do a skate video before and it didn’t work out,” and the owner really loves the Thomas Campbell one, it’s very more his style. I think with Cherry, he was really psyched on it, I think there’s a lot more than just skating in there and I think the way people looked and the situations that had happened, I think for him, they were way more important to him than the skate tricks. To us, the skate tricks really matter but I think those seconds where things happen, for me even, I think that’s what I try to do now. I have to find situations. The beginning of Sickness, that lady, when I turn that corner, that’s just something I came across, but when I got home and was looking through the footage and I was like, “‘Dude, there’s something about this.” I like that type of stuff more than skate tricks really. I think that’s a trick, getting that. That was crazy. We turned the corner and I saw the lady looking at the van and was like, “Dude this lady was looking at the van…”
So I was like, “Turn around!” We turn around and you know, when we were coming back this way, I pull the camera out right before we turned that corner and I was filming and I noticed that she was still looking that way. So when we went around the corner and slowed down, she noticed me because we were going kinda slow, so she connected with the camera, and I prefer that over anything, really.
What happened in The Red Devil when you had to take one of the first clips down and you had to upload another one?
Yeah, the lady found out and she sent a cease and desist, like “You better take it down” and I was trying so hard not to take it down.
I forget what it was? I think it was Aiden…
Yeah, Aiden was doing a drop in on this apartment complex and this lady was like pulling in, she got out of the car and was like, “What the fuck are you doing?” He tried it like two or three times and someone else from the building came out but it was only 8 seconds or whatever…but it was like in lawyer writing ‘cause it was an actual thing and she said also she doesn’t want to be associated with the music of Burzum, a guy that burned down a church and killed someone, like it said all of this in there. It was pretty heavy. And then it was a weekend so we kept it up and we put it on private to figure stuff out, then took it off private, and she hit them up again and I was like, “Fuck, I need to find a new beginning for it.” It sucks when that happens cause the original is the way it’s supposed to be. I’ll probably put it up again at a certain point under a different account cause it can be online but it can’t be online for anyone that works for them or under them, so if it just showed up online on some account, then they can’t do anything. But I obviously like the original better and it just sucks when you have to take it down. You’re like fighting it. I literally was like, “Fuck that! I don’t want to take it down.” And they were like we’re gonna hit our lawyers up to see what they say, and we were just like we gotta take it down. It isn’t worth the hassle.
When you talk about your future films possibly, who are you drawing inspiration from outside of skateboarding?
I like Dennis Hopper’s stuff after Easy Rider up until like the early ‘80s. The stuff he directed, I like the last movie and I like Out of the Blue. They’re like my favorite movies, but for me it’s like I’ll see a music video and I’ll see something and I’ll get inspiration. I don’t really like the music video, but I’ll see one piece and be like, “Dude that seems like something I would like to do in my own way.” But I’m so bad with even remembering stuff. There’s these things where I’ll pull stuff from and I would like to do that, I may do it down the line, or I may think of it but then things happen, they happen just sporadically but, if I could think of some stuff man, like Depeche Mode videos, old ones, there was one…I can’t even remember the name…but there’s this one somebody made at a school, but somebody made a school video for them and it was online. I’ll send you the video, but somebody actually made a school video for it and I think either they used it or somebody made it and posted it, but it was around the time that it came out. It just looks so fucking cool. It’s just real beautiful.
I don’t know if I’ll ever make a real conventional commercial film. Maybe someday, but my brain doesn’t really work — I don’t know if I could really work with a real production crew. I’m bad at talking to people, I’m bad at, like, working with people. I like to do things as much as I can by myself. I think it only feels like it’s mine if I do a lot of it myself. For me, it’s a goal. Like Cherry was a goal. I didn’t know if I could do it but I knew that I could make videos cause I was making short ones and putting them online and when that got greenlighted I was like, “Here we go! Let’s see if I can do it.” And halfway through I was like, “This feels good.” And when I started editing I had the whole winter to edit and two or three months. I was excited because really no one had seen anything except for a guy who worked in the offices. We started the thing together. He would come over and we’d watch it and then I’d be like, “Okay I’m gonna work on this a little more.” And then he’d come over and watch it again and we were so excited. It was one of those things where I felt like it was mine and this dude Kyle’s little seed and we’re like, “No one’s gonna have any idea.”
And you didn’t even show the kids?
They didn’t see anything. They knew what they did but they didn’t see it other than when they landed it and I showed them. But a year and a half went by before it came out so it was a surprise. But I also feel like that was one of the things I wanted to do, was make it seem like you were getting it in the mail for the first time and watching it. Everyone didn’t know what other people did and I felt like at the premiere that was going to the best way for everyone to leave and be like, “Damn I’m fucking psyched on this!” So that was kinda the goal. It’s super hard too though, with Instagram and stuff. Like no one was posting anything that people were doing, but you could see outfits and what dudes were wearing certain days so whatever, it is what it is. That was the fun part cause I remember getting Questionable in the mail and being like, “I can’t stop watching this.” I think it kind of worked to an extent as far as I think people were into the video.
Do you ever watch surf videos? Do you think they’re inspired by your work or vice versa?
Dylan [Rieder] actually paid for a video on iTunes for me to watch but I never purchased it but I heard there was this one surf video that was a lot like Cherry. There was some video that Huf promoted it and it came out under Huf and I was out in LA at the time and I went but the line was so psycho that I was just like,”‘I’m outta here, I’m over it.” But it was at the Hotel downtown, I don’t remember the name.
Yeah. I heard a couple of the kids were like, “Dude you gotta see this video! It looks just like the intro…” Or there was one part or something that seemed like it was inspired by it. I don’t know anything about surfing at all, but if people are inspired — and I don’t even know if they were — but if there was something that happened in there that they were like, “Dude, it was exactly like it.” So I don’t know. You guys might’ve saw that video.
We did that with What Youth and with Kai Neville and Huf as well. But there’s definitely some similarities for sure.
That’s cool. I mean there’s probably a lot of surfers that haven’t seen Cherry so they’re probably like, “Damn that’s sick!’ I don’t know. Surfing may be different as far as what people like. Surf videos are pretty straight forward.
Yeah generally, for sure. But there’s kind of a little bit more storytelling happening in them and I feel like you’ve definitely inspired some of that style.
When I worked for Quiksilver at one point, I was going to pitch them to let me do a surf video ’cause I don’t know anything about it and I thought that I could probably come up with something pretty original. I don’t get it, I don’t know it, but maybe me doing something like that could’ve been an idea. Turn it into a visual.
That would’ve been sick. Something from outside the world.
No, I’m totally outside where it’s like me trying to speak French here in Paris. I have no idea what the fuck it is. It’s very hard but you could do that with anything. But with surfing, I don’t know the turn is or what the turn is called or anything so it could’ve came out interesting I guess.
Buy Cherry here, or check out the full interview inside What Youth Issue 13 here.