OC GOES TO THE MOVIES: DUMB: THE STORY OF BIG BROTHER MAGAZINE
PATRICK O’DELL’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT
FRIDAY. JUNE 9, 2017WORDS BY JOSHUA MICHAEL PAULINPHOTOGRAPHY BY BRAYDEN OLSON
Did you know Johnny Knoxville shot himself with a gun, as a stunt? Neither did we. We caught up with Epicly Later’d’s creator Patrick O’Dell, to get the 411 on his new film, directing, and skateboarding’s (now defunct) most prolific/sadistic magazine—Big Brother.
Kids have it so lucky these days. They have a million-and-one immediate platforms with portals to everything and anything. They even have the option to still ask Jeeves or be the first person to install Bing and search away. But there’s still a disconnect between the generations that had, and the ones that had not. If it’s not in the feed, it’s kind of over kid’s heads. And in the skateboarding world, so much history has been lost on tape. If it never made it to the internet? Did it ever exist? How do we fill in the gaps?
This is where Patrick O'Dell comes in. O’Dell has blazed a new frontier in skateboarding, the historian of it’s early culture and its connection with the present. O’Dell’s series titled Epicly Later’d filled in the gaps, sharing skateboarding’s history to a generation that never knew it existed. Not only is it accessible, we salivate over it. Both kids and grown ups are finally getting their history lesson.
Historically, Big Brother magazine is hailed as the greatest skateboard mag. It debuted in 1992 and quickly became skateboarding’s bible. The pages featured trick tips & how-to sections, hilarious interviews, and hijinks. The articles were filled with innovation and skateboard firsts, with its inclusion of video captured stills. This showed the reader exactly what tricks looked like in action, through consecutive photo sequences on double page spreads. The skateboarding content was juxtaposed against more racier content, which included male & female nudity, and controversial suicide articles. The spine of the magazine embodied the sentiments and characteristics of teenage boys growing up skateboarding, but at heart—it was just about trying to get each other to laugh, at any cost, kind of like your big bro.
Below, we interview O’Dell just before the premiere of his directorial debut DUMB: THE STORY OF BIG BROTHER MAGAZINE at this years Tribeca Film Festival. This weekend, DUMB debuts on hulu, so the world can travel the publication’s roots—back in time, to find the (shit) kernels that created Jackass and the content that changed the face of skateboarding.
JOSHUA MICHAEL PAULIN: You went from photographer for Thrasher, to photo editor at VICE, to TV show producer, and now film director. Did you ever envision your career moving in this direction, or did you just constantly embrace change as it came to you?
PATRICK O’DELL: I didn’t envision it. There were times I would watch documentaries and go “that would be cool to make”. I always liked Louis Theroux’s documentaries, have you seen those? He did these ones called Weird Weekends on BBC. I remember watching them and thinking "I'd like to make one of these" and the same with Werner Herzog. There were some weird documentaries he did, that I'd rent from the video store, and I think they were cool and envision "yeah, maybe I could do something like that”. But, mostly it's been luck and happenstance. Photography was always a goal, but with the show [Epicly Later'd], it was just because of VICE. They started a channel, which was called VBS at the time. Jesse Pearson, who was the editor, asked me to create a skate show as an assignment.
Was it a natural progression moving from photo to video? Did it let you expand on some ideas, or did the medium for the moment, ever feel constrictive?
There was a giant window where I didn't have a cameraman. So there was a long period where there was just me with a camera, just figuring it out, on the fly, and making a lot of mistakes and learning. Now we actually are back to having cameramen, having a crew on location. I mean, I had people helping, but it was usually in post-production.
I love how the Epicly Later’d incorporates so many other mediums and formats. Seeing old 411VMs brings back so many memories of growing up pre-internet days. It’s funny how much content from these films is still unavailable online. Is it rewarding giving that back to the community and the next generation?
When we started, it was actually the [Jason] Dill episode. World Industries said I could pull from any of their videos, a lot of them weren't digitized yet. We were digitizing a 101 video that Dill had a part in, and it felt really exciting that we were getting raw footage. It felt really exciting to put that out. Now, mostly everything [earlier skate films] is on YouTube, so we were less excited about going through the video parts and showing them. At that point, it was enough. Now, I need story. Sometimes it's still good, John Cardiel for instance. I had every single Anti Hero video on VHS, and I didn't consciously think about it that time, but then later I was like—I could put most of his best footage in order, in context. And I think it helped the younger generation of skaters realize how important he was, by just collecting the footage and putting it in order. You know, there's been a few skaters like that, Eric Dressen is one. I got to put thirty years of skating in a timeline. And I think it helped put everything in context. I'll meet kids who's favorite skater is John Cardiel and they're seventeen, and I'm not trying to take credit for any skating they did, I just mean it's really nice to help somebody archive their work.