Features & Columns

Shoot the Moon profiles
San Jose Skateboarders

Hard-core valley skateboarders fly, slide and hit the concrete in local doc Shoot the Moon
shoot the moon WHEEL WORLD: No obstacle is too great for San Jose's best skateboarders, including Joey Flores. Photograph by Mark Steinlein

On the one hand, some proud moms may be watching their sons on the big screen this Thursday (Feb. 7), when the locally shot Shoot the Moon plays at Camera 12 for one night only. On the other hand, how are these moms going to be able to look?

"My mom doesn't watch my films," says 26-year-old Bay Area director Chris Taylor. A former skater who got injured one too many times, Taylor went to film school at CSU Fullerton. He returned to make Shoot the Moon as a project for local clothing brand Breezy Excursion.

On the big screen, the 40-minute documentary is nothing short of thrilling. Skateboarders Joey Flores, Brandon McCormick, Gabe Nunez, Pancho Pacheco and Franky Sandoval are filmed as they ride their boards, flying over flights of stairs and sliding down banisters the hard way.

The Breezy Excursions Skate Team, BEST for short, began with area clothing designer Roque Breezy (born Santos): "We worked with a couple of skateboarders, all local riders; we're hoping to help these younger guys get bigger sponsors. Right now, they're technically amateurs, but they're riding at a pro level."

The San Jose-based Breezy Excursions' clothing line was "a success right off the bat," Breezy says. The company has 200 distributors worldwide.

Performing at semiannual warehouse sales, BEST tries to prove its name. The footage in Shoot the Moon is scary and exuberant, and obviously the result of a lot of preparation. People talk about the blood and sweat that goes into making an indie film, but when these helmetless, padless skaters flip and slam into the concrete or show off serious cases of road rash on their backs, it transcends that "I've seen everything" feeling that comes from watching most movie stunts. As the old saying goes, the trick is not minding that it hurts.

Skateboarders are such a part of the city that you rarely notice them, unless you're one of the police or security guards hired to run them off. Shoot the Moon, which is almost entirely free of dialogue and interviews, makes you notice them. Moreover, this show of extreme skills is framed as a statement of local pride to the valley—from downtown San Jose to Gilroy.

shoot the Moon Photograph by Mark Steinlein

It's easy to nurse a love/hate affair with the valley, to love what's left of green rural surroundings, to love the wide-open feel of it—and to hate the sprawl, the cookie-cutter construction, the too-quietness of the nights, and the less-appealing aspects of a boom town and a company town.

So Shoot the Moon is as locally specific a film as any ever made here. It's a celebration of that local pride that goes beyond the emblems the skaters wear, on their shirts or on their skin. Never saw a tattoo for the minor-league San Jose Giants before...

This team of experts seizes the landscape—the plazas, the parking lots, the concrete flood channels and dull deserted schoolyards somewhere in the Evergreen area. They turn this suburban negativeland into something exciting.

Shooting with fish-eye lenses, Taylor rolls along, narrowly avoiding the concrete obstacles and the other riders. He and his crew follow BEST at ground level, so the jumps and spins seem even more impressive and hard to believe.

Taylor says the skaters are used to the cameras and the light stands, even if the crew might draw the police and the private patrolmen in to where they're meeting, or sometimes trespassing. According to Taylor, "The police and patrolmen are part of a skater's life. As for the cameras, some of them won't perform without it. They need to document what they do."

The title of the film is explained in a clip of Stacey Keach from the 1978 Cheech and Chong film Up in Smoke. Taylor, who dedicates his film to the father he lost in September 2011, amplified this point in an email later on: "The main reason that title stuck is because we like the meaning of the phrase. Tackle all obstacles no matter what the danger. Which is what all of us do: We shoot for our dreams no matter if we get hurt or not."

Shoot the Moon

Thursday, Feb. 7; 7 and 8pm; free

(limited seating; see www.breezyexcursion.com for details)

Camera 12