Documentary filmmaking is not a crime


    By Ryan McIlvain

    Drew Barlow was visibly tired. He?d recently finished a two-year project spanning several states and several thousand dollars ? a full-length documentary on the sociology of skateboarding ? and Tuesday morning he?d just finished a graveyard shift at work.

    Barlow?s documentary, ?skateboarding is not Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 or the X-games OR…? is appropriately titled, if only because the sport is so resistant to categories, Barlow said.

    ?Skateboarding is hard to generalize,? he said. The soft-spoken BYU film student was even more subdued from his sleepless night. ?You?re just going to deal with people,? he said.

    Barlow, 24, whose long hair, long beard and placid features make him look sage beyond his years, is now showing his documentary to the acclaim of skateboarders and non-skateboarders alike.

    On Feb. 5, some 300 people filled the Provo Art?s Center for the documentary?s premier, and the film is slated to run again on Friday in Salt Lake City.

    Tyler Powell, a Utah State University student who was at the premier, sang the praises of ?skateboarding is not…?

    ?I loved it,? said Powell, an avid skateboarder himself. ?I thought it was awesome.?

    Nate Graves, a film student at BYU who has also seen the film, said he was impressed with the scope and ambition of Barlow?s project.

    ?I haven?t seen any other major documentary address the issue Drew addressed,? he said.

    ?Skateboarding is not…? tries in part to disabuse people of their stereotypes of skateboarders, Graves said.

    ?But more importantly, it tries to show that those stereotypes, even to the extent that they are true, don?t explain why skateboarders do what they do,? he said.

    ?Skateboarding is not…? is the product of two years of filming and research. The documentary, which explores, among other things, the conflict between skateboarders and authority figures, took Barlow on an odyssey to three states ? Utah, California and Pennsylvania ? and scores of well-worn skating spots.

    In Pennsylvania, for example, Barlow visited Philadelphia?s renowned Love Park.

    Shooting at the park, which Barlow described as ?one of the most famous skate spots in the world,? Barlow was lucky enough to score an interview with one of the security guards.

    ?He said, ?We?ve got crack addicts, we?ve got homeless people, we?ve got skateboarders all in the same park,?? Barlow said. ?And I said, ?Well, why are you cracking down on the skateboarders and not the homeless people or crack addicts? And he basically said, ?Crack addicts don?t cause problems. Skateboarders do.??

    The guard?s unrehearsed editorializing became one of the most golden moments of the film, Barlow said.

    Such sentiments are typical of the law?s calloused stance toward skateboarding, he said. Skateboarding, which causes damage to the rails and ledges that street skaters ?trick? on, is illegal in most public areas. Still, Barlow said police officers, security guards, store owners and others are often overzealous in enforcing the rules.

    But skaters need not dismay, Barlow said. In a real sense, his documentary is a call to optimism ? for the skateboarding community and beyond.

    ?You can look at life and say, ?Oh, everybody?s harshing on me,?? Barlow said. ?Or you can look at it and say, ?Well, these [security guards] will never know what it?s like to skate a pool.?

    Barlow said the conflict between skateboarders and authority figures really boils down to a lack of mutual respect.

    ?If people were just more respectful and patient with everybody, people would be a lot happier,? he said.

    After the experience of filming the documentary, Barlow now foresees a day when skateboarding will gain more acceptance ? both social and legal. He quoted Ed Bacon, the urban planner who designed Philadelphia?s Love Park, who said, ?Skateboarders are bound to win.?

    Bacon, whose son is actor Kevin Bacon, was one of several prominent interviews Barlow was able to score. He also spoke with professional skateboarders, magazine and TV personnel and several other bright lights in the skating community, all in an effort to pioneer a documentary on the sociology of skating and the skater-authority conflict.

    ?It?s something that every skateboarder talks about, thinks about, but they?re not using the best medium possible, which is film,? Barlow said. ?I guess I was just lucky enough to do it before anybody else.?

    ?Skateboarding is not…? is playing Friday as part of the Strangelove Film Series at the University of Utah. The free showing begins at 6 p.m. in the U?s Union Building. For more information, visit

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