Skater’s death inspires short film
February 15, 2012
Bakersfield College, in celebration of Black History Month, has planned activities for students on the campus each week featuring different events. As part of the events, the filmmakers of “On the Grind” were on campus to share their movie with the students.
The film is about the skating scene in Long Beach and how it was affected after a well-known skater was killed in a gang shooting. More of a documentary, the film follows the lives of different skateboarders and shows what skating means to them.
James Cheeks III, director and producer, grew up in Memphis, Tenn. and Tulsa, Okla. He decided that he wanted to move to California to pursue his dream of working in the movies. Cheeks has his undergraduate degree in communications, his minor in film and media studies and his master’s in film and television production from the University of Southern California.
Kevin Campbell, photographer, studied at William Rainey Harper Community College and then transferred to Messiah College where he studied English and pre-law. He was studying in the Master of Professional Writing program at USC when everything started.
Cheeks and Campbell were introduced by a mutual acquaintance at a party in the Hollywood Hills, on July 4, 2005. From there, things continued for the two men.
Campbell had no intentions of becoming involved in film at that point, but that slowly changed when he started holding light meters and boom poles in Cheeks’ student film projects. He later went on to become more involved in the project, leaving behind the light meters and boom poles and picking up a camera. His dedication changed from an extra hand to photographer.
The idea for the project came about after the death of a local skateboarder, Michael K. Green, who was killed on April 9, 2005. Cheeks had taken a special interest in the killing and the skateboarding scene. Cheeks eventually swore Campbell to secrecy in 2006 after he pitched the idea for his movie to his thesis class at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Cheeks showed Campbell exactly what had happened and where the inspiration came from through news clippings and Myspace. It started to really take shape in 2006 when they were able to meet the family of Green.
Campbell and Cheeks attended a memorial for Green in October 2006. There, they filmed and photographed their surroundings. They were later invited to share their work with Green’s mother who was unable to make it to the memorial. She loved their work and gave them her blessing to tell her son’s story. From there, the project started to really take shape.
The filming of the project started in 2006 and continued until 2012. The 30-minute piece that was shown to BC students was filmed from 2006 to 2009 in Long Beach. The feature length film will feature footage shot throughout the six years. They put themselves into the lives of these skaters and turned it into a work of art.
“The closely knit Long Beach skate community propelled us and gives us the heart to go on and keep going,” said Campbell. “It’s been an interesting journey filled with sacrifice and prayer.”
The short film has gone on to win several awards such as the Roxbury International Film Festival of 2011 best short documentary. Not only is it an award-winning piece, but a truly educational piece as well.