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skateboarding Writing

Post-Screening: Planet Earth ‘Silver’

I am a bit of a skate video buff, an addict in fact. I pride myself on knowing a lot about them. If I was a contestant on Mastermind my subject would be skate videos preferably Nineties classics. It’s rare that there’s a skate video I haven’t seen at least once. It’s especially rare if that video is a good one. Researching a new book I’m writing, I stumbled up one such gem: Planet Earth’s ‘Silver’.

Rather than a pre-screening, this is a post-screening where I break down why ‘Silver’ needs to get it’s recognition even if it’s almost 25 years late.

‘Silver’ was released in 1996 by Planet Earth skateboards. It was produced by company CEO Chris Miller and up-and-coming filmer Ty Evans. While Chris has continued to skate and age like a fine wine, Ty has built a cinematography résumé that lists some of skateboarding’s biggest and best videos. ‘Silver’ was Ty’s debut and Chris’ bid to keep Planet Earth relevant in a year that saw other major releases like ‘Trilogy’ (World Industries), ‘Eastern Exposure 3’ (Dan Wolfe), ‘Welcome to Hell’ (Toy Machine) and ‘Mouse’ (Girl Skateboards). Needless to say 1996 was a great year for great skate videos which in turn made it extra hard for smaller companies like Planet Earth to get their shine and unfortunately videos like ‘Silver’ fell to the wayside.

When I think back to Planet Earth the company – not the amazing documentary series with David Attenborough that everyone should watch too! – I remember the early days of Planet Earth with Chris Miller, Brian Lotti, Mirko Mangum (NOT MAGNUM), Chris Wydman (Chris was doing bigspin inward heelflips down stairs back in 1992, kids. Do your history!) and Buster Halterman. The team has nearly always been in flux with riders hopping on and hopping off. By 1996, with the exception of Kenny Anderson and Chris who went on to build a solid careers, the team was a roll call of flash-in-the-pan talented skaters from that era (Joey Bast, Ceasar Singh, Rick Jaramillo, Chris Lambert, Brian Howard, Jason King) and a couple of one-hit wonders (Bryan Paz, Dennis Bellew..?). If you were skating back in the Nineties, a couple of those names should already have you interested which in part is why I’m writing this post.

The Highlander one wheel away from infamy…

Now, another major factor that makes or breaks the success of a good skate video is the editing and music. With ‘Silver’ the editing is on point. I’ll put that down to Chris Miller’s experience (‘Silver’ was Planet Earth’s 4th video – Yeah, now you’re wondering why the company never got the props it deserved?) and Ty Evans’ eagerness. Ty’s use of multiple film formats, overlay effects and tight cropping are already apparent. His style would get even stronger with later videos. There’s actually an easy storyline in ‘Silver’ where through little edits, each skater on the team is linkled one way or another. Ty is quoted as saying the inspiration came from watching the movie ‘Slackers’. Even if the fateful storyline isn’t original it still ties the different parts together nicely.

Editing aside, Ty’s track record with scoring music videos has always been dubious. Between masterfully dubbing Mike Carroll to Kurupt, or Guy Mariano to Band of Horses, there’s also been the misses like the Rhythm ‘Genesis’ video. With ‘Silver’ there was obviously a 2-for-1 package deal with the music rights because there are two tracks by Fugazi, two tracks by De La Soul, two tracks by A Tribe Called Quest and two tracks by Superchunk. Then there’s a couple more songs but overall it makes for weird watching and listening. Having watched ‘Silver’ I can say with certainty that Chris or Ty are big fans of Native Tongues rap and Straight Edge punk.

Now, for the actual skating. ‘Silver’ dropped in 1996 which was a bit of a golden era for skateboarding that looked good. Everyone was good enough at switch skating and confident enough to start skating rails so footage was usually a healthy blend of smooth lines and technical handrail tricks. The other thing to note about skating in 1996 was the gear. Skaters looked fresh. Skaters were no longer Goofy Boys with bobshirts and Blind jeans. Joey Bast kept the Shelltoe stock price steady but everyone else was repping cupsole classics like the Etnies Lo-Cuts, Es Sal Barbier 23s, Simples or Airwalk Jason Lee’s. Something that’s almost funny when you watch ‘Silver’ is how hard the team rep cargo pants. I can’t verify this fact, but I reckon if Planet Earth weren’t breaking even on their board sales, the only other thing they should have been shifting to stay afloat were beige cargo pants with the big side panel pockets. Kelly Hart would have loved this era.

The official kit for 1996

Did you notice how baggy pants kidnapped the premise of that last paragraph which was meant to be about the skating featured in ‘Silver’? Well, that’s how dominant the beige bagginess was. Anyway, as I said even earlier, the Planet Earth team in 1996 counted some skaters that looked good on their boards. Joey Bast and Kenny Anderson are names that pop up immediately when referencing style. For a vert skater, even Brian Howard is watchable. Why I will always respect Chris Lambert – despite his name reminding me of the Highlander and his participation in the Prime section of ’20 Shot Sequence’ – because he was one of the few skaters going big back in the mid-Nineties and he did ollie the infamous San Dieguito double set that crippled Jaime Thomas and Geoff Rowley. Chris puts down a frontside salad grind on Hubba Hideout which is one wheel away from Brian Anderson’s famous frontside bluntslide. Oh well.

Speaking of Hubba Hideout, it was cool to see Joey Bast put a solid heeflip shove-it down the stairs as his ender rather than hit the infamous ledges. I guess in 1996, the stairs were still a thing. ‘Silver’ features all the popular skate spots of the mid-Nineties (Lockwood, UCLA, Chaffey, J-Kwon…) and even the famous Tampa vert ramp and Encinitas Y-Ramp with is blue masonite and elbow kink. Brian Howard puts on a a very easy to watch two minutes of transition skating where the focus is mainly on lip tricks. The frontside bluntslide and hurricane revert are no joke.

Screengrabs cannot capture the true style of Ceasar’s switch skills

Unfortunately Dennis Bellew is fairly forgetful. However the other skater I didn’t recognize, Bryan Paz has a little something going for him. Bryan has one of those styles where he looks like he’s skating switch when he’s skating normal, and he looks normal when he skates switch. I guess that explains why his switch kickflip frontside nose grind is flawless. Jason King is a bit of an oddity. One minute he’s lacing lines together at Pier 7 and Love Park and the next he’s goofing about on little quarter pipes? My only strong memory of Jason from this period was his Transworld cover kickflipping a decent sized roof gap. I’m confused…

Kenny Anderson has a very short part some of which is filmed on bro-cam – literally! His brother Kyle is credited. Apart from the few shaky bits, everything else is smooth which is synonymous with Kenny. I mentioned earlier how in 1996 skaters were starting to skate rails – not the insurance policy ones, the flatter ones and those in the 7-10 stair range. Good examples of this new horizon being breached are Rick Jamarillo’s switch feeble grind and Ceasar Singh’s frontside halfcab noseslide. Hmmm… Ceasar Singh. What happened to skateboarding’s Indian (?) ambassador? A little digging on Slap message board suggested he quit skating to become a professional poker player or dentist? Either way, skateboarding lost someone with great potential. I’m going to go out on a whim here and say Ceasar’s style is reminiscent of Eric Koston and Gino Ianucci. The arms don’t swing and the switch backside tailslides are on point. ‘Nuff said.

That’s all I have to say about Planet Earth’s ‘Silver’ video. For those who own a pair of rose-tinted glasses made in 1995, this is mandatory viewing. On a final note, I always wonder is Planet Earth feels cheated by Element for playing the environmental card? Chris could be cashing in deep with that brand name today. I guess some brands like Gino’s skateboarding are best laid to rest.

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