‘Skate Kitchen’ director Crystal Moselle is part of the shift for women filmmakers

Crystal Moselle, whose 2015 documentary film The Wolfpack, stunned viewers around the world, has taken her keen sense of people, drama and observation to create a new, fictional narrative film, Skate Kitchen, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

The film, written and directed by Moselle, has been nominated and won several awards from various festivals around the country. This coming-of-age story depicts Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) who is struggling with her relationship with her mother and befriends a group of skaters in New York City. Camille discovers not only new friends, but what friendship means as she wrestles with identifying what love is and how to reconcile her family relationships.  It’s a visceral experience, pulling you into this constantly moving world of youth as you ride along Camille’s journey of life.

I had the pleasure of talking with Moselle about creating this avant garde film. She shared with me how she met these talented young girls who truly are a skate crew as well as how she created a fluidly moving visual experience while blending a doc-style of film with a fictional narrative. It’s a beautifully sensitive story with authentic characters and a story that accentuates the importance of friends and belonging.

Pamela Powell (PP):  You’ve made the transition from documentary filmmaking to feature filmmaking, yet you maintain that feeling of a documentary in Skate Kitchen. Tell me about how you were able to accomplish this.

Crystal Moselle (CM): There was a script that I created through collaborating with the girls so I met with them a lot.  I hung out with them a lot and I would interview them, but I would observe them [too] and I created a narrative from that.  We had rehearsals for about six months, once every two weeks we’d do these rehearsals, and that was a better chance for me to figure out the authenticity that we were trying to get in the film.  I would rehearse with them and go through a scene and they would give me notes on what felt natural to them and I think that they really knew what I was going for.

PP:  How did you find this group of young women?

CM: I was on the train and I saw Nina and Rochelle. Nina was telling a story and she had this amazing and incredible, charismatic voice that instantly pulled you in. I went up to them and asked them if they’d ever want to do a film project together and they were instantly into it.

PP:  The girls in the film are always at an arm’s length from the guy’s group of skaters, always trying to break in as they are just as talented in skateboarding.  Do you feel like this situation is representative of most aspects of life and gender inequality, especially in the area of filmmaking?

CM:  When I was coming up, I never really thought about [whether or not] I can do this.  I just never really thought that way. As I reflect back, I realize that … society puts these boundaries around us, women, but I think that generally there’s a movement going on for women in all different fields and this is the start of the shift that’s happening.  I think [in filmmaking] it’s about finding your own voice, your own perspective and unique way to tell stories.

PP:  Some of the shots in your film were

Rachelle Vinberg, Ajani Russell, Nina Moran and Dede Lovelace appear in Skate Kitchen by Crystal Moselle, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

simply dizzying and you really captured the feel of skateboarding.  First, do you skate board? And second, how did you get these shots?

CM:  I can skate around, but I can’t do tricks!  Shabier Kirchner [is] my cinematographer and is incredibly talented.  We have this great rapport where I just trust every frame that he captures.  The film has so much motion … I wanted it to feel like it had this language  that you’re always floating and moving because that’s how the girls are. … We studied skate videos and had a skateboard operator with us as well named Joey (Dwyer) … I wanted it to feel like we were discovering so it’s all about discovering these moments.  I didn’t want it to feel like it was set up at all. I wanted it to always feel like you just so happened to capture this moment.

Skate Kitchen is opening at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago on August 24, 2018.

© Pamela Powell (8/21/18) FF2 Media

Featured photo: Crystal Moselle and Kabrina Adams at an event for Skate Kitchen (2018) (Photo by JN Davidson/SHM – © JN Davidson/SilverHub)

Bottom photo by The Years Of Living Dangerously ©

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New York native film critic and film critic Pamela Powell now resides near Chicago, interviewing screenwriters and directors of big blockbusters and independent gems as an Associate for FF2 Media. With a graduate degree from Northwestern in Speech-Language Pathology, she has tailored her writing, observational, and evaluative skills to encompass all aspects of film. With a focus on women in film, Pamela also gravitates toward films that are eye-opening, educational, and entertaining with the hopes of making this world a better place. 
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