Filmmaker Feature: Jason Nardella

Jason Nardella is a well-studied filmmaker, who with the help of the National Film Board of Canada’s filmmaker assistance program, completed his first 10 minute short, “A Walk in the Park.” Combining live-action and stop-motion puppet animation on 16mm, he prefers an old-school and raw approach to filmmaking and enjoys using Super 8, Bolex cameras, optical printers and animation cameras. He has worked on several films in different film genres and contributed his stop-motion to music videos.

In a final effort to take advantage of the dreamy, nostalgic feeling of Kodakchrome 40 film, which is now discontinued by Kodak, Jason grabbed his skate and Super 8 camera and headed to the hills on a beautiful fall afternoon in Montreal. Autumn Flex (below) was created and has become a way for Jason to remember his past, doing something he loved, skateboarding.

How did you get started shooting films?

I started shooting comedy skits in my late teens with my friends on an old VHS video camera. We would think of an absurd idea that we could shoot on the spot in my bedroom or outside, and then improvise the dialogue, doing only one take and moving on to the next shot. It was “in camera editing” with no room for error. This lead to my enrolling in film studies after high school and into university. There I learned about the history of film, aesthetics and genres. After a year of film studies, I transferred over to animation and focused on the technical aspects of filmmaking, equipment and lighting. I was attracted to frame by frame filmmaking and the grain of film, particularly super 8.

We love the look of the autumn leaves framing your carves in the film. Was it a conscious choice to shoot this during the fall season?

Fall is my favorite season and the best time of the year for me. The colors of the leaves changing and the crisp air make for ideal skateboarding conditions, not to mention a beautiful backdrop for shooting a film. Fall means that I’m done working for several months, the kids are back at school so the streets are clean. There is something mysterious in the air during the last weeks of September and early October that brings about a reflective nostalgia, and I wanted the film to evoke that kind of quality.

Give us a little background on your film career. What kinds of projects have you worked on in the past? What do you have coming up in the future?

My first film, “A Walk in the Park”, was a combination of live action and stop motion footage, shot on a 16mm Bolex camera. The over 2 years I worked on that were a major education, where I can say I learned everything I now know. I was enrolled in the film animation program at Concordia university in Montreal, but there was no one there who could really teach me what I wanted to learn, so for the most part, I was self-taught. Since then, I’ve worked on several projects with friends and made a few Super 8 shorts. Over the last 3 years, I’ve been working on a documentary about reforestation and tree planters working in Northern Canada. I am again working by myself on this project, so the process is very long. Titled, “78 Days”, we follow a tree planting camp for the duration of a 4 month season from beginning to end. Tree planters make interesting subjects since they are highly motivated people who do that job to live a certain lifestyle. The main person I follow is surfer and photographer Adam DeWolfe, who spent years traveling to Mexico to surf and live the beach life for over half the year.

Why did you choose to shoot this particular project in Super 8?

The making of “Autumn in Flux” was due to a set of circumstances that were forced upon me. I returned home to Montreal after tree planting and read somewhere online that Kodak had stopped production of their famous Kodachrome 40 film stock on Super 8. I had a moment of slight panic and immediately went to work on eBay to find some remaining cartridges. I found about 30 minutes worth of film, not knowing how I would use it. The only thing I knew was that I had to hurry because the lab in Switzerland that processes Kodachrome 40 was closing their film lab in a few months. My creative options were limited due to time and money, so I came up with the only idea that made sense to me at the time. Fall was starting and the colors of the leaves were changing, so it seemed to be a good opportunity to capture a moment in my life doing something I love. This way, I can watch the film when I’m 75 and remember the glory days of my youth. The look of Super 8 film is very dreamy and at times, it can almost feel like you’re watching memories. I tried to make something that looks like an endless skateboard “dream ride” cruising and flowing down deserted mountain streets. Kodachrome 40 was perfect to reflect that dream-like quality.

This clip looks like a bit of surfing on a skateboard. Describe the design of your board, trucks and wheels as well as your padding.

The most fun I have is when I feel like I’m just naturally flowing. It could be on a surfboard, skateboard, snowboard…they are all amazing when the conditions permit. For me to feel like I can flow downhill on concrete as smooth as possible, I ride a slightly bigger than regular sized skateboard, an amazing Earth Wing 36″ x 9″. In the video, I’m riding a 42″ twin-tip Skull Skates board with 169 Independent trucks. I buy my wheels in bulk, since the sliding can kill the wheels rather fast. I usually buy a batch of regular 63mm 95A old school wheels and never hesitate to change them when I feel they are getting uneven or old. I got back into skateboarding in my early 20’s and used to bomb hills with no pads, no helmet, nothing. After experiencing a decent bail while bombing down a hill at 2am, I went to the hospital for some x-rays in my shoulder and decided that from now on, some kind of protection would be a good idea. I cut out some pieces of plastic cutting board and using a propane flame, melted the back of the pieces and stuck them onto work gloves. The plastic hardens in 5 minutes and the sliding gloves are ready to go. I’ve been making gloves like that ever since.

Who influenced you to skate like this?

It was always about finding smooth lines and having fun. In my early days of skating, the mid-late 80’s, I was influenced by the classic pro’s, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero, Rob Roskop, Natas Kaupas, all those guys. It’s so amazing to watch them, and what I like best is that they really seem to be having fun and enjoying themselves. I would buy the magazines, Thrasher and Poweredge, and fantasize about what it would be like to have access to all that concrete terrain and those California pools. So I would go skating thinking about “Streets on Fire”, and pretend the kiddie pool near my house had transitions.

We hear you escape from the cold of Montreal to warmer climates during your winter to surf. What kind of surfboards do you enjoy riding? Do you think your hill riding has influenced your surfing? If so, how?

Canadian winters in the city are really long and depressing for me. It’s better that I leave and go do something fun rather than hibernate. Although I spent 4 winters surfing in Mexico, it’s safe to say that I’m still fairly new to surfing. I have an awesome custom fish made by Bill Pressly, and that’s pretty much all I ride unless the waves are too small, and then I’ll happily take out the longboard. I’m sure my hill riding does influence my surfing, and vice versa. I’m always looking for the best lines to just keep flowing, and the urgency of surfing a wave is very similar to the urgency of not falling off your skateboard onto asphalt. This winter I had the opportunity to go with a friend to Nelson, British Columbia for 5 weeks of epic powder snowboarding. It took a while for my mind to click and understand that 30cm of snow isn’t like bailing on asphalt and that it’s ok to let loose and and go a little crazy.

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