Shari White – Meet the Maker of Vans' "Credits"


5SHARIWHITE VANSGIRLSNYC MEHRINGDSC 2191 1 2000pxPhoto: Mehring

It’s not everyday that Greg Hunt—one of skateboarding’s most legendary filmmakers—interviews someone after their first big video. It’s also not everyday that a big company like Vans puts a woman in charge of an all-women’s full-length video. Read on to hear two media pioneers sync up on the struggles of video making, the importance of the homie vibe and their shared love of the VX.


If you haven't already, make sure you see Shari's masterpiece before digging into the interview

Interview by Greg Hunt

Tell me a little bit about where you’re from, your early history.

I’m from the Gold Coast, Australia. It’s a really long stretch of suburbs across the coast.

Is that where you started skating?
Yeah. I grew up skating in a cul-de-sac of like 12 houses.

Like the kids skating the flatbar at the end of the cul-de-sac?
Yeah, I was at the end of the cul-de-sac and my neighbor had a flatbar and we built a quarterpipe.

That rules. Did you start filming pretty early on?
I think within the first year of skating I was filming with my parents' old camera with a fisheye taped onto it. But at that time, I wasn’t like, Oh, I love filming. It was just like my friend would be like, “Let’s film this trick,” and I’d film it and then he’d film me. Things like that.

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Taking a break from behind the lens, Shari sneaks in a tall 50-50 at the iconic Flushing Meadows     Photo: Mehring

What kind of camera was it?
It used Mini DV tapes. It was kind of bigger, I would say like a Sony. I was using that for a bit and then my mom was like, “Why are you using this old thing? It’s kind of a piece of crap.” So she bought me what people use now as a capture cam, just a little handycam—still with a taped-on fisheye.

Do you still have those tapes?
No. I would just film over and over on the same tape.

Would you edit as well?
Yeah, I had Windows Movie Maker and I would just throw clips together with a song. It was pretty terrible.

Would you do anything with it? Did you have a YouTube account or anything?
Yeah, I had it on YouTube at one point. Also, me and my friend, we put it to a DVD and gave it to a skateshop as a sponsor tape.

Una Bean Plant Australia 2000pxUna plants a bean for the Hell Ride spirit in Oz     Photo: Ibarra
 
So fast-forward to today. How did you end up in Vancouver?
I guess while living on the Gold Coast, I got to a point where I just wanted to go do something else. I was always fascinated by America and Canada. In Australia there’s this super easy visa to get for a two-year working permit. So I got that for Canada and a girl I went to school with, she had got the two-year visa and went to LA. Then she traveled up the coast to Vancouver and got a job and a place. And I was talking to her on Instagram or something like that and I was like, “Oh, I really want to do that too.” So it was a pretty quick decision and I did the same thing. I went to LA—my dad actually came there and we drove up together to San Francisco. I guess I was about 19 at the time and this was my first time in America. Then we flew from SF to Vancouver and he stayed for a week or two. At that point, I just moved in with Hannah, the girl from school. Yeah, that was how I came here.

Did Hannah skate?
No, she was just a friend from school.
Id pad up and wed skate vert even but I guess I always loved street skating.Were there a lot of girls you were skating with back home?
Yeah, so I skated with two other girls mostly—Shanae Collins and Izy Mutu. They skated a lot of transition and bowls. I’d pad up and we’d skate vert even, but I guess I always loved street skating. I didn’t have anyone to do that with really.

7AUSNISCANN14 2000pxNo pads, no vert, just her camera and love for the street spots     Photo: Ibarra

So when you moved to Vancouver did you know many skaters there?
Not really at first, not in Vancouver. I would go to the skatepark by myself and just hang out. I used to skate by myself a lot.

And is this before you’d started filming?

Yeah, way before.

So you were just skating at the time.
Yeah, for like the next five years or so.

Okay, so bring us to where we are now. How did this project come about?
I don’t actually know how it came about. I was just asked one day by Justin at Vans, “Hey, do you want to film for this project?” I still don’t even know who made that decision or who brought me up or anything.

Wow. So prior to doing this project you’d been making videos for a few years, right?
Yeah. Kristin Ebeling and I made the very first Skate Witches video, SRSLY. That was just thrown together. When we went to edit it, we didn’t realize we had 20 minutes. We thought we had like eight minutes of stuff. I filmed parts with Una, Helena and Audrey for that. And for THX, I filmed a part with Clara, a fair bit with Fabi and tons of other friends. I was really stoked on filming at that point.


Check the CV and see what Shari and Fabi were cookin' before Credits

So that’s what got you sparked?
Yeah.

Prior to that, was filming more of just a creative outlet—just like the Skate Witches zines or your photography?
Yeah. Or I was almost just doing it because no one was really filming these people. Everything was just on Instagram really, you know? At least for the community that we were filming, if that makes sense.

That makes sense. So then with Credits, when you agreed to do it, was it the first video project you’ve done where there was a proper deadline and a schedule and all those types of things?
Yeah, it was.

So how did that feel?
For the start of it I didn’t really think too much about it, I guess. I was just like, Oh, this is awesome, and would just go on the trips. I’d been on skate trips before, obviously.

Well, it’s good you just went about it how you would normally do a video. You weren’t super stressed about it or anything like that.
Yeah, not at first.

That comes later. I heard you got a new camera like a week before the first trip that you had to learn to use. How was that?
Yeah, I’d only filmed VX before and Vans wanted the project to be HD. They were like, “Just let us know what camera you want to use,” but I didn’t know what to do. My friend Sam had shown me some 4:3 HD videos, because I definitely wanted to shoot it 4:3, and the filming to look like a VX. So I was just messaging people about what camera to use and just kind of scrambling. But I got all that stuff and then we started filming like a week after that.

What camera did you end up getting?
I got a Sony A7S with the Canon 8mm for the fisheye. I got a handle, I looked around at all the handles and tried to find one that would sit in the exact spot as a VX would, so that the distance from your hand to the lens would be the exact same.

9AUSNISCANN2 2000pxNo VX, but It's got the same mic and it's still a Sony. That's somethin' to smile about     Photo: Ibarra

So it’s 16:9 but with a 4:3 vignette for the fisheye, kind of like a VX?
Yeah. I’d zoom in so there’d be black on the side, you know? Then when you put it in the project sequence at 4:3 it was perfect.

Did you like it or do you still like VX better?
No, I like it a lot. I prefer it now.

Why’s that?
Just like importing basically. And sorting through clips is way easier.

Yeah, you don’t have to log tapes.
No rewinding and going back and all of that.

Why is it that you like 4:3 and VX so much?
I think it’s just like the way that the skater fills the screen. They’re just so close and right there, whereas 16:9 feels like there’s so much space and stuff going on around the sides. It think it makes it more exciting if you can’t really see what’s coming. It’s like you’re just looking at the skateboarder. And the fisheye is just more fisheye, I guess. So you can make spots look more interesting.

BreannaGeering FrontsideNoseslide VansGirlsNYC MehringDSC 2220Even when sliding frontside nose, Breezy throws the peace to the homies     Photo: Mehring

I think we’re at an interesting point now where all types of video projects, even feature films, are at 4:3 sometimes. There’s a lot more freedom with aspect ratios. Now that I’ve been looking though some old 4:3 stuff I actually kind of miss it.
Yeah?

I mean, I started shooting 16mm at 4:3 and then I had to learn how to shoot VX, because it was the only way to shoot skating back then. I do really miss that aspect ratio. The thought of making a skate video in 4:3 actually sounds fun.
You’re gonna make a new one?

No, I’m just saying I get kind of excited about the thought of doing it.
Yeah, that would be sick.
Shari pullquote 2
Anyway, a little technical tangent. So you got that new camera; you got pretty used to it. Tell me a little bit about the van getting broken into in Oakland.
Oh yeah, so we pulled up and we were gonna go get food at this famous mac-and-cheese spot. We’d only walked a block, or not even, and then on the window there was a sign saying, “Do not leave valuables in your car.” So me and Una were like, “We should go back to the car,” because Una was still using the long lens camera when we’d left the spot and it didn’t make it back into my camera bag, so I accidentally left it in the car. As soon as we got back, in seconds, the window was smashed and the camera was gone. I think Clara and Beatrice lost their wallets and Clara lost her passport. We lost all the footage from the last two days because I didn’t log it the night before—I was too busy editing and trying to pick songs. So we lost two days worth of footage. And I felt real bad for Frank having to go deal with the car too.

Damn. That is the worst.
On the long lens, though, we still had some fisheye clips.

Alright, so it wasn’t completely lost. No tricks completely lost?
There were some tricks completely lost.

Wow, that’s sort of my worst nightmare—losing footage like that.
Yeah, but since we only had two days left of filming at the end of this entire project, I had to get a new camera. The new one I got is super sick, too. I started using it and I was like Oh my God, this is the sickest long lens camera. It’s got this really good viewfinder and it just feels so different. So that was like a pro for me, ‘cause I got a new camera.

1BREANNAGEERINGSHARIWHITE VANSGIRLSNYC MEHRINGDSC 1988 2000pxPhoto: Mehring

That’s cool. So you, Una, Breezy and Fabiana are all really close. You were all close friends prior to this video starting, right?
Yeah.

So, was it challenging making a video like this with your friends?
Well, I feel like either way there’s challenges. I think there’s a lot more pros, I guess. Like, you’re hanging with your friends all the time and it never feels like too much work. We were always happy to be together, you know?

Well, I feel like that really comes across on the screen, to be honest. Not every video is like that and I think the goal is to at least try to have your video feel that way, even if the experience wasn’t truly that. But Credits really feels like there was a lot of love between everyone that was in it, especially the four of you. I think that’s also what can make a video really special beyond just the skating. When you were editing the parts, were you all pretty much always on the same page with everything? Were the girls involved, or some more than others? How did the editing go down?
I did all of the editing on my own.

So, the girls obviously have a lot of trust in you. And that includes the music selection?
Yeah.

Wow. Dude, the music is so good.
Thank you. That was really stressful, picking music too.

Music is the most stressful part I feel, especially when you have to get proper clearance for it. I watched the video again from beginning to end—it’s so good. A big part of that is the soundtrack. It’s got a really nice emotional journey to it. Throughout the whole video, the music keeps it feeling really fresh.
Sweet. Thank you.


Shari's keen ear was first put on display in her Skate Witches Portal videos with the same squad. Jump back in time

Is it all music that you listened to a lot that you had set aside, or did you explore while you were making this?

Yeah, I would explore a lot. Like for Fabi, I knew I wanted a faster song. So I would just think of a genre where I kind of knew what the sound was, and then I would make a playlist with all those kinds of songs. Like, Oh, this one’s kind of like that. I’d build the playlist and go down and look at suggested songs and just keep adding, trying to find the song that I, like, envisioned, I guess.

Do you feel like when you’re making a video your ears are more aware of what you’re hearing throughout the day? I feel like when I’m getting towards the end of a video, I’m, like, hearing way more. Like, I’ll be somewhere and hear a song, and I’ll just have to find out what that song is.
Yeah. I mean I would spend dedicated hours to just listen to music. I’d be like, Alright, I’m gonna sit down and I’m just gonna listen to music all day.

I think that’s what you have to do sometimes. You have to put the time in. I mean there’s songs that you hear naturally and you find and you put aside, but I feel like you have to put in the work and just listen. Like, back in the day, I used to go to the Tower records on Sunset in Los Angeles and there’d be CD listening stations. I would seriously listen to everything. Now it’s awesome with Spotify or whatever, because it will naturally just take you through music you might like. Beyond the music, what did you hope this video would be or what did you hope it might achieve?
I guess, just what it is—a feel good skate video. I do feel like I achieved what I wanted to achieve.

That’s awesome. And is a big part of that, the fact that all the people in the video are stoked on it?
Yeah for sure. Obviously, it’s factor if they’re really happy with the project they were a part of.

Yeah, that’s the most important thing. What was the reception like for this video? Do you get a lot of feedback from girl skaters?
It was super positive. I had people messaging me for sure. Boys and girls. People were just really stoked on it, and I think most mentioned the vibe—the homie vibe.

Tell me where all did you guys go? What were the main destinations?
We went to New York, San Francisco, Montreal, Miami, Barcelona, LA—for kind of smaller trips—and then we went to Melbourne, Australia.

Is there a favorite place or a favorite couple places that you went to in this video?
Yeah, I really liked New York City. That was our first trip. I’d love to go back. And then Melbourne was really cool. Barcelona was really sick too. I guess Melbourne, Barcelona and New York were the sickest trips.

3AUSNI 2535 2000pxOne of the sickest flicks from one of the sickest trips, Shari pursues Lil' Tubsy as she hops the rail and blind guards     Photo: Ibarra

And were Una, Breezy and Fabiana on all those trips?
Fabi was not in New York. She was on another trip with Santa Cruz. But yeah, Barcelona and Melbourne, everyone was there.

Una got hurt at one point, right?
She got hurt in New York on the very first trip and she was out until Barcelona.
She, like, sat on her leg. It was terribleHow was that? It looked like she got hurt pretty bad.
Yeah, it’s a really tough bail. She, like, sat on her leg. It was terrible. But she had access to really good doctors and physical therapy and stuff so she had really good help and was on a crazy physio routine for a bit. No surgery.

Wow. Was she stressing at all?
Yeah, it was such a bummer. She was so sad and definitely stressing, like, Will I be able to come back for this video?, things like that. I remember when she saw a bunch of doctors and came back and told us. It was kind of like the decision point of, “Okay, do I get surgery and have a longer recovery, or do I try and heal it without surgery and it could be two or however many months?” I remember her crying and stuff a lot, it was really hard but she had a lot of support and she came back.

How long did it take her to do that frontside boardslide? Was that something that she just did one day?
That was so sick. I feel like she was trying it out for a while, kinda while I was filming Helena do the boardslide and stuff. Then she was starting to hold the slide for a super long time and she got one and it was kind of a sketchier landing. Everyone was like, “Yeah!” But I was like “Ah, I feel like she could do it just a little bit better.” I was like, “You’re here. You’re doing it. You’re getting down every time. Do you want to give it just a few more goes and see if you can get a cleaner one? If you don’t get it, no big deal, but just try it.” So she was like, “Yeah, yeah, sure.” And she went back up so fast, I didn’t even have time to get to my camera. Rick McCrank was there and asked if he could shoot it super 8, so I had got the camera out for him and she went up and did the most perfect front board—the whole way down. That's the one that’s in the video. And everyone was just like, “What?! Again?!” It was like back-to-back, perfect. There was another filmer with us, and he had just whipped out his camera as well. The start of that clip in the video is the actually his angle. I think mine started when she was like mid-air popping on.

4AUSNI 3109 2000pxSuper-8 and 4:3 videos, just a classic combination     Photos: Ibarra

I think it’s always a tough situation for the person filming when someone’s trying a trick and they finally make it and everyone that’s there is cheering and so stoked, but you know that they could do it better. And you also know from experience that when you’re editing months down the road that they’re going to regret not trying it more. So you have to tell them that you think they should do it again. It’s always such an awkward situation because there’s so much joy, and everyone’s so happy and you’re the one person who’s telling them to do it again.
It makes me sick to the stomach. Like, I’m saying it and everyone around you is kind of like, “What?” Like, “Oh, Shari wants you to do it again.” It’s such a bad feeling. But when they get it again, that’s great. There was even a situation with somebody else where I asked them to do it again and then they got hurt. It was a horrible feeling.

That is a horrible feeling. But I feel like it’s a trust thing where you have to be honest. Especially if someone’s really worked hard for something and they finally make it. It has nothing to do with your own personal judgement about the trick, it’s the fact that you know this person so well and you know that when they look at it again later they’re going to wish they would have tried it more. But it’s always so awkward, especially now because there’s a lot more cheering involved when people land big tricks. There’s these big crews so it’s even harder now.
It’s really hard.

19COPY OF BARCINI 5979 2000pxPhoto: Ibarra

Well I’m really stoked that it was such a successful project. I got to know you a little bit over the phone while you were working on it and seeing where the early version was and then what it turned into was awesome.
Yeah it changed a lot.

Everything really worked. I love how it breaks into those couple of sessions in the middle where it’s everyone just skating together. Everybody feels like they’re throughout the whole video.
I was really stoked to get a clip of Una and Fabi in Breezy’s part. I almost wanted more of that, but yeah trying to get people skating in the same spots.

2BREANNAGEERINGUNAFARRARSHARIWHITE FRONTSIDENOSESLIDE VANSGIRLSNYC MEHRINGDSC 2225 2000pxEveryone gets a clip, and a hug!     Photo: Mehring

Well, it’s awesome.
Thank you so much.

What do you have going on now? Do you want to do more videos after doing this one?
For sure. But right now, I’m doing a lot of random interviews and going through footage. I put together a timeline of all the B-side stuff just to show the girls and I sent it to them. So maybe do something with that, maybe not. That’s it, I don’t know what’s next.

As far as this being something that inspires, are you conscious of the importance of what a video like this can mean to girls and to girl skateboarding?
Yeah, I was definitely conscious of how to present it and what that would mean I guess. There were some recent videos that presented everyone as individuals whereas I was into presenting this as more of a crew and a vibe. I knew that would have an effect on women or girls and how they perceive skateboarding. Like, is it and individual thing or is it a thing you do with your friends where you have a crew? So, I feel like the way you present it could encourage a certain direction.

Yeah, that really is at the root of what skateboarding is about, friendship and community. But I feel like really encouraging that with female skateboarders is so important. I think a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this change and now, it’s finally happened. I see a lot of girl crews now and they seem to have a connection that’s just different than most guy skate crews. I think that’s one thing that makes it so special.
I wonder if it’s just something that hasn’t been showcased so much. I agree that it’s different but there are some crews of dudes that I feel like have that though, that have that close friendship and connection. I mean when I watch like Frog edits and stuff I do see like a really good friendship.
Who knows, maybe years from now it’ll be equal? I don’t knowFor sure, but I just feel like there’s something special about what I see in a lot of the girl crews that I just don’t see with a lot of the guy crews.
I know there’s more women in skating now, but maybe it’s still just a more of a “Woah there’s another girl who skates and we have a lot in common” thing. Who knows, maybe years from now it’ll be equal? I don’t know.

Let me ask, when you travel do you guys usually link up with the other girl crews in the cities that you go to?
Maybe not like crews, but yeah, if I go to SF, I’ll hit up any people that I know there to come skate or something. Everyone’s definitely connected. But I do feel like that’s the same with guys too. If a guy was going to LA, they’re gonna hit up all their friends in LA. It’s the same for us.

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Connecting with friends, keeping the vibes tight—it's all the same     Photo: Ibarra

But it reminds me of how back when skating was really dead in the late eighties, early nineties, you’d see a skater in your town and it didn’t matter who they were, you’d go up to them and say, “What’s up?” Then you’d be friends. Skateboarding was so small that you would just bond with anyone. Versus now where you’ll be skating and see another skater and just skate right by. Back in the day you’d be like, “Yo! What’s up?!”
I know what you mean. I know there was a women’s scene years ago and it did kind of die off as well and then it kind of came back, but now it’s like we’re really strong and starting up again I guess. It feels that way to me looking at the last ten years and how it’s progressed.

Well I think it’s awesome what you’re doing. The video was amazing.
Yeah, these guys killed it.

6SHARIWHITE WALLIEMANUAL VANSGIRLSNYC MEHRINGDSC 2077 2000px
You killed it too, Shari. Wallie manual on a perfect day in New York     Photo: Mehring
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