The Follow Up: Ryan Lovell

Header LOVELL BOLEX BY JOSH UHLPhoto: Uhl

How do you make it from the Midwest to work on some of the biggest videos of a decade? Having Sean Malto as your go-to guy certainly helps. On top of that, Kansas City’s Ryan Lovell made hometown vids with Escapist and eventually got in the trenches producing SOTY-worthy parts. After climbing the ranks on the coast and stacking a standout resumé from his time at Vans, Ryan decided to return home. So we asked him about living the dream out West and why you’d leave a life in the van for a quiet scene in Kansas. Back in the ‘burbs, he’s also got a new part of his own with an ender section you just gotta see. This is for the lifers out there. —Ted Schmitz


A startling blend of midlife hits and cameos from K Walks, Rowley, Chima and more all-stars, Ryan crafts an uncompromised vision from his life in the streets

Hey, Ryan, thanks for doin’ this. 
My pleasure.

Before we get into the part, let’s go back a bit. I heard you had a senior portrait cradling a VX1000?
My dad was a portrait photographer when I was growing up, so he had a portrait studio in our basement. That's what he would do, and seniors would come through and shoot photos for the yearbooks. They would always cradle the basketball or the football or whatever. By that point it was senior year, so I had been super into filming for several years. So whenever he took my senior photos, he had the idea to go get the camera and do that heroic cradle pose.

Oh, that’s awesome.
I love that one. I actually have one Burnett took of me at a Vans demo in Kansas City doing that with an HPX. So it’s kind of funny to have both, like ten-plus years later.

Ryan Lovell Follow Up 1500 4Still in the field with his high school crush   
Left: Lovell

Right: Burnett

Your dad's a photographer; you are well trained with the camera. Was that the family trade? Were your folks early supporters of your vision?
It definitely was a family trade. I basically started filming almost as soon as I started skating, because we kind of grew up in the country. I had ramps and everything in my basement and mostly skated by myself. So if I learned a new trick, I would take the family handycam and film it. Then, obviously you get a little bit older and start going out street skating, and then it's kind of the same thing of like, We're doing tricks. We should film this. So that's kind of like where all that started.

When did you think that filming could be your path?
I honestly never really thought that. I filmed for Escapist’s Through Being Nice all through high school. It was definitely just your classic, This is really fun to do. Everyone's ripping, so let's film it. We were making videos there, obviously being received well, and then after high school I didn't want to go away to college anywhere. I wanted to stay in Kansas City because it was just so much fun to skate. So I did college, kept filming and it was basically once I graduated college that I kind of had that realization of like, I either get a real job in Kansas City or try and move to California and see if I can't figure it out. So after college I had to decide if I could do something with it.

LOVELL BSHEEL BY AARON SMITH 2000Backside heel in Barci    Photo: Smith

So you’re in Kansas City around Sean Malto, Ernie Torres and others that obviously had to go to California at that time. Did they encourage you to go along with or were they out there already and you saw that you could just hop in?
Obviously, Malto helped me out a ton. I've been filming him for the past almost 20 years or something. So once he got on DC and started going to California bunch, obviously that sounded really fun. But then like Mikey Taylor and other DC people would come to Kansas City and just skate with us. When I was about to graduate, Mikey texted me and asked if I had thought about moving to California, which maybe I had, but not too seriously. He said that if I did, there could be an opportunity at DC. That kind of nudged me to just be like, Okay, I’ll try to move because there's an opportunity. If it doesn't work out, I still have a degree. I can come back to Kansas City and still have a great time.

What’s your degree in?
Film and media.

LOVELL FAKIE50 1 BY MIKEY SANTILLAN 2000 UpdateFakie 5-0 on some of the most sought-after bricks on Earth   Photo: Santillan

Oh, so there’s also no better place to be than LA for that kind of work.
Yeah, totally. I never really thought about it too seriously until that moment. It wasn't like I was in high school thinking, I can't wait to get out West. Because, at that time Kansas City was so much fun to skate and with Malto and Ernie there. It felt like there's a lot happening.

Were you kind of sad to take your talents out of Kansas City, to contribute to a sort of brain drain in the scene?
No, I think at that point when I actually ended up moving, I'd made two local videos for skaters. And I kind of felt like those were almost like my resume. So it was kind of like, Okay, cool. I have things to show.


Ryan Lovell Pullquotes I get a call that the magazine shutting down and we’re all fired 2000

So if you’re Malto and Mikey’s boy at DC, how did you end up working for Vans?
I never actually worked for DC once I moved out to California. About six months after I got there, I got an offer to work for Skateboarder Magazine, which was a better offer than DC had. So I went with that, which was amazing. It was my first job in skating and we traveled and skated nonstop. So it was pretty incredible. And then eight months into that, out of the blue, I get a call that the magazine us shutting down and we’re all fired. That was definitely stressful, but they treated us really well. They kept us on for two more months like normal, then they gave us two months of severance pay and then unemployment. So I basically had about six months of income, like I never lost my job, but I didn't have to do any responsibilities for it. So at that point, I had shot a few projects for the magazine and I just cold emailed every single person that I could in the skate industry. I’d briefly met Jamie Hart. Three months after the email, he hits me up out of the blue and said that there might be a position at Vans and that he was going to put me in touch with Greg Hunt. They were about to start finishing Propeller and they needed somebody to come on and help in that final push. So I ended up getting the job then.

Ryan Lovell Daniel Lutheran Follow Up 1500 2Spots, pins, directions and detangler, your filmer should have 'em all    Photo: Burnett

Were you shocked by your first impressions of the life of pros?
Growing up with Malto, I knew what that lifestyle was like. At the same time, Malto’s by far the best pro skater ever to work with. It was probably a few years into working for brands full time that you would see it a little more realistic to how it is. I'm very scheduled and, I like to think, a motivated person. So at times, that would be a little hard to deal with. But overall, it's still not bad.

So after the blockbuster release of Propeller, what were you hoping to do next? Did you wanna go on big tours, make edits or film a video part with your favorite pro?
I definitely wanted to do video parts with the best person we could, and at that point it was Kyle Walker. We all know how that panned out. I was actually part time during the end of Propeller, so there was a three-month period where I actually came back to Kansas City for a little. Then, once the full-time job opened up, I went back to California. The first thing they said was, "Kyle Walker’s really hot right now, so let’s just stay with him as much as we can." That lead to the No Other Way video that he got SOTY after. Career-wise for me, it couldn’t have worked out any better.


The world wasn't ready for Elijah and Kyle's total onslaught… in fact, it's still recovering. Revisit Ryan's work in No Other Way

That phase of Kyle Walker is so interesting to me. He was really good before that part and in Propeller, but in No Other Way he just unlocked something in himself seemingly overnight. Were you seeing him gradually level up through that process or was there just a moment where you thought, Oh, I’m filming the best skater out right now?
It was maybe a little bit of both. He's always been super motivated. He's from the Midwest too. I think he kind of knew that he was in a good position. He was really confident skate-wise and he was also working on his first shoe, so there’s that motivation to push it as far as you can. And then obviously knowing that there's the chance to have a Skater of the Year situation, no one was naive to that.

Were you kind of blown away that in such a short time everybody was talking about the video part that you were in the trenches for? Being from the Midwest looking outside of the skateboard apparatus then you’re like, Oh, I made the thing that's at the center of it.
I'd been skating with Kyle for the full year before that, so it kind of just felt not much different from what we were doing. Towards the end, once we started to realize the level that he was consistently staying on and where that might go, I definitely felt the pressure of how many eyes might see that. The great thing about Kyle is it did always just feel like skating with someone that I'm friends with. It's probably after the fact that I think, Whoa, that was great timing and just a special situation. I remember Jamie Hart when that video came out, he said something like, "We better count our blessings after this."

Ryan Lovell Follow Up 1500 1Media men about to drop some serious heat, 2016    Photo: Burnett

Oh, I always feel like that with the sponsors. Like, nobody told Tyshawn, Mark or Mason to be that good at skating. They just take on the challenge themselves. They’re different kinds of beasts.
Yeah, it takes that person, for sure.

So you're living the dream. Making obscene cash, I’m sure. Was there a certain point where the dream became kind of a struggle?
Luckily, there wasn't. I definitely look back now and I'm really, really thankful to have worked for Vans, a company that could pay me a livable wage—maybe even save some money. It also helped—it’s just a brand that people recognize the name. I think even moving back, that has helped me a lot.

Ryan Lovell Fakie Flip 750Ryan might not be a household names like Vans, but maybe he will be after this fakie flip

So you spent some years traveling the world, then was it the siren song of the Midwest that brought you back?
I never felt like California was permanent for me. I ended up living there eight years. And when I first moved I said, I'll do ten. So once I hit eight, it kind of felt like the right time. I definitely felt like I had accomplished everything skate-wise that I wanted to do. And then the pandemic hits, and they tell us that, Obviously, you still have a job; everything's all good but we're not traveling for the next year. My wife and I had been thinking about moving back home. My family is back there and some of them are getting older. I also felt like I had gotten to a place in my career that I could move back home and still do some skate stuff, but also start to do different bigger commercial projects and just kind of keep it going in the Midwest. It kind of just seemed like, Okay, this is the right time to do it.

And you could go to Chiefs games every week.
I mean, Arrowhead is the greatest place on earth.

Were you kind of stoked when you got back to be like, Holy shit. I can get a fucking three-bedroom apartment?! Were you pretty stoked on the bang for your buck in Kansas?
I mean, we were able to move home and immediately buy a house and our mortgage is half of what my rent was in Los Angeles. There's a lot to be said for that. Of course, California is great, and I do miss it, but you can do so much more out here. We can really just do what we want in the Midwest and obviously be anywhere on a flight in a few hours.


Telling the story of DJ Stewart's diagnosis and determination while fighting brain cancer, Ryan's heartwrenching documentary is a must-watch

Even though you're kind of growing up, making the big move out West and coming home, buying a house, you have stayed an insane skater at heart. Why the hell are you still filming parts?
I mean, can you ever stop wanting to do that? it's no different than when I was 16. Any minute of free time that I have, it's like, Okay, well, we should go skating. Well, we should go film something. And then as skate videos go, you don't even have a plan to make one, and then all of a sudden footage exists. And then you’re like, Well, I probably should edit this or something. It's too much fun.

I love that. I was one time in my life a video-part skater, but I had a realization that I would never film with a VX again and it was liberating. We just film little clips on the phone and put 'em in the story, less pressure. So I admired that you said you have fun with it.
I actually feel the opposite. Friends will film something on the phone and I'm like, Are you kidding me? Like, Such a waste! I also have the advantage that I own the cameras and there's definitely clips in my video part that are filmed by me—solo camera on a tripod. It took me two hours, but it doesn't matter.

Your friends also film well.
They'll love to hear that. It's funny—sometimes when I have a friend film something and they don't like how they film it, I almost laugh because I'm like, Dude, I'm the filmer or you're the skater. It should look bad. It shouldn't look too good.

I was shocked how clean it was. They're zooming right!
Yeah, classically trained. Everyone grew up watching skate videos and that's how we would always like to see them.

LOVELL 50 FAKIE TRANSFER BY MIKEY SANTILLANPivot grind to fakie for the homie    Photo: Smith

The part's awesome. You’re a pivot to fakie god. And guest tricks for enders? It’s actually genius.
What's funny is anytime I would edit any video for Vans, Escapist, anyone, I would always share it around for feedback just to kind of make sure it's at a good point. With this, I didn't share it with anybody, because I was like, I'm just gonna make it exactly how I want to make it and just see what happens. Very few people have seen that part or even seen the ender joke and I always kind of wondered if this is gonna hit or not. So it’s cool to hear that.

And it’s to the ultimate ender song.
That's funny because I put an alias in the credits, but it was definitely me who edited this. I just treated it exactly like if I was making a Vans video or anything. I had someone do the color. I had someone make graphics. I did everything and to that point, every video I've made has a dramatic ender song. So I’m like, I want that, too! Why can’t I have that? There’s no delusion about the level of tricks, but I wanted it to feel that way. So I thought, Maybe if I use the Kirchart song, people will pick up that this is a joke. I know my skating is not on that level, but they’ll still think this is fun to watch.

And then adding Kyle Walker's boardslide from Ruby so there is some epicness happening. Then you’ve got a nollie shove manual and there’s almost like this dialectic from bouncing back and forth between the two skillsets. And somehow the crazy hammers from those guys are also elevating your tricks.
That was also funny, because I was like, Well, I definitely don't have enough tricks to fill this out. Oh, great, I have harddrives full of incredible skating from incredible skaters. Why can't I put that in there? I filmed it.

Yeah, and it helps the reference to your generation. Geoff Rowley’s in it during the Heath song.
I tried to make that editing kind of reflective of how Mind Field was too.


Ryan Lovell Pullquotes get the wife, get the puppies in there 2000
Sean Malto Switch Back 50 50 750And don't forget the day-ones. Malto's switch back 50-50 makes another on-screen appearance

And there’s super-8 of your family, too!
Dude, I tried to make it exactly what I want to make. Ten years from now, I want to be super happy watching it, you know? So get the wife, get the puppies in there, the family; let's do it. Who’s gonna tell me not to?

That’s really awesome. I'm preferential to things that have these overt references for fun, or to illustrate the skater you are. There's this thing that happens in skating where everybody goes, Oh, skating’s gotten so serious. We just wanted to do something fun. And I’m like, That’s what everyone says. But they don’t actually make a flagrant ABD joke or their tone is still off, so this is just refreshing.
I realized that I'm probably a pretty serious person; I'm cool with that. But I was like, This is still fun, so let's make sure that comes across.

LOVELL BCN BY MIKEY SANTILLANPointers up if you got a clip   Photo: Santillan

It does. You're doing this through Escapist, which is obviously your hometown shop. How does it feel to be making another Escapist project in your 30s? Is it kinda like Groundhog's Day where you're like, Holy shit, here we go again, or is it more like, Damn, this is awesome. I'm making a video part for Escapist still?
It's the same thing as after Propeller with that No Other Way video, you just go skating because that's what you do on a day off. And then six months later it's like, Oh, we're making another video. And that just keeps happening. In fact, I have about 20 seconds on the next part under the belt right now, so, you know, keep it going.

That’s awesome. What is your ultimate desire out of the product? That more 37 year olds film more parts? 
The next one is the ultimate desire.

That is a deeply skater take. What did I miss or any shoutouts?
Shoutout to my wife, who filmed a clip at 8 AM on our honeymoon in Rome. It was the second time that we went to the spot because we got kicked out the first time. So shoutout her, family, friends and our sweet puppy Olive, who the video is dedicated to.

Awesome. Thanks again.
I appreciate it, guys.

LOVELL PUSHING BY AARON SMITHThe streets are calling...    Photo: Smith
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