As Charles Bukowski once famously wrote*, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” In the world of one Thomas Campbell, that might be 16mm film. The kind that costs a fortune to process, the kind that is increasingly hard to find equipment for, but also the kind that has that unmistakable warm esoteric glow – never duplicated by conveniences of the digital age and its binary trappings. If you love film enough, the battle is still worth it. And even more pressing – time is running out.
Campbell, aka T-Moss, has been working on his latest 16mm opus for the past six years. Due out this summer – and self-funded – Y.O.D., or Ye Olde Destruction, will feature some of skateboarding's most legendary riders and most creative artists and photographers – all caught through the distinguished lens (and lenses) of some of skate and surf's most prolific filmmakers. Using 16mm film in 2018 is a painstaking, expensive, and inefficient process. But then what great love has ever not been painstaking, expensive, and inefficient?
In Campbell's words: "It basically costs about 175 dollars for every three minutes of filming – to buy the film, process it and transfer to digital for editing. But I love the way it looks, film has a very emotional feel to it and skating is emo. It seems like it is going to be very hard to have functioning cameras in the near future. So the time is now."
Born in 1969, Thomas grew up surfing, skating, and making DIY 'zines in Dana Point, CA before selling his first photos to Transworld SKATEboarding in the late '80s/early '90s. From there he spent the next decade working for various skate titles including Poweredge and Big Brother before ending up as Photo Editor of the 1998 relaunch of Skateboarder Magazine alongside Tony Hawk.
Parallel to his somewhat normal rise through the magazine world, at 19 years-old, Campbell hit the geographic reset button – first moving north out of Orange County to Santa Cruz, then leaving the mainland completely for Kauai six months later following the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in '89. After only a year and a half in Hawaii, he moved again, this time locking down SF and Santa Cruz as storage points while spending the next five years almost as a transient – hitchhiking and traveling the globe.
By 1994, he hosted his first solo art show at Arcanes Gallery in Morocco. Then in '95, he makde a short go at living in NYC – putting on his first show at the Alleged Gallery on the Lower East Side where Aaron Rose will ultimately immortalize him along with Ed Templeton, Shepard Fairey, and the rest in his series of shows and 2008 film Beautiful Losers.
Then in conjunction with his evolution as a photographer and fine artist, Thomas Campbell the filmmaker/videographer took flight in the skate world around 1995 when he directed Supreme's first video A Love Supreme along with Jason Diamond. Having toyed with Super-8 film, Campbell ditched his video camera for 16mm film in 1999 with his first full-length surf film, The Seedling, followed by Sprout in '04, and The Present in '09.
Bringing every facet of his background – photographer, fine artist, skateboarder, surfer, and filmmaker – to the foreground, since 2011 T-Moss has been buried neck deep in Ye Olde Destruction. To solve the steep cost of using film in '18 (it also bears repeating that the project is explicitly self-funded so as not to be corrupted by a corporate sponsor) Campbell recently unveiled a grassroots fundraising campaign to fund the final stretch of the project.
The plan includes a limited edition Y.O.D. hardcover book with images from the film, featuring gem photography from Arto Saari, Brian Gaberman, Jai Tanju, Joe Brook and T-Moss himself. Buyers of the book would receive a download number for the movie. On top of the book, Campbell has also scheduled a series of auctions via his UmYeahHearts EBay account. The first batch of auctions sold off one of a kind blank skate decks painted by artists including Andy Jenkins, Neil Blender, Ed Templeton and many more this past spring. All proceeds from those sales and any future auctions will go towards finishing up the film, now set for release in July or August.
As Campbell sees it, "This film is a labor of love, that has taken close to six years working on it slowly. I have no direct sponsors for the film, I just didn't want it to be a thing selling something, it's just a celebration of skateboarding. Skateboarding pretty much gave me everything in my life, especially creativity, determination and great times. I'm just psyched to share it." Amen.
* This quote is attributed to Kinky Friedman in some circles.
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