It’s taken me so long to upload this for a number of reasons. I guess I really dragged my feet because this video, while one of my favorites, carries a lot of pain with it. Steezin For No Reason is the 7th and final movie made as a collaboration between Jesse Burtner and myself. Just after the movie premier in September I was informed that the partnership was being dissolved. More about that later.
I really feel Steezin hit a spot in snowboarding, and skateboarding to a lesser extent, where it became fun to break out of the mold of accepted fashion. You might say that is what skating and snowboarding have always been about but you would be fooling yourselves. Skating and snowboarding started that way and tends to recreate itself every so often but there are armies of kids out there closely adhering to the dress codes of their peer group. Just watch most snowboard edits on TWSnow or Snowboarder Mag and you’ll see the clone wars are in full effect. First off I’m not saying because a kid clones out that they aren’t talented. Most kids these days are waging a full assault on anything the mind can imagine. Second, I’m also not saying that my time period was free of the flock mentality. In my time it was the JP/Jeremy look and I was certainly influenced by it. All I am trying to say is that I feel Steezin played a small part in saying, “Fuck it, flare out and wear what you want.” Every so often the reset button needs to be pushed so people can express themselves how ever they see fit.
As usual I think we have one of the best “Dogs” (Friends) sections in the game. I also can’t get over how sick the skaters are. Micah always makes me want to get out and skate and always makes me disappointed that nothing i ever do will look that effortless. Jerry just crushes and has such a unique bag of tricks. He really is all terrain when it comes to skating. I also think the viewer can see how far ahead of the game Kooley was as he just toyed with the rails with a bag of tricks that today’s pros would give up smoking for. Steinbaugh crushed… really crushed it. I want to say Mark Thompson could be the Jamie Lynn of Alaska in that both are sooo talented yet I get the feeling I never got to witness their full potential. It’s just a gut feeling but I really don’t think the world got to see Mark in his full glory. What the world did get to see was pretty amazing though and I’m thankful for that. And let’s not forget that Spoon Man goes hard in the paint. Andre Spinelli was always exciting to ride with. I never knew if I would see a sick corked 9 or the craziest flying fish impression. B.A.D. (big air Dre) didn’t get his nickname by coming up short on jumps so when Dre was in the line up riders had to be ready to give’r.
I will tell you some interesting notes on the filming done at Arctic Valley. I contacted the guys at Arctic and they were super helpful and friendly. They agreed to let us film up there when the place was closed, to let us bring our rails up, to move snow around for us, and to allow us to ride the back deck. Riding the back deck was a huge deal because they found and attached angle iron to the top rail for us. They didn’t so much as wince when the perpendicular section of the rail was run into and broken. Those guys just cheered us on and smiled. That attitude, that support, that approach is the same spirit exhibited by the early (late 80’s/early 90’s) Arctic Valley, both on the civilian side, run by the Hodges family, and the military side, run by Jeff Barnhart. Arctic Valley has supported snowboarding as long as it has been around in AK and their support during Steezin contributed heavily to the movie. Thank you to everyone involved in the glory years of Arctic Valley.
I got off on a “thank you” tangent there. That’s the problem with aging, I get so nostalgic and emo over it all. Let me get back on track. So in the hopes of promoting our movie and gaining some media hype we found someone at the Anchorage Daily News that was willing to go with us on some filming missions and write an article about it. In the sense that an article was written about us it was a success. In the sense of portraying the truth and giving a real sense of what it was like to be filming our movie, it was an epic fail. The reporter basically painted us as barely being able to strap into our boards or hold a video camera because our middle fingers were constantly pointed straight at society as we brashly stormed our way into any area we wanted while giving zero fucks. When I read the article I was surprised there wasn’t a quote from an old lady saying that we pushed her over and dug up her rose garden.
During our filming we decided to go up the opposite side of AV and see if the old abandoned (and yes that is a very key fact here) bunkers held anything for us to ride. The area at the top of the hill is fenced off as it is part of the military site. I know there is some sort of missile site further up there hill but I have no idea the condition or if it’s still in use. What I do know is the area we were trying to check out could have been a set location for “Chernobyl Diaries.” The fencing was falling apart with huge holes in it and gates that were open so we walked in and checked out the area. We found some cool spots to ride and there are shots in the movie from there. After getting our shots we packed up and left. The article came out shortly after that while Jesse was back in Washington and I was back in Tahoe. The season came to an end and I returned to AK for the summer to find out that the JAG (basically the legal branch of the military) had visited my mom’s house a few times requesting to talk to me. One morning there is a knock on the door and I am greeted with a subpoena to appear in court. It’s been a long time so i may have some of my jargon/facts a little bit off but the important part is that the JAG unit told me to be in court and I was in trouble. Turns out the military does not like articles in the news paper that say people can freely walk in and out of their sites. Also turns out that I wasn’t in that much trouble. When I got in front of the judge and explained what we were doing, why were were doing it, and that we didn’t have malicious intent (other than shredding) he let me go and said not to go back. I might have had to pay a fine but it was no more than $75 bucks. I think they just wanted to make make an example of me to let people know they can’t just run all over the military grounds and flaunt it in the paper. Of course that is not what we were doing but that is certainly how we were portrayed by the ADN reporter, Josh Niva. Thanks Josh. I guess any press is good press.
I mentioned in the beginning that this video carries a lot of pain for me. What i’m referring to is the break up of JB Deuce. After the Anchorage premier, outside the 4th Ave theatre, I mentioned to Jesse that we need to start talking about next years movie and I dont remember the exact response but it was not overwhelming enthusiasm. A little while later he told me he was going to do his own thing for the upcoming season and that JB Deuce was not going to continue. This blindsided me, although in hindsight there were signs, and really knocked me on my ass. As I pushed Jesse for answers I got an email breaking it down for me. Basically the email said that i didn’t contribute to the movie; in filming, in cultivating the next generation of riders, etc. This isn’t something I need to argue about through this blog. I am secure and confident in what I brought to the table over a 7 year period and, just like at the time it happened, arguing about it won’t change the other persons mind. It was very much like a break up where one person has their mind made up and the other wants to keep it going.
Jesse and I always saw things a bit differently and sometimes a lot differently. We shared a common love of snowboarding, skateboarding, alaska, and movie making. But if the parts of the movies done solely are compared there is a stark difference. I saw that difference and honestly appreciated it. I felt the movie needed it to balance out and better represent the range of people we were making the movies for. As time went on I could see that there were inevitabilities that I was fighting such as consumer buying trends. Our movies did really well in AK but only really sold outside of that because of the names we could get on the box or personal relationships with shop owners. We were told that consumers didn’t want a video that had skating and snowboarding together. These are ideas I knew were true but fought because I held close to the idea of why we started to make these movies; to showcase Alaskan snowboarders and skateboarders the way we wanted to see them (meaning more creative editing, etc.).
Jesse had gotten hurt and I think that reality set in that he needed to get this video thing to another level if it was going to support him. I on the other hand still held onto the idealism of it all. Don’t get me wrong; I am not pitting money vs ideals but it played a role and that is undeniable. And I certainly don’t speak for Jesse on this. I am just speculating and telling you my thoughts and feelings on the topic.
Jesse was always far more of an art person than I was and as Steezin came along he was spending a ton of time with Genovese whom is a very accomplished artist. I think some of Jesse’s artsy ideas ran into resistance from me and were nurtured by Geno and his other NW buddies like McCarthy that he was around all the time. Like I said, i dont have an issue with Jesse’s different view of snowboard movie making and I was happy those ideas gave the movies variety. And I don’t have an issue with Jesse wanting to hit the reset button on movie making and follow his own path. My issue is with how the break up happened. After being really close to someone for 7 years, not just close but really vested with that person on a number of levels, it truly broke my heart with the way it was all handled.
During my snowboard years I may have had an intimidating presence (not a tough guy obviously) and Jesse was definitely very non confrontational. I can only imagine that is why things went the way they did. By that I mean with no real communication of the issues he had with me. I was never approached with any of it. I never got an email or a second hand word or anything that let me know he didn’t like the path we were going down or that he wanted to make a change. I was never approached with the idea of changing any format or line ups or making it a snowboard only movie. I really feel that stems from his non confrontational nature facing squarely against my stubborness and knowing I was pretty set on the videos featuring Alaskans as well as both sports. Regardless of how uncomfortable it might of felt I believe he owed it to me to at least bring it up at some point rather than just walking without a word.
When the AV stuff went down with the JAG people and going to court Jesse didn’t seem to be involved. When I asked him about it,. it turned out he had a lawyer and talked to them independently, never mentioning it to me. That was pretty weird. When the crew came to tahoe to film they went on a mission to film a rock jib. I was told that half of us couldn’t go. I see this happen in big time movie crews but with us it was always more family style and we just let the shot quality dictate what got in the movie. When we were at Mt. Hood and the opening scene was shot, with the kids wearing different clothes, I wasn’t consulted about it and wasn’t even told the shoot was going on. Another rider came to the house I was at and asked why I wasn’t down there when they were shooting. Usually both creators of a movie come together to decide something important like the opening skit. Jesse decided that on his own and decided not to tell me he was shooting it. When the movie premiered he waited until the end of September/start of October to tell me he was out and I was on my own. If you’re familiar with making movies this doesn’t give me much time to pick myself up and figure out what to do and how I was going to do it. Jesse already had his movie plans in motion. I felt like someone challenged me to a race and fired the starter pistol while i was tying my shoes. When I got the email about how I was not contributing anything to the movie, after realizing arguing with that would get me nowhere, I offered up some alternatives but it was clear that nothing was going to happen. One of the alternatives was that JB Deuce could be the umbrella company and I would make the AK movie while he made a snowboard only movie with fresh faces. Jesse was not interested in being partners with me at all and told me that I could work for him and he would pay me for clips i submitted. That was a bit of a slap in the face.
All of these things hurt, the dissolution of the company hurt, the idea that the era of Boarderline movies had just ended hurt, but what hurt me the most was that I felt that friends don’t handle situations like that. I don’t mean friends don’t go different directions and it was clear that Jesse needed to go in a different direction. What I mean is that friends, and I truly thought Jesse was a close friend, don’t go about things in that fashion. I felt that after 7 years I was owed more than that. Maybe I’m wrong and really it doesn’t matter to anyone but me. I am just expressing where the broken heart came from. I know I can be hard to deal with and a pain in the ass but I also know that I went to bat for Jesse and a lot of people because I cared about everything we were doing and everyone involved. I know that if the shoe was on the other foot that I would have handled it differently. It’s been almost 11 years since this happened and it is something that saddens me to this day. Our movies were a unifying force in the Alaskan community and when we split things changed a lot. Couple that with Boarderline’s decline and closing two years later and our scene took a big hit and hasn’t been the same since. Changes happen in life and people go different directions. I don’t know that I’ll ever fully get over this because what we did together meant the world to me. Many people will just consider it a few videos but for me, it was so much more. We helped develop a community, give kids something positive to strive for and be a part of (and not just sponsored kids, any kid that could get in front of a camera), promote Alaska and Alaskans, and create something that represented everyone in our lifestyle. We used to pack the theatre with well over a thousand people because what we created touched skaters, snowboarders, their friends, their families, and maybe even two skiers.
We did great things with those movies and every bit of my heart is in them. And please understand that they wouldn’t have been what they are without Jesse. My pain comes from how Jesse dealt with our relationship, not with his artistic talent or choice of direction. Jesse is a great dude and has done so much for snowboarding. He has taken the idea of inclusion from our videos and presented it to the world with his continued works. He has made snowboarding accessible to the masses rather than just trying to shock the audience like the big budget movies do. And I want to congratulate him and Pika on their new child. They will be great parents.
I’m sorry if my venting of this rubs some people the wrong way but feel free to talk to me about it. On that note, I hope you enjoyed the video and again i’m sorry it took so long to put up. See you next time when I put “Nice!Gordon” up.