Early on in Skate Kitchen, 18-year-old Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) stands alone at the edge of a skate park, holding onto her board. She looks nervous — she doesnt know anyone there, and on top of that, most of the other skaters are male. With that in mind, it almost feels like magic when the all-female Skate Kitchen crew arrives. Without hesitation, they take Camille under their wing, finding camaraderie and strength in numbers. The dynamic between them is as free and easy as skateboards gliding over concrete; its not the kind of feeling that can be forced or replicated.
The Skate Kitchen collective is real: they skate together, put on events together, just hang together. Theyve also been named to Dazeds 100 list, and crowned “Queens of the Ramp” by Paper magazine. Their Instagram account (where they post videos of skate sessions) has over 71,000 followers. And theyre all actual friends. Its a strength thats captured as if in amber in Crystal Moselles film named after them, a loose and endlessly watchable dynamic that made the movie a hit when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year.
Theres so little drama among the women of Skate Kitchen that the main narrative thrust of the movie—the crew splits over a boy (Devon, played by Jaden Smith)—is completely fictional. “He didnt exist,” said Ajani Russell, a member of the crew, in a recent interview with Moselle and the rest of Skate Kitchen— Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Kabrina Adams, and Brenn and Jules Lorenzo— at Magnolia Picturess offices in New York. “Crystal wanted to throw something in there to shake things up.” Clearly, though, the actor blended with his co-stars just fine; during the interview, Smith breezed in and out to give everyone a hug, clearly well-loved despite the character he plays.
Sitting with the entire gang felt like being inside of a deleted scene from the film, of which there are plenty; according to Moselle, theres a five-hour version of Skate Kitchen out there somewhere. Theres also the predecessor to Skate Kitchen: a short called That One Day, which Moselle made after meeting Vinberg and Nina Moran, one of the crews founding members, by chance on the subway. (The short was part of “Womens Tales,” a series underwritten by Miu Miu that provides female directors with a budget and optional use of the fashion houses clothing.)
Both films star Vinberg as a young woman finding her feet in the New York City skating community, going from lingering by the edge of the skate park to holding her own—and finding a family in her crew. Like the character she plays, Vinberg herself had only just moved to the city when she met Moselle, and had only recently begun to befriend Skate Kitchens eventual members
Moselle turned those experiences into a coherent script through a long workshopping process, adding new scenes as the bond between the girls grew deeper. One memorable scene in which the skaters debate the pros and cons of tampons versus pads—and express their fear of toxic shock syndrome—was written after Moselle overheard a conversation that Moran, Adams, and Lovelace had while at Moselles house.
For the skate crew, none of whom had acted before, the films rehearsal process involved six months of work with an acting coach. Though they were playing versions of themselves, their characters also went beyond their own experiences: “I also tried to think about Camille as someone to represent girls, you know, the ones who are intimidated to skate, the ones we see at the park all the time in the corner,” said Vinberg. “Literally, the other day, we were doing a shoot — there was that girl in the corner who was scared to skate, so I brought her to the back. She was literally standing where Camille was standing in the beginning of the movie.”
Its taken time for the women of Skate Kitchen to get used to their new roles. “At first it was weird,” Lovelace said of watching herself on the big screen. “When we first saw the film, Crystal was like, It was great, right? And I was like, I dont know! Im so concerned about how bad I look in every scene. But then afterwards, you get used to it. Its just like looking at a picture of yourself over and over again.”
Theyve kept skating since wrapping the film, and theyre also keen to keep making movies. Every member of the Skate Kitchen has her own dream project, and the list of films and TV series the young women would like to work on range from Black Panther to Breaking Bad to American Horror Story and The End of the F*ing World.
As the crew left the building, piling into a car to head to the House of Vans in Brooklyn, they continued to josh each other, discussing their plans for the rest of the night and joking about Moselles status as Skate Kitchen mother hen. The films conclusion feels like the end of a chapter rather than the end of the book—and similarly, the film itself seems to be a vital but single chapter in the collectives story.
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