Behind the Lens with Lonnie Gallegos
The LA-based filmmaker may have turned his back on full-length videos for the time being, but his output is as prolific as ever.
Over the past decade, Lonnie Gallegos has built up an incredible filmography that includes some of the most engaging blading videos ever made. Notable highlights include the Black Fabric team video, A Staggering Artwork of Heartbreaking Genius, the Feet series and the Fade Nation series – executed in conjunction with Brandon Negrete. He has documented the skills of rollerblading’s elite talents, creating iconic sections featuring Robert Guerrero, Louie Zamora, JC Rowe and Chris Haffey amongst many others, and exposed newcomers that are certain to establish their own legacies in forthcoming years. It has been over a year since his last release, Fade Nation: Green, but Gallegos has been keeping busy, releasing regular online edits for Xsjado and, most recently, TRS Rollerblade. In addition to his commissioned work, he is also putting out independent edits featuring some of the best bladers the west coast of America has to offer for his Tumblr page, Blader Stuff.
It seems that each year brings with it fewer DVD releases in the blading industry, so we decided to ask Gallegos, who has been putting out visual treats with his own time and money for quite some time now, what he thinks of it all. Plus, he offers a little insight into his life since deciding to end his collaborative efforts with Brandon Negrete and his working relationship with Bravo, the company that owns Senate. By the sound of things, it has all been a haze of marijuana smoke and late nights spent in front of a computer screen.
Wheel Scene: What have you been doing with yourself since the release of Fade Nation: Green?
Lonnie Gallegos: Things are moving along for me. After I finished Green I disappeared into downtown LA alone and lost my mind for a bit. I quit working, or maybe I was fired, it’s hard to tell when you’re freelance. Either way, after a few months of roaming, I ran completely out of money so I decided to move to Long Island with my mom and spent the summer bumming around New York City in an attempt to get my mind right. I spent the majority of my time there taking photos and filming with Ryan Many, Mal Ashby, and any of my Cali friends who came out to visit. I figured out that I really just didn’t like NYC in terms of a living situation (and the weather sucks), so I came back to LA at the end of the summer and put together my website/résumé so I could get a big-boy job.
What happened to the design job you had in LA?
Everyone is looking for a new job in the US. I got laid off that design job after two years. That was when I was working at Bravo Sports (the company that owns Senate). Thankfully I was semi-young and had no real responsibilities at the time. I felt really bad for the people who have families and a mortgage and real bills that go beyond buying a bag of weed. Losing that job definitely worked out in the long-run, though. A few months later I landed a gig editing commercials for DVD releases at a really cool advertising agency in LA. I worked there for about two years but lost connection when I slipped off to NYC. I finally have a job again, but when you’re working in the film industry you need to line up new jobs all the time because the work is inherently temporary.
How would you compare the skate scene in New York compared to LA?
There’s definitely a different dynamic between the two. In NY there’s a lot more of a session vibe. It’s friendly, but competitive and quick, too. They don’t really need security guards to kick you out of spots in NY because there are usually five people sitting on the obstacle anyway, which is something we don’t deal with out west. We can go to a school and session all day without even seeing another person. And in NY people will roll deep. It could be because they don’t need a car but it’s not unusual to session with 20 plus heads at the same time. In LA we intentionally avoid one another because everyone is on some “exclusivity” thing, which can be weird if you actually do cross another crew. But, at the end of the day, blading is pretty much the same everywhere – get clips, watch clips, get faded, whatever. That’s what’s so great about the scene worldwide: I can go anywhere and find the dude with eight wheels and we will probably get along. Hopefully he can find me a bag of grass, too.
I see that you have been making a few RB edits recently with Rob Guerrero. What is the deal with that?
Rob and myself have been close ever since I started doing tricks on blades. I think we’ve always worked together, even if it was for another project. The way the RB thing came about was that Rob and myself did an edit for my blog (3SunnyDaysInLAWithRobG), threw an RB logo at the end and called it a day. RB liked the response so we drew up a deal (the same one I have with Xsjado and USD) for online content and they asked me if I could put together another edit, so we did the 2DaysInNYCWithRobG piece. With the success of those edits they proposed that I go on tour with the TRS dudes through Cali, which sounded great to me as I had been in New York sweating all summer. So I hopped on a plane, met the dudes at LAX, and we hit the streets from there.
Are you working on another DVD release or any upcoming online projects?
I’m doing edits with the RB tour footage, but in sections by skater. As for a DVD, I’m not too sure. Do people buy DVDs anymore? I’d love to put together an entire blade video again but I’m not sure if it’s a reasonable goal. I’ve been tossing around the idea of making a video with some really fresh dudes, but only time will tell if it actually works out.
What do you think about the massive surge in random online edits over the past five years? It seems like everyone is making edits these days.
I enjoy being able to see what people in different scenes skate like and how other videographers are doing their thing. But there’s something about online edits being our main media source that bums me out. The problem with online content is that you must want to see it; you have to search for it specifically. Even all our magazines are predominantly online now. It all just seems a bit weird to me because DVDs were probably the last tangible good aside from the skates themselves that were putting money back into the industry. Without them, we really don’t have much to sell, so we have no money to be made. On top of all that, people started to put out really good stuff online so it really makes paying for (and waiting for) a DVD seem unreasonable. Thankfully, a lot of brands know that these edits don’t just appear. There’s a lot of work that goes into them and they are fair about compensation for that.
What do you think is the way forward then, apart from making money from skates and DVDs? Do you have any ideas?
The only real solution I can come up with is to build our community. The more people who participate the more skates are sold and the more wheels are sold etc.
Is it possible to make a living from simply producing online edits?
In other extreme sports the answer is yes. In blading the answer is no.
It seems like some of the OGs are getting back in the game. Kevin Gillan is skating again and Randy Spizer was spotted skating hard at the AIL Finals at Woodward West. What would it take for you to hook up a new Randy Spizer section?
We’ve actually been filming a bit. Him and Rob have been training on the low.
Is Black Fabric dead or can we expect any more garments in the near future?
We don’t die, we multiply – slowly.
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