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Fred Mortagne – 20 years of Menikmati

If you already were into skateboarding in the year 2000, you definitely have seen Menikmati. Late 90s/early 2000s brought us some big time skatevideos and Menikmati was definitely one of them. It was released by éS who had an elite team at that time, but funnily enough, young Fred Mortagne from Lyon, who filmed and edited the video, was a snewcomer back then and slipped into the project more by chance. In the end, he revolutionized the filming game in his time, much like Strobeck nowadays did with the Supreme videos. For the 20th anniversary we wanted to listen to some stories from the good ol’ times.

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What does Menikmati actually mean?

It means “enoy” in Indonesian. At first, I just wanted it to be “the éS video” you know, no title. But the company wanted one. éS relased an “enjoy” print campaign a year before the release of the video, so we decided to go in this direction. The video being based around the internationality of the team, we wanted something to be kind of universal. I even thought about the word esperanto, which is a language that was constructed as a universal way of speaking in the world and that word starts with “es”! But we didn’t pick it. Then I was told that we really needed a title for the next day. I spent the entire night finding the title. I decided to check the translation of “enjoy” in every possible language. Then I found “Menikmati”, which sounded good, and mysterious.

I heard it was because of Mike Manzoori’s visa problems that you ended up making the video? Is that true?

Yes, it is partly due to that. Mike was suppsoed to make the video. But he was stuck in UK, for months and months. éS was waiting but the situation was not going anywhere. His Iranian family background was making it extra difficult to obtain an American visa. We individuals with 100% european or occidental background don’t realize that things can be much more difficult for people from other countries. So, I knew éS wanted to make the video, and that they were stuck. I worked a bit on projects for Etnies before, and even shot some footage for the éS video in 1998, with Stéphane Larance and Luy Pa Sin. But the tape got lost forever after I sent it to the USA. Anyway, so I proposed my services to make the video, but they wanted to have Mike doing it. Six moths after, I got a call from Don Brown, telling me that poor Mike was still stuck, and that they decided to put the project in my hands. I could not believe it. This was my first major project for a company. So I was super hyped and excited, and extra motivated.

"I remember Koston telling me “you are not going to film my trick like that aren’t you?” He was scared."

Where there videos or filmers that inspired you at that time?

I’ve always been a skate video fanatic. At the local shop in Lyon, we could rent the new skate vids. I would copy them and watch them over and over again. When I realized I would never be good enough to be a sponsored skater, I knew I had to find a way to stay in skateboarding. And making videos was the solution. My heroes were poeple like Mike Ternasky who made the first two Plan B videos, Daniel Harold Sturt (also my hero in photography) who was filming for H-Street, Life, Plan B… Those videos were great, because they gathered all the good ingredients: epic skateboarding, super good and dynamic filming, great music and editing. In 1998, I was blown away by Eastern Exposure 3, made by Dan Wolfe. To me one of the most influential videos in skatebaording history. This was a masterpiece.

FRED HOTEL ROOM OFFICE

Hotel office

How did you come up with the rolling longlense? The “Frangle”.

I wanted to try to be innovative, and I also wanted to have some sort of cinematic shots, like the dolly shots in movies. After a few useless tries, sitting on my board, standing behind a fence, and creating some motion with my body and board, I figured out that a skatebaord could be a perfect dolly system, without the need of anything else, except smooth ground! I started to practice on certain sessions when the conditions were gathered. But when it came to film like this for real hammers, I remember Koston telling me “you are not going to film my trick like that aren’t you?” He was scared. But I knew what I was doing, and reassured him that I praticed enough, to be in control the whole time. I knew this was a game changer. The result was epic and new.

Do you still have the camera the video was filmed on?

Ah no! It was a VX1000 of course, but no idea what happened to it. It was the company’s camera anyway.

Is there something you wish you would’ve done different?

Oh surely, so many things. This was my first major project, and I hadn’t fully figured out my style yet, especially regarding editing and music. I was still a lot influenced by other videos. But I am still very happy with it, and I must say I am amazed to see that 20 years later, people still care so much about it, and speak to me about it with love and passion. That’s so cool. I would have never imagined that it would live through such long time. In a way, I think that videos like Plan B’s Questionable, or EE3 were much more accomplished projects, and groundbreaking. Maybe some parts could have gotten better, but there was a lot of pressure for skaters like Koston. It was easier for Rodrigo who had nothing to lose and everything to win. I feel like his part couldn’t have been better. We took it as far as it could get. And I’m proud of that, and that I could contribute helping a talented kid from Brazil, who obviosuly had something very unique and special. TX’s part is maybe my best accomplishment in the video.

For me it’s crazy like… How did the intro for Rodrigo come together?

Just like the others, I sat with each guy for a couple of hours, and asked them questions, about some topics that I imagined for the intros. I was driving and influencing the interviews, to get what I need. Nothing was really written, but maybe some stuff was directly said as I imagined it. One of the main ideas around the intros was, what would have they ended up doing if they wouldn’t have picked skateboarding, growing up in specific countries. Until now really, I never relized that people tripped on TX’s “it’s crazy like”. That’s funny. Rodrigo’s English wasn’t the best at the time. Things went so quick for him, we met him in Brazil and rapidly decided to give him his chance, by travelling and filming with us.

RODRIGO NIGHT PORTRAIT

Rodrigo TX

Back then videos were still big productions. What was the budget?

I couldn’t tell, I didn’t worry so much. But we surely spent a bunch of money. Although there was a lot of DIY stuff also.

Why do you think it was such a big success?

Maybe because we put a lot of effort in trying to make it the best it could be. We worked really hard. I pretty much didn’t take a single day off in 16 months. This was the chance of my life, so I gave everything I could. And this was a big responsability for me, because the consequences, good or bad, were high for the skaters, and the company…

How was editing that Penny part? How was he at that time?

He was super elusive and everything was complicated. To the point that we concluded a deal with Flip, who started to work on their Sorry video. Since Tom was only filming very few new things, we decided that anything new would be kept for the Flip video, and that we would cook something up. Legendary english vert skater Sean Goff had hours of old Penny archives, that he sold to éS. So much never seen before stuff. I gathered other iconic archives that have been seen in videos before, and created this part. I think we did good considering the hard conditions, and all the expectations around Tom. This was our only option.

"As Arto was rolling to the rail, the generator ran out of gas. I yelled at Arto “don’t go”, fearing that he would end up in darkness while sliding the rail. I was super scared that he would get badly injured. But Arto landed that trick in those insane conditions, which is legendary."

Landing a trick at El Toro while the generator went off. How gnarly was Arto at this time?

Yeah that was crazy. This was an improvised session that came out of the blue, and I forgot to refil the generator. I didn’t believe that he would really go for it that day. When I realized that he would, and that the generator was nearly empty, I got thrown off balance. I wanted to go get some gas, and at the same time Arto wanted to go for it. This created a stupid situation were I was trying to make Arto wait, but of course once he was mentally prepared, nothing could stop the process. At the same time, it was not possible for me to have this gnarly session going down, without being able to shoot it properly, with the light shutting off at any second. This created tension. I even said that I wouldn’t film it, thinking Arto would chage his mind. But he didn’t. I did not film it, for real. This is the only trick from the video, that I saw live with my eyes! There was footage, because I had set up a camera on the ground, and Lee Dupont was filming, and maybe Geoff Rowley as well. About the make, as Arto was rolling to the rail, the generator ran out of gas. I yelled at Arto “don’t go”, fearing that he would end up in darkness while sliding the rail. I was super scared that he would get badly injured. But Arto landed that trick in those insane conditions, which is legendary. What a maniac. I felt so stupid that day!

YOUNG ARTO

Young Arto Saari

How did the Koston part end up perfectly on beat?

Picking a song for Eric wans’t easy. I tried many tunes. When I finally picked this one, he wasn’t sure about it. He said he would show it to Ty Evans. In a way, I was slightly offended that he wasn’t trusting me and wanted a feedback from Ty. But it’s good he did that, and Ty approved the tune. But it’s only as I started editing, that I realized that the footage could be perfectly timed with the beginning beat section, the pop, slide/grind and landing sounds being on the beat. I was super stoked about it. It wasn’t luck, because in the first place, I think I developed a good ability at feeling and sensing if a track is appropriate or not to go on a part. It’s not a fully conscious process, but I can figure out if the rhytm of the music fits the rhythm of the skateboarder. They all have their own rhythm and the same song cannot work on many other skaters.

KOSTON LE DOME PHOTO BY JODY MORRIS

Koston at Le Dome | Photo: Jody Morris

Did you also film his Bangkok intro ?

Yes, we went to Thailand for six days. We had to get some help there to be able to shoot all of our ideas, like dressing up Koston as a monk, or doing the Thai boxing. It was a very intense trip. I didn’t plan on shooting any skating, but Koston was down to skate some of the good Bangkok spots, some being virgin. The session witht the security guards was funny, especially as we were used to deal with angry and close minded (well, doing their job) security guards in the USA.

KOSTON THAI BOX PHOTO BY DIMITRI ELYASHKEVICH

Thai boxing Koston | Photo: Dimitri Elyashevich

How did the Red Army Choir end up in the Rick McCrank slomo section?

That was an influence from the H-Streets videos I talked about. I loved some sections using epic classical music like Tchaikowsky, with slow-motion and epic filming. Looking back, I now think that this was way too much. [laughs] I pushed it too far. But it brought some dramatic feel. That video had to be special, and this was one of the many, many ingredients to achieve that.

MCCRANK BARCELONA PHOTO BY JODY MORRIS

Rick McCrank | Photo: Jody Morris

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