Craig: Welcome to the Movers Mindset podcast, where I interview movement enthusiasts to find out who they are, what they do, and why they do it.
Craig: In today’s episode, Steve Zavitz shares his passion for parkour, photography, and film, from his transition to freelancing, his process, and what he likes to create. He discusses the changing style and culture around parkour videos, and the impact social media has had.
Craig: Steve reflects on the evolving culture, audience, and growth of parkour, and what that means for communities today.
Craig: Before we dive in, I ask that you press pause and take a quick listener survey. It’s one page, has only five questions, and will take you all of 10 seconds to complete. If this project is worth 10 seconds of your time, go to moversmindset.com/survey.
Craig: Hello. I’m Craig Constantine.
Steve: I’m Steve Zavitz.
Craig: Steve Zavitz is an athlete, photographer, and cinematographer, with particular focus on the parkour and movement world. He’s worked with many parkour brands, including Skochypstiks, the Motus Projects, Strike Movement, and Tempest Freerunning, among others.
Craig: In addition to his freelance work, Steve creates his own work around parkour and its environment.
Craig: Welcome, Steve.
Steve: Great to be here, Craig.
Craig: Steve, the first question I have for you is, I understand that, at one point in the not-too-distant past, you had a regular day job working for the man, so to speak. I know that you managed to take the leap. I don’t know if it was a leap of faith or a leap of blindness, but you managed to make the leap into doing your own thing, working for yourself and creating your own way like, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t turn into money kind of thing. I think that’s a really interesting topic. A lot of people who are passionate about parkour would love to know, “All right, I have this job and I have this passion. Maybe it’s teaching, maybe it’s training, maybe it’s athletic, whatever.”
Craig: And I’m wondering if you’d want to share some of your story, like how did you first visualize that it could be a thing that you could do, and then how did you, I don’t know, did you make a safety … How did you actually make the leap, how did that work out, and maybe if you have any wisdom for people who would be considering doing it?
Steve: Sure. Yeah. So this is my first full year. Actually, 2018 was my first full year of doing freelance, so my taxes are going to be a bit of a nightmare, but-
Craig: Because it’s 2019, right.
Steve: But I’m sure you know about that. But yeah, so up until then, I’d been working in various jobs. I worked in catering for a bit. I was doing account management for a food-based startup. I was working in advertising as an analytics guy. Before that, I was doing research. But doing the photo and video work was always actually in the back of my mind.
Steve: I moved to the East Coast in 2011. I came out here to do research. That was kind of the goal was to get some experience doing neuroscience research and cognitive science research. The eventual goal was to go to school again, get a PhD, and then end up getting that track.
Steve: But I’ve been doing parkour since 2008, so already kind of three years in pretty deep. I made a name for myself, sort of, in the local community in Michigan, where I’m from, as the guy that took videos and photos of the community.
Craig: So, it’s purely as a side passion project.
Steve: Yeah, yeah, so I mean, it was just with parkour. I mean, I had some experience doing photography, just kind of taking some street photography at my university, and been doing some black and white stuff, but nothing super, super serious. But it was kind of just a thing where I had a camera, and it was early enough in the community where no one really had a camera.
Craig: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I’m curious, what camera did you have? Not that I’m a camera geek, but just-
Steve: I had a Canon PowerShot A560, which is a little point and shoot.
Craig: Because I’m like, “I had a … ” In fact, I have a PowerShot still, but yeah, okay. I’m just curious where you started.
Steve: But shot in four by three in 480p.
Craig: [inaudible 00:03:42]! I think I’m up to 90 or something like … 480!
Steve: So I ended up buying this. They had these cameras for a while before the DS Lives, like the TTY and the TTY took over that were shaped in this weird … They looked like a pistol grip sort of with a screen that would flip out. So, you’d hold it out kind of like a gun sort of and then you’d push the record button. The screen would be in the side of it.
Steve: So, I had one of those. I bought it for $80 on Amazon. It was a terrible camera. So, I bought that and then I bought a fisheye adapter because it was 50 millimeter, just like some crazy, like I couldn’t see anything in frame so I got it I was so excited to shoot it. I took it out and I was like, “I can’t see [crosstalk 00:04:21].”
Craig: It’s like looking through a tube, right?
Steve: So, yeah. So, I had to buy the fisheye adapter or the wide angle adapter for it. It was a terrible camera. I hated that camera so much.
Craig: I didn’t mean to derail you. Okay, so you have a junky camera but you developed a reputation.
Steve: Yeah. So, I was still like, “You know, I’m going to make more videos of this.” The reason why I did it originally was because there was just such a desert of content. People didn’t really know what Michigan was up to because no one had a camera and no one was filming anything. So, I kind of just wanted to share my community and say, “Hey. We’re out here. We’re training.” We had a Michigan jam that happened but it was really just locals that came.
Steve: So, that was my way of showing the community around the nation what we’re doing, what our spots look like, what our training sessions look like and inviting them to come train with us. So, it kind of just fell into place where it was a right time, right place, I had the right gear kind of …
Craig: Right. Well, you’re the person out in front with the best available gear, right?
Steve: Yeah. Then, when I graduated, I got a Canon T2i, which is kind of the same camera that most the early parkour filmmakers had that was the classic, the cheap-ish DSLR that does cinema quality or higher-quality interchangeable lens camera.
Steve: So, I got that when I graduated and I moved to the East Coast. So, I applied for jobs all over. I was graduating in 2011, which is pretty bad time for the economy.
Craig: I’m doing the math. I’m like, “Well, wait a second. This is 2011. You moved here in 2011?” Ouch, right?
Steve: Yeah, so not a good time for jobs and especially not a good time for jobs in psychology, which is what I studied, that was my concentration.
Steve: So, I applied for jobs all over, like Florida, Colorado, California. The only one that really stuck was New York, so I decided, “You know, whatever. Never been there before so I’ll move.” In the back of my mind, it was like, “You know what? I really like doing this parkour video stuff so I’m going to keep doing this while I move. See where it goes.”
Steve: So, for the first couple years when I was living in New Jersey and working in Rockland County, I was just doing my own thing. I was filming some community members like guys like Jesse Danger and Caitlin Pontrella and Nikkie Zanevsky, Mike Araujo all the classic New York parkour athletes. I kind of got a knack for it.
Steve: My first big break actually was working with Tempest, so my name kind of got around. I’d been making videos for little compellation videos of my year in review, of my travels, of my training of friends. I forget who it was. I think it was Chris… He was going by Spider back in the day. Somebody had reached out to him because they were going to Virginia Tech to film homecoming video, so Paul Darnell back when he was still part of Tempest, which he’s not anymore. Some drama around at, as some of you might know.
Craig: What? Drama in parkour? I don’t believe you. There’s no drama in parkour? What are you talking about?
Steve: So, Paul, I think, had reached out to the cy and said, “Hey, do you know any photographers or videographers that can come help film this thing?” Chris dropped my name. So, Paul emailed me and then he called me, like, “Hey, are you willing to film Tempest free when Team Tempest come and just film and hang out in Blacksburg, Virginia at Tech. I was like, “Dude. Totally.” I mean, I …
Craig: “Let me think about that. Absolutely.”
Steve: I definitely didn’t charge enough money because I was just stoked on the idea. It was my first professional, like, “Oh, man. I made it. Parkour guys are going to pay me to do this stuff now. It’s Team Tempest. They’re a huge name.” But it was awesome. It was a great experience but that was my first step where I was like, “You know what? Maybe I could just do this? Maybe it could be my job.”
Craig: I was just going to interrupt you and say, “That sounds like the first … ” It’s exactly what you just said. “That sounds like the first … ” So, all right. So, what year was that?
Steve: That was 2012, I think, or 2013.
Craig: Okay. So that’s 2012. So, but the point I wanted to make was that’s six years before the year that you’re a free man, so a good, solid five years from what was probably in hindsight, you didn’t see it at the time but in hindsight, that’s probably the first glimpse of where you had an idea.
Craig: So, the point I just wanted to pull out here, before I let you go, you had to just … That’s a five-year journey from the first time that you actually got paid, really got paid to do something professional to when you realize that you’re … All right. Last day at work kind of thing.
Craig: All right. So, Virginia Tech, got paid. Should have charged more?
Steve: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a mistake everyone makes early on in their career when they’re creatives and trying to make it. You’re like, “Oh, what should I charge? Like a couple hundred bucks? That seems like too much. What if they say, ‘No’?”
Steve: And looking back, obviously, I have a lot more experience dealing with clients and budgets and things like that. I wish I had charged more but I don’t regret the decision. It was a good experience for me and it was really fun just to go down there and hang out with those guys. I was a kid. I didn’t really know what I was doing back then so I have a lot more experience now and I could have come in at a higher rate, but …
Steve: So, anyway, so yeah. So, five years ago, that was the first journey. Up until that point between then and now, I was just building my portfolio, accepting jobs and really traveling, just getting my name out there. Unfortunately, I wish I could give somebody, “Here’s what you have to do. Here’s a list of things you should do to transition from your day job or coaching or whatever to being a photographer or professional creative media person.”
Craig: If I can wedge a question in, so you just said, again, I hear people say this a lot. I’m not being negative. People say often, “I was working on my portfolio,” but there’s two ways to do that that I can think of off the top of my head. One way is literally, “All right, I want to get into art school and to submit my portfolio, I need a bullet list.” They actually tell you or somebody will say, “To get in art school, you have to do X, Y, and Z.”
Craig: So, when you say you’re creating a portfolio, I’m going to guess that what you were really doing was you weren’t looking at the long game. You were just looking at things that drew your attention and then working on those so you were … I was about to say, “In effect,” because literally you are, but you are in effect accidentally creating a portfolio by simply doing the work and I mean, simply just with no drama, with no … Like not that it’s easy but what did you do? “Oh, I went and I took this photo.” “What’d you do?” “I went and I shot this video, and then I spent six hours editing.” You simply started at the thing that you knew you could do today and weren’t really focused on the long-term. I just wanted to point that out because I think that’s a key part of the story is that it’s a long journey. Everybody’s story would be. It’s a long journey made up of these tiny little steps.
Craig: So, I interrupted you again. Keep going.
Steve: No, no. I think that is a really fair point to make, I think. It wasn’t like my goal is … I mean, it was in the back of my head where I was like, “You know, eventually, I would like to be working fully for myself, being a freelance photographer, videographer, doing my own thing,” but it wasn’t like I have a three-year plan or a five-year plan or whatever. It was just like, “I’m going to go out and shoot stuff that I really like doing because I want to, because I need to, almost.” I have this feeling that I need to create and shoot parkour athletes and capture this moment. I had to satiate that urge to do that.
Steve: Even if I wasn’t getting paid to do that, I’d still do it. Even if I wasn’t working for myself now, I’d still be moonlighting and going through events over the weekend and taking time off from my job to go to fly to Vancouver to shoot NAPC or to work with Strike Movements or whatever. Those are all things that I just I love doing them and that, I think, is the one piece of advice that I would give someone is just shoot what you really like doing. Don’t shoot stuff that you think people will like or stuff that you think will be popular or whatever, because you’re going to end up being known as the guy that shoots the stuff that you don’t really like.
Steve: There’s a photographer that I worked with when I was in New York that’s still there. He’s a great photographer. He’s a guy named Ben Franke who shot some parkour athletes. He’s the guy that does the flour. I don’t know if you’ve seen those, the photos of the athlete moving with flour-
Craig: Oh yes.
Steve: … [crosstalk 00:11:45].
Craig: Yeah. F-L-O-U-R, right?
Craig: Sorry. You said, “Flour.” I thought of the plant. I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Fine.”
Steve: Yeah. The big white mist of flour. So that’s Ben. Ben is an incredible photographer but when I was asking him when I was first making this jump, I just asked him like, “What did you do to get to where you are?” He said, “You know, I just shot stuff that I really liked.” And also, he’s super persistent. He got in New York Times because he just emailed the guy and mailed him stuff and called him and was that persistent guy that just wouldn’t let go. It worked out for him. But, he also just told me I wasn’t going to compromise. I’m not going to shoot stuff. I will shoot stuff that I need to shoot to get paid, to make my rent or to pay for my lunch or whatever but I’m not going to put that on my website. On the website’s going to be just the stuff that I really love doing but I want to get paid to do because you want to be known as the guy that does, like the crazy, high contrast,-
Craig: Yeah. The [crosstalk 00:12:32]. Yeah.
Steve: … parkour ethereal portraits. That’s the thing he wants to do and someone wants to pay him for that. That’s awesome.
Steve: So, that’s what I’ve been doing with my brand is just shooting the stuff that I really like. I do other things. I shoot food. I shoot product photography. I do some e-commerce stuff. All sorts of different things, like odd jobs here and there. That helps me pay for the lifestyle that I lead but what I want to be doing is shooting NAPC, shooting promos for Grubhub, shooting stuff for … I want to be doing that stuff more of the time, so I would say, “Don’t shy away from doing that work but the energy and time and love and passion should go into stuff that you really care about.”
Craig: I always find when I’m doing interviews, I have 15 things I want to talk about, so the next thing that I’m just going to veer towards is this idea that I have that I don’t even have a name for. I’m going to call it the editorial aspect of the creative part.
Craig: So, in your case, we’re talking about photography and videography and in my case, we would be talking about audio. I don’t actually cut the audio but I’m responsible for what we do. I find it’s really difficult to edit. One part of it is, oh, yeah, make sure, for example, that you’re not figuratively or literally in the artwork but the other part of it is when you cut something off, you’re saying something as much by what you leave out as you are, and so with photography, it’s literally like, “Is the tree branch in or do I use the tree as the frame,” or all these little things.
Craig: I get lost in the editorial part of this. So, how much do you get lost, if at all? Please tell me you get lost because basically I’m weird.
Craig: But do you get lost in that process and how do you deal with that? How do you know, “Okay, this is good enough and I should release … ” I would assume videos are much deeper hole than an individual photograph but how do you decide when it’s edited enough? How do you edit? What are your thoughts on that?
Steve: Well, I think with photos, the big part of the process that takes a long time for me is looking at which photos make the cut and which don’t. I shoot sometimes for a couple hours of shooting. I’ll take upwards of 500 photos and I have to parse through that and choose maybe 20 or maybe five sometimes. There are times where I’m shooting a very long shoot and I have a bunch of different takes and there’s model’s faces and things are in focus or out of focus. I have to look at every single detail and figure out which is the best version of this same photo. It could be the same, exact pose, the same exact everything else but one slight difference, like somebody walking in the background or a seagull in the background or their eyes slightly glazed over.
Craig: Yeah. The way [crosstalk 00:15:04].
Craig: Sorry. I’m just derailing you. What do you do when you have 10 photos that maybe from 10 feet away all look identical, and you, like, “Okay, these six are bad.” And you wind up with three candidates and none of them are perfect. How do you pick which or do you get on Photoshop. “Well, we’ll put these eyes in the … “
Steve: That’s funny you say that because I’ve actually done that. I shot a thing with Mike in New York for Strike. He has this habit. He’s not going to love it I put this in here but it’s funny and-
Craig: Oh, please do. Please do.
Steve: … I don’t think he’ll actually care. For a while, when he was doing flips, he would stick his tongue out. So, I got this really great photo of him doing a flash kick but his tongue is sticking out and you can see it because it’s against the sky so you can see his tongue, that little round tongue against the sky.
Steve: So, I went through all his photos. I was like, “There’s got to be a better one in here. There has to be one where he doesn’t have his tongue out.” I got a few and his body shape wasn’t quite right and it wasn’t quite in focus or I didn’t get the right frame in motion. And there was one that was perfect except for his tongue was out. So, I had to go through and I was like, “You know what? I can do this.”
Craig: “I can do this.”
Steve: “I’m a Photoshop wizard. I can do … ” So, I went and took a lower part of his face from another shot and just grafted it onto the other photo. You can do that.
Craig: You totally make magic.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, there’s this whole culture around editing. I think it comes from an editorial perspective where New York Times or NAT GEO, there’s been some controversy over people editing images and sometimes, it’s founded where you added an extra rocket trail to make it seem like there were more rockets.
Craig: Like really cheating.
Steve: That’s really bad but someone gets like, “Oh, well, there was a distracting element of this tin can or something,” in an image. They go where it’s like, “Oh, my god. You altered the image. It’s dishonest.” That’s not …
Craig: You pointed the camera. You chose what was in the frame, what was out of the frame. You chose whether to take that moment or that moment. To me, that’s even more serious than I think Photoshopping the blems off of the model.
Craig: Now, if you use the retouched photo to convince people that their life should look like the retouched photo, well, okay, now you’re being dishonest but if you’re talking about what makes a picture perfect, it might be that there is not that wart. I’m, “Oh, if only the face never … We’ll just take the wart off.” I really think that it’s not that big a deal when you’re editing from the right, I was going to say point of view, but that’s the wrong metaphor. When you’re editing from the right mind-set or the right place of intention.
Steve: Yeah. I think if you’re changing the quality of the narrative, if that’s part of the story of … Like the editing portion is part of the story, then it becomes dishonest and you shouldn’t do that but if it’s distracting from the idea or the point of your media, then I think it’s okay. I mean, that’s part of the struggle for me, as well, is like how much do I edit?
Steve: Generally, with a photo, what I like to do is it’s really about the athlete, but sometimes I’ll shoot portraits where it’s more about how the athlete interacts with the space. So, the architecture, the walls, the rails, are just as important as the athlete.
Steve: So, in those cases you have to be especially careful and it takes a little bit more time and a careful eye of how to balance the distracting elements of background, people walking around or the buildings that are in the far background or the roads or the streets and how do you make [crosstalk 00:18:18]-
Craig: Like a cloud. Right. “There’s too many clouds in the sky at the moment.” Yeah.
Steve: Yeah. “How do you make the bars in Tompkins really punch out? How do you make the … ” Yeah.
Craig: Good luck with that.
Steve: Yeah, so these things, they all go into my editing process for sure, but I mean, it takes me a long time. Really, the hardest part for me is just choosing of all these photos like I like them all for different reasons and some of these are good and some of these are bad. Some of them are clearly bad. I take so many bad photos, you wouldn’t believe.
Craig: I was going to say, you probably delete the clearly bad ones, right?
Steve: For sure. The ones where I just completely miss the shot or, you know?
Craig: Why did I take a shot, right?
Steve: Yeah. That’s also a good thing, I think, for people to hear is I’m definitely not perfect. It’s all a process. I’m learning how to do this and I still take really bad photos all the time. Every time I shoot, there’s some bad photos in there.
Steve: So, if you’re looking at your camera at the back and at the end of a shoot and you’re like, “Man, I took this terrible photo.” It happens. It happens to the best of us and-
Craig: Take 5,000 more. Yeah.
Steve: Trey Ratcliff is out there with terrible photos as well. The professionals at the top, top levels still take bad photos every once in a while, but, I mean, you want to have a better proportion of the good ones versus the bad ones but going through, culling out the bad clips is the hardest part for me. I mean, when I’m making videos, too, I’m going through every single thing I shot in a year or in six months or however long … In the portion of shoot like three months. I’m choosing this … Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s like, “Yeah, The athlete didn’t make the jump. They bounced back on this so that’s clearly a cut,” but maybe they bailed in a funny way and you want to use that for something else.
Craig: Right. In a gag reel, right? [crosstalk 00:19:43].
Steve: How do you categorize that and how do you put that in a separate folder?
Steve: Yeah, so editing is not easy, I don’t think. I definitely get stuck. I get stuck in ruts sometimes. What I will usually do when I’m looking at a photo, if I’m really getting into the minutiae where I’m doing skin retouching and toning and I’m doing eye adjustments and hair adjustments and I’m removing elements in the background and I’m changing the backgrounds and I’m removing wrinkles from clothing. When I do all of those things, you get lost in the tiny little details and you lose the big picture.
Steve: So, one of the best things that I learned to do is just make your adjustments, finish your train of thought like your train of creative process and walk away for a while. Walk away, zoom out. Close your eyes or go listen to a podcast for example-
Craig: Right. Oh, nicely played!
Steve: … or watch an episode of Netflix or something. Take a break and don’t think about it. Then, come back and see if it still makes sense because sometimes when you’re in it, you’re like, “Oh, this is going to be great. Oh, I’m adding a bunch of brightness and sparkle to their eyes,” and you look back and then when you come back after five minutes, it looks like an alien. It’s terrible.
Craig: “That doesn’t fit. That was clearly not the day I took that photo,” right?
Steve: Yeah. I mean, it happens. So, I think just having that balance and being able to walk away. The same thing is true, I think with writing emails or pretty much anything in my life, at least, when I get too deep in the details, I lose the big picture. So, for me, I have to take a step back and literally not look at it.
Craig: How much of that process is … What I want to know is, is it useful to bring other people in and that opens the question of other people who are also artists in the same medium or random other people who are going to be consumers of the medium but how much of that process gets better or worse if you bring in someone else?
Craig: So, if you can imagine one has, whether it’s me with audio or you, whatever, one has a project and one like, “Oh, here’s the pictures that I captured here. I got to start from here and I have a vision.” I get two-thirds of the way through. I’m like, “All right. Now, the rest is going to be this slogfest while I work on wrinkles and little minutiae.” Do you show that rough cut? I mean, maybe it’s a photo. Maybe it’s a video. Maybe it’s an audio. Do you show the rough cut to anyone else or do you trust yourself and say, “Nope. It’s me all the way from beginning to end. Then, I’m just going to be judged based on the end,” and you’re sort of packing the process in, like the finished thing is the sum of the raw material, the process, and I don’t want anybody else in this soup. I’m just thinking out loud.
Steve: I think it depends.
Craig: I knew you were going to say that.
Steve: Well, it’s tricky. It’s not a yes or no answer because it depends on the situation and it’s what the project’s for. So, I know there are photographers out there that get into hot water because they share their raw images with the client.
Steve: I don’t want to make this statement but I was going to say, “If you’re a good photographer, you shoot to edit.” But that’s not necessarily true because I know plenty of good photographers out there that don’t really shoot to edit because their workflows don’t allow it.
Steve: So, people that shoot bands. So, this woman Stephanie Gabrielle that I met. She shoots for Revolver magazine and has done stuff on Ozzy Osbourne, the big, big bands. She just shoots to have stuff in camera.
Craig: Oh, right. “So, I got to shoot it tonight and I got to deliver it tomorrow morning,” and there’s [crosstalk 00:23:02]-
Steve: Yeah. “I have another shoot tomorrow. I’m flying to LA tomorrow.” She needs to get that stuff out because it needs to go out but I think, for my style of photography, I shoot to edit. And weddings, too, I think, people that have that highly polished … It’s not gritty, it’s not meant to be raw. It’s meant to be curated in a lot of ways.
Craig: Polished, curated memory.
Steve: They shoot to edit. So, the raw image is not really an indication of what the finished image could look like and it’s not really fair to judge the quality of the image. People do tear sheets sometimes where they have just little, tiny thumbnails and everything. The bride and groom can pick.
Craig: Yeah. “Oh, you missed Aunt Sally.” Whoop! Or you got to, yeah, get that person now, right. But they’re not looking at the photos at that point. They’re looking at-
Steve: Yeah. Generally, the process I wouldn’t really share with people unless someone’s curious about how I got to the image but I lead with the finished product and say, “Here’s what it looks like. Here’s how I got there,” because that’s important because people just lose the context of … It is a process. They think you shoot an image because people are used to cameras now with their phones where they just take a picture and they post it on Instagram. That’s fine. Cameras are pretty good these days but for people that are deep into doing e-commerce where they have to worry about are labels clear and sharp and do they pop from the background? Are people’s eyes in focus? I worry about those things. If you see an image that looks a little flat and doesn’t look super nice, people are going to judge you based on that. So, I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to go about it.
Steve: When I’m shooting with athlete, I will share images with them because I think it’s important for them to be in love with the images, too. I want them to be happy with how their body shape looks and how the product is coming out. I’m like how it looks on their body. That’s super important to me as well so that is a part where …
Craig: Those consumers are probably a little more used to … Like this is an intermediate step. They’re probably more used to seeing that rough shot earlier on, like, “Okay. I get it because I’ve seen shots like that before and I know what the end result’s going to be.” So, they’re kind of a special case.
Steve: Yeah. If the guys I shoot with a lot, like a Nikki and Shaw and Mike and Jesse, they all know what it’s like to shoot with photographers and do stuff for editorial or for advertorial stuff, too, so they know that when I’m shooting, I’m just showing them the rough cut. They know that the finished product will look more polished. There’s going to be an extra element of sharpness and clarity and whatever it is on top of that that’s going to make it look better.
Steve: The only exception that I would make is if I’m working on a project like a passion, fun project like I shot a video with this athlete Jake. I gave him the rough cut because I wanted to make sure he was happy with the song and the way I was cutting it because he chose the song but he was on the fence about it. So, he was like, “I like the song but I’m not sure if it’s going to fit with my movements.” So, I said, “Do you know what? I’ll send you an early version of the preliminary cut and if you have feedback on that and you don’t like it, then we can go back to the drawing board.”
Steve: So, that happens sometimes, too, but so, again, it depends on your discretion, the level of the project, like professional projects I don’t know if I would ever really share the process just because-
Craig: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:25:53].
Steve: … people just don’t have imagination. They see it and they’re like, “This looks terrible. Why would you send this to me?”
Steve: I worked with a brand once and I shot an overhead food video for them. I sent them an unedited version that was not color graded so it was really flat. They’re like, “Why does it look so bad? Why does the color look so bad?” I told them beforehand, “It’s not going to be color graded.”
Steve: I talked to another staff memeber we’d worked with, like another freelance photographer. She said, “Don’t do that. Make sure you only send them the finished because they don’t know. They just think you’re bad at your job, basically.” And that’s really terrible but it’s a part of the process. It’s kind of a blind process. People just don’t know the work that goes into it. They think that it just comes out of the camera and it’s like a quick process where you just drop it into Premiere or Final Cut or Avid or whatever you’re using. It’s good to go.
Craig: Right. Steve, we’ve talked about the process of creating and we’ve talked a little bit about editing but now, I’m wondering, do you think about the photography, the video part of it when you’re moving so are those two different people. Is there the Steve the mover who goes out or do you find that mid-movement, even though you’re not being photographed, you’re thinking, “How would this frame up,” or, “This is a nice day to be shooting this.” Or, do those two minutes just stay separate or, if they’re entangled, what pieces call to you?
Steve: Well, I think I’m always thinking about composition and a specific quality of light when I’m outside and when I’m looking at things. I was mentioning to you earlier that when I’m looking at photos on the wall or advertisements, I’m thinking about how do they get this shot. When it comes to my movement, first of all, I hate being photographed. I hate being filmed. I’m getting better at it because I’m filming myself, but I think that’s a pretty common narrative with people that are behind the camera for a lot of the time. They don’t like being in front of it.
Steve: It’s given me a lot of insight on what clients think is cool and what looks good. I think it changes what I view as a high priority movement. I don’t know. I think it’s given me a lot of insight in analyzing how people move and looking specifically at hip hinge and knee bends and ankle flexion and those are all things that really affect the way a shape in the body can look and can make or break a photo.
Steve: So, I think a lot about that when I photograph someone like Max and I see his knee drive when he’s striding. I’m just paying attention to that because not only does it looks cool, but it also is like, “Oh, that’s how he approaches this movement. That’s how he generates more power, even though he’s shorter than Brian Prince and can stride just as far.”
Steve: But I never really thought about that. I think it’s a really interesting question, and I’m sure it leaches into my movement practice in ways I’m not even aware of as I’m sure I’m just thinking about, “That looks weird.”
Craig: Do you ever have ideas where in the process of moving or even in a particular space or even in front of a particular backdrop like a skyline or something, do you ever have moments where you realize you want to swap yourself out for a better athlete so you can grab the camera and capture?
Steve: Oh, yeah.
Craig: So, does moving give you ideas for …
Steve: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah. I mean, a lot of times, I’m looking at something and I’m saying, “That’s a really cool backdrop. Oh, it’d be really cool to do this type of movement on this thing because it’d be a really cool photo.” The limitations with my own physical practice, like I can’t be the guy and I think it’s also not necessarily a trust thing but I’m not sure if the people that I train with would be able to capture the photo the way that I’d want it. So, I have to convince someone to do, “Oh, can you do a layout onto this concrete slab 13 feet up in the air?”
Craig: You feel bad.
Steve: Which tends to be a no for most people.
Craig: Call me next time. I’ll say, “No.”
Steve: Yeah. Every once in a while, I’ll get somebody who’s like, “Yeah. I can do that.”
Steve: It’s funny. I was talking about Ben earlier. Ben was telling me how when Erik Mukhametshin came to New York he was asking them to do some wacky stuff. They were on the Brooklyn Bridge and Eric did a webster pre onto one of the beams above moving traffic.
Steve: Ben, if he’s listening to this, which I hope he is. That’d be great. I think Ben, the story goes that he didn’t even ask him to do it. Eric just did it. I think Ben wanted him to do a backflip on the beam and Eric did a webster just to get down onto it. He’s a madman, but he’s one of those guys that I would be able to say, “Hey, can you do this?” He’d go, “Yeah. Yes, I can do that.” I don’t know if that’s what he sounds like, but I imagine.
Craig: It fit. It fit in the moment.
Steve: But yeah, I mean, for sure, my own movements definitely limits-
Craig: Does that get in your way? I can honestly say, I don’t think I can ever imagine ever having done anything where I thought, “Oh, I want a camera so I can put someone in my place to do this thing that I’m imagining.” That has never happened to me. I might think, “Oh, I wish I could do this challenge,” but I’m actually never thinking, “I wish I could capture the visual part of this,” which is really interesting because I hope it is not a new thing that’s going to be stuck in my head but I’m wondering if you were previously aware that you were doing that and if you’re … I’m wondering how common it is. Are all photographer doing that? Is it only the photographers doing that? Or is that maybe a sign of if you were doing that before you picked up the camera, maybe that’s what led to the photography videography bug. Now, I’m just fishing to see how unique that perspective is and if you perceive that to be unique.
Steve: Yeah. I think by and large what you’re saying is pretty true for me as well. I do consider myself to be an athlete and I love parkour but I’m not nearly as high level as some of the guys that I work with, but in a lot of what I do when I work with them is I’m bouncing ideas off of them and because I have the background in parkour, I know what should be possible. When I’m working with somebody who I’m comfortable with and training with on a regular basis, I kind of know where the limits are. I mean, sometimes I’ll suggest something stupid that’s [crosstalk 00:31:33]-
Craig: Just checking. “Are they paying attention?”
Steve: It’s like, “Oh, good joke, Steve. That’s funny.” But usually, when I’m at a shoot and I’m trying to convince someone to do something that I think is in their level. It’s like, “Oh, well, I could do this.” And then like, “Oh, well, what about this?” Like, “Well, I think it would look better if you did it this way, because for the photo, your hips are going to be this way and your face is going to be towards the camera or the light is coming this way so I want you to face this direction.”
Steve: So, that’s kind of where it comes in for me, at least, but generally yeah. I’m not really sure if anything that I’ve done is really photo worthy most of the time. And I think that kind of loops back into one of the reasons why I delve deeper into parkour photography in the first place is because I wanted to find a way to contribute to the community and feel like I was a part of this larger group without being a high-level athlete.
Steve: I think it’s hard for people that aren’t like Kie Willis, for example. He could go to any events anywhere in the world and I think people would, one, recognize him and, two, find a place for him. He would be volunteering to help or he could just go train and do whatever. If you’re not at a level where you’re an elite athlete that has a massive following on Instagram or has done videos with X brands or whatever it teaches with whatever movement collective, it can be hard to find a place for yourself in these big events.
Steve: I don’t think it was always the case. Early on during parkour, I think the community was so small that if you did parkour and you knew about it and you knew this other person, chances are you guys were going to be friends because it’s like, “Oh, you know about this weird, obscure internet thing? You know about David Belle?” You’re like, “Oh, man. We should talk. We should be friends. Like, let’s train together.” But now, parkour is so big that there’s kids that don’t even know who David Belle is.
Craig: Right, or different generations. They’re like, “I’m really sorry. I don’t want to train with you.” It doesn’t work, or we’re different attack plans to how we look at things or challenge it and …
Steve: And I love parkour and I love photographing it because it think it’s really interesting and that’s first and foremost the reason why I did it but also I think secondarily, it’s my way of getting access and being part of this inner sanctum without being the guy that kong gaineres, you know?
Craig: Right. Who did the thing.
Steve: Who kong gainered manpower or being Verky or being Calen Chan who can-
Craig: Have you ever stood and looked at manpower?
Steve: I’ve never been there, actually.
Craig: Oh! It’s spooky. It’s really impressive in pictures and videos. It’s way more impressive in person. I haven’t stood on it. I’ve stood under it.
Craig: Anyway, I’m wondering if you want to talk about … Everybody here takes pictures and videos and shares them. If you delete them, I’m not talking about that but if you share them, you’re contributing to the giant overall thing which is parkour. So, parkour is not just what we do. It’s also the videos that we take of it and the things we write about it.
Craig: It seems to me, I’m wondering what your opinion of this is, that there is a decrease in the number of, I’m going to call them artifacts, pictures, videos, all kinds of things that we’re all creating that are more, I want to say considered things. I don’t mean that people are producing junk but what I mean is the pieces that are produced now tend to be … I hate to just say shorter but they’re different.
Craig: People seem to be doing less. “I spent the last six months shooting little clips and I’m going to put it all together and then I’m going to produce this thing. It’s only five minutes long,” but then it’s going to be this center of a nucleus of discussion and my friends are going to talk about it and, okay, only 80 people saw it on the whole planet.
Craig: But that, whatever we call that, we need a noun for that. Whatever that is, we don’t seem to be doing that. Maybe we’re still doing it and I don’t see it but we don’t seem to be doing that anymore. I don’t know. I don’t want to just say, “Oh, that’s because how social media works,” but people are producing the content that the other people want to consume.
Craig: Somehow, we seem to have lost the, maybe I should say, “Artiste,” with an e on the end, like we’ve lost the person. I feel we’ve lost the person who would produce the year in … We still do some year in review videos but the year in review videos or the whole, not necessarily a montage, but here’s my last year of training.
Craig: So, I’m just wondering if your thoughts are like did you agree … Do we seem to have lost that and if we have lost it, is that a bad thing, and if it is a bad thing, what might we do to try and regain it?
Steve: Yeah, so I …
Craig: Sorry. That’s a lot.
Steve: No. It’s okay. I do think that we are seeing less of those types of videos. I struggle with this question because it might be a generational thing. I’m going to be 30 this year so-
Craig: [crosstalk 00:36:01]. Did you [crosstalk 00:36:01]-
Steve: … I’m wondering … I’ve been doing parkour for 11 years now.
Craig: That’s way longer than me. I’m only in seven.
Steve: Where the old guard of parkour practitioners who remember the old videos, who remember Chris Ilabaca dropping videos way back in the day.
Craig: What we should call the overnight download people. If you know what we mean by the overnight download kind of parkour universe.
Steve: Yeah. Back when Google Video was still around. We were looking for videos on that, with that. That’s what I remember. I remember seeing Russian climbers back when it was under 10 different names but there were maybe 100 videos with tags parkour in the entire internet. I wonder if maybe that’s my perspective and I just don’t see enough of these videos but I don’t think it’s controversial to say that there’s far more parkour videos now that come out pretty much every day than there were coming out in years when I first started.
Steve: So, at best, these videos still come out but they’re lost in the signal. They’re lost in the sauce and I just don’t see them and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really watch parkour videos as often as I used to just because it’s just overload. I can’t really focus on following people and watching … I’d be sitting all day basically if I wanted to watch parkour videos whereas back in the day, it would be like one good video would come out a week or maybe a month and I would watch that and we’d all talk about it and it’d be great. But speaking from personal experience, I think there used to be kind of a culture around talking about videos they gave you this feeling of nostalgia or feeling of community.
Steve: For me, when I watch the old Ampisound videos or the old Antoine [Dutille 00:37:37] videos, it makes me feel like that’s what parkour is. When I watch those videos, it’s not like crazy movement. It’s maybe Phil doing a rail pre in socks. It’s Danny doing a webster to his butt in Cambridge on the roof like him swinging on a rope or jumping into a lawn chair and breaking it. To me, that’s what parkour was when I first heard of it and it still is very much like that for me but I just don’t see those videos anymore. Again, maybe I’m missing them.
Steve: But I think that, by and large, two things have happened. One, we had this huge influx of content coming out every day and we’re trying to focus more on at least the major outlets like storror and storm are trying to focus on reaching people that don’t do parkour.
Steve: So, what’s happened with that is they’re focusing more on impressive large movements or they’re doing vlog-type content that comes out every day.
Steve: So, the nature of those two things mean that the lifestyle kind of fun, goofy, this is what parkour is gets kind of lost in that and it gets deprioritized because the average person doesn’t know what parkour is. It doesn’t want to see going to the store and-
Craig: Yeah. Daniel [Chisel 00:38:44] swinging on the ropes [crosstalk 00:38:45] want to see.
Steve: … making his funny inside jokes or Max [Runnen 00:38:48] having his arm popped off by Tim Shieff. Take my strong arm. People that don’t do parkour, they might laugh but they don’t get it. It’s not like they don’t resonate with that culture. They want to see Calen Chan doing the corkscrew con gainer full. That is cool for them. They want to see Pasha’s weird … Like the webster thing where his head is two inches away from the pool edge and he falls in the pool. That’s cool.
Steve: I agree, that’s awesome. That stuff is super cool. I get stoked on that, too, but what I don’t want to see is what’s happening, what I feel is happening is I don’t want that to be at the expense of the other thing because I think they both have value.
Steve: The third thing is the vlog-type content. Instagram I think has created a culture where people are just used to seeing more content on a regular basis, whereas we used to wait. I mean, the-
Craig: Overnight download.
Steve: … overnight download culture is used to having one good video come out a month. I remember when Teghead had his monthly compilations. That was a huge deal for me. I waited and waited and waited and refreshed the page and I was like, “I can’t wait for him to upload his video. When is it coming? I can’t wait for [Furiary 00:39:52] to come out.” It was a whole thing. We just spent the entire month like, “Oh, man. That was the cool when he did that dino was so sick. Like all the cat leap/arm jump he did combination. That spot’s so cool. I never seen that before.”
Steve: Now, I feel like there’s not that dialogue, that cultural conversation around videos as much as there used to be.
Craig: That, I think, is what … I mean, I kind of lead us here, but I think that dialogue. You and I had talked before about this. That dialogue is the thing that I feel that I’m missing now. The whole overnight download parkour video thing is before I started parkour. So, I’m totally done the overnight download thing. I did that but not for parkour.
Steve: For different things, right?
Craig: Right. For different things, so I totally get that but I also missed that dialogue aspect of it because I wasn’t in parkour when that was happening.
Craig: So, I’m wondering if the missing dialogue or that having gone away, if that might be a big piece. So, there’s factions in the parkour universe now where some people say that there’s a piece of the culture that’s missing, where there’s this ineffable thing that they can’t quite put their finger on that’s like, “Well, this isn’t right.” They’ll say, “I don’t like competition,” but then when you ask them what exactly is wrong with it, they have an idea but I’m wondering if it’s that dialogue.
Craig: So, what we’re all sensing is not that there’s anything wrong with what’s being done today. It’s not that the 30 gram Instagram video is Satan incarnated. That’s not the problem. The problem is this dialogue piece that we hadn’t all paid attention to and I wasn’t even there but we hadn’t paid attention to that.
Craig: So, my question is, “Well, that’s actually cool because if that’s what’s missing, we just need to regain that.” It’s not like we have to reinvent the internet or take down social media. It’s just whoops, we’ve stopped exchanging that dialog.
Craig: Then, the next question, of course, is okay, I don’t have an answer to this, but how do we go back to doing that? Because I think the answer comes down to you have to figure out how to enable someone or a small group of someones to spend that much time on the thing and that kind of works today but then when they produce the artifact, we have to figure out how to make sure that we all continue to engage with that artifact for the next two days, three days, a week, and that kind of thing. So, I think it’s that dialogue, that really is the piece that’s lost. It’s not that those videos really were that awesome. They’re just individual jumping-off points for the dialogue and discussion and for the community to all refer to. I could be wrong.
Steve: Yeah. I think it would be interesting to ask someone like Max Henry, “Why do you like Cambridge Joy, that video that came out with Danny doing the triple kong in Cambridge? Why is that video so awesome?” I don’t think it’s because Danny did the triple kong in it. I think it’s because it’s, oh, when I watch it, it just makes me feel happy. It makes me feel like this is the heart of parkour but when you say, “What did you like about Nate Weston’s homecoming? Maybe it was the side flip rail pre that he did off of the rail. I don’t know if it’s the feeling and maybe it’s an unfair comparison to make because they’re very different videos. One is a compilation video of just a training day and another one is a polished piece. It’s a beautiful piece by the way, if you haven’t seen it. It’s amazingly well-produced, very high-level movements but that’s not the content that comes up that is popular that’s popping with our community that gets shared but I don’t see a lot of the videos like Cambridge Joy. I don’t know if there’s a space for that so much anymore.
Steve: I think people do make them still but they just get drowned out and don’t get the features that personally, I think that they should get because I think it is an important piece of parkour culture that like maybe the new generation of practitioners is not getting.
Craig: I’ve had a few guests where we’ve talked about, there’s different names for it, radical inclusivity, leveling the playing field, empowering everybody to be able to practice, creating safe spaces. There’s this whole giant topic of discussion about how parkour, because it is for everyone, how it’s important that we make sure that it is accessible to everyone. I’m just like I’m thinking about that and now I’m thinking about our discussion about, let’s call it the overnight download culture that we seem to be losing, which is taking away a certain kind of dialogue. I’m wondering is the difference that without that dialogue, let’s talk about me as a new person, I’m not able to really understand the culture of effort or some people like to say, “The suck.” I don’t understand why I would want to go through the effort to pick up this thing that everybody seems so passionate about if I haven’t had the chance to have that dialogue with that community.
Craig: So, in the I downloaded overnight and then I understand this video, it validates all that hard work I put in last weekend. It becomes this virtuous cycle of I’m willing to train hard and I’m willing to work though difficulty and I’m willing to embrace the suck, so I’m building the culture of effort. I’m just wondering is that perhaps a big piece of what, and I hate to say it, kids these days are missing.
Craig: So, they’re starting in parkour gyms, and there’s a certain type of student that does well there but they also don’t do well when they hit certain types of challenges. Maybe all that’s missing is not something wrong with the people, there’s nothing wrong with the program. What’s missing is that they don’t understand why that challenge. Now, I’m just thinking out loud but I’m just … It struck me as an interesting connection between the dialogue that we’re missing and the change in the culture of the newest people who are starting.
Steve: Yeah. Well … Yeah. [crosstalk 00:45:17]-
Craig: I’m just chucking because what that … I normally, I say I try to serve things that you can spike. Well, good luck with that one, Steve.
Steve: No. I think it’s good. It brings all of the elements that we’re talking about together.
Craig: Finger painting sort of fashion where you just smear the colors together.
Steve: So, what I would say to that is there has been a sort of counter culture to the hyper-polished runs and only movements that you find perfect with the rise of the dailies like Jamey Davidson when he started those 365 challenge or even just a month-long challenge where he was just his movements. I think originally, the idea behind it was good because it just shows a day in the life of a traceur. It shows not the banger challenges, not the crazy challenges that you put in a compilation video or submit to whatever casting agency to show that you can do these crazy things.
Craig: [crosstalk 00:46:09].
Steve: It shows today I worked on rail flow. Today I did one side flip. Today, I did a handstand. Today, I did conditioning, and I think that stuff’s super cool. To your point, though, I think that what’s happened is people got used to the idea of seeing parkour content every day. What I see from some of my peers, to some of my friends that are high-level athletes is they’ll have one good training session and they’ll film 10 different challenges that are all crazy. Then, they’ll say, “We’ll have content for the next two weeks,” because I have one post every five days or a post every day for five days for two weeks. I don’t know if that’s really what the idea behind that challenge was and I think it’s kind of distorted the way that people consume parkour content. They’re used to seeing more and more content every day. Now, they only want to see the biggest and baddest and best tricks every day.
Craig: Yeah. It doesn’t just change the way they consume parkour content. It may actually change the way they consume parkour because the parkour is this amorphous thing that I can’t actually find it. It’s just, it’s the thing that I create through my actions so changing what I am expecting to see also changes what I am expecting to move, what I am expecting to encounter.
Steve: Yeah. It’s tricky because I started parkour when I was 18, so I mean, young but I wasn’t a kid. There are kids now that start when they’re six or five or four even. I don’t know what that experience is like because when I was a kid, I’m sure I got frustrated. I mean, I know I got frustrated at school and when I couldn’t do something. As a young adult, it’s easier to quell those emotions and to be a little bit more patient but what I see by and large in a lot of, especially in gym culture or summer camps or after schools is there’s kind of a … They don’t really let kids lean into that frustration.
Steve: When I first started parkour, I was … I’m not really technically first generation because I had some instruction from the Michigan parkour crew but there was a period of time when I was three months in and I went back to my home town and no one did parkour back then because it was 2008 and no one even knew what that was. So, I tried to make a club in my home town and there was no one interested.
Steve: So, I was just training by myself for three months in the summer between years in college. So, I had a lot of self-directed where I was watching videos of people doing parkour and being like, “Well, how do they do this? How do I dash vault? How do I figure this out? How do I an underbar? What’s the technique? Let me watch a bunch of videos of people just moving and I’ll see if I can figure it out. Let me see if I can find a rail first of all in my home town that even works for an underbar.”
Craig: Right. Right. I love that lower rail but it’s in the way, right?
Steve: Yeah. And the second of all, can I figure it out just based on seeing somebody else move? No one’s going to tell me how to do it. I just have to watch somebody do it and I failed so many times but I kind of feel like, and this might be a bit of a hot take, but I kind of feel that that kind of resilience is going to get lost because is we are instilling in a lot of kids and I can’t speak for some of the gym programs like Origins or Apex but I can speak from my own experience dealing with some programs and seeing how some school programs and after schools are structured is that a lot of them lean towards kind of frustration-free experience.
Craig: Yeah. Inclusivity is when in doubt, we’re going this way.
Steve: We have a kid can’t do a jump and it’s like, “Oh, it’s okay. It’s okay. We can work on something else. We can do something that you’re good at so you can feel successful at the end of the day.” There were days when I was training and there are still days now where I’m like, “Man, I suck. That was terrible. I needed to do better.” Instead of being discouraged and being like, “I’m going to quit parkour,” although sometimes I have those days. I think we all do.
Steve: Usually, it’s like I’m going to do better. Next session, I’m going to come back. I’m going to hit that first try. I think that’s a really important part of the culture. I think that’s a really important, for me, coming into and seeing those old videos, to bring it back to the videos of the Cambridge Joy and Ampisound’s videos of London and [one-two 00:50:18], seeing people just goofing off and seeing a jam setting, people working on challenges, people failing at challenges. That resonates with me because I have been in that exact situation a lot of the time. When I first started parkour, even now, when I’m training. That’s a big part of it. You don’t have to go out and just film one line, and warts and all kind of failing your way through it and be like, “That’s good enough for Instagram.” You want to polish it up. You want to work on something you can’t quite do but you want to progress.
Steve: What I worry and I’m not really sure because we’re still so new into the idea of gym rats and I guess there are people out there that’s like the Young Gremlins in Denver, in Colorado like Casey Wilson and some of the kids in THC are absolute monsters now and they … I don’t know if defied the odds are the right way to put it but they definitely stuck with it.
Craig: And they may be exceptional.
Steve: They do some really, really challenging stuff and they push themselves in ways I can’t even imagine but for every one Casey Wilson, I don’t know how many other kids are out there that just kind of got frustrated really early on and stuck with parkour for a little bit and then eventually gave it up or …
Craig: Maybe the [inaudible 00:51:27] are doing hot takes. Maybe the question is not how do we fix parkour? Maybe the question is why do we presume that parkour is the whole thing that kids need?
Craig: So, maybe in environments where the kids are particularly small, parkour is exceptionally good at solving certain kinds of problems like body image or eye-hand coordination. In those spaces, radical inclusivity is the perfect thing. You want to make it game. You want to get all the kids in, not the way that we’ve been approaching it is excellent. Maybe the solution is not to then figure out how to continue to expand that to bring back in this dialog that I brought up, but the solution is to say, “Okay. That’s one piece of that child’s development.”
Craig: Now, the next thing is to figure out, all right. Now, in addition to that, when you turn 12 or 11 or maybe 10 if you’re exceptional, then there’s also this other aspect of parkour which you haven’t seen yet on the online downloading. You haven’t seen yet this other part of it, this other culture of effort and maybe people like me just need to, instead of screaming from my front port, “Get off my lawn,” I might need to say it like, “Okay. Well, for this context for PE education, this is awesome.”
Craig: Then, the next level or off to the side would be, “All right. Now, there’s another part of this which is challenging yourself.” Maybe even there’s another part of this which is competition and then that would be … So, you don’t want to bring competition into that first environment. You want to have it be in its own place. So, it’s just an interesting way I think for me to say, “All right. Well, what is the thing that’s not in that PE program?” And I think we’ve kind of gone around it generally but we’ve talked around that. So, it might just be, yes, we’ve identified it and we don’t want to now try and jam it in there.
Steve: Yeah. When you were saying that, I was just thinking, I think the reason why a lot of the educators that are in the parkour space, the gym owners and the people that run programs want to include everybody is because by and large, myself included, I felt very not included in team sports like basketball and football and soccer. I did baseball and I did hockey when I was a kid and I just didn’t really like them that much.
Steve: For me, finding parkour was sort of like a catch-all solution for my physical activity. I saw this thing as, it’s a sport, it’s active, it’s full body. I really like it. I’m not being forced into a win/lose situation. I’m not being forced into a team with a bunch of teammates that are either better or worse than me. They’re going to [crosstalk 00:53:52]-
Craig: Beat me up in the hallway, right?
Steve: … for being bad. And I mean, I’m also allowed to suck at this. I can be not good and that’s fine. I’m not going to hurt the overall performance of a collective group of people just because I’m training with them. You can exist in your own little circle when you’re training with somebody and working a challenge that everyone else can do and that’s fine. No one cares about that. Everyone encourages that, actually. Its great. So …
Steve: What were you talking about? I’m sorry. What was the question?
Craig: I think we were in violent agreement so I think what you’re saying reinforces the point that parkour in a PE environment or an after-school program or those kinds of things, it has a specific or it has a particular role that it is exceptionally good at, which is this whole idea of a better form of physical education or you could say, “Original form of physical education,” wherever you want to come at that. But it is particularly good at physical education and including children.
Craig: Now, I’m thinking maybe my train of thought is, “Oh, yeah. That’s perfect. Don’t mess with that. Keep doing that.” Then, in addition because what you and I are talking about is that culture, that dialogue that happens outside of that PE and it’s not just physical education but happens outside of that structured environment. It’s not talking about it at the same time as school but it’s not actually in school. So, just an interesting topic, radical idea.
Craig: Team, you can always email me. I’m not unreachable. Just send me an email, email@example.com and tell me I’m wrong. I would love to know where I’m off the rails here and we can always talk about that later.
Steve: What I see a lot in kids and adult classes is that we are kind of creating these athletes that are used to a structured environment, so they’re used to a situation where they have a coach or an instructor telling them what challenges to work on, showing them how to navigate … Often times, it’s a gym. Sometimes, it’s outside but here’s how you use this obstacle. Work on a kong pre here. Work on a rail balance here. Work on rail flow. Do an underbar here, or they set a course for the students to go through.
Steve: One of the worrying things I see now is that people are having a hard time bridging that gap of going from student to member of community, so there’ll be at a gym and they take classes and they go every week. Maybe that’s just their weekly escape. Maybe that’s their SoulCycle or maybe that’s their going to the gym and running on a treadmill for two hours. That’s fine. I’m totally okay with that. I think parkour is a great tool for that. It’s like CrossFit, where you go and get a great workout and you have people that you work with and it’s fun and sometimes, there’s games involved but if we want people to become part of our community, I think there’s a missing element there of showing them how to go to a jam, for example.
Steve: And so, what I’ve heard from a lot of people that go to parkour classes and don’t really come out to outside sessions is they come out and they see a bunch of usually young men, shirtless doing side flip pres or big dive kongs, risky looking movements and they freeze. They don’t know what to do. They’re like, “Well, this isn’t like class.”
Craig: I can do a step vault.
Steve: “I’m not surrounded by people who are at the same level or lower or as a similar level to me. I’m surrounded by very high-level athlete and I’m in an unfamiliar space that’s not safe. What do I do?”
Steve: For me, when I started parkour, that’s all it was. There was no safe space to get a gym program or a gymnastics gym to host a parkour class was so rare. We had a gym that we had an agreement with sort of but we couldn’t call it parkour and we couldn’t really do parkour movements so it was kind of like we just did flips. So, for us, the norm, for me, at least the norm was just you got to go outside. You’re going to train on concrete. Hence, if you smash your shins into a wall, that happens. That’s part of the charm of parkour is you’re going to have messed up forearms and you’re going to put your hands and you’re going to be yourself and you’re going to shin yourself. I don’t know if that’s part of the narrative anymore. I wonder and, again, this is maybe I’m old and curmudgeon-y and I’m, “Get off my lawn, kids,” and …
Craig: No. I think you’re not. I think that is a very important part of it, that there’s a culture of effort and it’s not just I’m sweating and doing, working really hard at pushups to the music in the group. It’s like, “No.” There’s a level of … Might have been Jesse who said it takes a special person to be able to set a challenge for themselves that they cannot achieve. At first, I was like, “What do you mean? I could just decide … ” I thought about it like, “Oh, right,” because if I set a ridiculous challenge like reverse QM up Kilimanjaro, I would never actually try it. That’s just totally crazy but to set a challenge that you have to really work at because it really would be good if I did it and I think I can do it and then I just fail. That’s a really well-set challenge.
Craig: All right. So, circle back. If there is a culture of effort, which you and I feel is disappearing or is the really precious part, however you want to put that. If there is a culture of effort, I don’t think you’re going to find that culture of effort in an indoor gym environment where there’s a class curriculum because if you have a leader, the leader can’t really scream at you, “Do more push-ups.” That’s not the same culture of effort as the effort where you’re faced with an empty space like a park. Now, go make yourself better. That’s a different kind of effort.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, I can only speak from my perspective of working in New York and seeing programs in kind of the tri-state area. I think there are gyms that are better at it. My first impression is that Origins does a good job because they have outdoor jams but they … I mean, I don’t think they force anyone to go but it’s strongly encouraged that all their kids attends and it’s part of their culture that sometimes we train outside and I think that is a step in the right direction. I’m just saying this doesn’t just exist in the gym. This is like a type of parkour that exists in the gym but all parkour is not in the gym and encouraging kids to go explore and work on challenges and giving them kind of self-directed movements is a way I think to help bridge that gap a little bit. I’m not so sure. I think maybe that works better in Canada because of the health care system and the litigation system.
Craig: Or lack of litigation system.
Steve: In the states here, it’s hard because parents are helicopter parents and they’re worried about the safety of their kids and they can sue instructors or gyms or whatever for missed practice or whatever but I think there’s happy medium somewhere in there. I’m not sure what the solution is but in the ways that I can, I’m working with them to figure out a way to get more people involved in the community.
Craig: Steve, I say all the time to people that I would love to heard any stories that you want to share because when you hear someone tell a story, you learn a lot about them by both the story they pick and how they tell it. So, is there a story that you’d like to share?
Steve: Yeah. I think I have one. This is a very sad story, actually. I think it’s probably the last time I cried, actually. So, I think a lot of people in the East Coast will know who Basilio Montilla is. He was a mainstay in the New York parkour community, one of the original practitioners, one of the guys that brought parkour to a lot of people. He coached at Chelsea Piers. He coached at Brooklyn Beast back when it was Brooklyn Beast and then Brooklyn Zoo, when it was reacquired by new owners.
Steve: So, Basilio was … I mean, he was a great guy, very passionate about training. Was training all the time, like one of the most interesting, exciting movers out there and he did some wacky challenges in Zoo that I haven’t seen anyone do actually since. Like some of the stuff I’ve seen him do was crazy. I didn’t actually know him that well but when I moved there, we had trained together a few times and there’s some good stories of there was a bar crawl he would do every year. Yeah.
Steve: So, he was that guy. I heard a story from Jesse about him, that they did this hot wing challenge. No one finished except for Jesse and then it was a night of them stumbling, hallucinating from the heat of the wings. At some point, Jesse threw up and it was … So, he was really good friends with this guy, Bryce. So, they were training together all the time. They had the Super Saiyan and the anime thing and Dragon Ball Z.
Steve: So, Basilio was an aspiring stuntman and he was working on his portfolio. I’m not exactly sure what he was doing but he was on the roof of Brooklyn … It was Brooklyn Zoo at the time. I think he doing a backfall off of the roof onto a big ResiMat. The guy who was shooting with was just doing him falling in the air. I think he pushed too far off the edge or he miscalculated the jump. He missed the mat and hit his head on the concrete from the roof. I remember when this happened because it didn’t seem like it was that bad. I was training with a few people. There was a community gym happening in Inwood, so all the way uptown in Manhattan. Bryce was there so Bryce and Basilio were, I think they were best friends at the time.
Steve: Bryce came up to us and said, “Hey, by the way, you know, I don’t know if you heard but Basilio’s in the hospital. He had this accident but he’s feeling better. He’s walking around. They said he was talking. He hit is head. He were just telling us there was maybe brain injuries or something like that but he seemed okay.” Bryce was telling me “Well, I’m going to go stop in just because he and I are tight like that but maybe you guys shouldn’t all rush to get there because I think it’s okay but if you could stop in for a bit, just to say, ‘Hey,’ that would be great.”
Steve: So, he went to go to go see him in the hospital. Then, I think it was the next day, he let us know in a group chat, “Hey, things are not looking good.” He was walking around. He was making jokes with his girlfriend at the time, Samantha and his mom was there as well. Then, he kind of went into a coma and was unresponsive so he was just on the hospital bed unresponsive. Bryce was saying, “Well, I’ll keep you posted. We’re really just not sure what’s happening. Maybe we should go see him but he’s not doing well.”
Steve: Then, I think he was, the same night, they basically said, he’s in this coma and they’re not sure he’s going to come out of it. He’s on life support right now but that’s the only thing keeping him alive. He had some sort of brain bleed or something that something happened, the trauma in his head caused some brain damage and he was just essentially, what they were saying was brain dead. He wouldn’t come out of it.
Steve: So, he said, “If you guys if you want to come, the family saying this is the time to say, ‘Goodbye,’ to your friends.” So, I remember I went up. He was in … What’s the big hospital in Manhattan? It’s not Mercy Pavilion. It’s-
Craig: I sorry. I don’t know my Manhattan geography.
Steve: Yes. He’s in the big hospital in Manhattan. So, we go up and he’s on the hospital bed. His head’s all wrapped up. He’s hooked up to a bunch of tubes. He has a ventilator helping him breathe and there’s a line of people. It’s like all of the parkour people in the entire city of New York has come to pay their respects.
Steve: I got up there and I didn’t know what to say. I grabbed his hands and I held it and it was still warm. I remember feeling it. He was still alive at the time. I just, I wished him luck. Then, we all left. Then, the doctor came out and said, “You know, Janet, his mother, doesn’t want anyone in the room right now,” obviously.
Steve: So, we all just sat out in this lobby area outside of his room. They closed the curtain and they took the tubes out and turned the machine off. I just remember hearing his mom and his cousin, their sister just crying and weeping. We all just sat down on the floor and cried.
Steve: Yeah. So that was a really rough time. To this day, I think it’s really rocked our community. It’s changed a lot of the way that we view parkour because the narrative for a long time is that parkour … I mean, he wasn’t technically doing parkour but he was a parkour athlete. He was a coach. The narrative for a long time is it’s safe. No one ever gets hurt doing this. No one we know has ever got hurt doing this but you can’t say that anymore, really. It’s not true.
Steve: Going to the funeral, there was a funeral in Queens where he was buried. It was hearing people tell these vibrant, funny stories about him and then just the dichotomy of reflecting, that’s gone now. We can joke about the wing incident where he was throwing up on the streets with Jesse. I can think about the last time I trained with him at Zoo where I filmed this line of him, so I remember I put that line in a video that came out after his funeral. It was very scary. It was a scary moment because I remember when I had that in the clip in my comp, I was thinking to myself, “Is it disrespectful to do this? Should I do it?” I decided I’m going to do it. I chose this song and the title was, “We always think there’s going to be more time.” That’s what I named the video in honor of him. The video was for him.
Steve: But yeah, that’s my story. Sorry for the sadness.
Craig: No. Thank you very much for sharing.
Craig: And of course, the final question, three words to describe your practice.
Steve: I thought about this before, because I was listening to your podcast and-
Craig: It’s become a thing.
Steve: … I was like, “What am I going to say for this?” Going around our entire conversation, especially around the culture of struggle and effort, I think what I would say for my three words is embrace the suck. Not in like a dirty way, in like a just lean into being bad at something because you’re not going to be good at everything you try the first time. I certainly wasn’t for parkour or for photos or video or anything. It took a lot of time for me to get good. I think you just need to embrace that and enjoy it. I mean, it’s going to be frustrating. It’s going to be terrible. You’re going to hate doing parkour. You’re going to hate other athletes. You’re going to hate the obstacles. You’re going to blame other people and other things and it’s slippery or I’m tired or I’m sore. But you should really just embrace it because it’s part of the process. I think part of the reason why I love parkour so much is because I have sweat and blood and tears to prove that it’s been an 11-year-long journey of me just struggling my way through this and being happy with some movements and being unhappy with others.
Steve: But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have some of the best friends of my life through this movement. I’ve seen things and traveled places I never would have gone had I not been connected to these amazing individuals and amazing athletes. I think just really … You can’t skip that part of the process. There’s no shortcuts, really. You have to embrace it and you have to work through it. Eventually, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel where you’re going to be satisfied with your movement but there’s still going to be days, even the best of athletes at the top level are going to have off days where they feel terrible but the beauty of parkour is just figuring out the process to get through that and find a way to be happy with your movement.
Craig: Thank you very much, Steve. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.
Steve: Yeah. Thanks, Craig.
Craig: This was episode 52. For more information, go to moversmindset.com/52. There’s more to the Movers Mindset project than just this podcast. Visit our website for more free content to sign up for our newsletter or to read about how you can support this project.
Craig: I’ll leave you with a final thought from Marcus Aurelius. “Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.” Thanks for listening.