How I Built My Film Career Around Skateboarding feat. DP Chris Ray

Wed, Feb 13, 2019

“Making skateboarding videos has always been my passion, and in many ways, my roots have extended to my filmmaking career now. I’m honored to have been able to make a career out of producing skateboard films because the industry is small. I realize that not everyone that had that dream was so lucky. I’m thankful I’m able to make a living doing what I love and that so many people get to enjoy watching.” - Chris Ray, Video Director of DC Shoes.

When it comes to filmmaking, Chris Ray is as down-to-earth as it gets. Growing up on a skateboard, Chris decided to pick up a camera and start making skate videos with his friends just like the ones he grew up watching. They weren’t cinematic in any way, but it was the beginning of what would become Chris’ future career working on projects for companies such as DC Shoes, GoPro, NFL Films, ESPN, TransWorld and many more. All while staying true to the fundamentals that skateboard videography has taught him.

Many filmmakers today come from skateboarding backgrounds, and while most have branched out into different avenues of film, Chris has made skateboarding videos a permanent part of his work. These are five of the projects he has worked on that have helped him branch out as a filmmaker.

From Homemade Videos

“I started skateboarding when I was in 5th grade and in 7th grade I picked up a camera and said ‘We’re going to start making skateboarding videos.’ After we filmed a few videos, I became obsessed with making these videos. From filming to editing, I did it all. At that time my focus and passion was for filming skateboarding, but I had no idea you could do it as a career. As a teenager, I saw filming as just a fun hobby between me and my buddies.”

“When I got out of high school I was still filming skate videos but I realized that I wanted to do more. I really wanted to work with the pros so I made a spot book. I took a photo of every single skate spot in my city and sent it to a ton of skate companies such as Emerica, Girl/Lakai, and Flip just to name a few. And it worked! Nobody had done something like this before so it helped me meet with a lot of pros and connect with the filmers already working in the industry. This is how I got my foot in the door.”

Chris Ray on set with SmallHD's 703 Bolt

“One of the filmmakers I met out there was Ty Evans, which was a big moment in my career. He hired me to work for him on Fully Flared, which was one of the most highly-anticipated skate films ever made. I didn’t have much experience back then and Ty basically taught me everything I know about professional filmmaking. This was back in 2005 or 2006. I’ll always be thankful for him giving me my first shot. We still work together to this day.”

“After the release of Fully Flared in 2007, I got an offer from TransWorld to go work for them. They’re a media company that focuses on skateboarding and snowboarding. This was basically a dream come true for me because it’s a publication that I idolized growing up. Transworld always had amazing list of cinematographers and it was an honor to be added to that list with people like Greg Hunt, Jon Holland, and Jason Hernandez. I stayed there for four years and we produced four full-length feature films among other things. I worked with a few a DC riders while being there, which helped me land my current job as a Films Director for DC Shoes. It’s been amazing to work with the crew that we’ve built at DC.”

Staying True to the Roots

“Working for DC full time is all about making branded content. We have a huge following across all of our social media, which we spend a lot of time making product videos and campaign videos for. We do skateboarding, snow, lifestyle, and anything on the athletic side. I recently directed a branded piece called Yours For the Taking, a 5-day shoot in New York for our new Tribeka line of shoes. It wasn’t a full skate piece, but it had many of the elements that the shooting style you see in skateboarding films.”

“Skateboard filmmaking is a very interesting thing. It’s got no rules, yet so many rules. To capture the best shot you have to be reliable and experienced. At the same time, unlike big film sets or productions, skateboarding has no permits and no permissions.. It’s just you, your camera and the skaters. It’s very run and gun, location to location, focusing on shooting no matter the circumstance. And that’s kind of how we shot these commercials. We go out in the streets sometimes in the middle of the night and do what it takes to get it done. No big production gear or catering or fancy film sets.”

“Shooting skateboarding has helped me get experience and be more prepared for projects outside of skateboarding. I often tell myself that skateboarding is the hardest thing to film. So ready for anything that comes my way. I’m glad to have the opportunity to explore other areas of filmmaking.”

Pipe Dream

“A big project I worked on outside of skateboarding with DC was Pipe Dream. It was a film where Robbie Maddison rides a dirt bike on a wave in Tahiti. We went out to Tahiti for three weeks to capture Robbie riding the wave. We shot the whole thing on Red Epic cameras, and there were less than a dozen of us on the crew. It was a great experience and something I am lucky to have been a part of.”

“We had to always be ready for any situation because you can’t control the ocean. It helped that we were all skateboarding filmers - we were able to use that experience for this project. We were filming on boats and the cameras were shaking most of the time. But we got the shots and the whole video went viral.

Lynx Vulc

“Another thing DC gave me experience in is product brand videos. I’ve learned you need to focus the attention around the specific product your company is advertising. This shoot was centered on the new Lynx Vulc line of shoes and the video was part of the branding campaign.”

“We wanted to show all of the cool designs and looks of the different shoes. Since this video was about products and not tricks, we had to find a creative way to bring the viewer in and keep their attention. We had to measure the distance between the camera and the talent and make sure it was always consistent. The way we put the video together helped us tell a story instead of just showing the shoes.”

Nissan Juke

“Nissan approached DC Shoes wanting to make a video for their new Nissan Juke Nismo RS. Martin Fobes and I went out to Barcelona with a group of DC riders and we filmed them at spots lit up by the headlights of the Juke. This was a shoot where the production was more traditional. We had to use lights, incorporate the car, have a shot list, and tons of planning. All of us enjoyed the catering since we aren’t used to working on full sets like that. It was also nice working with a big name brand outside of skateboarding.”

Press Play

“I’m very fortunate to be working for DC. They allow me to do freelance projects on the side, and I’ve been able to work with companies like Netflix, Ford, JBL, Chrilleks and many more. I also still get to continue working on skate videos.”

“One of my most favorite video parts I’ve done recently is with Tiago Lemos for Thrasher - he is one of the best skateboarders in the world. We traveled to many different places to shoot this, such as Europe, California, the East Coast. Going back in the streets and filming at different skate spots reminds me of where I came from. You know, just like how we did it when we were kids.”

Related Posts

Capture.Share.

Our Brands