Keeping VHS tapes in a cardboard box for five years, dragging them across the country from Minnesota to LA to Northern California — often in checked luggage or the back of a pickup truck — is not exactly a recipe for improving the already questionable image quality of half-inch magnetic tape. The footage looked just plain awful. As my AVID practice sessions morphed into long, late nights cutting the entirety of Skate Warrior, I was constantly questioning whether the effort was warranted. We were kids when we shot it, and it showed. This was going to be a terrible film.
If I had finished Skate Warrior in college, on tape, with the incredibly limited post tools available to me at the time, it would have been an impressive, “how the hell did you do that” accomplishment. Years later, lavishing this sophomoric albatross with the same VFX resources I was using on a Star Wars movie was only going to make people ask, “Why the hell did you do that?”
But the busier I am with my day job, the more intensely I pursue my side interests — and I was very busy indeed in those days. So during breaks from animating Naboo Starfighters, I picked away at the over 130 Skate Warrior VFX shots, using ElectricImage and After Effects, between 1997 and 1999.
I kept all the files on that single 5GB hard drive.
And Then I Was… Done?
In 1999, I “finished” the film, including a better score than it deserved by Mike Berkley, and sound design by Last Birthday Card composer David Levison. I somehow secured permission to use two songs from a ska band, because it was the ’90s. I even shot the “skate sequence” that I always envisioned for the opening of the film, in San Francisco, using my brand-new VX1000 DV camera.
Skate Warrior was done. I was about ready to render it.
And then I left ILM, and took my 5GB drive with me.
And put it in a box for 20 years.