Meeting… Lucas Beaufort!

Lucas Beaufort is a name you've probably heard before as a side effect of the man's remarkable proneness to slaying his inner demons in the kindest of ways - by projecting them onto anything remotely close to a skateboard magazine cover, by the means of paint and ink. although, far from being a one-trick pony and instead, being the considerate, thoughtful, effervescent artist he can't seem to help but demonstrate, lucas can also put the pencil down for a minute just long enough to ponder the current importance of his medium of choice - print media - resorting to an outlet just as visual - filmmaking - as to better share his concerns with whoever might be down to exchange. the resulting piece has a title: "DEVOTED", streamable online here, and raises the question of the state of paper and ink-based skate media in modern times clogged with user content and internet pings. still hooked at 36 and counting, lucas was kind (and passionate!) enough to sit down with us for a moment to share some of his wisdom with live skateboard media and most importantly, those who still read: you. thanks for everything, lucas!

LIVE Skateboard Media: Bonjour Lucas! How (and when) did the idea of tackling the subject of the seemingly declining printed skate press come about?

Lucas Beaufort: I am thirty-six, so I've been through that era where you had to physically go to newsstands in order to get to fetch some new information. I think I might have bought every single issue of the main french skate magazine, SuGaR, from the very first one on, till I eventually turned eighteen or nineteen. Then the internet came about and my frenzy sort of started dying down; "of course" is what you might be tempted to comment on this, seeing how it was all new and shiny, coming with its fair share of fresh, seemingly infinite possibilities. But, although my consumption of ink and paper did dwindle, I remained hooked, and any magazine I would come across I would keep.
I first took up skating at the age of thirteen - well, five or six if fish-shaped boards count, I had one of those but really had no idea what I was doing! It was just a toy. Thirteen years old is when things got serious and I told my mom: "I want a skateboard with both ends going upward" (laughs), I didn't even know what you would call a "nose", or a "tail", but it all just looked so exciting! I got my first board (Element) in Toulouse, from Okla Skateshop I think, then you all know how things go from there.
Painting, I took up much later, again not really knowing what I was doing. I first painted over the cover of an issue of Vice I think, must have been around 2009 - and somehow that earned me a subscription to the magazine for the rest of the year. And upon first finding out about that, I was in my room, I looked around and upon spotting all those piles of various skate magazines I had, I thought to myself "OK, here's the most beautiful opportunity for me to start getting skate magazines from all over the world, delivered straight to my mailbox". Fast forward seven months later, and I'm subscribed to nearly thirty mags and zines from said "all over the world", also getting to know everyone behind all those publications in the process.
Throughout the years, I've seen some mags come, but mostly go (such as Skateboarder, Color, Slap), or get thinner - such as how TransWorld issues have been dwindling from four hundred pages to eighty pages over the past fifteen years, till just about a year ago. It was apparent to me that something was going on and, since I already was connected with most everybody working within the realms of this industry, I hit them all up to ask whether or not they would be interested in discussing and pondering the future of physical skate publications with me, and what I got back was an unanimous "yes".
Jaime Owens (TransWorld SKATEboarding) pour "DEVOTED"
Jaime Owens (TransWorld SKATEboarding) as seen in "DEVOTED". Ph.: Lucas Beaufort
LSM: By the way, do you reckon we really should talk about a decline or, instead, call it a mere transformation?
LB: I think we may have been spending too much time trying to wait it out like it were an ephemeral fashion of sorts - the internet, that is. I feel like it took us a while to realize that rather than a trend, it actually was a long-term ally; consequently, numerous magazines have had a hard time adapting to the format, resulting in the loss of many.

""It's the internet's fault, not mine" is a cop-out; the contents of those publications really make for the situation they are facing"

The decline, I've felt it through the ever-so-dwindling number of pages, or of printed issues even. I used to work in that field (for french magazine Desillusion) and around 2007, when our economy took a massive hit, we started to seriously run out of options. But we'd approach the challenge feeling like we had things to prove, so we looked at what everybody else was doing and chose to instead go the opposite way - we increased the quality of the magazine rather than decreasing it, and eventually, it actually worked out for us.
LSM: The World Wide Web is quick to have repercussions over the effervescence (sometimes the essential interest, even) of paper-based publications, because then all the simultaneously available information both media types are meant to cover gets diluted somewhere in between the two of them, pretty much. That being said, isn't there a direct flip side to this, in that such a competition may encourage and drive the printed publications (more so the most mainstream ones) to improve the quality of their general content? Articles with a sharper focus, enhanced selection of contributors, subjects and interviewees...
LB: I think putting all the blame on the internet is too easy - truth is, we all have our part of responsability in the matter. "It's the internet's fault, not mine" is a cop-out; when it all comes down to it, I think much of the contents of those publications really makes for the situation they are facing - again, that's a field in which quality commonly tends to get overlooked.
Why couldn't you make a skate magazine like one writes a novel, with segments of joy, fear, laughter? What is it that drives one to read four hundred and fifty pages of a book in one sitting? More often than not, its contents being so fascinating you just can't put the thing down. I would oh-so-much love to get to feel something similar from a skate publication - this thrill through the act of reading that I could find myself getting addicted to so much, it would drive me to want to damn myself for the next upcoming issue.
So yeah, I'm definitely a backer of the idea that one should show less, but do better. Obviously it's no longer possible to drop something substantial on a monthly - nor even bimonthly - basis; so, instead, let's craft a magnificient, say, yearly piece, and celebrate its release with friends and family as duly deserved.
Keith Hufnagel pour "DEVOTED"
Keith Hufnagel posing with the FTC book. Ph.: Lucas Beaufort
LSM: How did you go about picking the interviewees appearing in "DEVOTED" ?
LB: You have to realize, I've been reaching out to nearly a hundred people. Watching "DEVOTED", some may be struck by the impression that I am way into the North Americans' perspective, but really I've been trying to get in touch with Europeans aplenty and - lo and behold - some actually shut me down, probably thinking my project wasn't serious enough. Which, to me, was so frustrating - I really wanted to hear from people with as much of a diverse range of backgrounds as possible, as to find the best possible balance. Then I went on a trip to Japan, only to promptly realize how a lot of the locals were uncomfortable with the English language, besides one person: Masafumi Kajitani of VHS Mag, and even he had a hard time delving into the subject - I could sense he was nervous.

"it was important to me to have publications such as Surge, Cemporcento or The Quiet Leaf represented, as to better highlight how skateboarding doesn't just stop at TransWorld, Thrasher or The Skateboard Mag"

I then visited Australia, which actually turned out to be a lot easier, thanks to the absence of any language barrier; then back to the old continent, where I was hoping to interview Grey Skate Mag's Henry Kingsford, which didn't happen because the thought of being filmed would make him feel really uncomfortable. And then, noone at Free Skate Mag ever replied to my requests. Thus, consequently, as to avoid unproductively flying to places, I just started e-mailing everybody, and eventually the language barrier turned out to be problematic again.
Later, in order to wrap things up, I ended up going to the United States which was nothing short of magical. I got to meet some of my childhood heroes, but really, none of that came easy. Approaching Thrasher was the hardest - as soon as they heard of The Skateboard Mag, TransWorld and other magazines also being involved, they shut me down. Then, in San Francisco, I got to meet Jim Thiebaud, who was down to help out; he sent a personal request to Thrasher's Tony Vitello, and even that wasn't enough. Eventually I went and played it smart, hid in a box in order to get what I wanted.
LSM: Was it a conscious choice of yours to focus on a lot of the most renowned magazines' staff, as far as picking interviewees (whose words may lose some neutrality, considering they have something for sale)? Are you satisfied with the shape and form the direction eventually found and, more generally, with the final, overall message?
LB: Now with some hindsight, I can say I'm happy with the direction this project took, although it may have taken some hits due to how dependent I was on many people's good will. On my hard drive are still stored several hours worth of interviews with each of the forty persons I was lucky enough to eventually meet. Watching the film, you may catch a two-minute-and-a-half mere glimpse of Marc Johnson, when what I really have is a two-hour-long cultural bomb of a recording - same with Burnett, or Reda. Involving such folks had to be done and definitely adds a certain weight to the credibility of the movie.
Kevin Marks, "Look Back Library" à l'AVP de "DEVOTED" à L.A
Kevin Marks, "Look Back Library" at the Los Angeles premiere of "DEVOTED". Ph.: Lucas Beaufort
LSM: Would have you been open to interview people operating in more alternative, perhaps more modern ways? Folks who self-publish on a limited scale come to mind, such as Sergej Vutuc (who, by the way, has the utilization of social media figured out to its maximum potential in order to promote his printed matter), or maybe people like Richard Hart (Push Periodical) or James Whineray (Bilde Paper).
LB: Well I am happy with including people such as Kevin Marks, who might be far less famous than a Steve Berra yet praises a magazine such as Lowcard. You can also see and hear Eric Swisher, who runs a blog which may not be as renowned as Thrasher but is still way worth regular visits. I was trying to find some kind of balance - which also means I've tried approaching some of the younger peeps, 20 years old and less, to find out what their opinion on ink-and-paper publications would be like but after four attempts I eventually thought I'd give up on the idea, and focus on the veterans instead. For the record, the youngest interviewee in the film is Mike Mo Capaldi, who usually is more of the talkative type, but really that one take was a let down to me for it turned out the subject of print media wasn't so inspiring to him, with all due respect - I had to keep moving onto the next question more often than not.
I know Sergej, he's a rad dude and would have had things to say aplenty, that's a no-brainer; the stars just never aligned a way so we could catch up. As far as Richard, I tried getting in touch with him while I was in SF, but he just so happened to be away then - frustratingly bad timing. Same with James Whineray in Australia, plus you have to keep in mind that my trips for this project were mostly self-funded, so I couldn't just hop on whichever plane just to fetch a few extra comments. I've actually had to play it smart with all my trips, so that I could catch up with as many of the interviewees as possible during the same period.
Watching the film, one might notice that I did throw Bilde in at some point, as well as various other more underground magazines; it was very important to me to have publications the likes of Surge, Cemporcento or The Quiet Leaf represented, as to better highlight how skateboarding doesn't just stop at TransWorld, Thrasher or The Skateboard Mag.
Eric Swisher (chromeballincident) pour "DEVOTED"
Eric Swisher (of chromeballincident) as seen in "DEVOTED". Ph.: Lucas Beaufort
LSM: What's your stance on free magazines?

LB: I'm all for them, look, yesterday I was in Cannes - my hometown - and went to visit Papatoro, the only skateshop in the vicinity; they had the latest Soma Skate Mag and I was more than happy to grab a copy. Let's not forget that the kiddos more often than not have a really thin wallet and, if you're trying to appeal to the youth and introduce them to the culture, then free magazines just might be a remarkable alternative. A Propos is another instance of a french publication with an important role in terms of heritage and cultural transmission. It may be difficult to look back on such times, given the current context, but I know I would have loved having free mags around when I was 15; their modern presence is nothing short of convenient, in a way.

"We have a lot to learn from others"

LSM: Do you think they're a true novelty, though?
LB: It clearly started out as some type of answer to the internet. Advertisers were screaming and shouting: "you're no longer selling as many issues as you once did because of the web thing", well, as a result, the print media guys went and opted to go for a free format and that settled it. I clearly am in favor of initiative; I'd rather see someone do their thing and spontaneously work their way around and past the difficulties, than sit in a corner and lament for how things "used to be".
LSM: And on the other hand, you have those quality publications - such as Push - that start out as magazines one has to buy, only to later have to move onto the free format for the lack of a better option, just because such enterprises are hardly viable nowadays. What is your personal opinion on the wisest way for print media activists to operate nowadays?
LB: Nowadays, I think we're just all out of excuses. We have all those technological means, enabling us to get in touch with just about anyone we want, and reach out to any audience we want. Look, frankly, there's been a shift and nowadays, everything is a question of mere motivation, rather than a matter of money. If people knew how tight of a budget my movie was all done on, they would realize "OK, then everything is possible". I've hitch-hiked, crashed at people's houses, ingested varieties of canned soup, and received a lot of love, most notably recently in Lisbon, Portugal, where I've met such cheerful folks who were genuinely enthusiastic to help out and never asked for a dime.
The Portuguese really helped me wrap things up with "DEVOTED". I was working on it one evening and randomly got an e-mail saying "hello Lucas, I just watched the trailer for your movie "DEVOTED"; if you're ever looking for help, please just know that you've got a whole crew here that's willing to give a hand". So I hit up Lisbon as soon as the next day, and stayed there for two weeks, sleeping at Surge's Pedro Raimundo who hosted and fed me, in addition to showing me around - such an incredible display of generosity.
Now I don't want to be that guy making generalizations but whenever I go to Paris, for instance, I feel like I'm in a whole other dimension, I just can't sense this type of generosity within people. We have a lot to learn from others.
Now back on topic, I think self-publishing is a rather accessible option nowadays, especially by working with relatively small-scale distros such as Palomino - and I'm not even talking Kickstarters and all.
Lucas interacting with his audience - "DEVOTED" Los Angeles premiere.
LSM: Even (especially?) in the context of self-publishing, as far as communicating around the resulting piece is concerned, do you reckon the activity has to go hand-in-hand with the utilization of modern tools such as Instagram, or is it still possible to come up with something of a format inherently holding its own?
LB: As far as I'm concerned, I'm definitely into Instagram as a media tool. I mean, it's something you can use to get in touch with just about anybody, ranging from your roommate to Eminem - ain't that wonderful, honestly? Then of course, you'll most likely never hear back from Eminem, or if you ever do then you're dealing with a bot, but what I'm talking about is the basic idea which in itself is nothing short of amazing. Just remember how impossible it was to contact, let alone meet someone even remotely established back in the 1990's; whereas nowadays, the kids get to communicate with their heroes! From what I've heard, Daewon Song replies to pretty much every single fan, individually... That's just insane.
Now realizing we've come to this, I can't help but look back on my sixteen-year-old self, back when I was still living in my little village of Valbonne and struggling with my little Shorty's Chad Muska deck; had anyone told me back then that I was just one click away from the occasion of contacting him, I think I would have cried. You have to see Instagram as a great promotion tool, is all. No point in devilizing it.
LSM: Such a platform may impact print media negatively in some cases but, simultaneously and paradoxically, it also enables the best ink-and-paper craftsmen to get to shine through the quality of their work - regardless of their style, or origin.
LB: Yes, I'd rather stay focused on its positive side effects.

LSM: Personally, do you share Steve Berra's stance on the modern role of journalism (according to him: pleasing the advertisers first and foremost at the expense of the editorial contents...)?

LB: I wholeheartedly disagree with him, but he's still bringing some kind of balance within the debate to the table. I think we definitely need both sides of the spectrum - from the most mainstream representatives to the most hardcore activists - because the diversity really is what's fascinating. Just go and try to picture a world with nothing but sharp, core, honest people - we'd just keep fighting with each other and it'd be hell on Earth. Ever read Steve’s Jenkem interview? Frankly, it took meeting him to realize what kind of a character he was and, throughout the interview, he kept running through those obvious moments of doubt whenever he'd feel like I could, or would, make him sound like "the bad guy". Steve and the Berrics just so happen to be representative of a specific side of skateboarding, whether or not it's one you'd adhere to; I think Steve deeply loves skateboarding in his own way, which noone necessarily has to like.

"To me, going from picking up a new magazine to putting it back down a mere three minutes later is profoundly depressing."

I think the politic of "pleasing the advertisers" is a mistake - the more you give, the deeper the cave you lock yourself into. Back when I was still working for Desillusion, I was in charge of dealing with the advertisers, we were a small team and I remember the editor-in-chief really didn't want anything to come easy to the companies. Back then, that was tough for me because I was constantly trying to seek middle ground but, along time, I eventually realized he had been right from the beginning: you need to stand your ground, and play it smart with the advertisers - there definitely has to be mutual respect.
Dave Carnie (Big Brother) pour "DEVOTED"
Dave Carnie (Big Brother). Ph.: Lucas Beaufort

LSM: I know Steve's stance on that particular matter really scared me...  How much do you think skate publications suffer from self-censorship, by the way?

LB: Self-censorship is a poison, noone wants to drink that. Every magazine the staff of which has tried and played that card is now dead and buried anyway. To me, going from picking up a new magazine to putting it back down a mere three minutes later is profoundly depressing.

LSM: Seeing as the most mainstream magazines have their contents more or less dictated by the advertisers (which has to be what, in turn, directly prompts a response from the more sincere skateboarding enthusiasts who strive for a more authentic representation, and eventually start their own thing - see instances such as Grey Skate Mag or really any other "local guy" working hard to submit alternatives), do you reckon free expression is still an option nowadays whilst trying to make a skate publication?

LB: Yes, of course! Frankly, just as far as France is concerned, I find David Turakiewicz (of A Propos) to be of the type who will run his mouth no matter what, and I can really back that. Ian (of Jenkem) isn't bad at that either, and I guess that's why his website gets so many hits. I mean, the guy originally started out on the internet and now he's releasing a book - definitely not a story you hear of everyday.

LSM: Doesn't the rise of such platforms - the primary existence of which relies on user content - actually qualifies as just that: a manifestation from the actual skateboarders, trying to claim their culture back from the tainting hands of all those sponsors and advertisers?

LB: I like the idea that one should be free to say everything and (almost) anything. As in, if one ever feels like creating a Facebook or Instagram page to rave about the taste of frog's legs, then they should just go for it! I see absurd stuff on Instagram all the time and it cracks me up, from that one turkish butcher with ten millions of followers to that other guy who's been posting the same picture of Vin Diesel every day for the past five years - it's all up for grabs. And you don't have to follow or subscribe to anything in particular - that choice is only yours.

Peter Smolik pour "DEVOTED"
Peter Smolik. Ph.: Lucas Beaufort

LSM: What's with Smolik's stance on all this?

LB: (laughs), Smolik, I first met him around 2008, right around the time of his downfall in skateboarding after he had hit such a high peak in popularity. He was such a character, and next thing you know, I get to catch up with him again eight years later at his place in San Diego and guess what - nothing has changed one bit! His interview might not have been the most profound one, however, whatever it is he gives off whilst talking skateboarding is nothing short of priceless.

"I was shook, for the industry struck me as ill, whereas street skateboarding really is more tangible than ever nowadays"

LSM: Finally, what's your opinion on Dave Carnie's comment regarding the future of print media - according to which it's been around for such a long time, no matter what happens, it's really not going anywhere? Is your stance as clearly and firmly positive or, given the dark-ish general tone of the film, would you say it's more reserved?

LB: Meeting Dave Carnie was incredible. He was super grumpy, angry at everything, I can tell you he gave the skateboarding industry a vocal run for its money!

Talking print media, he's definitely right when he brings up how people have been writing things down on paper for thousands of years and you can still purchase physical books from a library nowadays. Makes you realize how far print is from being dead. His commentary made me aware of just that, so yes, I will wholeheartedly agree with him on the subject. Just go to any multimedia store and you'll find more books than ever there, whereas the CD really is dead, for instance. Technological progress just doesn't seem able to critically affect print media in general in the long run.

LSM: Now, in reality, and besides those of us who've already established themselves in a way that their personal career is directly tied to that industry - do you reckon the print media situation really is as critical, hopeless even, as people make it out to be?

LB: You know, back in june 2016 I paid the Long Beach Agenda Show a visit, and what I did see there really wasn't pretty. I've seen some of your favorite pros just wander about from booth to booth, desperately looking for whatever they could fetch. I think once you've grown accustomed to caviar, it's hard going back to pâté. I was shook, for the industry struck me as ill, whereas street skateboarding really is more tangible than ever nowadays; that should prompt us to react, make the right decisions and changes, in order to regain control over what essentially is skateboarding.

"DEVOTED" L.A premiere
"DEVOTED" L.A. premiere. Ph.: Lucas Beaufort

LSM: Thinking about it, our microcosm really consists in men-children indefatigably damning body and soul as though to better cling to part of their youth - some for over thirty years and counting - so of course, as soon as our safe little world order starts showing weaknesses, we're bound to look destabilized. But when it all comes down to it, and the larger picture, is absolute fatalism really in order?

LB: I think we're in the middle of a shift right now. The big fish are about to ditch skateboarding because there's nothing left for them in it, for they've eaten everything already, and once they've left, there will be less money around for sure, but the environment will be a lot healthier. Anyway, out of everybody even remotely working in skateboarding, how many of them do you reckon make actual money - 1% of them maybe? Companies have been trying to shove a certain imagery down our throats with instances such as Street League or the Olympics, but the actual day-to-day reality in skateboarding is way different.

Marc Johnson pour "DEVOTED"
Marc Johnson, "DEVOTED". Ph.: Lucas Beaufort

LSM: OK, let's wrap things up for good with the footage making for "DEVOTED"'s curtains, and your stance on some comments I've seen stem from that one final Marc Johnson scene: despite his obviously sincere emotional connection with the subject matter, did he really just venture that far into the marketing of his own character?

LB: Actually, when I met Marc Johnson was just the day after the whole Lakai vs. Adidas ordeal, and he was unrecognizable, chain-smoking and chain-coffee drinking. I could sense he was super thin-skinned; it took him a while to decide whether or not we should meet - and he actually stood me up a few times - but I kept going for it and after a while, we eventually did catch up at a café next to his neighborhood. And what he ended up giving me, over this two-hour-long interview, I will never be able to forget. I've seen a man so distraught, yet so passionate about the subject of the future of print media, I'm still clinging to the idea of eventually just running the whole thing at some point - no cuts - just so people get to realize how intense that moment was. He didn't even know me prior to this one discussion we were having, yet confided in me like I were a brother. Marc's feelings were sincere and then, we proceeded to have a long off-camera discussion throughout which he got to tell me about many frightening realities that exist within the skateboarding industry. Then I knew I wanted my film to end on his commentary because really, all he's talking about the whole time is his lifelong love for skateboarding. 

LSM: Thank you for your time, Lucas!


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