Scratch the Surface - a new film from Jenna Selby

Jenna Selby premiered her latest documentary ‘Scratch the Surface’, which looks at the lives of various people across the UK women’s skate scene, at this year’s Shextreme Festival in Bristol. Catching Jenna just before a screening started, we had time to ask her about how the project came about, the logistics of filming and editing a documentary in three weeks and the larger project of which ‘Scratch the Surface’ is just the first step. Read on and keep your eyes peeled for Scratch the Surface - a new film from Jenna Selby becoming available to a wider audience.

Words by Jono Coote, interview by Paula Viidu.

Photos by Jenna Selby.

Scratch the Surface - a new film from Jenna Selby Scratch the Surface - an Interview with Jenna Selby helena

After two full length skate videos in a 'traditional' format, what made you want to make a documentary on women skaters in the UK?

Well I made my first film - ‘As If, And What?’ - in 2009. After that I was looking into getting funding to make essentially a documentary skate film which was going to be worldwide. Unfortunately and due to various circumstance I had everything stolen and it never got made. That was going to be called ‘Scratch the Surface’, so it’s always been in the back of my mind that I want to explore things outside of just the skateboarding – why people, and in this case women, get into skateboarding. So I made the next skate film ‘Days Like These’ and again there were so many interesting people coming through, I’ve always wanted to tell there stories. I’ve come to Shextreme each year and seen other people’s films and that’s spurred me on to want to make one. I think this is going to be the starting point for a bigger project…let’s hope!

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It's only two years since you released 'Days Like These' - did you start work on Scratch the Surface immediately afterwards, or did you take a break between projects?

I made ‘Scratch the Surface’ in three weeks…(laughs). Basically I got an email from Ruth who does Shextreme, who always said that she’d love to include something I’d done but obviously a core skate film wouldn’t be of as much interest to an audience who know nothing about skateboarding. So I couldn’t present something that was just skating, which is what I’d usually do. At the end of August I decided to make the film, I spoke to my husband and said I was going to take three weeks off work, drive around the UK and make this skate film. Which is why it’s very DIY and organic, it’s not very clean in the way you might see in other documentaries but that’s skateboarding anyway – I love that kind of DIY feeling.

So at the end of August and beginning of September I drove around the UK. I did use skate footage from previous films and from previous comps I’ve shot, which took out some of…I find that’s sometimes the hardest thing to capture, if people are having an off day. The interviews were very straightforward. Then I stayed up for four nights in a row and made the film.

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From the list of names on the flyer, you've covered skaters from a wide range of ages/backgrounds - from UK pioneer Sue Hazel to some of the new breed of up and coming kids. How much of an age gap is there between the oldest and youngest skaters in the video is there, and did you get them skating together at any point?

We didn’t get anyone together, because like I said it was such a short time frame to make the film. There were the two little girls, I think they’re seven and nine and they’re in Exeter. Sue’s the oldest, I’ve never asked her age but I think she’s fifty-ish if she was skating in the 70s. Then there’s the mum and daughter in the film, Trinity is 34. But everyone is in completely different locations so I couldn’t get them together, it was pretty much just turn up and “Let’s hear your story." Like Challenge Anneka really (laughs).

I know most of the people in the video will have been known to you from your previous videos, but how did you meet the younger skaters in the crew?

I photographed the Girls Comp at NASS this year – I organise that every year, apart from last year when I had a year off. I met Roxanna there and she came along this year. Trinity and Kellesse I met when I was involved with the Long Live Southbank campaign. That’s what skateboarding is, a family where you just meet people. I met Lola at NASS, because she was competing and then knocked herself out. So you just go to these different events, go to a random skatepark and you meet these people. Plus the female skate scene, even though it’s growing, is still relatively small and still very close knit – even if it’s someone you don’t know, someone you know will and can put you in contact with them.

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Is there anyone who wasn't involved in this project who you would have liked to have been for whatever reason - injury, being away on trips etc?

No, I mean the whole idea was to get a good range of people – so we got a mum and daughter, we got Sue who was skating in the 70s, we got the young up and comers, we got Lucy who’s a very established skater. The idea wasn’t to show the best or the worst, it was just to have a really good round view of the female skate scene in the UK as it stands at the moment; how people are getting involved and why people are getting involved.

Finally, what's next on the cards project-wise after this?

Like I was saying, Scratch the Surface has been this project which has been in the back of my mind for years. By making this short documentary, I think it will be the stepping stone towards creating something along the same lines but on a bigger scale perhaps; looking at different girls, different continents or specific countries. That’s what I’d love to do, different projects around the world.

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Scratch the Surface - a new film from Jenna Selby