I will never forget the day that I first saw PlanB's Second Hand Smoke. My friends and I had to drive 45 minutes to a crappy skateshop named 'Facelift' to buy it. The shop didn't have a VCR... this killed us. We couldn't imagine turning around and driving another 45 minutes back home without watching this video. The anticipation among us was like a pot of boling water: the new PlanB video was in our possesion, but we couldn't watch it. It was the new younger brother to PlanB's Questionable and Virtual Reality videos. This defines hype in my book. We studied the case closely, unwrapped it from it's shrink... fuck it, I'll admit it- I even smelled the video once we unwrapped it, as if it were some kind of fine cuban cigar or something. We had to improvise. Time was of the essence and nothing at that point was more important than seeing this video. There was an electronics store down the street. I walked in and told the salesman that I wanted to buy a VCR, but I needed to take it for a test run first. There we were, six skateboarders in the middle of an electronics store watching Second Hand Smoke, volume up, Casual's Me-O-Mi-O thundering through the store as the salesman hovered. I will never forget that sense of anticipation, excitement, and finally... relief after finally seeing the video. It did not disappoint. We were given the boot from the salesman right after Jeremy Wray's part- just in time. I didn't buy the VCR.
We recently caught up with one person who was in part responsible for filming and editing Questionable, Virtual Reality and Second Hand Smoke. It is our pleasure to introduce the Jacob Rosenberg interview.
words and interview by Tim Anderson
photos courtesy of Jacob Rosenberg
BobShirt: Thanks for joining us Jacob. I guess we'll start at the beginning. What brand and year was your first video camera?
Jacob Rosenberg: The first camera I had, I borrowed from my friend Addison. It was a single chip consumer sony camera, Hi8, maybe from 1989-ish. I broke it filming on a tennis court. The nets were down so there was a bolt sticking up that I ran into while filming some flatland lines. I think I still owe Addison's parents 200$ for the camera. I upgraded to a Canon 8mm, then the Canon A1 digital, which I still have even though it doesn't work anymore.
Who was the first person that you started filming?
I don't remember the first person because it was more of a group of people.
The first were my friends, Addison Liu (who I made a sponsor me video of
that got him on Vision), Damon Ayers (high school friend of Addison and I),
Alex Orlovsky, Tom Stratton and most notably, Chudu Ngo. Chudu was kind of a legend in the south bay. He was from Vietnam and absolutely killed it on jump ramps and ollieing things. Because not that many people were filming, the video camera was kind of like the free pass to meet people you wanted to meet and actually be a part of a more intense skate scene. Chudu was a kid who I saw at Jump Ramp sessions and always wanted to film him. I did and then we became friends.
What made you want to start filming?
It's ironic, but when I went to skate camp in 1987 at Santa Clara University. I broke my arm on the 1/2 pipe the first day of the second
session I went to camp. Mike Ternasky, who ran the camp and ran H-Street, took a liking to me. I decided to stay at camp and be his sidekick for the rest of that session. One day when everyone went to eat, Mike pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to carry the 3/4" deck for the camera that Schlossbach was filming the riders with. The deck was super heavy and it was a joke to try and harness it on my shoulder, but I wanted to be a part of the filming and I was. I got a credit: "Jake the Janitor", and when I saw that in the credits for the H-Street video I had no other dreams than to make the best skate videos that I could. I think when I broke my arm, I took stock in my ability on a skateboard and invested in energy around the skateboard. I always skated, but never tried anything too gnarly.
How many hi8 tapes do you think you have total?
If I look in my bin right now, there's 85 8mm and Hi8 tapes, some of which I have finally converted to DV and put on YouTube, and some waiting to be
converted. There is for sure another 100 tapes that I shot and delivered for other videos and down in San Diego. There are 15 phantom tapes that I wish I could find...
How many hours of raw Embarcadero footage do you think you have?
Of those 85 tapes I mentioned at least 30-40 have EMB footage on them, if not
more. So maybe 50 hours of EMB stuff.
Do you remember the first video that contained footage that you
filmed? If so, who was it, and do you remember what they did?
So the first video was Useless Wooden Toys. Steve Douglas hired me to shoot a ton of stuff and I did. Justin Girard, Rick Ibaseta and Danny Sargent. I got a lot of stuff in that video.
What is your earliest memory of Guy Mariano?
Skate TV and Public Domain. Then I met him at the Am Jam and Quarter Master Cup. I became friends with Rudy, then went to LA to film with them.
Who was your favorite person to film back in the day?
That's too tough of a question, because everyone I filmed by the end of my
time filming had a moment of pure enjoyment. If I look back at all the tricks I filmed, I would say that Danny, Pat and Rodney were the best because what you filmed you knew was some shit that had never gone down before. When Pat did that Big White Kinked rail for Virtual (Marin Post Office), we just kinda went around Marin and filmed and it was sort of like, "Oh and there's this rail I want to do." So Five tries and he does it. When I think of that Rail, it's fucking epic and he almost killed himself on it, but it was just part of what he did and who he was then. On a totally different level, when I filmed with Mike Carroll, because we had a lot more history when we would get a line or another trick he was working hard on, it was a great sense of accomplishment. Then there's Danny who was always so focused and intent on getting whatever we set out to film. But then I start thinking about filming Rudy in LA, Wade Speyer in Danville for the Dogtown video, or Jason Adams, Salman, Spencer and Sean Mandoli. I guess I went down another road in my answer, but all the guys I named would be up there. At the time I filmed each group of skaters they were my favorites and I was lucky with that.
Do you have a favorite memory of Embarcadero?
Not really a favorite memory, just memories. Am I being redundant now?
I remember someone lighting a fire-cracker under a passed out dude's head
and he didn't move an inch. I remember skating hard in the day, then, as more spectators and ladies arrived, the filming would die down. I remember always packing tons of people in my car to give people rides. I was never quite "down" with EMB cause I didn't live in SF. So I never really stayed, never took the bus, I was always there to film not hang out. I would always pick Mike up in Daly City, then drive to EMB and film before people arrived, then people would arrive and I would film other people, then when I would be ready to leave Mike would say that he was ready to film again...
Do you know who filmed Gino Iannucci's b/s heelflip down the Gonz
No idea. Meza?
Best trick you ever saw down the Gonz Gap in person?
I filmed Rick almost land that frontside shove-it. He got close then kinda
decided not to do it. Didn't Danny 360 ollie it? I remember that from the SF concert.
Do you know whose idea it was to film the C block for Mike
Carroll's intro in Questionable?
When I was filming Mike and Rick for Questionable, it was after Rick tried
the Gonz gap, we went up to the top of the Hyatt just to film and fuck around. When we got to the top and looked down, I was filming and Mike Carroll was saying how the top of the center island had a C for Carroll. When I went back to San Diego and captured it, it became the natural opener. I don't think we intentionally went up there to film the "c", I just think Mike pointed it out, we filmed it and it was used just that way.
How did you get involved with planB?
Well, I met Mike T at Skate Camp in 86/87, then when I worked at a Skate
Shop in 89 I saw him at ASR in San Diego and stopped by the H-Street house. I was filming Mike C by 90/91 and my footage was on his radar by then. I saw him in San Diego again in 1990 or early 91 and showed him a sponsor me I made of my friend Paul Zuanich. On the spot, he took the tape, sponsored Paul and put the part verbatim in the Planet Earth video Now-N-Later. That was me getting my respect from Mike. In late 91, I was at ASR and I went out to film Danny and Rick in Temecula as a favor for Mike (Rick Pressure Flip, Danny Sacked on the rail and Rick Pushing me off the board to focus it). In December, Mike called me up and asked me to come to San Diego to work on the video. I moved in to his house and filmed full time and worked at the office.
What's your best memory of working with Mike Ternasky?
That's the toughest question. Mike is and was the biggest and most important influence in my life. For 2 years we worked together under crazy conditions making a lifes work of skate videos that we absolutely believed in and settled for nothing less that our best and the best of people around us. I am 33 now and I still feel like Mike was older than me even though he died
at 27. My best memories are just driving between World in LA and home in SD. I was his assistant when we drove, I took notes, made calls, etc. But a lot of the time we talked politics or philosophy or spoke to his brother who is a certified genius about anything from Casteneda to Feynman. When I got in the fight with Mike Carroll, Mike T took me out to dinner that night and was just like an older brother. He knew the abuse I took and he knew it felt good to be able to at least address that physically. He loved Mike like a son and every father has to fight the urge to smack their kid when they get defiant, so he just want to know what it felt like. As for filming memories, he is funny to imagine and I think of him wearing his goofy hipsack, baggy sports pants and airwalk shoes pushing with his front foot. He had the juice.
Did you sense that the pressure was on while you guys were
filming Virtual Reality, or was it just another day out skateboarding?
Virtual was the straw that broke my back with skate videos. Mike Carroll and I were at bitter odds and we got into a good old fist fight while I was cutting Rick's part. It was gnarly because I think some of the guys were starting to get a little indifferent to the way Mike T was doing things and Rick dating Megan from World and being around Spike was cluing him in to how to do things differently. I very specifically remember finishing the video and driving to Nor Cal with Mike T for his wedding and we just kind of had it out in the car and talked about everything and I decided to take some time off and then come back to the company in 6 months to run the video end of things while he switched to more Type A Snowboards, Duffs Shoes and the other stuff he was developing.
As for the pressure during filming, everyone was at the top of their game and only guys like Sal, Sean and Tony struggled to get parts up to snuff. I think Danny, Pat, Rick, Mike, Rodney and Colin all had great parts and all of them delivered. The pressure would always get to me in the form of it getting to someone else. My board went in the ocean when Mike C was pissed he could land his line... my objective was always to get the shots, because that's what made the video. In hindsight, I can see that on more than one occasion I compromised my integrity and took abuse I shouldn't have just to get the shots. But I loved what I was doing and that mattered more than someone throwingmy free board in the ocean.
What's your favorite part from Virtual Reality?
It's so hard to say, I love the way Rick James came together so well for Rick Howard's part. Mike T and I would listen to his music collection and when that girl says, "Come on Rick I'm tired let's go home" we just knew that we had a perfect fit. Then you start cutting to it and it has all the right rhythms and beats and all these shots feel right... It's not a favorite part, but I am definitely proud of the opening and what we did. It took a lot of time to sync all three videos up and this before non-linear, so we had to physically time each screen so that when we did the Master we could have the same spots show up at the same time. I posted my notebook with the timings of it on my livejournal page and it's cool to see how much work we put into it. Today, it would take all of a few mouse clicks to structure. I love the credits too. That was something that Mike would kind of let me go free with and getting that homeless guy singing The Beatles is pretty priceless in hindsight. It also captured such an essence to the guys on the team.
When all those guys left planB to start girl how did you feel?
I was speaking to Mike T. a lot during that time because I had already started
going to a junior college to take film classes and was getting ready to go
to college. After Virtual, it definitely broke a few of the rider's spirits
and I think there was a desire to do things differently and be in more
control. I think Rick saw the corporate overview and felt he could do it
better and with a set group of friends. I was bummed because I think the guys who left did it in a hurtful way to Mike T. and the rest of the team. Everyone was very young back then and so I blame a lot of that on youth in general, but I was more bummed because I knew that Mike really loved everyone on the team and while he was a business man running a company. I think the guys who left looked at him as being too shrewd and taking advantage of them, but knowing the business end of things and working with Mike, I didn't agree with that point of view. If you are building a company and building a brand, or brands as was the case, you can't just give everyone in the company everything they want, you have to scale things and build things, but that's the way I see it.
By the time those guys left, I was already on not so good terms with at
least Mike Carroll and there was really no reason or any medium to deal with
the other guys from Plan B who left. I was loyal to Mike Ternasky and Plan B for what they did for me, so I took the companies side. I see Mike Carroll around now and there's no hard feelings from that time because I know that everyone was so young and Mike Ternasky is included in that. I think that some of those guys have regrets about how things went down, especially because Mike died without the guys who left having a chance to clear the air, but for what's it worth, Mike T and I did have some conversations before he died, where he told me that he had internally forgiven them and was able to move on from his anger. But his whole transformation before he died is quite mystical already.
Did you know it was going to happen before it actually happened, or
did it take you by surprise?
As I had said before, there was something in the air after Virtual and it
really resonated from Rick and flowed directly to Mike C. I don't think it
was a huge surprise because of the tone of everyone, I just think the
surprise was how aggressively it happened in the taking of boards and all
that stuff. I don't think those guys were wrong in their feelings about how Mike T. operated, but I think they owed it to Mike to have communications about
making changes within the company and how the company worked. Those
conversation didn't happen because I think they felt so strongly about not answering to Mike anymore. At the end of the day, Mike put that team together and put those videos together and from that, everyone had the opportunity to flourish with full careers. It's not to say that anyone on the team couldn't have done it on their without Plan B and specifically Mike T, but I believe that no one's career would have been the same without him and Plan B.
Do you have a favorite skateboard video?
I think "Not the New H-Street Video" could be a favorite because it was
crazy how it revolutionized music in skate videos and all the footage was
absolutely insane. So many tricks and Sturt's filming was brilliant.
Video Days is also a classic, time captured in a bottle. You watch that and
you just remember how that whole vibe was back then. Second Hand Smoke has a favorite spot too, particularly Jeremy's part. For me, that video was my tribute to everything Mike taught me, especially in regards to technique. A technique that Mike never completely got to do, but something he got close to doing. It was the perfect timing of skating to a song and having the song and skating being unified with rhythm, skate noises and landings. With Jeremy's part, because he didn't listen to music at the time I put a bunch of song's in front of him and that White Room had this inherent structure which was amazing. Mike and I never edited a part and tried to do everything to a beat, we would edit and if something hit on a beat or close to a beat we would tweak it to get it to hit to the beat and we'd be stoked. When I did Jeremy's part, I went into it trying to build a structure where the music and the sounds of the skating hit back and forth. The song had to dictate the cuts and the tempo of the skating. It was something I hadn't seen before fully realized and I think it worked in the video very well. Jeremy was kind of like Pat version 2.0 for Mike and I think the best send-off for Mike was to blow people away with a part for Jeremy that totally sucked you in.
What do you think of the new planB?
They definitely have the best riders. Danny is on a whole other level in terms of what he is doing from an athletic factor and from a skating factor. I can't wait to see the next full video. I saw the promo and it was pretty amazing, but it wasn't done in a super unique or special way, it was kind of like the H-Street style of trick trick trick, but their street team is pretty amazing. Gallant and those other kids have pretty great style, but a lot of skating is the same these days, so I think the trick to a video and to a team is in the presentation. I was happy to see Pat back with the team and I think the roster does the legacy justice.
Do you think skateboarding videos are coming out too soon and too
often these days?
Not for me. I just wait for the really good ones and watch those.
Did you have any intimidating Sheffey experiences?
Never, Sean and I got along great. I babysat Julien a few times and we
filmed a lot. When he was upset about something, I would just steer clear.
Are you sitting on a lot of never-before-seen footage from back
in the day? Minutes of it, or hours of it?
Tens of hours. Every year I say to myself that I am going to start putting
the stuff together and I just don't have the time. YouTube has gotten me
motivated to start and I try to post stuff to my channel every time I get the chance. But I have Jeremy Wray and Scott Johnson's sponsor me videos. I have tons of EMB, Salman at Palo Alto skatepark before he broke his arm and when he was one of the first people to do switch-stance curb tricks. I have a 10 minute video of Rudy Johnson that I edited for him which has never seen the light of day. His friend filmed it and I cut it for him. It was between Powell and Blind. I have such an urge to put the stuff out, but it takes a lot of time to digitize. So the 85 tapes I have, most of which are 120minute tapes, that's just time I can't spare. But I try to log the tapes and figure what's best.
What are the chances of a Socrates/Rosenberg joint compilation
lost footage video?
If the footage is digitized and selects are pulled I would love to do a video with Soc. NorCal vs. SoCal. His stuff is crazy too, Daewon and all those guys real young. It would be out of control what to show. I mean, I have an entire venture video that is an hour long that we never finished or released, but it's done on VHS with parts for like 15 people. My stuff starts around 89-90 and there's some old stuff in there from the Powell Quarter Masters and Am Jams...
What are you up to these days?
Just trying to stay busy! I have directed a bunch of music videos, some short films and a few commercials. I just wrote and directed a film at the beginning of the year so I am in editorial on that now. I wrote a few books on Adobe Software which I use to edit with. I also have been a post-production supervisor on a few feature films and done some Digital Intermediate work on features too. It's all technical HD stuff that I love and that is really under-utilized in production so I try to help filmmakers use the technology a bit more to their advantage. This year some friends of mine and I started a production company called "Bandito Brothers." It was the idea of my friend Mike "Mouse" McCoy and he brought me in to be the head of post-production and to develop me as a director for their commercial work. I work with another guy at Bandito named Scott Waugh and he is one of the most talented editors I have ever met. I bring this up because his energy and spirit is almost spot-on to that of Mike T's. It's always funny how life knows best and you gravitate to the places that you should be. Other than that, I read my subscription to The Skateboard Mag, read Crailtap and subscribe to the Plan B podcast.