Skate Kitchen Director Crystal Moselle Talks Authenticity and Girl Power

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It’s a seemingly uneventful afternoon in a Lower East Side skate park: Teenagers are passing the day practicing new skills, and as one does in New York City, everyone keeps to themselves or their respective groups. Suddenly, Long Island teen Camille takes a fall, landing with her board between her legs in an injury known as „credit carding.“ In the cringeworthy moments that follow, the young skater ignores the onlookers who suspect that she’s on her period, seeks medical attention alone, and comes home to a mother who urges her to stop her passion, concerned about her fertility. It’s immediately clear that Camille has a lot more to navigate than her new tricks.

Skate Kitchen is indeed about its titular crew and the sport they love, but it’s also a layered picture of the issues young women face. When Camille, played by newcomer Rachelle Vinberg, begins sneaking out to join the ultra-cool girls she found on Instagram, it leads to as many chats about growing up as hours spent at the park. The dilemmas that follow solidify Skate Kitchen’s place as a nuanced coming-of-age story from a female perspective.

This new take on the teenage experience would not exist if Crystal Moselle had not discovered the real-life Skate Kitchen crew on the G train in 2016. The girls‘ skateboards and Nina Moran’s colorful storytelling led the filmmaker to approach them and ask them to collaborate on a future project. The perfect opportunity for this came in the form of Women’s Tales, Miu Miu’s biannual series that allows female filmmakers to have free reign on a short, provided they use the brand’s clothing. That One Day premiered at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, marking the start of Moselle’s ongoing artistic journey with the all-girl skate crew.

Skate Kitchen already was set to capture attention with its eye-catching tricks. Yet the new film also stands out due to its stars: Similar to That One Day, Moselle had the skateboarding talents play fictionalized versions of themselves instead of hiring traditional actors. Just like Camille, Vinberg hails from Long Island, has a complex but ultimately loving relationship with her Colombian mother, and stumbled upon the Skate Kitchen girls via social media.

„The process felt very natural. We knew each other so well,“ Moselle says of her choice to make the subjects the stars. „I think it was challenging because they had never acted before, but they were definitely open, and having non-actors who were open and willing to push themselves and not feel insecure provided a lot to work with.“

This decision also naturally progressed from Moselle’s non-fiction background, as Skate Kitchen is her first scripted feature. She got her start in film by exploring documentary work at Otis College and the School of Visual Arts, then worked on mostly fashion and beauty videos until she ran into six brothers on the street and learned they spent years locked in a small apartment, with movies as their only link to the outside world. This encounter turned into 2015’s The Wolf Pack, which won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize when it premiered at Sundance, and was the director’s only major film before she met the Skate Kitchen girls.

Because of Moselle’s love for telling authentic stories, the bulk of Skate Kitchen reenacts moments she witnessed while spending time with the girls, reworked to fit into a narrative format. In one scene, Camille and her newfound friends have a mundane discussion about their periods, but their comments feel so real that it’s hard not to laugh in empathy. The filmmaker closely collaborated with her subjects to meld truth with creative license for the resulting comedic relief.

„It was always inspired by moments they’d already had, and we would grow them into bigger scenes from there,“ Moselle says. „I gave them full clearance to ask me questions, or to challenge me in the script. I wanted it to feel as real as possible.“

From this exaggerated compilation of true stories, Moselle’s hope is that viewers feel inspired to pursue things they normally doubted were possible. This seems fitting, considering the director is carving her path in an industry that typically hasn’t supported women in more powerful roles. Earlier this year, Greta Gerwig became only the fifth female director to receive an Oscar nomination, a statistic that’s hard to separate from the voters‘ overwhelmingly white and male makeup. Now, Moselle is using her rising star to tell the story of an all-girl skate crew.

„I think the problem is that getting these projects out into the world has been a little more difficult,“ the filmmaker says. „I think the people that are on the side of acquisition need to broaden their horizons to stories that are told by women about women.“

In the future, Moselle is most excited to use the attentive eye she’s developed from Skate Kitchen and her other projects to broadcast other untold stories. And while even the filmmaker doesn’t know where this could lead, she does have advice for young women looking to take a similar path.

„Keep making things,“ Moselle says. „You’re probably going to mess up a million times, but it’s important to keep trying to make new work.“

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