Filmmaker William Strobeck met his friend Chloë Sevigny sitting on a bench in Tompkins Square Park 10 years ago. “We had mutual friends and there was a long line of people sitting across the benches. She was the last person, and I thought she was super-pretty,” said Strobeck. The two East Village denizens later collaborated on an underground film by Strobeck, My Lovely Mess, and a music video for “Any Fun” by Jason Schwartzman’s indie band, Coconut Records, in which Sevigny skateboards. “She was super-down and good at skating, which was rad,” Strobeck said. Recently, Sevigny suggested that Strobeck shoot her short film, Where’s Bambi?, for Opening Ceremony.
Set to Colony Farm’s “Fly the Sky,” Where’s Bambi? opens as Sevigny dons a Kurt Cobain-esque cardigan, while an offscreen Strobeck says, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”—prompting Sevigny to try on various OC designs, from leopard ankle boots to floral dresses, as Strobeck distorts the images with static and multiple screens.
Split screens depicting dreamlike imagery and gritty Super 8 fisheye-lensed skateboarders are two of Strobeck’s recurring motifs (we also like his alt-fortune-cookie-ish aphorism tweets). The self-taught Strobeck’s early skaters-meet-parkour films grew out of his upstate New York youth spent skating (and eluding arrest) at the Everson Museum of Art plaza in Syracuse.
We asked Strobeck if he was influenced by the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. “I was more influenced by what was happening at the time in skateboarding in ’91, ’92. I came upon [Dogtown] later, and it looks so cool, so street. Now there’s cameras everywhere, looking at you. It wasn’t like that in the ’70s; it was more about just hanging out and having fun.”
Strobeck told us that he is more inspired by films from the ’70s and ’80s “than anything that comes out now. I appreciate films like Easy Rider, that were really well put together. I use a little bit of what’s going on today and what I like from the past to make a modernized version of the past. I like watching ’80s music videos on YouTube and feel like, dang, I wish I was in my mid-20s in the ’80s. The crack epidemic, AIDS, everyone was freaked out; it was ghetto in the East Village. Now it’s basically a gentrified shopping mall. My fantasy of New York is in my head; I think of Detroit, in a weird way, being like that now. Sometimes I think of getting a huge studio in Detroit. But there are still a lot of creative, interesting people in New York.”
Strobeck is currently in LA, shooting a new skateboard film.