Converse Skate Film “Ni” 逆
The idea and the resources behind this film gave it a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the execution was lacking something: in the narrative, the message and the (skateboarding) tricks.
4 skaters from Converse China first skate team picked 5 cities, bring along skateboard to start a reckless unknown journey. The scenery on the road has become their playground to skate. “Ni” documented this unusual journey, a group of skateboard youth chasing their dreams and believes in their unique way, always moving and never looking back.
The film follows in shadow of the Converse ‘Love Noise’ tour of China and alt punk/rock music documentary back in 2009. But the problem with the film wasn’t in replicating this formula. Without any disrespect to my friends at W+K and Converse, here’s what I would have done differently.
If I was going to make this film—which clearly wants to inspire China’s young skateboarders to be brave enough to shake-off some of the traditional values of by their parents—I would spend less time indulging a privileged few pro-skaters with quotes like “skate with your heart” and “do what you want” and spend more time engaging with young local skaters like He Ling Hao from Dali. The most compelling part of the entire film begins at 23min 44sec with Hao’s introduction. The next scene shows a much meeker-looking Hao justifying his pursuit of skateboarding to his skeptical Father. The film needs more moments like these, not to drown it in serious/depressing/futile discussion of adolescent rebellion and generational alienation, but to make it less of a show-boat tour of guys visiting their mates and more a genuine exercise in reaching-out to young skateboarders, especially in tier 2–4 cities. Rather than making it more difficult for local skaters in these cities by antagonising security guards, help facilitate their acceptance of skateboarding by skating with respect and proving it’s not rooted in anarchy.
Take this a step further by tagging content, people and locations instead of vandalising streets. No matter how authentically cool your brand is (with Converse usually leading the charge in these areas) slapping stickers on public infrastructure is obnoxious and in my opinion sends the wrong message. A few smart phones and a mobile tagging strategy would have reflected more favourably on Converse as a brand and been more constructive in the communities they visited. What’s more, a recent research project with Enovate suggested the web is the main equaliser between consumers in Tier 0 cities and the rest of mainland China –a missed opportunity for Converse.
A few final points…
- According to a friend who skates, the tricks in the film were not particularly impressive as far as pro-skaters are concerned. Perhaps another cue to broaden the focus of the film to include the wider skateboarding community.
- The video quality of the web version is barely watchable at 400px. Consider different video compression settings and maybe even an HD version.
- Pick a launch date that doesn’t coincide with another skateboarding film that absolutely fucking nails it.
I hope there are no hard feelings from anyone involved with the film. There were no doubt a lot of hidden pressures, time constraints and expectations to manage with so many big players involved.
Do feel the same or am I being an asshole?