Pedal Pushers had the opportunity to chat with Benny and Christian Zenga, after their showing at the Bicycle Film Festival in New York. We chatted about how great it was to be growing up in some NorthPodunk Town, East of Nowhere, just as long as you found the time to invent something to do. That is precisely what Ski Boyz and the Winking Circle are all about, "Eccentric Self Expression."
PPO: That was one very enjoyable movie. Sitting there watching that movie I was really transported back to a kid riding my bike through the corn fields of Illinois.
Benny Zenga: That's Great
PPO: My favorite spot for bike riding as a kid was a development that never developed. We found this thing in the middle of the grass out in the prairie in Illinois and there were sidewalks and streets abandoned in the middle of nowhere.
Benny: Yeah we had exactly that too, it was great! They put the sewer systems in and everything. And we'd take our bikes down there, but they were never quite big enough to do anything serious on our bicycles but anyway that's not part of the movie.
PPO: But it is part of what made the movie.
Benny: Yeah, yeah! Oh yeah! Always exploring, always. We grew up in like a boring sh---y, hole in the ground town. Right, but we embraced it and we were always exploring. You know, there is always another field. There were always cool areas to find and it's funny... this movie... we've made other movies too and we've screened them and they generally sort of have that message. It's sort of like, 'you know, get outside. Use what's at hand, enjoy your surroundings, anyway. I mean, people come up to us, and go, 'your town looks so cool. I wanna come to your town.'
You missed the point! You missed the point altogether! You know? Get out there, explore and invent. I hope that this movie translates that as well. It's just simple inventiveness, you rely on other things. You know, It's all found things, thrown away discarded bikes, and old skis. It's just free stuff.
PPO: That's got to be one of the most flexible toboggans I've ever seen...
Benny: Yeah it really bounces eh? I totally didn't know he (Benny's Brother Christian as he headed in a free roll down the hill on the wheeled toboggan) was gonna do that, he just went down head first ya know.
PPO: What was the experience like?
Christian: Snow but better, it was fast!
PPO: How'd you get those caster wheels to work, they looked too small.
Benny: Yeah I thought they might be too. But, they worked just fine, I mean it was the first time we tried it. Everything you see on the film is really happening for the first time. So I think that energy translates well because of it, and because of the medium, Super 8. There's something about it, there's this intimacy and immediacy about it. You can't get it with any other format I don't think.
PPO: Who was the flier?
Together: Both of us! We passed the camera back and forth.
PPO: I have to say I practically wet my pants with that one. And visually, the shot, when you did it through the TV, that was perfect! You did that in one take?"
Benny: Yep. One take, end of the reel, you see it burn out. Those burns are real, there are no artificial after effects, none of this film effects stuff. When you see a shot, there's a wide shot, and I'm sort of soaring, right at the top of the frame and my bike hits the water, but before I hit the water, it burns out. Yeah magic things happen, and then again there are a lot of things where the frame ends, at other times, that don't end up in the film.
Christian: I was just going to add that for that particular scene we had four people. Each of them had a camera and a job. Ben did that jump and I was shooting with another super 8 camera from another side. That shot was used in another spot in the film. We had a digital shot and a mini DV shot. One person had to start the shot that goes through the TV, and then they had to get up and take a still photo and then stop the camera, and...
Benny: Well what happened was, we went out and we got this footage of us using the ramp for the first time with our flying squirrel suit. It was successful. So we came back. But it was right at the end of Fall, the end of October and it was getting cold out, so I said, 'we gotta go back one more time.' It was, you know. right on the edge of snowing pretty much. So, we went back and got that one shot. I said, 'I'm just gonna do it once,' But then I said, 'Christian, will you do one too?' And he's like, 'Aw man.' So we traded off that suit that was soaking wet and it was Freeeezzzing cold.
But what Christian was saying about the multiple camera set up. I think that's like a big part of what we do. It's like this one man band kind of thing. You do everything, and you make it happen all at once.
The guy who started the camera that took 56 frames per second, the slow-mo camera that shot through the TV, I had him start it, jump back take a polaroid of the whole thing, cause I wanted a polaroid for whatever reason.
PPO: You gotta have a Polaroid, I mean you shot it in Super 8, so you gotta have a Polaroid (laughter all around).
Benny continues: And then he put the Polaroid down, and then grabbed the TV and ran with the TV. So that was the camera man as well, Then I yelled after I came to the surface in the water, I yelled to someone else, 'turn the camera off!' Cause I didn't want to waste the film. And Christian was running around behind with the camera, and Yeah, I'm glad that we capture that energy, because that energy was there. Yeah it was real.
PPO: It totally went to it, if you had an Atari, it might never have happened.
Benny: Exactly, that's a great point.
PPO: I think that's what is so refreshing.
Benny: That's exactly right, you nailed it. That's exactly what this is about.
PPO: It comes right through, that this is a bunch of kids, that haven't just quite grown up yet, running around finding a new barn to jump off. Do you have something else working?
Benny: It's really neat how this film has stood on its own. But, it is the beginning of a larger project. Which is the "Lost Reels of the Ski Boys." it's a documentary, the story of a guy who finds the Lost Reels of the Ski Boys. Let me just say that it has to do with the advent of skate boarding, I'll say that, and that this just may be contender for the birth place for skate boarding. Somewhere in rural Ontario in the early 70's. and that's all I'll say about it. There's a site that I am setting up that's going to document finding these reels. We are going to present them as found reels, a box of stuff that has been purchased from an auction sale in the country. We'll be pulling them out and posting them at www.folkstunt.com.
PPO: Any plans on growing up?
Benny: Noooo, (laughing). No, thank you very much.