5Boro Team Manager and Videographer, Tombo Colabraro tells his story and dicusses the current state of skateboard video production.
Congratulations on the new 5boro video, Tombo. The premiere here in NYC was packed. What all are you guys doing for the roll out of the video?
Thanks, Ben. The next two weeks we will be having shop premieres around the country while our International distributors do the same in their areas. From there, the video will go live on Thrasher and then a DVD containing some bonus features and a zine on the making of the video to shortly follow.
How long have you been working on the video? What goes into the making of a full length video today? What was the process?
We started filming for this video a few months before we dropped our last full length video, Join or Die, back in 2012. So I guess that’s about 3 and a half years. A full length video is definitely a long haul. The first year or so is just going out everyday and seeing what organically happens. After that, you can usually forecast who’s gonna have a part, start messing with song ideas, try to envision an overall concept, etc.
The thing that trips me out is how serious 3 and a half years of life is for these younger guys. Some of these guys started the video as kids and finished as grown ass men. Silvester was 17 when we started (now 21), Rob was 19 (now 23) and lil Karim was 14 (now 17). We all had a front row seat to their evolution as a person on and off a board. It’s crazy to see them grow from little high school kids sneaking into bars to adults living on their own calling me a pussy for going home early. It’s awesome, but definitely makes me feel old.
In the first 2 years, we were out everyday as long as it wasn’t raining. Then about a year ago, I started going out a little less, maybe 4-5 days a week, and spent the other days editing. The end of this summer is when I made the switch to full time editing and only went out a couple times a week for a session here and there, spending most days in front of the computer only interacting with whatever delivery guy would bring me food. Shit gets weird when the sushi delivery guy is asking how the video is coming.
We went on a couple random trips here and there, but we pretty much stayed local for this one. The last video, we went on a bunch of trips, but for this one we focused on where we live and what we have in front of us on a daily basis.
From an overall brand perspective, what do you hope to accomplish with the release of a full-length video like this?
As long as we continue to have fun, while supporting everyone involved, we couldn’t ask for more.
What made you guys decide to do a full-length video in a time where a lot of brands are doing single parts? What are some of the pros and cons of the full length?
Actually this originally started off as a short promo where Jordan, Gonyon and Silvester were only gonna have parts in it. The more we filmed for it, the more the other guys kept getting stuff and after a few months we figured “fuck it, let’s make a full length.”
The single part thing is super smart on a marketing level, but after a while gets disposable and forgetful. Can’t recall who said it, but it’s comparable to why there are no hip hop groups anymore. Only solo artists. Personally, I’d rather hear a song with the whole Wu Tang Clan on it than that one forgettable Masta Killa track.
Not hating on solo parts completely. If it’s done right, I’m backing it. I’ll download and re-watch an Ishod solo part any day. I still watch that Four Star edit where he gets down to Big Pun’s “Firewater” on the weekly. But in our situation, it was a collective effort by a bunch of guys, so it made more sense for us to release it as a full length video.
You said there will be an online release and then DVDs?
Yeah, a December premiere on Thrasher where the video will be live on the site for a week, then after that, DVDs will be sold at your local shop and on our web store. Even though computers don’t come with disc drives anymore and I’m sure we won’t sell as many as we would if it was 2003, I still feel if you’re going to work hard on something for a few years, it’s important to be able to hold the finished product in your hand. Whether it be a good or bad business decision, I’m hyped to stack this one on the shelf next to all the other dusty skate DVDs that I never watch.
How did you get into skating and then filming?
I started skating when I was 10 with my friend Andrew Mclaughlin in New Jersey. We would always take his mom’s camera out and film ourselves skating and breaking shit just like any 10 year olds in the 90’s with a camera would do. Eventually, we saved enough money to get our own VHS-C camera and started making our own videos, editing from one VCR to another. We’d film over a summer then make a video and have a premiere in his parent’s basement and celebrate by drinking a ton of Jolt Cola and eating microwave burritos. Damn I miss those beef and cheese Old El Paso joints.
We’d take the path train to World Trade and skate downtown Manhattan from time to time as teenagers. I still remember the nervous feeling you’d get when you’d skate up to the Brooklyn Banks and see all those dudes chilling on the wall. We’d sit and watch dudes like Pang, Quim and Harold skate until the session died down and we’d do our little kickflips and shit trying not to get in anyone’s way.
When we got to high school, we all started riding for this shop a few towns over called Division East. The shop owner, Dave Dowd, was only a few years older than us and he gave us a platform to make videos and release them through the shop. This is where I met Joe Tookmanian, Darren Baskinger, Andy Bautista, German Nieves, Brian Foley, Nick Marini, John Yarotsky, Erik Galka to name a few.
I think it was around 2000 when I met Jim Hodgson, an older filmer who worked for Alien Workshop, but had just quit filming. He urged me to get a VX1000 and took me under his wing for years to come, answering a million annoying questions that any 17 year old skate nerd would have asked. He was a huge influence on me and I actually still send Jim edits to this day of stuff I’m working on. Everyone check out Jim’s Skate Stash on Youtube/Instagram for epic 90’s East Coast footy.
How and when did you start with 5boro?
I think it was the year we all graduated high school Joe Took started getting boards from 5boro. I’d tag along on 5boro missions with Joe once in a while and eventually started skating with Falla and Westgate a bunch filming for the Word of Mouth video, which came out in 2003.
At the end of the year, Steve asked me if I wanted to start Team Managing and my first trip was to run a demo weekend in Upstate New York. It was an annual thing and I believe this was the 5th year in a row 5B was attending. It was three demos a day, for three days, at this town fair for some Say No to Drugs/Sobriety thing. So brutal. All the older guys on 5B at the time, like Dan Pensyl, Justin Barnes, Pat Smith were in their mid-late twenties and in their prime years of partying, so sending them into this situation proved to be a deadly combination.
I can’t really repeat much of what went down that weekend, it’s all a little foggy by now anyway, but let’s just say hundreds of people were bummed, a loyal shop of seven years stopped carrying our boards and we got banned from this town for life. I remember driving back to NYC hungover thinking, “man, I better call and see if I can get my job at the movie theater back.”
Steve wanted to kill us. I think he sent Jay Maldonado to meet with us at Tompkins and told us not to talk to him or try to contact him in anyway for a week haha. Some time went by and I guess he saw the humor in the situation.
What is your title and role at 5boro now? What does your day-to-day entail?
I don’t think any of us have titles at 5B anymore. Aside from the skaters, 5B is a two man show: Nardelli and myself. So we wear a bunch of hats to handle whatever has to be done on a daily basis to keep the wheels turning.
My day usually starts with fulfilling orders from our online store, update social media, then handle as many emails as I can before I go meet the crew somewhere to skate. After skating, get home, log the footage from the day, attack that inbox again, then eat myself to sleep with a ton of food from Tony’s on Graham Ave.
With the recent excitement around East Coast skating and more brands coming to NYC to film or being based from here, has that benefited 5boro or taken attention away from the brand?
I’m not mad at it. With more eyes on NYC it’s dope because kids from here don’t have to move to California to get hooked up anymore. It’s also great that I don’t have to hop on a plane to the West Coast to see some of my friends anymore. They all come here multiple times a year.
But sometimes I’ll skate downtown and see ten different teams filming the same scenic shot at the seaport of a flat ground tre flip in front of the Brooklyn Bridge and I’ll feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of an ASR trade show trying to find the Roxy booth to creep on the bikini models.
Do you have a big say in who gets on the team?
All team related stuff is decided by the whole fam. Everyone has an equal say.
What’s your favorite type of camera to film with?
Gonna have to go with the obvious choice and say the Sony VX1000. I started filming with one in high school and didn’t put it down for a good 12 years. I could go on for hours getting all bromantic about a camera, but I’ll spare you. Every good video after 1995 was filmed with it, so for us growing up around then, it was all we knew skateboarding looked like. It’s like hearing a song on vinyl. You can’t beat it.
For this video, we wanted to try something different so we filmed it in HD. It was a little weird getting used to filming with a different lens after all these years, but we took the same “throw the camera in the bag and go figure it out in the streets” approach. Hopefully it doesn’t look too soft. Maybe we will bring the VX back for the next video. Who knows.
How has the growth of social media changed your job?
Social Media has made the world a much smaller place. I can wake up and check Instagram and see what spots my friends in Paris are skating that day or what I missed at the bar last night after I left.
It definitely made it easier for your brand to have a voice. Before, if you didn’t take out ads in magazines or attend trade shows in California, your brand kinda didn’t exist. Now we can reach the world by updating our Instagram midway through handling Chicken Parm on the couch.
Crook. Photo: Ying
Where do you consume skate media today?
I’m the worst. I barely watch anything anymore. There is too much stuff to keep track of. I usually watch something that I know someone in or if it’s a brand I’m a fan of. I’ll check the Thrasher site from time to time or if Jimmy texts me and tells me to watch something, I’ll give it a watch.
I’m not really seeking content like a fiend anymore. Like when I was 14 waiting for the new 411vm to arrive in my mailbox. My attention span is getting smaller and smaller just like everyone else’s. I can barely make it through a whole 15 second instagram clip anymore. I used to watch videos and remember everything. Now I’ll watch a whole video and not remember one trick. Maybe I’m getting old and losing my shit or my ADD has finally completely taken over my brain.
That’s why the biggest compliment anyone can give you these days is if they watched your video twice.
From product to videos and content, 5boro releases are always high quality. You can tell time and thought went into them. With how fast things come and go online, do you think that type of care is more important now than ever in order to make something stand out? Is quality the way you get someone to watch your video twice?
Totally. I’m still a firm believer that less is more. We would rather drop quality product and content a few times a year, instead of throwing half ass shit on the conveyer belt.
5boro is an independent, skater-owned brand that gets it done no matter what it takes. Packed vans, sleeping on the floor. Does that get old after doing it for this long? What keeps you doing it?
Hell yeah it gets old haha. The days of packing a van to the brim, everyone crashing in one room with people on the floor while some slept in the van, making grilled cheese on a Foreman grill we kept in the trunk, just to drive ten hours and do a demo in the middle of nowhere are all great times when you look back at them years later. But man, were they fucking rough at the time.
Those days we really didn’t care how stuff was gonna happen. If we had an idea or an opportunity for a trip somewhere, we’d go and figure it out on the fly. Nowadays we try to be smarter about it and not spread ourselves too thin on the road. This generation of 5B has it a little easier just like we had it easier compared to the generation before us.
What is it like to work with Mark Nardelli? Describe him for people that haven’t gotten the chance to.
Nardelli is by far the most passionate maniac I have ever come across in my life. He’s the type of boss you “work with” rather than “work for”. He’s super selfless and down to give up any personal freedom and punish himself with work to keep the 5B ball rolling. From graphics, to production, to calling shops for sales. If you are skating a 5B board right now, chances are he’s had a hand in every step along the way (aside from cutting the tree down) that got that board under your feet. Plus, the dude can do switch tres and nose blunt anything in sight at age 40, which is definitely motivation.
The man is truly the human swiss army knife and doesn’t nearly get the credit he deserves. Nardelli is the heart of 5B and if he wasn’t here, none of us would be either.
Now that the video is rolling out, what’s next for you and the brand?
Aside from trying to each every sandwich on the menu at Anthony and Sons on Graham Ave without dropping dead of a heart attack (I’ve had 24 of the 51 so far), I’m gonna plan some trips for the winter to escape the tundra and hopefully put out another video before I’m too bald and fat to film lines.