Vladimir VX – Skateboard Club August Šenoa interviews & gallery01.10.2021 - Exclusive
We first visited the sleepy fishing village of Fažana in Croatia back in 2015 to attend Vladimir Film Festival. We fell in love with the place, made lifelong friends and have returned (when possible) ever since. Vladimir’s 10th birthday was last year, however celebrations were put on hold thanks to the pandemic. Our friends held Vladimir 9.5 – a smaller, more intimate edition than recent years – in September 2020, and saved Vladimir VX – the 10th edition – for 2021, when many more people were able to visit from around the world. We just returned from Croatia, where we spent a wonderful eight days in and around Fažana celebrating 10 years of this much-loved independent skateboard film festival. We caught up with members of the Skateboard Club August Šenoa, the association responsible for putting on Vladimir each year (August Šenoa was a well-known Croatian novelist, Vladimir is one of his novels), for a chat about this year’s edition, what has changed over the past decade and what has stayed the same, the challenges associated with the festival’s recent growth in popularity, renovating the DIY in Fažana, NFTs, the Vladimir book and much more.
Check out the festival’s new website here.
Interviews & photography: Kingsford
Describe your role at Vladimir.
Elvis Butković –My role as a founding father of the festival along with Nikola is pure love for skateboarding. I also take care of all the technical stuff that is necessary for the festival.
Marina Jakulic –Like all of us, I’m one of the organisers and founders of the festival. My role changes and shapes on the go, from doing design to finances and taxes, pitching for projects, paperwork, selling merch, community, hospitality and working at the bar. I feel like we all do everything if needed.
Tibor Jakulic – So my role in Vladimir would be to make everything work during the festival – moving shit around and organising shit that needs to be moved. Other than that we all talk about new ideas for the festival together. Oleg and I made T-shirts and bags for the festival this year, so there was plenty to do.
Oleg Morović – Hello everyone, my name is Oleg Morović. I am bad at skating but great at writing poetry (not that it helps Vladimir at all). I am a graphic designer, so my role at the festival is mostly working on the visuals (posters, newspapers, web design). I don’t do it alone though; Nikola and I are always stressing over the design of the poster. We do it together. We combine, discard and discuss ideas – a lot of the time and energy goes into these conversations throughout the year. It’s the face of the festival, so it matters to us that it represents Vladimir in the best way we know. Sometimes it’s cryptic and there are always layers and symbolism underneath the – some would say – simple painted text on the wall.
Other than that I curate and set up all the exhibitions at the festival. I don’t do that alone either. The artists are usually present at the festival, so we do it together. Nikola, Butko and Tibor are always here to give a hand too. We are a small group, so in the end everybody does everything. The skaters and friends at the festival are part of that role too. This year it was Jay and the gang from Tonbe; without them we would have sunk deeper than the Titanic. In 2017 it was Nich Kunz. No exhibition would have happened that year if it wasn’t for him. I remember the 2014 exhibition at Kino Valli fondly. It was first time we had the venue and we wanted to make a good impression, but I was running late (as the idea was maybe too ambitious). My girlfriend at the time (now my best friend, Mateja) arrived straight from work and just nailed it… literally, because the photos were nailed on pallets that we painted black. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody that contributed over the years. There is always someone. They are like our fairies; they carry us.
Iris Mošnja – During the year I prepare and write all the applications for institutions, funding grants and (unfortunately) boring financial reports as well. During the (pre) festival days I take over the local and national PR, preparing texts in Croatian for newspapers, coordinate volunteers, organise the skate market, host guests and a bunch of other stuff that Marina and I do together in the process.
Nikola Racan – People call me the MC, which I never thought of myself. I am just there to announce the films being screened (and the authors). I act normal when I get up on stage – I do it by heart, letting the spirit flow around me. Also, I am the main organiser, I curate the program (I hate that word) and I have my fingers in almost everything I guess (I don’t want to sound too pretentious, but it is true).
Filip Tenšek – First it was translating all the texts, working on the newspaper and skate trivia quiz, and when the festival started it was mostly day-to-day activities.
Marko Zubak –It’s hard to talk about the roles and differences between them, but each one of us has some fields we are good at.
How do you feel about Vladimir’s 10th birthday?
EB – It’s unreal. Very happy and sad at the same time because I couldn’t be there.
MJ – VX makes me feel proud of everyone that put their heart into it. I’m grateful for all the friendships we’ve made over the years and happy about all the connections that happened at the festival, especially when local kids got the chance to meet someone they look up to, can learn from and can get feedback from. That’s really rewarding to see.
TJ – 10th Vladimir is crazy. Man a decade is not a joke. It’s a piece of my life, like a third since I am 33 and this year is the 11th year in a row. I’m feeling pretty happy to see people from all around the globe. The first edition was just our friends – maybe 12 of us all together – and now it’s crazy. Who would have thought? You guys are almost local here and already know everything about the place, you know what I’m saying? People stay here, some moved here for couple of months… crazy shit.
OM – I have to say it’s strange to look at it all and say: “Fuck, we have been doing this for 10 (read 11) years”. It’s funny: most things in my life that are a big part of who I am today started as a joke or a crazy stupid thing you do on a random Tuesday. Vladimir was like that. Nikola, Butko and Zubak just wanted to watch some skate videos in the skatepark after a session. I mean the name Vladimir was clearly not intended as the name of a 10-year-plus kind of festival. But I am happy that it has lasted that long and proud of what we created. People come from all over the world and bring this unique energy and inspire us to do better next year. To be able to bring and meet all these talented people – skaters, photographers, filmmakers, even writers – and to be able to exchange ideas and become friends, that is just pure joy for me.
IM – Proud and scared at the same time. The festival is growing with every new edition and we all will need more time and people in the future to handle everything.
NR – I feel most proud of two things. First, the original crew of Vladimir hasn’t changed since 2011; we are all still here and we keep pushing this idea of the festival. The second is the audience coming back every year. Man, it is beautiful.
MZ – Covid didn’t allow us to celebrate the 10th birthday when it was really the 10th year of Vladimir, so this is actually the 11th year. I felt really great last year, but only now do I feel we finally passed the 10th birthday.
What has changed about Vladimir over those 11 years and what has stayed the same?
EB – The same DIY / lend me things philosophy is still there. I am the same, but sometimes I think it has expanded a lot.
MJ – There are more people coming in every year and we have more production work on the spot, so what we really miss is hanging out. Just like chill coffee with you (Henry) and Nick (Sharratt), hanging at Nikola’s on Wednesday before the festival, day hangs with Gosha (Konyshev), more days like the Skate Quiz night, like we used to have. The idea behind the festival is the same, we pour our hearts into it and do our best to have the most amazing program each year. We don’t advertise or have skate sponsors and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
TJ – I mean everything is changing all the time, Vladimir as well. As long as it’s on the good path and we are aware of some, lets say, issues caused by the growth in popularity of the festival, we’re good. Change is good. Before, we kind of knew everyone and spent some time with you guys, but the last few years there was more stuff to do and a lot of new faces, all men. We need to screen some movies with girls and bring them here to balance the sausage party.
OM – Two things are still the same. The first is the core idea of the festival. From the start it was independent skate films and that’s how it is today. The second would be the price of the beer, haha.
What has changed over the years is the size of the festival and the program. We started with a one-day festival and now it is four days. These changes were necessary as there was more quality work being made and more skate enthusiasts coming. For instance it started to feel crowded in the small old square in Fažana, so we had to move to the bigger one. The exhibitions started to be more serious, so we had to find adequate locations like we did with Josh Stewart’s Static XX and Six Stair’s Behind the Fence (Fort Kaštel).
IM – The popularity of the festival is growing, but Vladimir’s modus operandi is still the same, at least I think so.
NR – The locations keep changing and the crowd is getting bigger. Better words are: the locations are evolving and people keep coming back for more. We are perfectly lined up for different venues every daythanks to Mother Nature and the Premodern monarchies setting it up for us. Of course it is more work for us, since Vladimir is not a small event any more. We are now at the perfect size – not too big and not too small. There is room for everyone and I still feel the original vibe of Vladimir evolving and progressing. 10 years (11 is correct) is a good milestone for an independent skate film festival held somewhere in Croatia.
MZ – It started as a single skate film night 11 years ago, now we can hardly fit it all in five days. It started in Fažana, now we are already in three municipalities. It started between locals, now we have visitors from all over the world. Many things have changed and every year we have something different, but we are all still together and we are even getting new people involved and not only from Croatia. We never sold ourselves to the sponsors and this will remain the same.
How was last year’s edition, Vladimir 9.5?
EB – It was great due to the pandemic. We practically did it because of Dino Coces’ Finta. The guy just wouldn’t give up to postpone it to this year. I love him. It was small like some of the previous years and I actually found time to talk with some people.
MJ – 9.5 Vladimir was more local and small. We’re so used to seeing you, Nick, Will, Rich (West), Mikey (Patrick) and our other friends but last year, although we met new friends, I really have to say it was a different festival. Nothing wrong with that. There were still a lot of people but none of our closest friends (because of travel restrictions).
TJ – Last year was easy style, like back in the day.
OM – Considering the world situation I would say it was a success. Take this year’s edition, chop it in half and there you go. Two days, half the program and half the people, but the energy was still there, the love was there, so yeah, it was quite a success.
NR – Last year Covid was hardcore, my child had just been born and I was a bit confused. To be honest we did not expect much in terms of the audience. In the end, people drove from Germany, Serbia, Bulgaria and Slovenia. That was crazy since everywhere was pretty much expected to go into a new lockdown. Brijuni island was a special night where we screened the Finta video, five years in the making, made especially for Vladimir.
MZ – I really loved last year. It was only two days, but still much more than I expected. It was incredible meeting new people on this ninth-and-a-half full-Covid edition and seeing them get emotional about an event that was not even half of what Vladimir usually is. Such things have more value than anything else.
This year’s edition – Vladimir VX – was a wonderful, emotional experience as always, especially after a difficult couple of years for a lot of people. How was it from your perspective?
MJ – It was very emotional seeing everyone. I’m such a crybaby (and grateful for waterproof mascara, haha). I didn’t want most nights to end to be completely honest.
TJ – This year was nice. We all met after not seeing each other for a while so it was a lot of happy hugs. I am glad that everything went good with the weather as well.
OM – Well the first word that comes to mind is stressful, haha. We are a small bunch as it is and then you have Iris out because of work and mom obligations. The same applies to Butko – well not the mom part, the work I mean. And we really felt it. We had to outsource. Luckily we found Filip, Doris (Blašković) and Sergej (Turčinov). Oh my fucking fairy godmother how much they contributed to the festival. A big thank you to them. The biggest challenge of the festival is that it’s not situated in one spot and because of that it’s a logistical nightmare. If you look behind the curtain you would see us as these small rabbits jumping around, carrying equipment from one point to another until three or four in the morning. But that’s just the concentrated stress surrounding the days of the festival. For us it starts months before the festival, setting the program, creating the newspaper and so on. Aside from the organisation part, I would say all I saw were happy faces and long-time friends that I hadn’t seen for a year or two. It was heart-warming and it all cuts straight to the essence of why we do it in the first place.
NR – I just started my holiday from my full-time job. I do that every year. Basically, my free time is Vladimir. Can you see the irony in that? I try to change it, but it does not work! It was a mess getting everything together to be honest. Every year we try to place the festival in a new location, or at least to do something close to what we did the year before, not to fail you know? This year there was a lot happening at the very last minute, a few of us were left out because of life situations and the festival was a week earlier than usual. New website, newspaper deadline, a DIY build just a week before everything started, people late on everything, last-minute calls, bad weather predictions, the usual organisation hacks… Maybe I was feeling the gap between 2019 and 2021. VX was definitely a very intense year. Look at the program – it was huge!
MZ – From my perspective, the last couple of years weren’t that heavy on a personal level. We even managed to make the festival while being fully in red (2020) – we were expecting the year off. I think I experienced Covid more this year, when I was expecting everything to be normal, but the restrictions were still around.
What was your personal highlight from VX?
MJ – Fort Forno! My highlights were: the Boldrider video, the reading by Kyle (Beachy), Hollis (Hampton-Jones) presenting her stories with Sylvain (Tognelli), Jackson Davis’ videos with Sox and J (Jordan Thackeray), the Desert Dogs video and the punk concert at Monteparadiso.
TJ –Actually it was seeing people skating the DIY spot that we finished renewing a few days before. I mean our friends from Tonbe Crew; we just helped. But yes, people killed it.
OM – There were a couple but I must say (Edo) Golman helping out and hanging out with us.
NR – I must say Fort Forno. It was magical up there.
FT – On the second day, at Fort Forno, our friend Golman almost got hit by an open van door. We were just in the middle of setting up the screen, but at that moment we had to stop and it instantly turned into 15 minutes of plotting several phantasmagoric scenarios involving the infamous door-man. I can’t remember when I last laughed that hard, but I guess you had to be there. There’s a comic coming out in the next newspaper for sure.
MZ – My personal highlight was the Fort Forno day and the challenge to put on an event in such an environment. From a visitor’s perspective, visiting the fort has been one of the top experiences of the festival since it began.
Iris and Nikola, how did you find organising a festival as new parents?
IM – Between going back to work after maternity leave, kindergarten, driving school and a bunch of skaters sleeping on the floor in my house, let’s just say I almost didn’t even feel the festival in the true sense of the word. It all happened at the same time, but I’m glad I helped somehow with PR and that I managed to visit the program at least a little bit.
NR – The key thing is having everything planned in advance and sticking to the schedule. Sometimes I suck at that (sorry Iris) but I am trying. Many thanks to her and her family for taking care of Viko and giving me all the free space to get the job done. I appreciate that very much.
Filip, How was it working on the festival for the first time?
FT – Honestly, it was an honour and a treat working with those guys and girls – I’ve known most of them for a long time (missing Elvis this year) – and for such a special event. It really is special. I came back to my home town feeling more rested than ever! I wish I could’ve skated more though.
Oleg, Tell us about the design of this year’s festival.
OM – The idea of VX came in 2019, right after the festival. We knew the next one would be the 10th anniversary so we had to come up with something special. I was sketching and playing with the number 10 and X (roman sign for 10) and it just appeared: VX, Vladimir 10. It was perfect. Until it wasn’t. Because we couldn’t do the 10th without all the people, as almost nobody could make it in 2020. So Nikola said: “Let’s do 9.5 edition of Vladimir.” And that’s exactly what we did. VX was back in the game for 2021.
This year we didn’t print the posters as the idea behind the visuals was a bit ambitious maybe, or maybe not… we just didn’t have the time with all that we had to do to make the festival happen. I wanted to take one or two projects from each year and have like 10 different versions of the poster, like an homage to projects and years that made us. It could be a still from a film, a photo from the exhibition or a moment at the festival. In the end we went with Zebras by Blaž Turk and the red photo by Joel Peck. Joel’s photo struck a chord with us the moment it got here in 2016. It’s a diptych – one has people walking by an empty red bench, the other is Joe O’Donnell’s wallie. We spread it over the cover of the festival newspaper and it fit perfectly. Guys, thanks again for letting us use the photos for the visuals. We were also planning to make the VX book but there was no time so the decision came to redesign the website, just to have something fresh.
Tell us about the new website.
OM – Oleg Šuran is the man and a very close friend. He coded the whole thing and turned all my idiotic, goofy ideas into a proper working website – pure genius that man. The site before was just a WordPress template that Zubak and Nikola had set up in the early days of the festival, I think 2012 or 13. It served us well through the years, but in time we just needed an upgrade. I wanted to make something that honours the rich and colorful past of the festival, at the same time taking the tones of colours from the birthplace of it all: Fažana. So you have the blue for the sea and the sky, black for the night, yellow for the sun, green for the nature, red for its history (we know where we come from) and so on. Again, convenient as Fažana is a picturesque town. It fits.
Can you talk a little about planning a festival during the pandemic? There was a midnight curfew in Croatia during VX, which limited nightlife, but aside from this, were you restricted in planning the various events?
TJ – During the pandemic it all sucks. Did you see this year cops were around all the time and we couldn’t have a proper Kasarna party? We have a saying in Croatia and that translates as: “Every evil thing for some good things,” so hopefully that’s the situation.
OM – The big dilemma was when to have the festival. People were saying that the government will close everything again once the season is over, so we were afraid that most of the friends of the festival would not be able to travel. That was the whole point of moving the festival two weeks earlier. We were even considering the last days of August, but there are so many tourists around in Fažana then. Other than that, the films and exhibitions were the priority. Nightlife is a great way to blow off steam and enjoy the festival. It’s also the main way we finance Vladimir. If you drink at the festival you support the festival. There are no big brands behind us contrary to what some believe. Not once has any of us made any money out of it. It’s the other way around – usually we chip in from our pockets to make it happen. This year we were hoping to make something extra to put aside as we are planning to make a VX book to commemorate the past 10 years, but we barely broke even.
IM – There is a popular song in Croatia from the mid ’90s: Jer iza ponoći ja bit ću tu.
NR – It was a nightmare: writing applications to civil Covid protection, we had to be limited to only 100 people outside with lots of regulations, divided seats, security guards, tickets and so on. On paper it might seem possible but in reality it simply does not make sense. I know there is still a pandemic out there and we have to be respectful… I guess Covid only spreads after midnight in Croatia. This year’s Vladimir after-parties felt a bit weird since the police were around the corner and waiting to shoot us down two nights in a row. Usually parties in Kasarna last until early in the morning, but what can you do? Hopefully next year this bullshit will be over.
This year day 02 was held at Fort Forno, built in 1904 and popular with skaters during earlier festivals thanks to its natural transition. How was the process of getting this location and how was the first event there, from your perspective?
MJ – It was beautiful! We talked about doing screenings there years ago and then this winter / spring we were kind of pitching ideas off each other and this was one that everyone was super excited about. The fact that we grew up hanging out there just made it more special.
TJ – We have put a crown on Fort Forno, that’s for sure. Nikola and Oleg went to a few meetings to get it. We have a lot of respect for… we all hung out there at previous festivals, so it was a natural step. Like Brijuni was, since we are from Fazana, you know?
OM – I would say it was the perfect fucking night. Not many people know this but I had never been to the fort before this year. Every year people would say: “Oleg never went, so when he goes it has to be something big,” and it was. Going there to scout the place for exhibitions and readings, going to meetings there with people from the city, telling them our ideas and finally setting up the exhibitions and the final touch: the flags at the entrance… Experiencing the fort as part of the festival was magnificent. It was monumental. It was crazy.
The process was not that hard actually. I called the director of the tourist board, Sandi (Dranic). He was really interested. He spent an afternoon with Nikola and I at the fort and he was into it. I think the scale tipped in our favour when Nikola told him bluntly: “Look man, we will skate the fort if you give it to us or not; that will not change. We have been skating it for 15 years, so this will not be any different.” So he gave it to us, and more than that, they gave us the big screen. It was real support. Thank you Sandi and the City of Bale. I don’t think you understand how much it meant to all of us to be there.
NR – Oleg and I spoke to the city of Bale (the city that manages two forts: Benedetto and Forno). They started a summer theatre a few years back, so it was a good time to ask. We have been thinking about it for a while now, so it felt natural, and doing it after 10 years felt perfect. They were pretty cool since Vladimir is a film festival, rather than an industry event or big music event. I said to the guy in charge: “Look we are going to jump the fences anyway, whether you let us inside or not.” He seemed to like my approach and of course Oleg had a solid background in the art world, so it went smoothly. We are the biggest promoters of the fort from skaters going there and shooting photos and videos of the great wall for over a decade now.
How do you choose what makes it into the festival and has this process changed over the years?
MJ – People contact Nikola, Oleg, Butko, Zubak and myself directly. Others find out through friends and DM us and if we know about interesting projects in the works we kind of pitch to each other and see if it fits the concept / budget. Then you have the USB crew that comes on the day and asks to show shorts on the spot, which is always my favourite. Nothing changed in that sense and that’s wonderful.
OM – This one is for Nikola and Zubak. Butko also. I pitch in from time to time when they are in doubt about what to put in the program or where to screen it. You wouldn’t think so but the time and place of the screening and the order in which the films are screened makes a big difference. This year I am just happy that I pushed Revolutions on Granite (by Brendean Gilliam and Peter Conopask) to be screened over on the island. I didn’t see it – I only skimmed it – but it was clear as day that that movie was going to be lit. The other thing I pushed was for Refugium (by Johannes Kammer) to be out of the screening program and in the exhibition rooms. In my opinion it got more attention from the audience that way. It is an art film and people in the room absorbed it properly and intimately.
NR – The process has stayed the same. Vladimir will always remain an independent skateboard event with films, photos and beyond. We have had some projects that are supported by major skate brands – I don’t want to be a dick and tell them: “OK it must be 100 per cent hardcore independent strictly DIY,” and stuff like that. For me, as long as it is not a corporate full-length, it can pass. Just to be clear here we never took any money from any skate independent or semi-independent or corporate brand and we never will. I think if you ask the crowd, they feel it if a video is done for Vladimir or if it is just another big skate thing made for the market.
This year there was a literary component to the festival, with Hollis Hampton-Jones discussing her work, a reading by Kyle Beachy and an impromptu reading by Dustin Dollin. How was this received by festival goers and will you make this a feature of the festival moving forward?
MJ – We actually checked when the sun was coming down and decided on the spot to have the readings up there (on the roof of Fort Forno). It was a perfect place, with pink sky and clouds, while people were skating. In 2019 we had our first book showcase by Peter Fettich – Rispect the Boul – and we loved it when Sylvain told us about Hollis’s project and that he thought we would like it. He connected us and the result was this beautiful talk and short stories in a ’zine format that Oleg designed. Everyone was so mesmerised by Kyle’s reading they asked for more, like at a concert. People loved it! I can’t wait to read the book. Dustin’s impromptu reading closed this literary component in a perfect way, like a full circle. The sun was down, people stopped skating and it was just Dustin’s voice echoing over the fort. Pretty cool!
TJ – It’s always good to experiment a bit. As far as I know people liked it. People were sitting on the top of the fort, drinking beer, hearing some skate wisdom and watching the sunset – what’s not to like?
OM – I wasn’t able to witness this beautiful exchange on the top of the fortress as the sun was kissing the sea. I was still setting up the exhibitions downstairs and boy oh boy am I sorry I missed it. People talking about it, seeing photos… I really wish I had this moment as a memory. I am happy that Hollis and Sylvain asked me to design the cover of the ’zine, I really had fun with that. The edition of 50 ’zines with hand-drawn covers (each one different) was made all in one day, on the morning of the Friday the reading took place. It was fun.
We actually had a book talk in 2019 so I would say it’s already something Vladimir is nurturing.
One more thing I want to add: I met Kyle Beachy in a hallway at the fort, we had a short exchange of words – like minimal – and in that brief chat I concluded that the man is the nicest person on earth. Go buy his book people!
IM – I am always up for book promotions and literary programs; I do that for a living after all. The reading at the fort was outstanding (at least that’s what people told me), so as long as there are good literary programs that are connected or we can connect with skateboarding, it is welcome in our program. We are thinking of releasing a Vladimir book next year, but we will see. Now that I have said it out loud, we will do it, haha.
NR – The fort was a new location and I spent days thinking where we could place them to do the show. It was a last-minute decision to do it up on the wall. We had the sunset, we had lots of people hanging out… Skating there and just being there is amazing no matter how many times you have been before – it is always beautiful. So I was running with the cables, speaker and microphone. This may sound funny, but I got two electric shocks holding up the microphone – one of the cables was damaged and the current was leaking – I’m glad it didn’t happen to Hollis, Sylvain or Kyle. I plugged it again and just before dark, the show was finished. I felt touched up there and I am sure most people there felt the same.
MZ – It was received really well by the people who actually sat there and listened. I really like that relatively new aspect of the festival because skateboarding is big and it connects us, but deep down each one of us has different affinities I would like to bring out even more, all kinds of creative expressions from people whose big passion is skateboarding.
Filip, You interviewed Kyle Beachy for the festival newspaper. Tell us about that experience.
FT – Nikola suggested I do it because, I guess, he knew I studied comparative literature and thought that it wouldn’t be a problem for me. I liked his book of essays (The Most Fun Thing) so much that I thought it’d be a crime to ask him all the obvious questions, so our interview was like a long and foggy conversation on literary devices, space, time and media. Fortunately, he answered all of my vague questions really well, and I managed to squeeze something about skateboarding in there as well.
Jeremy Elkin’s documentary All the Streets are Silent was screened on day 03 at Kino Valli in Pula. That’s a big release. How was the process of securing this film for the festival?
EB – I was always a fan of the east coast scene, and a fan of (Jeremy) Elkin’s videos. We saw a release date of the doc on Instagram, then we asked Josh Stewart if he could put in a good word for us to help us get this to Vladimir. Then we had to pay the producers for one screening and there you go. Thanks Josh once again.
IM – More than 20 emails and that f***ing SWIFT number.
NR – I have to give credit to Josh Stewart for hooking me up with Jeremy (Elkin). The film was just about to be released when I started sending emails and I heard nothing for a couple of months. There is this Vladimir connection where people speak nicely about things you do. I feel Josh is like a mentor to Jeremy in terms of street skate cinematography. I got the best inside person who could reach him, so thank you Josh. In the end, I had to go to the executive producer David Koh, who has produced major art documentaries. I hope the film lived up to expectations.
The Skate Quiz was very well received this year, especially the references to Fažana throughout. Talk us through planning the quiz.
MZ – I’m the total opposite of a skate nerd. I would suck even at my own quiz. I was at a pub quiz only once, but I fell in love with the vibe and wanted to bring that fun to Vladimir. But to make it fun, you need to be creative with questions, because who likes questions for nerds? So my focus is always on visual questions. I get an idea and look which part of skateboarding fits in. But that’s not enough – the quiz wouldn’t be possible without the help of true connoisseurs. I did the first two events with Aymeric Nocus and this year Filip Tenšek jumped in.
FT – I’m really glad people were down with it, because we were unsure if it was interesting enough. It was Marko and I, with him doing all of those surreal animations. I mostly came up with trivia questions, but wanted to keep it visual as well. I think we’re doing it again next year and I kind of want to insist on that whole brain-teasers-and-logic-puzzles dimension, but make it even trickier.
Marko, this year you tried to bring the skaters into the new world of crytocurrency and NFTs. Tell us more about this.
MZ – “Tried” is a very important word here, haha. Yes, I tried and I had a lot of fun creating some questions that are actually cryptoart pieces, tokenized to be given as prizes for the first three places as NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens). It wasn’t about cryptocurrencies, but in order to really have the NFT, one must open a cryptowallet. because all those transactions occur on the same blockchain that has the coins as well. We created a Vladimir account on a minting platform called Mintbase, where it’s possible to mint for a very low cost using the Near blockchain. As the Near blockchain is relatively new, Mintbase supported us with some Near airdrops, so people were able to create their accounts and enter the crypto world.
Vladimir now has its NFT store but there’s still nothing to buy there. My wish is to make the festival even more independent. We have kept away from sponsors since the beginning. We depend totally on institutional funding. It would be nice to see Vladimir more decentralised and this could be a step towards it. Our plan for the upcoming period is to start releasing limited edition NFTs people could collect and not only support the event, but collaborate with the festival. We will start with artist collabs with split revenues and including royalties and see where that takes us. Worst-case scenario, we will have good material for a skate-cryptoart show. It’s a big rabbit hole and I’ll do my best to get as many skaters as possible in it!
Oleg, tell us about your bench on the beach and about the Art Bench Photo Contest.
OM –I was commissioned by the city and the tourist board to design an art bench on the promenade by the beach in Fažana. There were 10+ artists that had the same job, so as you walk along the beach there are a dozen creative and weird-looking benches. The assignment was: listen to an opera by Antonio Smareglia and be inspired. Each bench represents a different opera. Mine was Pittori fiamminghi or in English, Flemish painters. I took a brush stroke and simplified it. It was convenient as it can also be seen as a wave struck by the sunlight over Fažana’s bay. It resulted in what you could call a by-product – my bench turned out to be a fairly good skate spot. That’s where the idea for the photo competition came from. People will skate it anyway, so why not use it as a promotional tool for Fažana, as a place that welcomes skaters and creatives alike? That was my idea behind it anyway. One more thing about it: one day, Nikola and I were standing by the bench and looking at Brijuni island, the sea and the sun in the orange sky and I said to Nikola: “Man, imagine somebody killing a menace grind here. This thing will end up on the cover of Grey one day!”
Tibor, five years ago you were supplying rakija to visitors. This year you supplied delicious food. How was it catering the festival?
TJ – Yeah man I contacted the rakija OG but he didn’t go to pick it up. Maybe even better rakija will come when corona ends, like the cherry on top. Tibor Rep (who catered previous editions) didn’t come this year, so it was actually the first time the Street Wok Fažana team catered the festival. It went well. Everybody ate. People come unprepared here and think that they can have something to eat at any point, but we are a small village and we don’t have that big city 24-7 food delivery, so we always have someone with food around at Vladimir.
Where was Butko this year?
EB – Butko was begging in April not to do Vladimir in that period, but it happened. I was in Zagreb doing lights for the new contemporary Croatian opera as a finale of the Music Biennale in Zagreb.
NR – Man, Butko is a full-time theater lighting designer. He has contracts that he just cannot fuck up. Elvis is working on a major opera in Zagreb. He could not be here unfortunately and that makes me sad. I’m also sad that Aymeric (Nocus) and Nich (Kunz) couldn’t be here. I must give Elvis credit for fixing all the gear in advance for all the locations. I missed him on site. Butko is the best human alive, believe me.
As the festival gets older, are you working with any younger people in Fažana and Pula?
EB – During some years I had help from my younger crew, which I skate with, and I am extremely grateful for that, but deep down I know that they were there because of me and not because of the festival. Any help is welcome.
MJ – I hope Viko (Nikola and Iris’s baby) will start helping soon. I mean man, I know it’s hard to be a baby but he has to learn the ropes as soon as possible.
OM – Well from early on Sara (Klečić) from Fažana has helped out. So have her friends. They are always around to give us a hand. The younger skaters from Pula do their bit – this year not so much as they all had summer jobs because the festival was earlier than usual, but they were here for us previous years.
NR – I think younger people are just about to realize how important this event is for all of us. Vladimir gives people the opportunity to meet amazing human beings and make connections at home. Just seeing that much energy flowing around the cities and streets motivates people to jump in and help out. I am grateful that we have younger skaters and a few NGOs that are close to our club and help, although we still need to improve in that area. Vladimir is a special event; it has its target audience. We are a solid crew. 10 people in the organisation is enough to get this shit together.
The newly renovated DIY skatepark in Fažana was very popular this year. Tell us about the renovations.
EB – Tonbe Crew are my friends and the guys killed it with a few of us there every day. It was very fast and exhausting, but you can’t beat the taste of that beer while looking at the park after the whole day’s work. Shout out to all the peeps that jumped in even for five minutes – massive respect.
OM – The idea came from Tibor. He suggested: “Just call the guys from Tonbe, make a crowdfunding project and make it happen.” Tonbe Crew from Zagreb… Man, I tell you, those guys carried us all the way to the finish line. They came to Fažana a week before Vladimir started, built the shit out of the ruins that skatepark 04 had became, then just stayed here and helped out with all of it. Jay, Tomo, his girl, Dux, all of them… A heart shaped thank you to all of them.
NR – To simplify, we just got tired of listening to our politicians speaking about the new big skatepark being built here in Fazana. The old mayor won the elections again and I said to him: “Man, you must support the renovation of the old DIY, or we’re gonna crash cars on Brijuni.” He listened. We crashed only one car. The municipality paid for the material, and we called our friends from Zagreb, Tonbe Crew. Our skate club helped out with accommodation, food and drinks for the volunteers, who were at the park for a week. Some of the builders stayed all the way till the end of Vladimir camping at the DIY and helped us get things done. I must give a massive shout-out to Dux, Mare, Martin, Jay, Tomo, Alin, Edo, and Medo for being with us for over two weeks. You guys rule.
MZ – As far as the DIY was concerned, it was repair it or forget about it. For me this week before Vladimir was as strong as the festival itself. A few of those friends didn’t even go back home; they remained camping by the park until the end of Vladimir and became so much a part of daily life that I feel their absence now.
I saw a sign with a plan for the new skatepark in the village. What is the latest on that project?
EB – Until I see the bulldozers and the working crew, I personally just don’t care any more. We have the new red yellow park and it’s fine.
OM – Yeah, that thing is like a hole in our heart and every time we talk about it the hole gets bigger. I think we started it in 2015, right after we had Coping Mechanism (by Phil Evans) at Vladimir (2014). Nikola picked up the phone and called Malmö. That’s what he does most of the times: picks up the phone and gets shit done, haha. From there the idea of the big skatepark came to life. Fast forward to the present day and it’s been five years of pushing the city to make it and all we got is a lousy billboard. It’s sad.
NR – We are waiting for the papers to repurpose the land into a construction site. That will take some time since the bureaucracy is slow as hell in Croatia. It is in the budget for this year. If we get lucky, the build may start early next year and finish in time for Vladimir 2023. The skatepark is a huge project we have been working on for over five years now. Hopefully it will come to fruition someday soon.
As the festival grows in popularity, what can future attendees do to help keep good relations with locals and venues?
EB – Just have fun. Good vibes. That is why people come back. Respect us, we respect you. Pula and Fažana are small towns. We just can’t afford some crazy stupid things that can happen. It’s not Copenhagen or King of the Road. It’s Vladimir.
MJ – Fire it down, babes.
OM – Don’t smash a golf cart would be the first thing that comes to mind, haha. No hard feelings there, shit happens. But skaters still have this stigma and image, so situations like littering and destroying shit does not help. Our job is to persuade a village of fishermen that we bring culture to the city, that we are beneficial to the local community and that Fažana can prosper from our presence. Just don’t litter. It’s that easy.
NR – This year was a mess on the island (Brijuni). We got too loose believing everyone would be respectful. It turned out that some of the skaters / visitors did damage there. So please if you come and visit us in Fažana, at least be peaceful in the national park if we manage to get it back. Believe me all the venues we have are the result of lots of talking and planning and believing in our partners and institutions. We the skaters deserve to be respected and not left out on the margins.
MZ – It’s enough that people are aware of their surroundings and feel and behave like they would at home.