Director Crystal Moselle met the teenage stars of her female skater film Skate Kitchen by chance one day on the subway in New York. “I just went up to them and was like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?'” she explains with a laugh. “They were like, ‘Why is this weird lady talking to us?'” But Moselle soon struck up a friendship with them, and they introduced her to the inclusive, girl-power community they had carved out in NYC’s skate scene. Together, they began developing Skate Kitchen, a spellbinding coming-of-age tale about the joys and challenges of being a female skater.
Moselle is best known as a documentarian — her 2015 film The Wolfpack won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival — and she had initially planned to create a documentary about the Skate Kitchen crew, which includes skaters Rachelle Vinberg, Nina Moran, and Ardelia Lovelace. But after spending more time with the girls (and shooting a short film together for Miu Miu), Moselle began working with them to develop a loose narrative feature based on their experiences. The result is an introspective portrait of female friendship that’s part documentary, part teen drama.
“I’d be like, ‘What did you guys do this week?’” Moselle recalls. “And they’d be like, ‘Okay, so we got in a fight with this lady…’ All this crazy stuff would always happen, so I’d write it down.”
All of the girls play versions of themselves, with Vinberg starring as Camille, a Long Island teen who begins exploring the New York City skate scene — despite her mother’s objections. There, she meets a collective of other girls (via Instagram, of course) who help her navigate the highs and lows of skating. The film is mostly plotless — the most significant conflict comes from Camille’s romantic interest in a photographer (Jaden Smith, one of the film’s only professional actors) — but it’s a summary, naturalistic depiction of what it means to be a young, female skater in New York City.
“There’s a lot of intimidation [that comes] from going to the parks and not being that good yet and feeling like there’s a lot of eyes on you because you’re a girl,” Moselle says. “A lot of energy and attention gets drawn towards you. And it’s not necessarily always bad attention, but it’s attention. You have to have a lot of guts to get on that board in those parks.”
Skate Kitchen is in theaters now.