Finish Line: Tom Flinchbaugh Interview
For the 2016 Skate Slate Photo Annual, we featured videographer/photographer Tom Flinchbaugh in our Finish Line section. Tom contributed a photo of Jasper Ohlson skating down a wavy road cutting through a volcanic lava flow on the island of Hawai’i. The photo featured in the mag as well as this blog post cover photo are from a trip to Hawai’i with the Prism team filming for Nomads . I caught up with Tom recently to find out more about his recent experiences filming and photographing skateboarding.
Tom Flinchbaugh has been making videos for a while now. Santa Gnarbara videos are always quality. It wasn’t long before he was working on a contract basis with some well-known brands. For a while, he’s been working for Caliber, Blood Orange, and Prism. After working remotely from his home this last year, Tom moved to Santa Cruz recently to work full-time in-house. Jack Boston leads the Prism videos and big projects. While Tom helps Jack out with those projects, he has also taken a larger role with Caliber and Blood Orange. For example, you may have seen the recently dropped Blood Orange: Bricks or Coconuts video in Hawaii. That is Tom’s work. I called him up a few days before the Blood Orange video dropped.
Jon Huey: Hey, what’s up Tom?
Yo, Jon. Not much, dude. It good to hear from you finally. [We’d been trying to connect for a few days in a row]
Yeah, I’ve been staying busy. How are you doing?
Doing good. I’ve been busy myself.
You’ve been traveling a whole lot recently, haven’t you?
Yeah, it’s been non-stop recently. Trip, edit, trip, edit, trip, edit. As soon as I’m done with one, there’s just enough time for another one.
What would you say takes more time, the skate trip/filming or the editing process?
It depends on a lot of things. Nowadays, to make a ten-minute edit, it’s a week or two weeks of filming. I’ve been getting good at pumping out edits out in like three or four days. But, the review, edit, and changing is what makes it take so long.
In the past, you’ve contributed many follow cam photos. Only two of the photos you’ve shared with us for this feature are photos from a car. Is this a new thing or is it that you mostly do video when you’re following with a car?
It’s definitely both. Although most people want to be filmed by follow, so I do that more, haha. But I shoot photos and video pretty equally. The follow/on board photos are definitely what I love most and are the hardest to get.
The road is lined the entire way with razor sharp lava. I cut myself just barely touching it while trying to take photos. It’s one of the most unique roads I’ve skated/filmed.
Yeah, I would say the production for one photo is much more than sitting on the side of the road. The photo of Jasper in the large lava field in the Finish Line section is pretty dramatic. In the Nomad video, Jasper pumps the dips in the road and speeds through the sweepers. How dangerous was that road? Was it hard, sharp volcanic rock just off the side of the road?
It’s one of the most deceiving roads I’ve ever skated. Because of the lava flow, it looks flat. But, you can actually reach up to 45+mph on it. The way it bends and creates humps through the fields makes for some incredibly blind sections where your not sure which way to turn until the very last second. It’s also lined the entire way with razor sharp lava. I cut myself just barely touching it while trying to take photos. It’s one of the most unique roads I’ve skated/filmed. It can be a scary one.
Yeah, volcanic rock is seriously sharp. I can just imagine the flow bubbling, slowly cooling, and hardening down the slope.
Yeah, the lava action in Hawaii is amazing.
Did you do one run of video and one of shooting photos?
Me and jack actually did both on that run. I had my camera suctioned for photos while I drove. He had his camera on a gimbal on the hood and was controlling it via remote from the passenger seat. So the stills are the same exact run as the video. Which is rare, haha.
That’s rad. So, were you part of the editing process?
No, Nomads was all Jack for the editing process. I only helped film with the follows and handheld/onboard and did all the photography.
Ok, How long have you been doing follow cam shots with a car?
I feel like it’s been around 5-4 years since I first strapped a GoPro on the front of my car. I’ve been driving cars on curvy canyon roads since I was 16 though. I was into cars way before downhill skating.
Interesting, and the GoPro came first, huh?
Oh yeah. The GoPro HD. It was my dad’s haha.
You were at the Mt. Jefferson race. How was NC after the Mt. Jefferson race?
Totally mind blowing. Truely one of the craziest places I’ve skated. Huge scene of skaters. Hundreds of A+ roads with minutes of eachother. It was almost over whelming trying to film there.
I was happy it was a rental in North Carolina. The roads in North Carolina are really hard on your car. Burning brakes was a constant concern.
Was it your first time there?
Yeah, Miles, and Liam, and I had never been. Noah had been a couple times.
Sounds fun. Did you guys rent a car?
Yes as is usual. Having our own car is crucial for getting around and for filming.
Is traveling to other places and using a rental car better than being at home using your own car? You can just get the insurance and go balls to the wall. Of course, it’s always good knowing the handling of the vehicle as well.
In all other cases, I’ve always preferred to have my own car. I know how it handles, I know it’s limits, and can tune it better for follow cam. However, I was happy it was a rental in North Carolina. The roads there are really hard on your car. Burning brakes was a constant concern.
So, Does your car go through more wear and tear than normal?
It definitely does. Tires and brakes for sure. But not an insane amount.
Do you get reimbursed for milage?
That is not something I’ve gotten yet, haha. I try to do follow cam very sparingly. I’m not out every week doing it.
Are you still skating hard?
Oh yes. I’m hoping I’ll get to film a part soon. I’ve been able to balance skating and filming pretty good. Even on serious film trips I get runs in with the boys. With onboard shooting I’ve found a way to get in runs in AND skate haha. I also skate park everyday I’m home in Santa Cruz. Most of the motivation to do what I do is so I don’t ever have to stop skating.
That’s great, I always have found a pretty good balance as well.
Did you go to the Central Coast Up N’ Down? You must’ve.
Oh yes. That’s one of the home gems.
I love that hill. How long have you been skating that hill yourself?
I still remember my first day there. Must have been 4 years ago. That road has always been a special place. Out in the middle of no where with no service. The kind of hill you bring a cooler full of beer and a bqq too. I was hyped on the event. Perfect road for HUGE pack runs. And in this time events that strengthen the community are really crucial.
Definitely, I’ve heard good things about it and wish I could’ve been there. What photos/video should we be looking out for from you in the future? What projects are you working on?
I’m SUPER excited to drop the Blood Orange Hawaii edit. It’s super weird and I did a lot of cool art for it. We went to Kaua’i, which to my knowledge no downhill company has really shot a big video there. Right now, I’m cutting up the North Carolina footage. That’ll be releasing in hopefully a month. The boys really went hard in that, very raw run heavy.
Shoutouts are hard, because literally everyone I’ve filmed means so much to me. All the bois. But, especially the original Santa Gnarbara bois. Of course, Max Myers and Brandon Stewart for giving me the opportunities to continue to make videos and letting us create unique and meaningful pieces. And my parents and family for letting me be a skate bum all those years and believing it’d work out. They’ve been the real sponsors all these years.
That’s a good point. Nice, thanks for your time, Tom!
Yeah, thank you Jon!