Keeping VHS tapes in a cardboard box for five years, dragging them across the country from Minnesota to LA to Northern Californiaoften in checked luggage or the back of a pickup truckis not exactly a recipe for improving the already questionable image quality of half-inch magnetic tape. The footage looked just plain awful. As I was cutting Skate Warrior, I was constantly questioning whether the effort was warranted. We were kids when we shot it, and it showed. This was going to be a terrible film.
If I had finished Skate Warrior in college, on tape, with the incredibly limited post tools available to me at the time, it would have been an impressive, how the hell did you do that accomplishment. Years later, lavishing this sophomoric albatross with the same VFX resources I was using on a Star Wars movie was only going to make people ask, Why the hell did you do that?
But the busier I am with my day job, the more intensely I pursue my side interests and I was very busy indeed in those days. So during breaks from animating Naboo Starfighters, I picked away at the over 130 Skate Warrior VFX shots, using ElectricImage and After Effects, between 1997 and 1999.
I kept all the files on that single 5GB hard drive.
In 1999, I finished the film, including a better score than it deserved by Mike Berkley, and sound design by Last Birthday Card composer David Levison. I somehow secured permission to use two songs from a ska band, because it was the 90s. I even shot the skate sequence that I always envisioned for the opening of the film, in San Francisco, using my brand-new VX1000 DV camera.
Skate Warrior was done. I was about ready to render it.
And then I left ILM, and took my 5GB drive with me.
And put it in a box for 20 years.

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