After 10 years as a brand, Dekline is coming out with it’s first full length skateboard video. We sat down with resident filmer Don Luong to chat about his creative process, his projects and being a young artist in a niche industry.
We’re hyped on skateboarding, not because we ride, but because it’s a visual sport. It’s an artistic collaboration of personal style, music, design, and a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Unlike other sports, the core way it’s shared is through video, and we’re down for any sport we can participate in from our couch.
Hailing from Cypress, CA, 26-year-old Don Luong has been skating for almost half of his life. He was a typical kid back in those middle school days when skating and pop-punk music was all that mattered. Skateboarding was a passion; he wanted to keep on doing it, but at one point realized he didn’t know what he was doing with it.
Deciding to become a filmer wasn’t deliberate. Like a lot of people we’ve talked to, success like Don’s comes from an organic place of loving what you’re doing, and being in the right place at the right time.
He worked at Vans for a minute creating art and fashion based content. It was cool, but it didn’t really have anything to do with skating. Being in an office nine-to-five took the fun out of filming and editing, even if it was for one of the most reputable brands in the industry. It came a point where he realized, “Wow, yeah, this fucking sucks.”
He landed a gig as a resident filmer for Dekline Footwear under Tum Yeto. Tum Yeto is the overhead distribution company for Toy Machine, Foundation, Dekline, Pig Wheels, Ruckus Trucks, Gremmie skateboards and Bro Style hardware. He got promoted to be the first filmer to work for more than one brand under Tum Yeto, let alone being one of maybe 20 filmers in the entire pro skateboard industry.
He’s just come off of five straight months of touring, skating and driving for 15 hours a day, and surviving off turkey Lunchables. Touring is dirty - you’re never in one place for more than a night, carrying your hard drive and laptop, praying to God for Wi-Fi. All day you’re chugging coffee and water, and fending off moochers stealing your cookies and strangers trying to steal your gear. But at the end of the day the camaraderie, skating, and the stories make it worth it. I love you, man.
“The traveling is always good and bad - you get on planes, you get in vans and you just have a lot of time to think about everything and nothing at all. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like a legit job because to me, it’s not work. It’s crazy to grasp the concept of getting paid to do what I’ve been doing since I was 12-years-old."
While his inspiration primarily comes from the family he tours with, some of his bigger artistic influences are Chris Rooney aka Rhino, Sam Muller (what up, Sam!) and Mike Sinclair. Although he likes their work, he’s been able to cultivate his own visual style. When skateboarders try to pick their own song or edit, it’s ultimately up to Don to maintain the overall creative direction for the video.
“The skater is the skater and the filmer is the filmer. If I’m making a part for a skater, I’ve definitely gotten to know them pretty well over the window of time we’ve spent together. I would hope that the skater would trust my judgement and allow me to pick a song that I think would compliment their skating, style and personality best.
Lately the trend in skate videos has been RED cameras and special effects, but he makes sure that it’s not about the medium, it’s the content. Even with just the bare bones of Final Cut Pro and a Panasonic HPXcamera, he’s able to to embody the raw, dirty, unpolished energy and passion that makes kids excited about skateboarding.
So much of skateboarding has become corporately motivated. Everything is branded, down to the shoelaces. There’s Nike, Adidas, Converse. And now New Balance is in the game? Essentially billion dollar companies are now a part of the industry and are directly competing with Tum Yeto, a significantly smaller brand.
There are brands owned by big-whig investors, and then the brands owned by skaters. Like in any corporate vs. creative struggle, the mainstream-owned brands have the $$$, but lack the community and authenticity of the sport. Tum Yeto represents the roots of skateboarding, which resonates with Don’s personal aesthetic and point of view.
For the past two years, he’s been working on Dekline’s first full-length skate video. It’s a defining project for the brand: they’ve been around for 10 years and want to declare their presence in skating. Shout out to the pro riders: Chad Tim Tim, Ryan Spencer, Dakota Servold, Nick Merlino, Blake Carpenter and Matt Bennett, who’ve all been hustling to make an awesome video.
That work ethic is a consistent drive within skateboarding because at the end of the day, your position within the industry is still disposable. For every kid that works hard, there’s a hungrier kid out there who wants your job.
"I’m motivated to get off my ass every morning - I want to work hard and not take anything for granted - (Just do it for the right reasons. Don’t wake up thinking ‘I’m gonna make money,’ or ‘I need to film this guy because he’s famous.’ Go skate with your friends and if you love it long enough something will happen.”
Favorite brunch spot and item?
Kafe Neo: it’s off of Fourth and Temple - it’s Greek food but they have burgers. Get the Lamb.
Mimosas or bloody marys?
After a certain point it really doesn’t matter does it?
Favorite Long Beach spot?
The Red Room for sure - it’s a skater bar. All our friends bar tend there and any skate event happens there.
Perfect Friday night?
Movies and guitar.
Guilty pleasure music?
Haha Dashboard Confessional - sometimes you just gotta be sad - I think it’s a healthy balance in life…not in a weird psychotic way.
Be sure to look out for the Dekline video, coming out in October.