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BendFilm: The Signal Hill Speed Run



The Signal Hill Speed Run is a documentary built mostly on historical footage and interviews of participants in the the worlds first downhill skateboard race which took place on Signal Hill in Long Beach, CA.

Q&A with directors Mike Horelick and Jon Carnoy
Why was it important to make a film about Hill Street?
The Signal Hill Speed Run, that took place on Hill Street in the City of Signal Hill, was the world's first downhill skateboard race and ran annually from 1975 to 1978. When Jon Carnoy (the co-director) and myself learned about the race, that was filled with innovation, daring, and flat-out risk-taking, we knew it was a story that had to be told. It has all the elements of a Hollywood film, with enough humor, bravado, and excitement to please any audience, whether they know anything about skateboarding or not.


Where did you get all of the historical footage in the film?
The quest for footage was one of the biggest challenges of making the feature-length documentary. The contests were shot on Super-8 film, not video, and much has been lost. We spent countless hours on the phone to anyone and everyone at the race. Some crucial footage even ended up in Australia.

Do you feel like these folks were the pioneers of extreme sports? The start of the X Games?
Most definitely. The racers were not just skateboarders. They were surfers, motorcycle racers and even world hang gliding champions. Even though the term extreme sports wasn't yet invented, these skateboarders didn't hold back. What else can you say about somebody conquering a steep drop at 50 miles an hour while standing on a primitive skateboard....while on LSD. Many of the racers ended up competing at extreme games like the world's first snowboard contest in 1981 and even winning the RedBull luge competition in San Francisco despite being over 40 years old!
How have audiences reacted to the film thus far?
The audiences have been great. I think that's because they are surprised at the universal nature of the film. Many ask, why should I see this film, I don't skateboard. I then ask them, do you need to be an expert climber to watch a film about climbing Everest? These racers have amazing stories that we feature in the film. And probably the most surprised that they love the film are women. Several women entered the death-defying contest, and their stories are on equal, if not even more thrilling, than the stories of the men.
How did you get Ben Harper to narrate?
Ben Harper lives in Santa Monica and is a dedicated skateboarder. We ran into him in a local skateshop, showed him a few scenes, and worked out the courage to say, would you narrate our film? He simply answered that he would be honored. Ben's narration is simply perfect for our film. He understands storytelling completely and truly gave it his all.
What makes a good film festival for you as a filmmaker, and will you be answering questions after the screening of your film?
Yes, I (Mike Horelick) will be attending the festival although co-director Jon Carnoy, unfortunately, cannot make it. There is a possibility that a racer or two from the contest will attend, as a few live in Oregon.
A good festival for me revolves around the audience. There is nothing a filmmaker enjoys more than sharing his or her work with an appreciative group of people. We have heard only good things about BendFilm, and I look forward to both attending the festival and exploring the town of Bend.

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