Coming out of 2018, one of my favorite movies of the year was easily Skate Kitchen — Crystal Moselle’s vibrant, urban tale about an all-female skateboarding group based in New York City. Something about Moselle’s ability to capture the youthful free-spiritedness of these girls (based on and starring the members of real-life skateboarding collective The Skate Kitchen) while effectively weaving together a coming-of-age narrative worked so well for me. So it was welcome news to learn that an HBO comedy series inspired by the film is in development, to be directed by Moselle herself.
The film’s easy, loose, slice-of-life plot will do well as a series, particularly as a comedy — Skate Kitchen is episodic in its very nature, staying focused on the smaller moments of life that allow for growth and maturity. The film’s narrative serves as a coming-of-age vessel for its protagonist, Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a lonely teen from Long Island who spends her days skating and watching videos posted by the Skate Kitchen girls on Instagram. After Camille one day meets and befriends the group when she ventures out to the city, she begins to spend more and more time with the girls as she also grows increasingly distant from her mother.
There’s also a romantic storyline between Camille and Devon (Jaden Smith), one of the male skateboarders she encounters, which is the main source of conflict between the girls in the film — Devon was once romantically associated with one of the other girls in the crew, Janay (Ardelia Lovelace). Aside from this, the film sticks to its simplistic moment-to-moment exploration of finding oneself and the bonds created through female friendship. While the series may not even take the coming-of-age narrative approach, these moments in the film still worked to shape the relationships between characters.
Moselle approaches these instances subtly but with lasting impact, such as in a scene when Camille receives comfort from her fellow female skaters after describing her brutal vaginal injury (otherwise known as getting “credit-carded”), an incident that occurs early on in the film while she is skating. After Camille injures herself, the boys surrounding her in the skate park merely whisper and gawk as the blood runs down her leg. One can be heard muttering, “I think she has her period!” No one so much as asked if she was okay, but when she opened up to the girls, they give her a sense of validation by emphasizing how tough it must have been.
This moment, while it may seem minor, serves as one of Camille’s first encounters with the camaraderie she lacked for so long. The series format will give small but formative instances like these the opportunity to be expanded on and explored in entire episodes, documenting each one with closer individual attention.
In order to make the film’s loose narrative structure work in the film, it had to keep its attention narrowly focused on the journey of one particular character. But with the extensive running time that a series will provide, there is a chance to develop more elaborate character arcs for all the women in the series’ central group, along with more depth and time to flesh out those they encounter along the way. The girls of Skate Kitchen each possess unique and intriguing traits that invite further exploration, ranging from Janay’s openhearted relationship with her father to Ruby’s (Kabrina Adams) obsession with her camera. By the end of the film, I didn’t want my time with these characters to end, and a series will invite the opportunity for a plethora of similarly interesting personalities to shine.
Just as Moselle’s film had a very naturalistic, cinéma vérité aesthetic that made it appear as though it was capturing life as it happens, the aforementioned freedom that an HBO series will allow for makes it the perfect outlet for this skateboarding series. This is to be expected from Moselle, being rather familiar with shooting moments as they happen and constructing them to build a story — she was mostly a documentary filmmaker prior to Skate Kitchen, the film only being her first narrative feature.
In true documentarian fashion, Moselle had actually first discovered the girls by simply spotting Vinberg and Nina Moran (who plays Kurt in the film) riding the subway, skateboards in hand, and approached them out of curiosity. Moselle then went on to work with the girls and a few of their other female skater friends on a short film titled That One Day, creating the basic narrative out of which Skate Kitchen was born. Moselle’s organic approach to her work will have room to be reflected in the series, and in a way that will perhaps have more of an opportunity to be seen by broader audiences.
But with reaching that more extensive viewership, the series will have a chance to shed light on one of the central themes that it shares in common with the film — the thriving existence of women in a sport so habitually associated with men. In our interview with Moselle and the cast of Skate Kitchen, Vinburg recalls a scene in the film where a stranger asks Kurt if she even knows how to use the skateboard she’s holding, noting that, “Nobody’s going to go up to a 20-year-old man and say, ‘Prove that you skate.’” While the film was a hit among indie audiences, the Moselle’s HBO series will likely reach beyond to a wider range of viewers, working to change the way in which activities like skateboarding are perceived through a gendered lens.
After experiencing a film as authentic and honest as Skate Kitchen, it feels like a blessing that similar content is already in the works. An hour and 45 minutes was far too short a time to spend in this world bursting at the seams with youthful possibility and urban bliss — I’m glad it’s not time to say goodbye just yet.