From filmmaker Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack), the undeniably authentic indie drama Skate Kitchen follows Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), an introverted teenage skateboarder from Long Island who crosses paths with a New York City-based skateboarding crew, primarily made up of other young women. When she has a falling out with her mother, Camille’s bond with the Skate Kitchen crew deepens, until she falls for a mysterious skateboarder guy (Jaden Smith) who could tear their friendship apart.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, acting newcomer Rachelle Vinberg, who’s been a skateboarder since she was 12, talked about the journey from being approached by director Crystal Moselle on a train to now having a feature film released that she’s at the center of, how she originally got interested in skateboarding, the most serious fall she’s ever had, being able to collaborate on her character, why Instagram is important when you have a skateboarding crew, and the scene she was most bummed about getting cut. She also talked about working with director Cary Fukunaga on the “A Perfect Day” commercial for Samsung, as well as what she’s looking to do next.
Collider: I really enjoyed the film and thought you did really great work in it. I’ve never skateboarded, in my life, because I’m terribly clumsy and would break something, but I have massive respect for anyone who does it because it seems terrifying.
RACHELLE VINBERG: Thank you! It is.
I’m a dancer, but that’s where I draw the line.
VINBERG: That’s what I’m scared of! I’m scared of dancing. Really, I’m not even joking.
What has this whole journey been like, to get to this point, with this full-length feature that people are responding to it in really positive ways?
VINBERG: It’s definitely strange. Two years ago, I was Camille in the movie, coming in from Long Island sometimes. It feels the same because I just do the same things, every day, but then there’s also this other part that’s weird, but that’s also amazing, going to different places. I’m glad that people like it, though.
Now that the movie is coming out, does it feel separate? Does Camille feel very much like a character?
VINBERG: It feels like a character to me because I’m not exactly like Camille. Definitely there was a lot of inspiration from when I was younger and coming in to the city, but I’m not exactly like her. I tried to be the girls that I would see that wouldn’t skate, who were really shy and on the sidelines. I was never like that.
What was it that originally got you interested in skateboarding, and how did you end up putting together the crew that you have?
VINBERG: I got into it because of my cousin. I had seen him skating and I wanted to learn the tricks. He was doing tricks and I was like, “That’s awesome! I want to learn how to do that.” So, he ended up getting me a board when I was 12 years old, and I’ve been skating ever since. With the group, I knew Nina [Moran], just from posting videos online. I met up with her in person when I was 15. Then, I met Kabrina [Adams] because she was Nina’s friend. And then, when I was 17, we were approached by (writer/director) Crystal [Moselle] on a train. When she asked if there were more of us, Nina had known more of the other girls, so we all came together because of that. Then, I decided that I was gonna make an Instagram called The Skate Kitchen, so we could post all of our stuff. That happened, and then it became real.
When somebody approached you on a train like that, was your immediate reaction, “This can’t be real,” or did you immediately believe what she said?
VINBERG: I always knew about people approaching people because my dad would tell me stories, when I was little, about people getting approached on trains, and then going into movies, so I secretly always wanted that to happen. So when it happened, I honestly didn’t think it was weird because I knew about it happening.
And you never questioned it?
VINBERG: No, but it’s not that I thought anything would come of it.
I love how this film starts with you falling down because it seems like you could only really go up from there.
VINBERG: Yeah, exactly.
What’s the biggest or most serious fall that you’ve had and what gets you back on the board when that happens?
VINBERG: Well, that fall happened to me twice – once before the movie, and once after. Literally, the exact thing – credit carding. I’m not even joking. I’m definitely shook by it happening, and scared. What gets me back up is just realizing that I don’t have to go hard or be scared, I can just do it for fun. That’s what keeps me going. But, it definitely hurts. It’s not fun.
What was it like to be able to work on and develop this character with your director, as it was evolving?
VINBERG: Me and Crystal were friends for a year, before making the movie. We’d all hang out and talk about things. We sat down one time and came up with different things, and we talked about Camille working in a supermarket.
It seems like you guys were much more involved than you would typically get to be, on a movie.
VINBERG: Oh, yeah, 100%. We definitely were, and Crystal let us do it. Crystal doesn’t know the world, so we got her into the world. She was nice about understanding things and letting us tell her what’s authentic and what’s not.
As someone who is in the skateboarding world, knowing that this movie would be an introduction to what that world is to a lot of people, what did you want her to know, to make sure she got it right?
VINBERG: First of all, that we can’t have an all girl crew. We’re not an all girl crew. You can’t just have a battle of the sexes because that’s not at all how it works. We needed a boy to be in our group, which there was. We skate with boys. That was one of the things that I remember emphasizing and being worried about.
Are there challenges that come with playing a character that’s sort of you, but not really you?