In Department of Theatre and Media Arts, Experiential Learning

“Skaterhood” tells compelling story of female skateboarders and their ties to motherhood

Photo courtesy of Sophia Prestwich

When Sophia Prestwich pitched the idea of making a documentary about women who skateboard, she had already begun to dabble in the sport herself. “I saw other girls skating and was intrigued by their presence in a sport usually so dominated by men,” she said.

Prestwich’s film was chosen to be a student Capstone project. This provided funding and led to a mentorship with Brad Barber, Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and associate chair for the BYU Department of Theatre and Media Arts.

Prestwich, who is from England, was not originally planning to attend university at all. But after a conversation with her high school art teacher, she decided to apply to BYU. “I really wanted to push myself to have an adventure, and America sounded fun,” she said. “I’ve been here for five years now.” Prestwich recently graduated from BYU with a major in media arts and an emphasis in documentary. 

Skaterhood,” Prestwich’s short documentary film, was released in October 2020. Its three subjects — Xan, Jen and Cass — share a common thread of motherhood. 

“They were all pretty open about being filmed,” Prestwich said. “Cass and Xan were already posting to social media a lot, and Jen was going to the skate park every morning with her son Max.”

Documentary subject Jen poses with her son Max.

Director of photography Skyler Sorensen is a media arts major who will graduate from BYU this spring. He was responsible for lighting and filming, sometimes running two cameras at once. Filming with a three-person skeleton crew (Sorensen, Prestwich and sound mixer David Sant) presented plenty of challenges. “It stretched me to focus on the bare minimum equipment needed to tell a compelling story in a beautiful way,” Sorensen said.

One of the most painful yet profound moments of the film was when newly pregnant Xan discovered she had suffered a miscarriage. 

“When the miscarriage happened, I was cautious about how to approach it, but Xan was the one to suggest including it,” Prestwich said. “She told me that only good things could come from sharing it. It was kind of a miracle, and definitely a learning experience for me. She became a catalyst for empathy.”

“One of the duties of being a filmmaker is building relationships with the people you film,” Prestwich continued. “The subjects aren’t actors, but real people with real stories. I learned how emotionally taxing creating films can be, especially documentaries. But I also feel like I changed as a person. I didn’t expect that.”

Prestwich shared that one of her favorite moments was filming Xan longboarding in Provo Canyon. “It was just me and my husband Israel,” she said. “I was skateboarding down the canyon with her while holding my camera.”

The importance of story is one of the lessons Prestwich learned along the way. “You can have a really cool idea, but if you don’t know how to put it together as a compelling story, it falls apart,” she said. “Our editor, Jenna Schaelling, did a great job with the footage. Editors don’t get enough credit for what they do.

“It was also really helpful to have Brad Barber’s advice on how to craft a strong narrative,” Prestwich said. “Brad brought in a few friends from when he was in school who are film professionals now. They watched the documentary and provided feedback. It was great to work with so many talented people!”

Prestwich is currently working on several passion projects. “My goal for 2021 is to create like crazy! I’m naturally drawn toward topics of women’s issues.” Her hope is to become a better filmmaker with every project, so people will recognize her work and so she can continue to make films for many years to come.

Follow Sophia Prestwich on Instagram.

 

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