“Sea Level” skate film has Vineyard premiere Friday

Elliot, on a skateboard himself, films a fellow skater for the film. — Photo courtesy of Elliot Vecchia

When Elliott Vecchia was 12, his parents bought him a skateboard from Toys ‘R Us. He was appreciative, but it wasn’t really what he had in mind. After much begging and pleading, Mr. Vecchia embarked on three weeks worth of chores to earn the money for a coveted pro board from the Green Room. He has been skateboarding ever since, and now, at 25, he’s showing some major talent for documenting the sport.

Growing up in Vineyard Haven, before the Martha’s Vineyard Skatepark existed, Mr. Vecchia and friends traveled for the love of their sport. With transportation help from willing parents, they made weekend pilgrimages to skate parks such as Maximus (which has since been shut down) in Cambridge.

Mr. Vecchia’s first foray into filming was during a seventh grade project period at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. For the self-designed project, Mr. Vecchia created his first skate video, filming at parks across the state and learning about video editing at school. Later, at the M.V. Regional High School, he studied photography and credits art teachers Mr. Brissette and Mr. Baer for being “highly influential in my life.”

Mr. Vecchia began pursuing film and photography more seriously at the Massachusetts College of Art, “before that I didn’t know too much about film, but I always wanted to integrate music and photography, and they gave me the tools I needed to do that,” he says.

Mr. Vecchia gained experience filming in Paris and during a two-month long trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Filming in Brazil was “eye-opening” he says. Local natural talent was going completely unnoticed. It was an experience he likens to “working on a high school play and then suddenly finding yourself on the set of a Hollywood movie.”

Two years ago, Mr. Vecchia and Chris Fiftal, a friend and Mass College of Art classmate, created “Sea Level,” a project that would showcase amateur skateboarders on the East Coast. Mr. Vecchia explains, “the [skate] industry is really based in California, so we wanted to shed some light on East Coast kids who have a lot of talent.”

Mr. Vecchia and Mr. Fiftal traveled to skate parks in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Providence, New York City, and all over the Boston area to get footage. They spent 26 days on the road traveling from Boston to San Diego with East Coast skate-great Doug Moore and the photographer known simply as Xeno.

After “countless hours” of work, “Sea Level” premiered last month in Boston at the MassArt auditorium. An astounding 300+ crowd attended the screening.

Though supremely happy with the outcome, Mr. Vecchia admits to some unexpected melancholy and self-doubt immediately following the debut. “Was it really as good as we thought?” he and Mr. Fiftal wondered. “It was a release,” he says, and there is understandably some sadness related to that.

Mr. Vecchia is currently at work on a documentary featuring the artwork of his stepfather, Barney Zeitz. With good-natured confidence, Mr. Vecchia concludes, “I’m not done, I’m just getting started.”

“Sea Level” premiers on-Island on Friday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 pm at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. There is a $5 cover charge with all proceeds going to the MV Skatepark.