Seven things you may not know about the brains behind Epicly Later'd.
Words and photo by Nat Kassel.
As you’re probably well aware, Patrick O’Dell is the guy behind Epicly Later’d, which started as a humble video blog and has become arguably the best TV show about skateboarding in existence. As an interviewer and a documentarian, O’Dell’s strength is that he never shies away from the tough questions. Between asking Ali Boulala about the death of Shane Cross, telling the story of John Cardiel’s spinal injury, and bringing Ed Templeton to tears, O’Dell has managed to document a solid chunk of skateboarding’s history with glaring honesty and intimacy. O’Dell’s approach is generally to visit pro skaters in their homes, follow them ’round a bit and interview a whole score of their friends. The editing is generally pretty bare: no music, no slow mo, and no lifestyle shots. The episodes leave you feeling almost like you know the skaters personally. And yet O’Dell is a bit of a mystery – he’s this tall, quiet dude from Ohio, who is super well connected in skateboarding and a little camera shy. Recently I was in LA and got the chance to go to O’Dell’s house to have a chat with him. Here are a few things you might not know about the brains behind Epicly Later’d.
TAKING PHOTOS FOR THRASHER
“I went to art school for photography and then somehow after art school I started shooting for Thrasher as a regular contributor,” O’Dell explains. This was back in the late ’90s and early ’00s, and although he never scored a cover, he was at Thrasher for “maybe five years or something”. This no doubt got him connected with lots of skaters and skate companies, paving the way for what would become Epicly Later’d. Then, in around 2004, O’Dell says, “I think I started getting a little burnt on shooting skate photos. I don’t know why really, but I just decided that that wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living.”
THE VICE CONTRACT
In 2004, O’Dell got a job as the photo editor for VICE in New York. Within a few years, they would launch VBS, which was VICE’s platform for online video content. The editor at the time, Jesse Pearson, decided they should have a skate show and he suggested Patrick take it on. Epicly Later’d was born there and then, but O’Dell was really clever about making sure that the show would always be attached to his name. “I got help from a lawyer doing a contract,” he explains, “I just didn’t want a day when I would wake up and be fired, and they would hire somebody else and the show would keep going. So it was sort of a mutually destructive contract.” That means that as long as the show exists, O’Dell will be the host. “At the time I was like, ‘Damn, this is so expensive to have a lawyer do this for me.’ But it paid off in the long run.”
WATCHING REYNOLDS CHANGE
O’Dell was on the first-ever Baker trip, back in the wild days when Andrew Reynolds was still a total pisshead, and they only got three hotel rooms for 15 people. There’s an early episode where O’Dell asks Reynolds about how he presents drinking and drugs in Baker videos and whether that badly influences kids. Reynolds appears a little defensive. But O’Dell says Reynolds’ answer to that question has changed over time. O’Dell explains, “I think he’s sort of re-evaluated his influence that he’s had on kids. I think in this new episode, I feel like his outlook on those things has changed now that he’s a dad, and sober, and the fact that he’s seen so many of his friends that are sober succeed and his friends who are on drugs disappear and not do very well.”
ANDY ROY VS CONSOLIDATED
In Andy Roy’s episode, he nearly gets in a fight with a big guy named Steve Guisinger, better known as Birdo, who’s one of the founding owners of Consolidated Skateboards. O’Dell admits that he was actually working for the Vans Park Series that day and wasn’t on set for the conflict. “I wasn’t even there. I didn’t watch the footage back until we had a rough cut and I couldn’t believe it when I was watching it. I was like, ‘This is insane,’” O’Dell says. “It was funny because Consolidated were saying that we cut it in a way that was supposed to make Andy look cool and Consolidated look lame,” he says. But he asked the film crew about that and they insisted that it wasn’t the case. O’Dell explains, “The weirdest thing is I always liked Consolidated. They always had a rad team. I kind of don’t care. I’m not that invested in any skate beef that I can’t think of. It’s like when sports fans get in fistfights at the game. Sometimes skating is like that. It’s like, ‘Dude, you guys should chill out for a little bit. It’s not a big deal.’”
“I SNAPPED ON THOSE PEOPLE”
For those who’ve been watching Epicly Later’d since the very first episode with Dustin Dollin, it’s clear that the production value has gone up considerably over time. The newest season is all HD with tight editing, lots of big-name interviews and travel budgets to boot. But as they say: more money, more problems. While shooting the Bam Margera episode in Barcelona, the VICELAND film crew got finicky about the shooting locations. O’Dell explains, “At that guy Winkle’s house they wouldn’t film inside because they wanted release forms for all the board art, then they wouldn’t film outside because the sound was bad, then there was street art in the background.” “I snapped on those people,” says O’Dell, “I was like, ‘Damn, this is going to ruin the show.’ We can’t just film everything in the local VICE office. I can’t do that. I need to be out in the world. And after that one time, I think we figured out how to navigate it a little better.”
O’DELL STILL HATES THE CAMERA
After more than a decade of making the show, O’Dell still hates being on camera. In fact, he describes it as “my worst nightmare” and says the only reason that he still speaks in front of the camera is that it’s specifically stated in his contract. “They put it in my contract that I get more money if I’m on camera in the episode,” he says. “They financially bribed me. They appealed to my greed.”
Having covered pretty much all the greats of American skateboarding, plus a few from abroad (Chima and Dustin are the only Aussies to be featured), you’ve got to wonder which episodes have had the highest ratings. “I have no idea,” says O’Dell, somewhat disappointingly. But then he recalls that VICE emailed him recently to tell him that Bam’s episode had the highest episode rating of the last season by a long shot. “I don’t have a number for you because I don’t remember, but I remember tripping out,” he says. This makes sense since Bam is probably bigger than skateboarding itself. But in terms of the peoples’ favourite – the episode that skaters constantly want to talk about – O’Dell doesn’t hesitate to answer: “I’d say when I meet people, they talk about Cardiel’s the most.”