Helen Stickler Biography
Helen Stickler is an American-born filmmaker whose works include Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2003) and Andre the Giant Has a Posse (1995). She wrote, directed and produced both of these films. Stickler’s early independent films include the shorts Queen Mercy and the documentary Andre the Giant has a Posse, the first documentary to discover graphic artist Shepard Fairey (OBEY/GIANT
“Andre the Giant has a Posse” was screened worldwide and in the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Village Voice film critic Ed Halter described the film as “legendary … a canonical study of Gen-X media manipulation. One of the keenest examinations of ‘90s underground culture”.
Helen is the producer, director, and writer of the feature film “STOKED: the Rise and Fall of Gator,” a documentary about 80’s professional skateboarding champion Mark “Gator” Rogowski, who is now serving life in prison for rape and murder. STOKED was written about in features in the New York and LA Times, and an interview with Helen and former pro skateboarder Ken Park aired on NPR’s “Fresh Air” in August 2003. LA Times critic Kenneth Turan described the film as “strongly directed and unexpectedly poignant. An excellent documentary about the compelling dark side of the American dream.”
In 1999 Ms. Stickler created the safe sex campaign “Roll On” for MTV and The Kaiser Family Foundation, which earned a Best National PSA Emmy Award nomination.
Stickler resides in Los Angeles, California, where she is currently at work on an updated, feature-length documentary about the art and career of Shepard Fairey.
Helen Stickler Age
Stickler was born on 13th January 1966, Crete Nebraska, United States. She is 53 years old.
Helen Stickler Height
Helen stands at a fair height and fair body weight.
Helen Stickler Career
She wrote, directed and produced both of these films. Stickler’s early independent films include the shorts Queen Mercy and the documentary Andre the Giant has a Posse, the first documentary to discover graphic artist Shepard Fairey (OBEY/GIANT). “Andre the Giant has a Posse” was screened worldwide and in the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.Helen Stickler
In 2003, Village Voice film critic Ed Halter described the film as “legendary … a canonical study of Gen-X media manipulation. One of the keenest examinations of ‘90s underground culture”. STOKED was written about in features in the New York and LA Times, and an interview with Helen and former pro skateboarder Ken Park aired on NPR’s “Fresh Air” in August 2003.
LA Times critic Kenneth Turan described the film as “strongly directed and unexpectedly poignant. An excellent documentary about the compelling dark side of the American dream.”
Stickler resides in Los Angeles, California, where she is currently at work on an updated, feature-length documentary about the art and career of Shepard Fairey.
Helen Stickler Net Worth
Stickler has an estimated net worth $ 12 million
Helen Stickler Interview
Like Beach Boy Brian Wilson, documentary maker Helen Stickler has very little practical experience in the sport she’s chosen as the primary focus of her work. Wilson, who rhapsodized about the joys of surfing, rarely entered the water. Stickler, whose Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator is beginning its theatrical run, doesn’t skate.
Someday, Stickler will tackle more adult passions and pursuits, just as Wilson did after the Beatles exploded in the mid-’60s. Skateboarding has been very, very good for the Kentucky native, though, and she’ll ride it for as long as it takes her.
Stoked documents how one legendary skateboarder, Mark “Gator” Rogowski took his act from the ramps, half-pipes and empty swimming pools of San Diego, to international stardom as one of the first X-treme athletes, to a lucrative side career as an endorser of skate gear, and, finally, to a life term in prison. In this way, at least, Gator’s parabolic rise and fall follows the arc of a classic American tragedy. Like so many other athletes, actors and rock singers – for whom wealth and fame came too quick and too easy – Gator’s great talent ultimately wasn’t strong enough to turn back the tide of unchained hubris. It rarely is.
Stoked is Stickler’s first feature-length project. She started working on it in 1997, after producing the award-winning short films Queen Mercy and Andre the Giant Has a Posse. The latter film was based on guerrilla artist Shepard Fairey’s iconic sticker-art campaign, which featured a likeness of the late WWF wrestler and was embraced by the emerging skate-punk movement for its in-your-face anti-establishment ‘tude.
Stickler and Fairey had both attended the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Stickler’s interest in skateboarding followed her there from Lexington, where she’d hung out with a group of skaters. Fairey was from San Diego, home base for Gator, Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain and other pros interviewed in the film.
Stoked follows Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown & Z-Boys onto the festival and arthouse circuit. Although some potential viewers initially might dismiss it as just another skateboard documentary, Stoked picks up where Dogtown left off. It takes the sport into the mid-’90s when it helped fuel the extreme-sports movement and mainstreaming of such “rad” pastimes as snowboarding and street luge.
Not so mainstream, though, is the way several of the sport’s pioneers turned out. Despite all his success, Gator’s demons finally got the best of him. His descent ended in the vicious rape and murder of a friend of the woman who had recently dumped him.
Stickler, who considers herself an “X-treme documentarian,” was interviewed on the morning after her film’s New York premiere. The fact that she was seriously hung over didn’t appear to have any negative impact on our discussion.
MOVIE CITY NEWS: Manhattan seems to be an unlikely place for the premiere of a documentary on skateboarding.
HELEN STICKLER: Skating is so mainstream now – it’s everywhere. I think that the city has developed and funded something like 600 skateboard parks in the last five years, including a new one on the Lower West Side, near the West Side Highway. Then, there’s a lot of transportation skating here and curb grinding, which is an urban thing.
MCN: When did you learn to skate?
HS: I don’t skateboard, myself.
MCN: You and Brian Wilson.
MCN: He couldn’t surf. Dennis was the only Wilson who did, apparently.
HS: I’m surprised. I didn’t know that. I don’t go around calling myself Skater Girl.
MCN: So, what attracted an art student — who doesn’t skate — to skateboarding?
HS: I grew up in Lexington, and went to the Rhode Island School of Design. But, I’ve lived in New York for the past seven years. The first time I ever visited California, it was to do research for this documentary, and I ended up staying out there for a year … San Diego and L.A.
My circle of friends has always included skateboarders, and skateboarders consider themselves to be artists.
MCN: Do you buy that?
HS: They have these wild graphics on the bottom of their boards. The sport has evolved through the creation of new tricks. It’s less about points and winning, than inventing new styles. It’s very individualistic and creative … those are my people.
MCN: What sparked your interest in Gator?
HS: He’s a legend in that community. When the crime was committed, in California, the mainstream press covered it … not the skating media. Skaters have their own infrastructure, and tend to be very protective of their subculture.
They have their own magazines, websites and their own way of doing things. No one really knew what was going on, and what rumors were true. That’s when I decided to start asking questions.
MCN: Were the skaters you met in San Diego very forthcoming? Did they see you as some kind of interloper from the east coast, and, therefore, someone not to be trusted?
HS: There was some skepticism. They didn’t see me as mainstream, but they didn’t know me very well. I’d done a couple of short films, including Andre the Giant Has a Posse, which was at Sundance in 1997. Shepard Fairey wasn’t very well known back then. I kind of outed him to the mainstream.
MCN: So, you had street cred.
HS: After an initial period of wariness, everything was fine. They were like the guys I’d hung around with in high school.
Everybody was concerned about the image I was going to convey about skateboarding, but they wanted the real story to be told.
MCN: Most young people are familiar with Tony Hawk by now. What made him different than Gator?
HS: There was a seed of rebellion in Gator to begin with, and a drive to be different. People respected him for that. I made a point of ending Stoked with Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero and Lance Mountain, who were Gator’s peers, had the same experiences and were just as big, but weren’t marketed in the same way or blown up in the media.
I wanted to show that there were a lot of different factors involved, but it was the same environment. If you have a certain kind of personality type, in a certain kind of environment, things can go badly … especially with outside influences.
MCN: Skateboarders, as a group, could be the poster children for an A.D.D. telethon. Am I far off?
HS: Well, later, Gator was diagnosed with a chemical disorder. We know so much more now about mental illness than we knew even 15 years ago. Practically everyone knows someone with some sort of bi-polar disorder, or manic depression, or mild depression.
In the years before Prozac, people didn’t talk about depression … especially those in a male-dominated subculture, where people don’t talk about their feelings all the time. Mark had the wrong combination of conditions. A couple of the other guys didn’t do so well, either.
MCN: Even so, so-called extreme sports now have entered the mainstream. It’s the Tony Hawks who are remembered by the media, not the Gators.
HS: The X-Games have been around for a decade now, and it keeps getting bigger. A younger generation of athletes seems to be more interested in alternative sports … skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX biking, street luging … all those things that are individual, and not team sports.
Tony Hawk’s more well known in that age group than Michael Jordan. The X-Games are as mainstream as they could be, but the kids are the same. The desire to be on a team doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be, which has its pros and cons, I suppose.
MCN: There is a Lord of the Flies aspect to the whole thing, though. The only people who were terribly surprised that a Gold Medal-winning snowboarder tested positive for marijuana were the media and Olympics executives.
HS: Yeah, well, it’s a different approach to athleticism. Many of them don’t even consider it to be a sport. They see it as an art form. They compete, but that’s not why they got into it. They’ll say, “It’s us against our own abilities, not us against other skaters.”
MCN: That must throw the media for a loop?
HS: They hate it. If they can’t quantify something, how can they sell it? In Dogtown, back in the ’70s, it was all about style. The way you sell style is by making it a lifestyle … turn it into something that’s a cool thing … not a sport.
In the ’80s, they found ways to commercialize it. One way was to take it on tour, which is very commonplace now, with the Warp tour, and Tony Hawk tour.
MCN: Gator became a model, designer and product rep, in addition to touring the world as a skater.
HS: Another way skating was commodified was by branding the clothing styles. That revolutionized things because every top skater now had their own brand of shoe … some even had their own shoe companies, boards, accessories.
It’s how they were able to sustain themselves. It’s still a very tenuous career for them to be in. As someone says in the film, “You’re just a disposable hero. When they’re done with you, they get rid of you.”
MCN: It used to take a long time for Hollywood and Madison Avenue to co-opt something young people invent. Now, the exploitation process is almost instantaneous.
HS: I think it’s important that these kids – just like hip-hop artists, who think anything’s possible after they sell their first record – realize that they’re selling their youth, and it’s a perishable quantity. You can’t get that back.
Look at the surfing reality shows on TV now. The girl-surfer movie, Blue Crush, was released only last summer, and, even though it was pretty good, it wasn’t all that successful. A year later, there are two TV shows about the same thing.
MCN: Maybe someone will call you to do a reality show about a bunch of skaters, from San Diego, who find themselves stuck in Anchorage.
HS: Maybe, if they do it, the skaters who participate will be shunned by their peers. The shame factor alone could prevent them for doing it. We already have the concept of “skatesploitation.”
MCN: One of the points you make in the film is that the popularity of skateboarding comes and goes in cycles, and that’s the way it’s been for decades.
HS: Every time skating gets big, Hollywood makes a movie about it. In the ’70s, it was Skateboard, with Leif Garrett. In the ’80s, it was Gleaming the Cube, with Christian Slater. All the guys got jobs on it, and they were happy to get a check out of it, by skating around and performing as stunt doubles.
Gator was a stunt double, and Stacy Peralta was second-unit director. They were happy to be a part of it, but no one really respected it. Avril Lavigne may be singing Sk8er Boi on MTV, but skaters aren’t buying her albums – they’re for someone else.
MCN: But, you say, not everything is happy in the kingdom?
HS: The industry is going through some tough times right now. Companies are closing their doors, and a lot of pro skaters aren’t having their contracts renewed.
Moms and dads aren’t buying boards for their kids, just so they can use them once or twice and put them away forever.
MCN: So, a lot of the media heat is an illusion?
HS: The X-Games are a small part of the industry. The bread and butter are the companies that sell skating products and accessories. The independents are part of larger distribution umbrellas. The current recession’s having a huge impact on them. These things go through a 10- 12-year cycle.
MCN: Your movie seems to pick up where Stacy’s left off.
HS: Exactly. They’re literally chapter one and chapter two in the skateboarding history book. Z-Boys ended around 1979, before the sport went into a recession. My film picks up in the early ’80s, with a discussion of how no one was buying skateboards.
Then, it got big again. My film follows it through the ’80s, and another recession in the ’90s … and then updates what happened to some of the skaters. Someone could do a documentary about the bling-bling ’90s, with the gold chains, big cars and livin’ large. Now, that’s coming to an end.
MCN: How did you feel when Dogtown beat you to the finishing line?
HS: I started my film in 1997. So, when I heard about Z-Boys, I went, “Oh, no.” They didn’t begin production until I was well into mine.
I was self-financed, and they had financial support from Vans. Stacy had been a fixture in the industry for years, and didn’t have any trouble getting his calls returned. I wasn’t known at all.
MCN: Any other headaches?
HS: After their movie came out, it made things difficult for me on the festival circuit, where the organizers really like novelty. They thought they’d done their skating thing already with Z-Boys.
But, I think they really complement each other, and don’t overlap. I don’t want anyone to treat this movie like a copycat documentary, so we don’t even mention it in our marketing.
MCN: It’s funny how these documentaries find their audience base in the arthouses.
HS: Before I started on Stoked, I curated a series of short films about skateboarding for the festival circuit. I knew there would be a crossover audience for this film, because so many artists and creative people are interested in it.
The art house audience also has supported Z-Boys and Step Into Liquid.
MCN: Any chance Gator will ever taste freedom?
HS: Mark’s been a model prisoner, and is in good mental form. He’s up for his first parole hearing in six years, but those usually are mere formalities.
Now, with the three-strikes law, the people with minor offensives are the ones who get out first. People who committed serious crimes have less chance now to be awarded parole than before three-strikes.
MCN: No surprise there.
HS: Mark originally was up for the death penalty, but the prosecution was swayed to go for life without parole. Then, on the eve of jury selection, he plead guilty and received life with the possibility of parole.
MCN: What’s next?
HS: I’m working on the DVD. We have some amazing outtakes and skateboarding stuff. I’m also working on some non-documentary scripts.