Finding Tobey Goes Deep Into Mid South Skate Culture at Indie Memphis


Chase Gustafson moved to Memphis in 2006, knowing very little about the city. “It was a completely different city back then.”

The art school graduate’s day job is as a creative director, and his freelance sideline is photography and filmmaking. “I’ve always loved telling stories, whether it’s with a still photo, drawing, or through film. Documentary filmmaking has been my focus the last eight or nine years. I feel like if I can get someone to tell their story, then I can help shape it and get it out there.”
Finding Tobey
  • Finding Tobey

At first, he was surprised to find a vibrant skate scene in the Bluff City. It was a mileu with which he was intimately familiar. “I was a skater in my high school days, but I was not very good. That’s how a camera ended up in my hand,” he says. “I couldn’t skate. I was a hockey player. I just couldn’t balance on a skateboard. But my dad had this really cool. GE portable VCR with a camera that plugged into it. I could take that everywhere. We started making videos. That gave me a way to hang with the community, and a way to participate in it. I couldn’t do the stuff on the ramp or on the street, but I could record it, and they could like it.”

He became intrigued by Aaron Shafer’s quest to convince the city government to build a public skate park. “Shirt and tie during the day, skateboard at night,” he says.“This is a real Clark Kent type story. This is a guy who is a researcher at St. Jude, helping devleop drugs during the day. Then at night, he was advocating to get a skate park built, he’s working at community centers, advocating for the youth. He was doing everything he could to make life better for young people. He was the driving force behind getting the skate park built.”

The more Gustafson dug into the Memphis skate scene, the bigger the story got. “It was great to learn about the guy with the longest running skateboard shop in Tennessee, Ron Hale, and find out what he meant to the community,” says the director. “There are people here from all walks of life, some born here and some are transplants like me. They make look different on the outside, but everybody is pretty cool. I lived in L.A. and Seattle, and there are a lot of people like that. But Memphis feels completely different. I don’t say that because I want Memphis to shine. It was just the reality. I would interview a businessman, a father, a Nike guy, a teacher who works with kids, and there was a common thread. They are people who were real down to earth, and they just cared.

Gustafson's documentary Finding Tobey became the biggest film project of his career, and the director says he’s proud to bring it to Indie Memphis. “Every time I film, I learn something to make my craft better.”

Finding Tobey screens at 5:00 PM on Sunday, November 5 at Playhouse On The Square. For more information, visit the Indie Memphis website.

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