By Anne Wilde
Interview with Amateur Skaters Director, Shemsu J. Lefevre
James Lefevre Studios presents the world premiere of Amateur Skaters at the Lobero Theatre on Friday, October 22, 2021 at 7 PM. The feature-length documentary, directed by fourteen-year-old Santa Barbara native Shemsu Lefevre, explores the world of skateboarding through the lens of four young skaters. Shemsu discovered his passion for filmmaking at the young age of eleven. Keen on learning the nuts and bolts of making movies, he checked out numerous college level ‘how to’ books from the library and eagerly began his endeavor. By twelve, the self-taught director made his first short film, which showed at one of the local festivals. With the support of his parents, he then went on to advance his skills by taking online master classes.
Although not a skater himself, Shemsu began filming his close skateboarder friends a couple of years ago with his iphone at some of the nearby skate parks – with no idea that one day he would use these images to create a feature length documentary.
After reviewing the collective footage several months later, he had a realization that this would be the perfect subject matter for his next project. His friends were quite enthusiastic about the concept and loved the idea of being part of such an inspirational venture. The narrative organically materialized, focusing on four amateur skaters pursuing their passion and sharing the physical and emotional obstacles they each experience along the way. Shemsu was drawn to documentary-style filmmaking and, as his skillset grew over the next year and a half of production, the young filmmaker incorporated the use of other cameras to capture more sophisticated footage.
The film features local skaters Kai Tautrim, Rowan Brownlee, Kahlil Aguilar, and Isaac Relis, along with an appearance by professional skateboarder Andy Anderson. The director’s goal is to spread awareness of the benefits of the sport – which builds valuable life skills, such as determination and focus, and exposes kids to cross-cultural interactions in community spaces and beyond. Skaters are persistent, creative, and determined to conquer the next trick and expand their repertoire.
After completing production, Shemsu launched a successful crowd-funding campaign to help with post-production and marketing. This young man wears many hats – musician (guitar, piano, cello), filmmaker, actor, and high school student. Growing up, he spent a lot of time at the Lobero, as his grandfather was quite fond of the theater. And the filmmaker himself performed on the Lobero stage in numerous productions throughout his childhood. So, it makes sense that Shemsu chose to present the world premiere of Amateur Skaters – red carpet and all – at our notable historic venue.