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“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” was one of the most influential and successful video game franchises of the late 1990s and early 2000s. When combining the sales of all 17 games, it has made $1.4 billion. That’s part of the reason why when former Neversoft producer Ralph D’Amato came across Swedish director Ludvig Gür’s amateur documentary about the video game, he knew he had to reach out to him.
D’Amato, who worked on the first eight Tony Hawk video games, met up with Gür in California during the summer of 2016. D’Amato always wanted there to be a documentary about the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
“It’s part of my career and my life. It was a little bit selfish,” D’Amato told CBS Sports. “I thought the story was cool enough. The glory days and that nostalgia of projects that you worked on. I just thought it was a really cool story. My initial thought of it was a lot different than how Ludvig saw it. Thankfully, he’s the director and I’m the producer. And his vision was seen through.”
While Gür was visiting in California in 2016, he and D’Amato hung out and played “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” games. Since Gür was in town, D’Amato called up Tony Hawk, who he had a relationship with from working on the franchise. D’Amato asked if Hawk had a few minutes to meet one of the biggest fans of the games: Gür.
Hawk agreed without hesitation.
The meeting was supposed to be a brief 10 to 15 minute encounter, but lasted more than an hour. Gür, who was just 18 at the time, pitched the idea of making a documentary about the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” franchise to Hawk in person that day. Hawk agreed to be involved.
Just four months after that introduction, filming for “Pretending I’m a Superman” began. The documentary gets its name from the Goldfinger song “Superman,” which was featured on the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1” soundtrack.
“From there, we just did a ton and ton of Skype and Facebook calls, just working things out. Ludvig had a bunch of film contacts that were also very passionate about the video game that we reached out to,” D’Amato said. “We got people working on sweat equity at the beginning.”
When “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1” was released in 1999, it was unlike any video game that had come into the mainstream before. Prior to its release, skateboarding was still a relatively underground sport. When the idea of creating a video game around the sport first came about, some professional skateboarders were torn.
“A lot of them were very hardcore skaters, like Jamie Thomas and Chad Muska, they were very hesitant to be in the game in the first place,” Gür, said. “They were very afraid of the fact that ‘what if the game is very cheesy?’ That’s the thing about ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,’ it represented skateboarding culture so well… the video game captured skateboarding culture with players learning the names of the tricks, how to perform, the names of skaters, and names of companies. There’s so much that Neversoft did right.”
When it comes to Gür, skateboarding was a more established sport when he was growing up. He didn’t experience the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” release like people older than him did.
“Obviously growing up with the games, I have a very different perspective,” Gür said. “As I was kind of introduced to the skateboarding world, it was already well-established. For me, in my lifetime, I’ve never seen skateboarding as a dead art form… that’s more of the reason that I wanted to make the documentary to kind of show the rise and influence that those games had on the world.
“This might be a bit exaggerated, but I don’t think any other game has been so influential in the real world… I don’t think that the ‘NBA2K’ series made a lot more people play basketball. That’s already huge.”
When Activision needed to find a face for the video game franchise, no name was bigger in the sport than Hawk. Prior to the 1999 release of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” he was already a force at the X Games.
“Activision was searching out potentials for someone to be the nameplate for a skateboarding game, and his name was still the biggest name out there,” D’Amato said of Hawk. “He had been destroying it in the X Games, winning every single medal multiple times. He’s such a huge part of that world, so I think that it was a no-brainer for them to reach out to him and try to bring him on board. He has a very wholesome image, his Q-score was through the roof, and it just made a lot of sense.”
Fast forward 21 years later, and people still have a lot of interest in the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise.” And that was before it was this coming September for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
“I saw it first hand with my neighbor kids and other kids that had never skated before or I gave the game to,” D’Amato said. “Next thing I see, they’re skating out in the street. You saw more and more kids going to skate parks. You heard stories from some of the pros about them getting recognized where they weren’t getting recognized before. And it wasn’t just here in the United States, it was global.
“We get fan mail on our website from people all over the place asking about our film, when it’s coming out, and how much the game meant to them. I know it had a massive impact.”
“Pretending I’m a Superman” made its debut at California’s Mammoth Film Festival in February. The documentary won awards for “Best Action Sports Feature” and “Best Documentary Feature.”
While attending the Mammoth Film Festival, D’Amato and Gür connected with Wood Entertainment CEO Tara Wood. Their relationship developed from there and earlier in May it was announced that Wood Entertainment would be the distributing partner for “Pretending I’m a Superman.”
As of right now, there is no release date slated for the film. However, D’Amato and Gür urge fans to keep an eye on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages for updates on “Pretending I’m a Superman.”
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