Meet The Founder of Illegal Civilization, Mikey Alfred
Last weekend we visited Sun Valley’s iconic Pink Motel for Illegal Civilization’s Movie Motel. Part of Red Bull Music Festival Los Angeles, IC premiered their newest skate film Ic3, sold merch, and became a centerpiece for the celebration of their crew, music, and film. With the weather in our favor, the rain clouds parted and shone light onto the stage perched above a drained pool where skaters became the main act. Around the motel, booths sold merch (including Moon Citizen) and Mikey Alfred grooved in his loafers to the sounds of opening act Sunni Colón. Into the night, some other performances included Tierra Whack, Show Me the Body, Tommy Genesis, and IC’s very-own Na-kel Smith. We spoke to the founder and filmmaker of IC, Mikey Alfred, about the skate scene, their newest film, and what’s in store for the group.
In past interviews, you’ve said that you always knew that you wanted to be behind the lens and within the film aspect of the skate scene – what story are you trying to tell?
I’m trying to show kids that you can achieve anything you want as long as you work hard, be positive, and professional. Something I always thought was weird growing up was that all the directors or the producers, a lot of actors, you know – they sat with their legs crossed. They talked about Godard and Fellini; they just spoke this language I didn’t understand.
My dad’s a construction worker, my mom was someone’s assistant. I want to be that guy who had a super normal upbringing, with really normal parents, I speak in a normal vernacular, and I made it. I did it. I did it in the correct way where people still have respect for me.
Well because you’re in the same field as these people. You’re not looking down from them from this glass tower.
Exactly. 100 percent.
Do you think skateboarding is at the forefront of changing culture (in regards to fashion and style) or do you believe it’s been this way since the rise of street stating in the early 1990s?
I think skateboarding, for any creative person, always offers a good well to go to. Anytime you walk into someone’s creative incubator, and you look at their mood board there is always at least one picture with a skateboard on it, you know? If you need good fashion tips or you want to know what music people are listening to skating is just such a good well.
And why do you think that?
I think that skating is the only thing that’s creative, and athletic, and singular. You know, basketball, for example, is so much about your team, and so much about all the people around you. Skating is more about you. It’s kind of this like this cerebral activity.
Individual exploration too.
What are the pros and cons of the LA skate scene?
Well, it’s funny for skateboarding, LA is the place to be. There are these funny memes where people put like “Heaven’s gate,” and people will say like, “Any skater, not in California, looking at California” because it’s literally like that. People move from Ohio and Kentucky and all these places to skate. So the pros, you’re in the middle when you’re from here. You’re born in the best place to be born if you want to be in the skate world.
And the cons? I don’t think there are any.
I’ve never had an experience where I’m like, “This is an LA specific problem.”
In an interview from last September, you talked about the different directions you want to take Illegal Civilization. How has your company grown in ways that you didn’t expect?
With the skate stuff, it’s doing really well. We just did the shoes of converse. We are doing two more in 2019. We’re super excited about that. But the way it’s grown that’s really interesting is I want it To essentially be a distribution company where we do music, clothing, and movies. We’re about to partner up and do our record label. With the clothing, we just did a deal with Bravado and Universal that we haven’t announced yet, so that’s super exciting. And with the movies after we make this film “North Hollywood” that we’re working on now, we’ll be able to establish that piece of it.
And again, with that all in mind, of it being a distribution company, we’re hoping that we can first inspire people, but then second, give opportunity. So if someone comes with a movie idea, but they don’t know how to pitch it, and they don’t know how to talk about it, where other movie executives might be like, “Eh, I’m okay, maybe next time.” We’re gonna hear them. And we’ll understand them, and we can take what they’re saying in this rough kind of a normal vernacular, and turn it into a film.
Mid 90s kind brought attention to illegal civ from the non-skater community – how has that affected your brand/community?
I think it’s affected it in a really good way, because it brought more eyes to this positive thing we’re building and it opened people’s mind and showed them, “Oh, these kids from Illegal Civ; they can operate in this space, you know? They can be in this big arena.” So it’s given us more opportunity to do more.
It was really such a great film. I actually saw it at Arclight, just over in Hollywood, and I was so sad when it was over. It could have gone on for two more hours.
Ah, thank you, thank you.
Tell us about your new upcoming film Ic3?
Ic3 is our newest Skate full length. It’s about working hard, and staying loyal to your friends. For the past 6 years, we’ve been in the same tight-knit crew, and 2018 was very game-changing. Getting to do a feature film, and work on a tv show. We realized the power in doing things with friends.
When did you start filming – and how has that process differed from Mid 90s and other film projects you’ve worked on?
Ic3 is so different from Mid 90s in a sense that you’re not telling a story with a Skate video. Feature films are so creative and fun to be apart of but they take shape in a very systematic way, like anything on that big of a scale. You need to tell a story with a feature film, and it takes certain steps to do that. With a Skate video, the process is about how raw it can you make it, and how good are the tricks. There’s no story to really get across which makes it more free in one sense but harder to wrap your head around in another sense.
Let’s talk about the event that’s going. Tell me about the musical performers, how do they embody the Illegal Civ attitude?
So we got, “Show Me the Body,” which is a punk band. Tierra Whack, she’s a rapper. Na-Kel Smith, amazing rapper. Tommy Genesis, another musical artist. They’re all so different, and I think in that way it represents Ilegal Civ because it’s for everybody. People from all different scenes can come here and get something from it.
I actually interviewed Sunni Colón, who is also performing.
So were these people that you had known previously or was it something that you kind of worked through with Red Bull?
Besides Tommy Genesis, it was all people that we’ve been friends with and have known in the past.
Why Pink Hotel?
The Pink Motel is in Sun Valley, which is right above or North Hollywood, and growing up there’s a pool there that people skate. Growing up, we always wanted to skate it and you’d always pass by and you’re like, “Fuck, I wish we could just go in there.” And when Red Bull brought up the opportunity of being able to do the event there, we jumped at it. Finally, we’d be able to skate that pool…and get to do the performances and all that stuff.
This is kind of a random question, for your last piece of wisdom – sometimes I think from an outside perspective, the skating community can be seen as kind of exclusive. What do you have to say to people that think, “There’s no point in trying, I’m already too old.”
I think that when people do that when they look at it as the exclusive, hard-to-get-to thing, they’re dehumanizing it. They’re looking at it through a movie lens or through a lens of all these stories they’ve built up in their own head. When, when you really get into it, it’s just people writing a piece of wood; they’re just as nice and just as mean as any other group of people who do anything. So what I would say is go for it. Go try to learn how to skate. Learn those people, hang out with them, get to know them as regular human beings, you know?
Is there anything else you want to add?
North Hollywood is coming soon. It’s about a kid who wants to be a skater, but his dad wants him to go to college and at the core, it’s about when you want to follow your heart and follow your passion, but then your parents want you to do the safer thing. We’ve all been there in our own way.
Stay tuned to Milk for more from the west coast.