The Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University, Bret Anthony Johnston, defies the ivy-league stereotype but it makes perfect sense. As Johnston explains “For all of their perceived destructiveness, for all of their purported unthinking and lawless mischief, skateboarders are a creative and compassionate breed.” Aspiring young writer Celeste Marscelline Perez delves deeper into the idea as she questions Johnston about the movie “Waiting For Lightning,” about uber skateboarder Danny Way. Johnston wrote the script for “Waiting For Lightning,” a documentary about a boy from a broken home in Vista, CA, whose passion for skateboarding led him to push the boundaries of what was humanly possible and ultimately to his biggest stunt: Trying to jump the Great Wall of China. It’s a very personal journey of a man who defied the odds of a broken home to turn pro at age 13, named Thrasher Magazine Skater Of The Year at age 14 and broke world record after world record. All the while he lived through a time with minimal parental involvement and far more money than the average adolescent, and the drive to push the limits of athletic ability in a sport relatively new to the human race. It’s about the indomitable human spirit and a the tight-knit skating community which ultimately became his family, and finally the forgiveness and acceptance we all embrace as we become parents ourselves.
Johnston, who toured with a professional skateboarding team for a “full five minutes,” gives us clues to what drives these daredevils and in an article for the New York Times* clarifies “You don’t give in. You take every run — on the ramp, with recovery, at City Hall.”
It has everything and nothing to do with skateboarding which, at its essence, is the act of focusing so intensely on the body that you feel liberated from your physical form. Think not of swimming in a pool, but of becoming the ocean itself. Think not of flying, but of floating in a place where the ground or gravity has never existed — a place where, at long last, there is no irony, no pain or struggle, where there’s no such thing as falling. – Bret Anthony Johnston
Sounds a lot like the same type of creativity needed to imagine a movie or a novel.