††††††††† On June 2nd, 2007, BottleTree cafe in downtown Birmingham, Alabama premiered the documentary Pray for Me: the Jason Jessee Film which
tells the story of legendary professional skateboarder, Jason Jessee. This was the first (and only?) showing of the film in the Southeast. It was made possible
by the extremely diligent work of Tom Bagby (well-known, longtime skater and musician in the Birmingham scene) and the sponsorship from FAITH Skate Supply,
ArtofSkateboarding.com, and Vans shoes. Tom not only brought the film to Birmingham, but he also brought special guest, the film's director David "Shitbird"
Rogerson (owner of Shitbird wheels and decks), to screen the film, take questions, and just hang out and enjoy some southern hospitality.
Official flier for the event
Tom and Dave enjoy red beans and rice at the inside bar
Locals enjoying some food and drinks outside
Shitbird Dave introduces the film
The crowd enjoys the movie
Tom can finally relax with friends
Tom, Dave and pro photographer Brian Francis exchange stories
Shitbird Dave(center) with the event sponsors (yes, that is a VERY sunburned Amorone at left! haha)
Admission for the movie was free (yes, FREE!). The event began with a cookout starting around 6pm. Tom and the BottleTree crew cooked up some amazing red beans
and rice with a choice of sausage (meat or vegetarian), chicken or a combination of both. With the movie not set to start till 9pm, BottleTree was playing lots
of great old skate videos on the big screen while skate music from over the years played over the sound system. There were also some great giveaways for Vans
including t-shirts, stickers, patches, etc. for everyone. This was a great time to meet and mingle with old friends and enjoy the $2 beer specials!
Promptly at 9pm, David "Shitbird" Rogerson introduced the film and things got underway. By that time, the crowd had grown to around probably
125 people or so. Not too large to be overwhelming and not too small, it was a good sized crowd. Some people had come from as far north as Nashville (3 hour drive)
and as far south as the Gulf coast (4 hour drive) to see the movie. I donít think they, or anyone else for that matter, were disappointed! It was an amazing film!
The documentary itself chronicles the life of Jason Jessee from his birth and early years captured on old home movies up through his peak in life
(his words) of turning pro for Santa Cruz and on through 2006 when his company, Automodown (home of several of Jason's "projects"; including the
Driven skateboards, 100% Skateboarder, and more) was forced to close it's doors after being evicted (Automodown managed to stay in business and is still alive
and well). What was at first most interesting to me was how little Jason's skateboarding was covered in the film. However, after seeing the entire film,
you will understand that skateboarding is but one of the many facets of Jason Jessee's life and by no means the main focus among his many interests.
In fact, I do not think Jason has just one main focus among them all! Jason's eccentric lifestyle is captured well given his extreme span of involvement
in various areas. You see his involvement in skateboarding and surfing, the California custom car culture (he is a Dukes member!), building custom motorcycles (he is a Sinners
member too!), metal working and art, gun collecting (yes, you read correct!), and more. The story is told from interviews of many of Jason's friends and family
members while Jason's part in the film is just simply "Jason being Jason" day-to-day. At times, Jason appears to be a complete hellbent psycho,
at others, a helpless, hapless "retard" (term used in the movie), while at others, he comes off as a pure genius that has just been playing those other
parts for his own fun and amusement. Going into the movie, I of course had some idea of Jason from his skateboarding and skate video parts, but I was pleasantly
surprised to find out that what I knew was only the tip of the iceberg, and his talent far exceeds what most of us know of him from skateboarding alone. Jason is
definitely one of those people that make the world a much more interesting place.
As the film ended, there was a standing ovation. David "Shitbird" Rogerson then reclaimed his chair up front and opened the floor
for questions. Surprisingly, or maybe not since the film was so complete in itís presentation, there were very few questions other than a resounding "when
can we get the DVD ?!?!". According to David, the DVD is "coming soon" with the only possible time frame given as "3-4 months out". I
will definitely be adding that one to my DVD library at home, and I suggest you do the same. In the meantime, check the official web site for locations for
other showings and make the trip to one near you. You will not regret it! Thanks again to David Rogerson (and all others involved) for making this film, to
Tom Bagby and BottleTree for bringing it to the South, and the other sponsors for doing their part to make it all happen as well!