Jordan Garland's "A Detroit Film" looks to change the mindset of a generation
Check out this exclusive interview
Yesterday (December 10) the city of Detroit officially came out of bankruptcy. Ending a 17-month ordeal stint as bankrupt, Detroit's challenges are truly just beginning. As Detroit mayor Mike Duggan told the New York Times yesterday, “How do you deliver service in a city where the unemployment rate is double the state average, and we’ve got to rebuild a water system and a bus system and a computer system and a financial system?”
Detroit has serious institutional overhauls that are needed across all city service realms to be put back on a path of sustainability and prosperity for its citizens. It's not only going to take diligence on the part of city leaders, but it's going to take more commitment on the part of its citizens.
Jordan Garland is one of those citizens. He's working on a documentary about Detroit told through the eyes of skating, BMX riding, art, and music. Garland believes that Detroit's hope lies in its citizens abilities to find creative outlets and passions. After all, human beings tend to operate at their highest levels when they're passionate about something.
So we sat down with Jordan to talk about the idea, the film, what's really going on in Detroit, and how he plans to help things get to where they need to be. The project, A Detroit Film, will all come together next year. For now, check out the trailer and head to asdetroitsown.com to see how you can get involved.
"A Detroit Film" trailer
Network A: What are some of the biggest obstacles to creating a new mindset in Detroit?
Jordan Garland: The whole world really needs help, not just Detroit. Our city is bankrupt and might have a lot of rough areas, but it’s more honest here. There’s less government assistance than anyone should ever have to deal with, but it really just inspires actual people, human beings, to make change for themselves and not rely on politicians. I don't really see it as revitalizing, and if it is, its not something I'm claiming I know how to do. I just think a lot of people in society in general, not just Detroit, need a hobby or creative outlet because if you don't have a way to express how you feel, then everyone is in a bad spot right from the jump.
There’s so much crazy stuff going on in the world and you gotta have a way to build your own world and express, and art gives you that. Not to mention you learn the most important qualities and lessons about everything in life when you dedicate yourself to a craft, which in turn grows an incredible DIY work ethic.
Net A: How did "A Detroit Film" come about?
JG: I've been traveling and skating Damn Ams and Tampa Am and other stuff like that for awhile, and just through skating in different cities and experiencing them firsthand, you get a real huge culture shock when you fly back to Detroit and that alone inspired a lot of it. Those involved are friends I’d made along the journey, and all of them just happened to be incredible artists in their own way.
Through being sponsored by and working at Transitions Skatepark, which we call The Trap, I met a bunch of good friends who became like family. My roommate Mikey Tyra is this good BMX rider who is always putting out awesome web edits, as well as skate sections from me, Lonzie Raymond, and a BMX section from Dylan Jaye. I've also been fortunate enough to work with one of the most incredible photographers in the world Joe Gall. We’re always throwing people on board too if they can add something to the story!
Net A: How does music, skating, art, BMX riding, etc. present a different opportunity for change?
JG: I think they were the right opportunity all along. It isn’t just art and skateboarding and painting and music to me. To me it’s the embodiment of any feeling or individual’s passionate view on something. We’re in a visual generation now and artists are the most visual people on the planet—so who do you think are the voices of that generation? We see everything happen online, so the opinions we are really concerned with are artists who can move people in a real way.
Net A: What are some notable and productive projects going on in Detroit at the moment?
JG: There’s a lot going on everywhere. Thrasher came through a couple years ago and built an entire skatepark. The whole neighborhood they built in looks like a war zone—most people would be scared to just walk down the street—and now there are all these kids from that neighborhood skating at the park and interacting with everyone for the positive.
DIY parks and the people are the future. People should know they can build for themselves. This guy Derrick gets people together to build DIY skateparks all around the city. There are also tons of art projects and places like Heidelberg that have been in the city for decades. Our roots are literally art and music and Midwest weather. We’re built for whatever we gotta go through already.
Net A: Who are some of the riders, musicians, and artists you've been working with?
There’s so many! The Bruiser Brigade is really who I've been connecting with so far on a music level. Dopehead and Blacknoise, too. Just these incredible artists who already travel and tour and play festivals, but are also an important part of the Detroit scene.
The Heidelberg project I mentioned before are made up of amazing people and artists who have been around forever in Detroit. Tyree Guyton, who started it, revitalized an entire block of abandoned and run-down homes into an art project that looks like a Dr. Seuss.
Net A: Is it really like a modern day wild west there right now?
JG: It really just depends where you're at. Like the area in the intro to the trailer looks like a land out of Lord Of The Rings or something, you know? But downtown Detroit looks like any other downtown—businesses and buildings and skate spots. There are definitely some neighborhoods that look like third world countries with wild packs of dogs and burnt down houses. You just gotta stay away from places you don't need to be. We skate in super sketchy areas but they see why we’re there and most of the time are more hyped on us more than anything. Just keep to yourself, be a real person.
Net A: What are your goals for the project? How will you deem it successful?
JG: Honestly I don't really look at it like that. This is all just life for me as a creative person, and I just want to make something that affects my generation and culture in a good way. Give them something that makes them want to express themselves and inspire each other. Not in some corny mainstream media way, just in a real way that is how they really feel.
I guess goals would be to help everyone tell their story. I can't even say how to deem this project successful at some point, but I guess successful would be if it put everyone in a better place. To accomplish that and give people something that feels like Detroit, I guess that’s the goal.