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By the end of his teens, Leo Castillo has already endured more tragedy than most: witnessing an older brother killed by police, a younger brother wooed ever-closer to gang affiliation, an impoverished home-life and a father he's never known. Through this tumult, skateboarding has always provided him solace, a literal and figurative vehicle to escape the rampant violence of his southwest Chicago neighborhood.

 

That is until one summer day, when a bullet rips through his calf, causing nerve damage and threatening his ability to ever skate again. Faced with this reality and armed with little more than street-smarts and the support of his best friend Beaver, Leo begins to forge his own unlikely path to adulthood. From helping spearhead the construction of a neighborhood skatepark to teaching his own after-school skateboarding class at the local high school, Leo discovers ways to transform a youthful passion into a productive future. But with each step forward, it seems a past he can’t quite escape keeps trying to drag him and his family back down.  

 

WATCH THE TRAILER

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PRODUCTION CREDITS:

​Ryan Ferguson – Director/Cinematographer

Ryan co-founded Flyback Productions in his last semester at Columbia College in Chicago. Through Flyback, he has spent over 15 years producing, shooting, and editing videos for clients such as Ford Motor Company, Vh1, Illinois Holocaust Museum and the Cook County Juvenile Court. Ryan is a regular volunteer video professional for Poverty Alleviation Chicago. In addition to his commercial work, Ryan also has directed, shot, and edited several independent documentary shorts. Ryan’s first feature film HANNIBAL TAKES EDINBURGH follows standup comedian Hannibal Buress for one month at the Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Festival. Netflix purchased the film in 2016 to rave reviews. Ryan has been a cinematographer on numerous documentaries about underserved communities including: Syl Johnson- Anyway the Wind Blows, Dear Walmart, Ringside, and Little Dresses for Africa. His current documentary in production is following a novel clinical trial for a rare fatal pediatric disease called Canavan Disease taking place at Dayton Children’s Hospital. More information can be found at https://www.curecanavanfund.org. SKATE OR DIE is Ryan’s second feature film and premiered at the 2021 San Francisco Documentary Film Festival. ryan@flybackproductions.com
 

Azam Ahmed – Producer/Writer

Azam has written for several media organizations, including the Dow Jones Newswires, the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune, who published the story that thematically inspired SKATE OR DIE. A graduate of the University of Virginia, he has lived and worked in Mexico City, Kabul, Afghanistan, New York, Washington D.C., Brussels, Belgium and Chicago, and has traveled through more than 30 countries across the globe. Azam currently is the Mexico Bureau Chief for the New York Times. SKATE OR DIE is Azam’s first venture into documentary filmmaking.

Jason Osder – Producer

Jason Osder is a documentary filmmaker and assistant professor at The George Washington University. He has more than 15 years of experience in media, interactive project management, and education. In 2013 he completed the feature film, LET THE FIRE BURN which, after a Tribeca Film Festival premiere, won the Independent Spirit Truer than Fiction award and earned him a place on Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 Top New Faces of Independent Film. Currently, Jason is directing the investigative project, WHO KILLED ALEX ODEH? and AMERICA SELLS ITSELF, a co-production with Kartemquin.

 

Nick Nummerdor - Producer/Outreach Coordinator

2017 Chicago Digital Media Production Fund Grantee, Nick Nummerdor is a filmmaker based in Chicago. His film, CONCRETE DREAMS, a three-piece documentary following the decade-long struggle and ultimate triumph of one woman’s mission to provide a free public skatepark in Villa Park, IL recently gained distribution through Tony Hawk’s RIDE Channel on YouTube. The Tony Hawk Foundation staff described it as “f***ing amazing.” Nick is a skateboarder, a former intern of Kartemquin films, graduate of Columbia College, and was an outreach coordinator for MINDING THE GAP. His best known documentary, VANNIN’, played in numerous festivals worldwide and was featured on the front page Amazon Prime in 2018. His new film SLEEZE LAKE comes to streaming in 2022 after a successful film festival run. nick@littlecabinfilms.com
 

Zebediah Smith - Editor

Zeb recently received an Emmy Award in cinematography and has worked in documentary television for the past decade from many angles, including director of photography, producer, production supervisor, and editor. He has traveled around the world, filming in over 20 countries on 5 continents. At home in the US, Zebediah co-produced and edited the Sundance Documentary Fund winner WHATEVER IT TAKES, which won Audience Awards and Grand Jury Prizes at festivals across the US.
 

Theo Katsaounis - Composer

Katsaounis has been touring the world as drummer and multi instrumentalist for Chicago indie band Joan of Arc for over a decade. Joan of Arc is represented by Polyvinyl Records and has released a string of albums since 1995 whose rich history (Tim Kinsella; Cap n Jazz) was made into a feature documentary YOUR WAR (IM ONE OF YOU) 20 years of Joan of Arc by VICE. He is a fine artist, skater, writer, cult film fanatic, & experimental video creator. He wrote and recorded a complete original score for the film, comprised of 18 original songs.

 

Jourdon Gullett - Artwork/Graphics

Chicago based creative, artist, designer, illustrator, father, skateboarder, and van enthusiast. Work with Dark Matter Coffee, Solemn Oath Brewery, Uprise Skateshop, Bluetown/Pardon My Thrashing/Character Skateboards, & Dr. Martens.
 

Timothy Edson - Sound Design and Mix

Edson is a freelance sound professional having worked on shows such as Lovecraft Country(HBO) & Work in Progress(Showtime).
 

Ryan Shuck - Colorist

Digital imaging technician and colorist for feature films, television, and commercials.

 
 

Awards

WHERE I SHINE

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