The first time Javi & I met, I had left a backpack on hill during the 2017 Launch. It was dark - as we had just gotten done shooting a sunset session. He so graciously offered to grab it for me. On his way down he hit a patch of dirt, resulting in a severely bruised dome, but a friendship nonetheless. Thank you Javi. Javi has a unique perspective when it comes to content creation - infusing humor with his own personal experiences in snowboarding and beyond. He will be the first person to call you out on something lame or poke the bear - just to get a response. - Tom
If you are in the Tahoe area, check out Javi's short film
premiering at Rojo's Tavern on Friday, October 13th, 2023
LSD VOL. 2 - Interview w/ Javier Silva
Tom: Hey man, what’s going on?
Javi: Hi Tom, I have a few things going on right now. I've mostly been working and trying to figure out how to balance home life with work, especially since my son, Evan, came along. The little time I felt like I used to have to do my own things has quickly slipped through my fingers. I've been working on this film project for a little over two years now because my priorities have shifted since I became a dad. I would work on it here and there, and it slowly came along. It was stressing me out for a while, but I had to change the way I was thinking about creating this because it was out of my hands. Once I let go of that pressure I was putting on myself, I began to appreciate the process of filmmaking again. And since I was going to be moving slowly on this, I made it a point to try and make it look as close to what I had pictured in my head. I filmed the intro and the first two slides, then I had to stop messing with it because there was no time left in my schedule. When I finally had a chance to jump back into it, I had built all the props for the space scene and knew what I wanted it to look like, but the camera I was using couldn't capture it the way I wanted it to. I had previously talked to Kyle Greene about working on something together, so I hit him up to see if he could help me with this, and he jumped in. It was cool working with him because he has a completely different perspective from mine. I didn't always take his word or ideas for filming certain things because I didn't want it to water down my vision, even though it would have turned out just as sick. I did take his advice on some of the ways things were filmed because I couldn't argue that my way would be better. It was rare, but when he was right, he was right, haha.
Tom: For anyone who might not be familiar with you or your work - can you start by introducing yourself and your history in snowboarding?
Javi: My friends call me Javi, but you can call me Javier, Javier Silva. I grew up in Mammoth and was fortunate enough to find snowboarding at a young age. I was probably 12 or 13 when I got into it. I didn't have my own board for the first few years, but I would borrow a board from a friend to go out and learn. Eventually, I bought a second-hand board and started spending more and more time on the mountain. This was around the time when I started to become more aware of my legal status and really understand what the implications of being undocumented really were. I started spiraling into a state of permanent depression because the more I learned about my situation, the harder it was to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think that for a long time, the only thing I wanted was to be normal, and snowboarding and the culture became that normal I was seeking. I found out that people did this for a living, and I started venturing into the park. I spent so much time on the mountain that I got pretty decent, and I started doing small local contests and picked up a few sponsors. In high school, I was fully into it to the point where I would take the bus up to the mountain when school got out and make it out on snow for the last hour of the day, and then the kids I would ride with would hike a rail or a box after hours. I started ditching school on Fridays and got suspended on Mondays, which was fine by me because I would just head right up to the mountain and snowboard some more every time I would get suspended. The school eventually got sick of this, and they said I had to go to a different school, so I started taking classes and doing independent study at the continuation school in town. This was perfect because it was shorter classes which meant more time snowboarding. I wasn't crazy good at the sport or had plans of going pro, I had sponsors, but I was always worried that they would find out I was undocumented and kick me off. I never told anyone, and I avoided the scene as much as I could because I didn't want to put myself out there and risk people finding out. There was nobody out there like me or in a similar situation that I could relate to or look up to. I started to learn more about the industry, and as I got older, I realized that I needed to look into getting my life together because the undocumented skeleton I was keeping in my closet wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to go to college and make something of myself. I didn't know how I was going to do that, but I was going to figure it out. I think that part of the reason I wanted that was because it was part of that normal I was always seeking. I grew up with a bunch of wealthier kids in Mammoth, and I was always jealous of that because it seemed like everyone came from a wealthy, stable household, and I grew up with a single mom, and we didn't have money. I was born in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, and lived in a small house with my mom and dad. My dad was a US citizen and he would come to the States to work and send money back for us. One time he left, and he just never came back. I will say that I'm super grateful for my mom and everything she has done for me because she gave up her life and risked never seeing her family again by bringing me to the US for a chance to have a better life. It took me a few years to find that gratitude and that perspective for the situation I was in. At first, I would ask myself, "why me, why did they do this to me?" but that mentality was slowly killing me. I started to ask more questions to the team managers I knew and people who worked in the industry. I met Pat Bridges one day while I was on the hill. I was messing around trying to learn a new trick on the quarter pipe at the bottom of the superpipe, and this stranger came up to me and asked, "Was that a switch Mctwist?" I said yeah and then just rode away. Later on, I found out who Pat was and how influential he was in the snowboard industry. I would see him around from time to time, and he was always super cool and friendly towards me. I saw him at a party once and told him I was planning on heading back to school and asked if I could intern for him, he said I could and to hit him up whenever I was ready. Around this time, I met my now-wife Allie. She really stepped in and helped me find all the resources I needed to improve my life. This was also around the time when DACA came about, and she helped me apply for that program. I got accepted to DACA, and I finally obtained some form of legal status in this country. We were living together, and we were both attending the community college in Mammoth. When she graduated from Cerro Coso, she got into Cal State Long Beach, and we moved down to Orange County so she could attend school. I started going to Golden West College, and I got a job at Starbucks. While I was working at Starbucks, they rolled out their ASU program, and I signed up for that. I got into the school, but then Starbucks said I didn't qualify for their reimbursement program because I wasn't a US Citizen. However, the advisor I was talking to informed me about a scholarship program with a company that helps DACA students, TheDream.US. I applied for a scholarship with them and ended up getting it. They would have covered my tuition to go anywhere, but since I had already applied to ASU and got in, I just decided to go with it, it was an accelerated online program, and all of this just worked out better with my schedule at the time. I attended the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at ASU. I really enjoyed everything I was learning there and started taking more social media classes than anything else. It was during my senior year at ASU that I reached out to Pat and asked him if I could intern at Snowboarder. I've really been super fortunate that all these things have fallen in line the way that they have. I started interning at Snowboarder Mag, and I worked my ass off and tried to learn as much as I could. During my time as Pat's intern, I told him about my legal status, and when I showed up to my internship a few weeks later, there was an article about me and my situation in the latest edition of Snowboarder. I was super grateful for that, but I was also in an oh fuck moment because my legal status was my biggest secret, and it was something that I kept from even my close friends. But whatever, it all worked out. After my internship, they offered me a fellowship at the mags, and I did that for a while, months down the road, a job opening came up to be the social media coordinator for Snowboarder Magazine and Transworld Snowboarding. I applied for that position, and I got the job. It was kind of a crazy time in my life. I had just graduated college, Allie and I had just gotten married, and I got a job right after graduating college. Things appeared to be going great, but behind the scenes, I was under a heavy amount of stress. The Transworld crew did not fuck with me. I think it was partly because I came from Snowboarder, and they probably thought I was going to sabotage them. Straight up, I also felt like these people didn't know me, and when they saw me, they just saw a beaner off the street. Most of these people didn't think that I knew how to snowboard. And it wasn't just the Transworld guys either. I remember the first time I went riding with a staff member; and they were kinda vibing me out because they probably they he was going to have to teach me how to ride or something. I don't want to accuse anyone of being racist or anything like that, or say that I was treated the way I was based on my ethnicity but certain situations I experienced would raise a couple of eyebrows. My time working at the mags was kinda hectic. The first time I showed up at the TEN building, I was waiting by the front door because I didn't have a key card to get in, and some guy from another publication in the building rolled up and asked me a million questions about who I was and what I was doing there. Even after I provided him with all the info and names he was asking for, he said he was just checking because they had recently gotten robbed and he was just making sure I was there to steal anything. Mind you, this was earlier in the day, and I was wearing nice clothes with a button-up and just had a notebook and pencil in my hand. I didn't tell anyone about that awkward encounter because I didn't want to come across as that guy, but I would see him around the building from time to time, and I always felt some type of way about it. I was also being overloaded with work by my supervisors at Transworld because they were having me do some of their tasks, and at some point, I became the whipping boy to them because this was my first job out of college, so I felt like I had to just take these beatings because I didn't have the work experience or connections to go anywhere else. It was also a job that a lot of people wanted, so I felt like I was lucky to be there. The combination of me letting things slide and not speaking up for myself eventually led things to get bad enough to where I was being spoken to in a way that wasn't appropriate for a corporate setting, and on four separate occasions, people from other departments pulled me aside and encouraged me to go talk to HR about this after overhearing and seeing some of these things go down. I didn't, I just made excuses for it, and that shit just kept happening. And on top of all that bullshit, I was working up so much and only getting paid for 30 hours of it. I wasn't happy, and things just started falling apart. I was splitting my time between Palm Springs and Oceanside too, and that was taking a toll on my relationship with my wife. Allie saw a job posting in Tahoe, and I told her to apply for it, she ended up getting it, so I left the mags, and we moved up here. When I moved to Tahoe, I started my own social media business and was doing well and had a few clients like Woodward Tahoe, Boreal Mountain, Lovely Farms, and a few other businesses, and things were going well until COVID hit and killed my business. I reluctantly had to swallow my pride and go back to working some minimum-wage jobs to pay the bills. I eventually got a job at the local newspaper, started the process of going back to school to get my master's degree, had a few kids, finished this short film I've been working on for ages, and now I'm getting ready to release it.
Tom: What’s your involvement with Signal - and where did it begin?
Javi: I’m currently the social media coordinator at Signal. I’ve always had a good relationship with Signal, Marc gave me a few boards a few years back when I met him, and last year Gabe reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in working for the company. I said I’m down, and that’s where we are now.
Tom: What’s up with LSD? It’s totally outside of the norm for snowboard filmmaking.
Javi: Is it?
Tom: Where did the inspiration come from? Any directors or films in particular?
Javi: I took inspiration from a few different places. I listen to a lot of music in Spanish, and I feel like Spanish lyrics carry a little more weight in storytelling. When my daughter, Audrey, first came along, I would watch a ton of music videos with her in Spanish and talk to her only in Spanish so she could pick up the language. One of the songs on our daily listening list was “Tú Sí Sabes Quererme” by Natalia Lafourcade. In that song, there is a lyric that says, “Soy la flor encendida que da color al jardín de tu vida,” which roughly translates to "I’m the brightest flower or flower on fire that brings color to the garden of your life." When I was listening to that, I would think back to a time when snowboarding was that bright, colorful flower in my garden. That’s how that first slide came about. I also took a few film classes in college, and some of the films and auteurs we studied shaped the way I see film, which transcended over to me making this short film. I drew inspiration from Walt Disney, Georges Méliès, Quentin Tarantino, and Tim Burton. My goal was to create something that can be watched over and over again, something that incorporated different parts of my life, from my love of snowboarding to growing up undocumented in a ski town.
Tom: What does LSD stand for?
Javi: Lysergic acid diethyl-amide.
Tom: How did the process of selecting the riders and tricks go?
Javi: It was whoever I had clips of and who was willing to be in my video. Most of the clips I made animations from were filmed with my iPhone, and for others, I asked the boys for clips. When I found a clip that I liked, I turned it into an animation and then figured out a way to make it fit into my story.
Tom: Who handplanted over the moon? Why is there no footage of anybody on the moon post Apollo 11?
Javi: That was a clip of Tim Humphreys. I don’t have an answer for that second part of the question but I’m sure you can Google it.
Tom: What were the most challenging scenes to create?
Javi: They each had their own challenges, but the challenges that popped up are what made it fun to work on. I think of filming and editing as having a set of raw materials and a toolbox. There are a bunch of different ways to get from point A to point B, and it’s up to you to figure out how you are going to do that.
Tom: The scene at 3:44 is extremely captivating - what is the reasoning behind the denied passport?
Javi: Well, gringo, it’s not a passport; it’s a green card. Hypothetically speaking, you can look at it as a person who doesn’t have a government-issued green card having to use a counterfeit one, stressing out when they use it to apply for a job and it gets run through a verification system like E-Verify. Alternatively, you can also view this as someone not getting dealt the right cards in life, and instead of living with the wrong cards, they take matters into their own hands and create the right cards for themselves, and it might not always work, but eventually, it will.
Tom: What is the future of LSD?
Javi: This is the second LSD I’ve made, and hopefully, I can keep making more. I just have to find funding for it first now instead of doing it backward like I did with this one. Since I mostly just made this for myself and was taking my time on it, I didn’t want to pitch it to brands first and then have to deal with deadlines and the storyline and imagery being brand-safe. Most companies will steer away from controversial topics like substance use or illegal immigration. Well, I mean, people only care about immigration issues right around election time…
Tom: What are you hoping for the audience to take away from this film?
Javi: Nothing. I got out of this what I put in and that’s all I really care about.
Tom: Is there anybody you’d like to thank for help in creating this masterpiece?
Javi: Yeah, definitely. I want to thank Kyle Greene for helping me with the last couple of scenes, and of course, all the boys in the film: Lenny Mazzotti, Drayden Gardner, Jake Aaronson, Matt Carlyle, Anthony Mazzotti, Tim Humphreys, Austin Visintainer, Keoni Kaimuloa, Anthony Slater, Lucas Baume, Nate Haust, The Signal dudes, Marc Wierenga, Dave Lee, Gabe (thanks for the screenshots), you, Tom, for the interview, and Vas over at Zephyr Farms, and anyone else who help me bring this project to fruition. I also want to express my gratitude to my wife, Allie, and my kids, Audrey and Evan. But most importantly, I want to thank myself.