Alumnus takes road less traveled to NYC

By Tessa

Arthur Swidzinski, 2010 television alumnus, set out to travel to New York City on June 2, 2008, with his friends. Instead of driving or flying, they decided to travel 1,000 miles on skateboards and film the experience.

Almost an entire decade later, the documentary “Shred America” is set to premiere March 24 at The Patio Theatre, 6008 W. Irving   Park Road.

In 2007, Swidzinski and Michael Kosciesza were 20 when they decided to skateboard from The Bean in Millennium Park to Times Square and saved up money for a year to do so. James Lagen and Anthony Michal, followed on bicycles and shot more than 100 hours of footage over the 36-day journey, Swidzinski said. Kosciesza and Michal were both students at Columbia for a short time.

Swidzinski said they encountered problems along the way because he and Kosciesza were not properly prepared.

“That’s what made the film special in the end because we didn’t plan it [and], so many things went wrong,” Swidzinski said. “When we left, we just didn’t know what we were doing and it ended up bettering the film because of that.”

Michal said he had known Swidzinski and Kosciesza since they were teenagers and came along when they asked him to help film the documentary. Lack of clean water and bad weather conditions were among the many problems, he added.

“We [were in our early 20s] and it was ‘go test your body as much as you can,’” Michal said.

Right before they reached New York City, Kosciesza said they were stopped by police officers along U.S. Route 1 in New Jersey. The officers threatened to arrest the four if they continued, so they were forced to take the train all the way to Manhattan.

“Part of filmmaking is like how do you structure the story, how do you make it so people could get something out of it and we actually put all of that into the film, our struggle and sort of our failure to make it to New York on skateboards,” Kosciesza said. “But we did make it and when the viewers see us in Times Square, they’ll see the look on our faces.”

After returning from their journey, Swidzinski said they sat on the footage for a while to figure out how they would tell the story. It took years to edit it down to the right length because he and Kosciesza lived on opposite sides of the country.

“There’s so many projects out there that are started, but they never get finished and ‘Shred America’ was close to being a project like that. What changed about me is having this deep-seated perseverance,” Swidzinski said.

Swidzinski said after the documentary premieres in Chicago, he and Kosciesza will hop in a van and travel with the film all around the country to talk about the positives of going on an adventure like theirs.

“I tell people when they watch this film, when they see us go through all these challenges, and all of the difficult times we had, you’re going to know how not to get to New York City,” Swidzinski said.