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Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Updated: December 5, 3:57 PM ET
'Meet the Stans'


If you're a skateboarding moviemaker born in Germany, raised by Hungarian parents, and currently hang your hat in Shanghai, China, your skate videos are going to look, sound and feel a lot different than those churned out from the industry's American epicenters. Case in point: Meet Patrik Wallner, a 25-year-old filmmaker who just released, for free, "Meet the Stans," a 30-minute look at a skate crew's six-week journey along part of Central Asia's Silk Road, through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and an unexpected tangent into war-torn Afghanistan.

As you might expect, traveling with skateboards through vast regions, otherworldly different than the comforts of Western Civilization, can pose a curious set of challenges, from bullet-blasted marble ledges to a 39-hour train ride highlighted by a pocketknife haircut.

"Things don't always work out the way you planned," skater Laurence Keffe says in the movie. "But sometimes when something doesn't work out, you have a better experience -- in a way."

Either way, having Wallner at the helm was a key to the trip's success.

"It was awesome traveling with Patrik," 5boro Skateboard's Jimmy MacDonald told ESPN.com. "He's super-motivated to skate, easy to get along with and really knowledgable about all the places we went to."

"It was my first trip to Asia, so there was a bit of culture shock," he added. "But it definitely felt like a skate trip. We skated pretty much everyday wherever we went."

Reached via email, ESPN.com caught up with Wallner for some background.

ESPN.com: What inspired you to yard up some skaters and hit the Silk Road?
Patrik Wallner: As a child I was all about learning capitals of countries from around the world, and I remember I was always troubled with the Central Asian "-stans" since they are hard to spell, remember and pronounce. So the curiosity of going along the Silk Road and exploring what these ex-Soviet nations had to offer has been there since childhood. Then a couple years back, we did the Trans-Siberian Railway trip and it just felt like an obligation to head backwards this time along this ancient road and work on a skate-umentary.

How long were you on the road filming?
The first day of the trip was amazing. Everyone was really excited to skate the spots in Beijing. I thought to myself 'Wow, if everyday will be like this, then I think we'll have a little piece!' And everyday was really productive when we weren't on the road. So the trip started in Beijing the first days of May, and then we pretty much ended the trip in mid-June in Dubai, where I shot the interviews and we celebrated our success of finishing this little odyssey.

How did you finance the trip?
I pretty much had to use money from what I earned editing for this huge cosmetic company. I did get three sponsors to help me with some of the costs, but in the end I lost a lot of money with this trip as a whole, since I didn't make DVDs this time. But I'm not bitter at all. I am just happy everyone can watch it for free and experience what we went through. I don't spend my money on a car or other expensive necessities, so I justify my spendings for these trips with the knowledge learned and adventures lived as the most rewarding output.

How has your moviemaking evolved?
I've been filming skateboarding for over a decade now and been doing trip-type videos since the mid-2000s. But it started off with a trip to Paris or Barcelona, and has since developed to these, what we now call 'visual-traveling trips,' which take us through a couple Third World countries within the Eurasian peninsula via ground transportation in most cases -- busses, taxis, trucks, trains, and skateboarding along the way.

Why make a travel pieces instead filming great skateboarders ripping the latest spots?
I like to teach a bit with these videos. I know most of the time some of that information is lost along the way. But as long as I can teach a bit of history or geography within these films and also have an entertaining story along the way, filled with some skateboarding, I'm happy.

What's next?
Doing more "skate-umentary" work next year with Skateboarder Magazine, and will probably do one more trip through some more Middle Eastern countries in the spring. But nothing really set in stone yet. I'm happy I finished this one, so need a bit of a break.