Together we stand, together we skate: United Skates documentary

Michelle Castano



Lights, camera, action! The United Skates documentary was screened at BC’s Bailey Hall theatre on Central Campus on March 21. Winner of multiple film festivals including the Tribeca Film festival for which it received the Audience Award, this documentary covers an underground African American subculture that has never been fully explained thus yet. 

The skating rink subculture around the United States is not only a way for some people to escape reality, but also a way of life. Directors Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown serendipitously stumbled upon this subculture while filming content at Central Park in New York City. In a way, the film found them. A group of skaters came up to the film makers and they told Winkler and Brown about the skating rink culture. 

Prior to the film screening at BC, the filmmakers were invited for a Q & A session for aspiring young women by the Women in Film Club. Moderated by club president, Carolyn Savage, club members got to immerse themselves on a raw, one of a kind experience. 

Winkler and Brown covered every aspect of the documentary, ranging from pre-production, the actual production and post production [editing]. They explained how narration works, which camera best worked for fast rollerblading shots [red camera], how they received funding for the film and even the sacrifices that each had to make in order to produce the film. 

Winkler explained that she previously had a job at the Sundance Film budgeting and funds department, which she had to give up in order to pursue the United Skates documentary. The documentary took 5 years to make, with filmmakers stating that “you have to stay true to your goals and be persistent.” 

United Skates is part of the Southern Circuit tour of independent films. BC got involved with the Southern Circuit approximately three years ago. “Our previous Bailey Hall director saw this opportunity as a way of bringing these independent films and filmmakers to the college. We saw this as a chance for our film students to interact with the filmmakers and get some idea of where they can go with what they are learning once they graduate Broward College,” said Marjorie Stanbury, Manager of Operations and Interim Director of Bailey Hall.  “United Skates was one of the 40 films that we had to preview before we made our selection; after that, we lucked out and got them in our circuit,” she said.

United Skates covered every nook and cranny within the skating rink culture across the United States. Heavy topics such as racism, the closing of a plethora of rinks nationwide due to zoning laws and even how gang members from L.A. (Bloods and Crips) came to an agreement on neutral territory for skating purposes. 

Local Galaxy Rink skater, Steven Langham mentioned that the documentary was “right on the ball.” “From experience and from what I saw, the filmmakers covered almost everything from different skating styles [spins, nutcrackers, toe stops] from each home state; moreover, skating for me is a way of freedom and expression. Everyone has their own sway, their own swag on,” he said.

United Skates is currently being streamed on HBO, with John Legend on board as executive producer. Vanity Fair named United Skates as one of 2019’s “most exciting HBO documentary debuts.”

Local skater, Rashad Clark said that skating has changed his life. “I would go through hard times and when I would put on my skates and listened to music for three hours, I didn’t think about anything besides skating. Skating is about camaraderie and people will actually teach you new tricks. I am going to be skating ’til I die.’ If I have kids, they will be skating with me. As long as you can walk, you can skate. One foot in front of the other, you can get somewhere. As long as my knees, ankles and back are good, I’ll be skating,” he said.

United Skates is a well-rounded documentary that is receiving the recognition it deserves. As there weren’t files or history books on the African American skating rink subculture, Winkler and Brown had to immerse themselves within the community and get intel with the groups they encountered. 

Further information about the documentary can be found on

Photo: United Skates documentary poster for HBO. Courtesy of