In 1990 young brothers Tas and Ben Pappas went to the US for the first time to pursue their professional skateboarding career. The Melbourne brothers peaked at number one and two in the world respectively, yet soon injuries, drugs and crime plagued their careers and wellbeing.
At the Adelaide Film Festival, the brothers’ story, All This Mayhem, will have its world premiere. Tas Pappas speaks with Rip It Up about his feelings regarding his account finally being told.
The Pappas brothers’ story is one that seems truly unbelievable, but not in a Hollywood kind of way. All This Mayhem is an apt title for what the documentary promises – a story of brotherhood, grief and redemption – implying a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that extends beyond the usual skateboarding documentary.
Some highs in their career include Tas beating Tony Hawk at the 1996 Hard Rock Cafe Skateboarding World Championships in both the finals event and in points accumulation for the entire year and the brothers being attributed to reviving the vert skateboarding culture, which was dwindling at the time. However, there were numerous lows, once drugs and alcohol took a hold of the young brothers.
Both Tas and Ben were eventually deported from the US and imprisoned for drug offenses at different times. In March, 2007, Ben took his own life. “It handles things tactfully,” Tas explains.
“It isn’t a doco to glorify the bad side. It shows that if you do delve into being a maniac and living a rockstar life you are going to pay. There is only much loss that someone can have until you realise that there’s more to life than just pleasure.”
While in prison Tas, now 38 and living with his wife and young family in Melbourne, found solace in Christianity, and has since endeavoured to ensure the trauma of his tumultuous youth is not repeated.
“I just know there are a lot of people out there going through the same sort of thing and they need to know that there is a way out.”
All This Mayhem documents Tas’ entire story and, while certainly including some dark and confronting moments, does include a positive message. In regards to this, Tas suggests that ‘mayhem’ is an appropriate word to describe how everything – whether it be good or bad - was ultimately out of his control.
“It starts from when we were kids and takes you through the story from each era exactly how it was. It shows the good times and the bad times. It shows prison and my realisation. It shows me with my family. It shows people that there is a way out.”
The documentary was produced by George Pank, Eddie Martin and James Gay-Rees, who between them are responsible for award-winning documentaries including Exit Through The Gift Shop and Senna.
Tas is happy with the team who finally was able to tell his story, as there were a few unsuccessful attempts at a documentary on Ben where the filmmakers tried to remove Tas from the project. Tas attributes the authenticity of All This Mayhem to Martin, who was a childhood friend of Tas’ and “popped up out of nowhere” to intervene and help Tas’ story get made.
Tas was surprised about how easy it was for footage of the brothers when they were professional skateboarders to come forth.
“The documentary is mainly archival footage. It wasn’t even my footage. We just put the feelers out there and it all just materialised. We ended up with all this footage from all over the world.”
Tas has attempted not to dwell too much on the memories that the footage brings up, instead focusing on the overall message of the piece.
“I was never nostalgic. I don’t have any of my trophies left, none of my boards, nothing. All of a sudden everyone else had it all and it just started coming in. It was crazy.”
All This Mayhem will have its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival on Fri Oct 11, with Tas attending as a guest along with Pank and Martin and is a headliner in the Am I Man Enough? category, which explores themes of masculinity and societal structures of manhood.
After its run in Adelaide, All This Mayhem hopes to travel to America, where Tas lived for 15 years prior to his deportation and incarceration. Given Adelaide’s strong skating culture, its premiere here seems pertinent, especially for giving an insight for young skateboarders into the darkside of the industry. Tas reflects for a while before answering if he has any advice for those who may be an aspiring professional skateboarder.
“Just always be thankful for the blessing you’ve got. Don’t take it for granted,” Tas says solemnly.
“Everything that comes your way is a gift. Try your best not to let it go to your head. We are only human, especially when we’re young. You can give all the advice you want but until you’ve grown up and realised that it’s hard for people who are young. Once you turn pro people are all over you. Young people can’t handle that; they haven’t lived life. It just goes to their heads and they start making funny decisions. The moment they start taking things for granted they’ll come apart. They’ll come unstuck. That goes for all walks of life. That’s just how it goes, man.”