Skating, drugs and death: the chaos that is All This Mayhem

It was at the local skate park filmmaker Eddie Martin met brothers Tas and Ben Pappas; the talented Australian teens who would end up as skateboarding professionals who took the world by storm.

However after their rise to international fame comes a story of a spectacular downfall. In later years, one of the brothers would end up murdering his ex-girlfriend before taking his own life, while the other would also serve jail time for a disastrous attempt to smuggle drugs from South America.

The story of the Pappas brothers and their rise to ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world on the vertical ramp (Tas and Ben respectively) before their remarkable and drug-fuelled demise is documented in Martin’s searing feature documentary, All This Mayhem.

“I got to know the brothers, obviously in my teenage years, from sharing the local skate park together,” recalls Martin. “They are a bit younger than me, but being kind of stand-out skaters, I knew them and we rode for the same team.

“After I left the skate scene, obviously knowing the guys it was exciting to hear about them doing amazing things on the world stage, but also then to hear about their tragedies and some of their misfortunes was [very difficult.]”

In 2007, 28 year old Ben Pappas murdered his ex-girlfriend Lynette Phillips before committing suicide. It was just after the horrific tragedy that Martin heard whispers amongst the skating community of the possibility of making a documentary about them; a proposal he found, at that time, abhorrent.

“People did say to me [at that time] that there were some guys who had, you know, been filming them for years, and that we should do a documentary,” he tells IF. “But at the time it did not feel right for me, because I just felt like I didn’t want to jump on a story that was still a raw wound to people. It just didn’t feel right. I just didn’t want to be ‘the exploitative doco guy.’”

Then, someone completely unconnected to the brothers pushed forward with their own documentary ideas and, out of a concern for how the brothers would be portrayed, Martin knew he had to take action. But first of all he needed permission from Tas.

“Someone else pushed forward to [make a film] who wasn’t really friends with the brothers. He had made an approach to the family and the family had said no and he was still pushing forward with it,” says Martin. “That’s when all of our friends kind of got together… that really motivated us to say, ‘well that can’t happen like this, we need to do it properly,’ and that was really when the journey began.

“I had the support of the guys and they had the footage from all those [skating] years, but obviously we had to go and visit Tas in prison and start dialogue with him on how did he felt about it and if it would be something he was interested in doing."

Though intrigued by the prospect, Tas was initially hesitant to give the green light.

“Understandably he had a lot of trust issues, just because of things that happened to him in his skateboarding past, plus there were rumours that for instance Chopper [Read] got ripped off [in the making of the film Chopper] by the filmmakers," says Martin.

"So he had concerns, even though we had a past, so we worked through the trust process, you know, and just kind of made sure he was comfortable and everyone was happy basically, and we could tell the story that we wanted to tell, including his voice. I mean, I don’t know how you could have intended to do it without Tas in the first place.”

After Tas’ blessing, it took Martin four years to put together the film (aside from the usual hurdles of getting a film off the ground, Martin notes the challenges associated with sifting through literally hundreds of hours of skateboarding footage) with the final result making its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival last year.

Much to Martin’s relief, Tas was happy with the result.

“He was really pleased and proud of the film and happy that he finally gets to tell his story,” says Martin. “I think that he’s feeling quite understood, which is a great thing for me, the filmmaker.”

All This Mayhem is being distributed in Australia by eOne Entertainment, and will hit cinemas tomorrow. (Exclusive to Cinema Nova Melbourne and Dendy Newtown Sydney.)

View the trailer below: