How To Be A Roll Model explores the empowering individuals behind Amsterdam’s youngest skate crew

Directed by Al Lewis for Dutch non-profit Project Fearless, the short offers an alternative to the often male-dominated scene.

26 March 2021
Reading Time
3 minutes


As Mérida Miller was putting together Project Fearless, a Dutch non-profit of after-school activities for girls in Amsterdam, she began to think about what skateboarding could offer. Yet when looking for material, it became clear that “women are a rare sight in skate films. Girls are an even rarer sight." Mérida couldn’t even find any trick tutorials led by women to share with the girls.

However, rather than picking a different activity, Mérida decided to make the footage herself in How to Be A Roll Model; a documentary about Amsterdam’s youngest girls skate crew, directed by Al Lewis and created by Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam’s art director Emma Mällinen and copywriter Ane Santiago. “So the next time a girl or non-binary youth was looking for a skate film, they’d find someone who looks like them with an invitation to the skate park,” explains Mérida in the film's release.

How to Be A Roll Model (pun fully intended) acts as an “ode to freedom, friendship and straight-up badass female power”, following a group of eight-14 year-olds at their local skatepark, goofing around, testing tricks and bonding together. An uplifting and heartwarming short full of power, just seeing the team skating around and discussing their own experiences, often of being intimidated by skateboarding, immediately offers an alternative narrative to the male-dominated scene. “If you’re a guy at the skatepark, there are tons of different people to look up to and learn from,” says Mérida. “No matter where you are on your learning journey, whether you just started skating or if you’ve been skating for years, there are plenty of people who look like you filling in those gaps from very beginner to pros. The term ‘bridging the gap’ is overused, but that’s what this is.”

GalleryWieden + Kennedy Amsterdam and Al Lewis: How To Be A Roll Model for Project Fearless, behind-the-scenes footage by Mathilde Grenod (Copyright © Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, 2021)

The short aims to show the diversity of role models within the scene, “filling those gaps between Sky Brown [the youngest professional skateboarder in the world] and someone who has just picked up a board,” continues Project Fearless’ founder. All in all, “creating accessible role models for other young girls.”

For director Al Lewis, Project Fearless and the stars of the film represent what they wished to see growing up “as a self-confessed tomboy,” adds the director. Marking the first time they’d filmed with kids too, “I was bowled over by their energy, kindness and their willingness to learn.” How To Be A Roll Model demonstrates the character of the skating crew by physically handing the camera to them, pieced together with footage shot by the team. “It was so much fun to make because of this and their open honesty and (at times hilarious) view on the world,” continues Al. “I’m really pleased we managed to make a film that captures the bubble the girls feel in when they’re skating.”

Just like Project Fearless’ overall aim to showcase that role models can be anyone at any age, or from any background, the full film is a joy to watch – purely in being able to enjoy seeing a “group of girls feeling free and happy, supporting each other, and encouraging other to join them is everything that is right, and definitely a roll model to every female and non-female identifying human out there.”

GalleryWieden + Kennedy Amsterdam and Al Lewis: How To Be A Roll Model for Project Fearless (Copyright © Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, 2021)

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Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam and Al Lewis: How To Be A Roll Model for Project Fearless (Copyright © Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, 2021)

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.

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