the tim zom documentary

Tim Zom grew up south of Rotterdam, in the rough sector of town surrounded by crime and violence. Mom Zom said that if she knew what was coming, she would have never had kids… but luckily skateboarding entered the scene and saved Tim's life, detouring him from trouble that was always lurking around the corner. Skating became the leeway, opening doors and connecting him with people such as award-winning filmmaker Billy Pols for the trick tip video “CLUE”, filmed some fifteen years ago. Tim’s personality and skills left a long-lasting impression which sparked interest for a very personal portrait. Blending skateboarding into a real movie is like walking a tightrope. It's rather tricky to pull it off in a credible and authentic way. Nobody wants to see another bad example of how it all goes wrong like “Street Dreams”. Fast forward to the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2014: “ZOMBIE” scored second place, which was followed by its direct release in cinemas all over the country. 

We dug a little deeper and asked Tim and director Billy Pols for more details. Billy is well-known for commercial productions, but used to be a sponsored skateboarder. He brought his experience in and was able to harness the right angles for this raw and real documentary. After he directed Plank - the Nassim Guammaz documentary - he got asked to work on a new project. Tim Zom was his only choice and never thought that the film funders would be interested… but after going through a couple of approval stages, it turned out that they were hyped on the project. Tim seems to be one of those human beings who isn’t too keen on letting strangers participate in his life. Luckily, after a couple of meetings and the occurrence of four full moons, Billy joined Tim to film him in the States for a trial run-through at the Tampa Contest. After that, Zom was down.

Growing up in the worst neighborhood, with no school diploma and not much support, Tim had to learn the real kind of knowledge… street smarts. During the filming process there were a couple situations when he immediately sensed trouble or could see through the scenario and identified it as bullshit. When we asked Tim "If you could have any superpower which would you choose?," his first answer was “To freeze people, when they talk too much.” Street hustling was definitely a good part of Tim’s Life. To survive, the ZOMBIE developed a soft spot for the always cost-efficient tomato soup: “Tomato soup is always good. Sometimes tomato soup is even better than a steak.”

Billy shared some moments they had, some of which showed the sly ways of Tim: flying back from the States, just before boarding Tim was hungry, ventured out and came back with a BK XXXL menu. Somehow he was able to convince the crew to let him board with his complete tray stocked with fries, burger and coke, which he inhaled during the flight.

On another occasion, after filming some night shots, they were chowing down at a coffee shop in Rotterdam when a bum stopped right in front of their window. They greeted each other and started communicating with their hands, checking to see what was up. It wasn’t all good with the man outside, so Tim went outside and gave the man his brand-new hoodie, just like that. ”He needed it,” was Tim’s swift reply. Of course he refused to re-do this for the camera. This instance captured the realness of Tim's character. “The film should be real and raw, no acting.” Billy always had to expect the unexpected during the filming. 

As for all the family quotes in the movie - they are very direct, straight-up, and most always the naked truth as well. Tim's family enjoyed the premiere and were really happy with how the movie turned out. They finally understood what Tim’s job is all about. Billy told the charming grandma that she stole the show with her appearance… she liked that compliment so much that she repeated “I stole the film!” Sadly, she died the day after the premiere but Tim was very happy that she was able to enjoy the movie before her death.

Tim is no stranger to dark times: one day after the death of his dad he attempted a massive handrail in Rotterdam with a fifty-fifty grind: “I don’t know, when my father died I was just thinking that life was fucked up but you have to make the best out of it for yourself.” He didn’t care about breaking his neck and ended up clearing the spot! When asked about the meaning of life, he replied: “Just have fun and enjoy life. Any day could be the last!”

Zom’s wife has been a supporting anchor. What is their secret to sticking together during these turbulent times? Tim's word: “There are tough moments, but love convinces you of everything. When you love each other, there is nothing to worry about, you know. If you stress too much, you'll only get grey hair.”

. black/ white photos: Rahi Rezvani
. action photos: Marcel Veldman . words: jk