I first met Mathew Creasy in the early 2000s through our mutual friend Chris Head. At that time Matt and Chris lived in Atlanta and I lived in Boston. They came up to Boston to skate one summer and then a few months later I went Atlanta. They saw my scene and I got to see theirs. I think this was in 2001, but I can't recall exactly. What I do remember about that time was how motivated Matt was. At 11pm he wasn’t gettin’ the beers in, but instead lighting up spots throughout the city and surrounding areas with his generator. He had an extensive knowledge of spots throughout the southeast of America and I remember skating all hours of the night with Matt, Chris and their old ATL roommates. Matt wasn’t afraid to drive three hours to hit up one hubba that may or may not be a bust. Staying with Matt and watching the edits he had done made me realise he had a true passion for making skate videos. That was almost 15 years ago, but Matt still has that motivation mixed with his inner skate ratness. I hadn’t spoken to Matt for years then one day a few months ago he emailed me out of the blue. Knowing I lived in London he told me how psyched he was on Jacob Harris’ Eleventh Hour. We caught up over some long email exchanges and so when Matt told me he had finished another video of course I wanted to interview him about it. Below you can read all about Threads, Matt’s unique approach to making videos, the tools he uses and what inspires him.
Photos by David Morico and Matthew Creasy
Matthew Creasy Intro and Interview by Will Harmon
Matt, how long have you been making skate videos and can you run us through quickly which ones you’ve made?
I have been making videos for over 15 years. I made my first real, or legitimately produced and duplicated video when I was 16. It was for a skate shop in Atlanta called Ruin. It doesn't have a title, just the ruin video. I was way above my head with it. It was my first opportunity to film with people really taking what they do seriously. I was a kid barely able to drive and had just bought a vx-1000. Having people take a chance on me, I felt obligated to commit fully into making the video, and it has been like that since. Within the following year or so I made two more videos, the Dogshit video and Rusty Trombone. The titles probably illustrate my maturity level at the time. Those videos were really about trying to find a video style and develop my group of friends that I was filming with.
The next video I made, and what I consider to be my first really put together video was also for Ruin skate shop, and it's titled Nouveau. That was the first time I was mentally developed enough to have unique ideas in regards to expressing original ideas in a skate video. I started skating more again. Being more aware on my skateboard was a huge catalyst in developing my video making. You can't capture the essence of what to show in a trick, if you can't feel it.
It would be several years before I would make another video, most of everything I worked on ended up going to other videos. I was filming a lot with Justin Brock and David Clark, and everything ended up going to a video called Southern Comfort by Matt Swinsky.
The next video was the VHS Tape. At some point in 2004 I lived in skate house style apartment and got back into heavily filming. I got the idea to start a log tape to motivate everyone so we could see the progress of our filming day by day. It was like a wildfire during a drought, that was everyone's main concern in the world: add something to the tape everyday. Eventually, I knew we had to do something with this footage and it seemed so obvious as to what we should do. We had to make a video using the VHS log tape, edit VCR to VCR and add music with analog cables. When that apartment ended, I moved away and put the video on the back burner. Matt Swinsky took over filming with the group. He ended up putting the video on the back burner, as well. Four or so years passed and he asked me if he could have all the footage from that period to make something. I was absent from skating at that point so I agreed to give it to him. As soon as I gave him the DV tape with all the footage I felt terrible, instantly I knew I made a huge mistake. I called him back and told him I wanted to be involved, I pitched bringing back the VHS approach, he agreed, and thus the VHS tape came to be.
What made you start filming skateboarding in the first place?
I have always loved skate videos, ever since being introduced to them. Sometimes I feel like I love skating just because I love skate videos so much. Like most other people who make videos, it started because I was so into videos that the only logical thing you can do to express that feeling is make your own video. So, I borrowed the family camera and did the best I could to emulate what I was seeing in the skate videos. It was all really intriguing to me, trying to find a fisheye or wide angle lens, trying to edit VCR to VCR, how to film lines, finding the right spots, it was just all consuming. To me the video was a canvas, and without videos, skating was like just slinging paint off a brush into thin air. It was the first creative endeavour that felt right to me.
Can you explain the meaning of the title Threads?
Where Threads came from is a little difficult to explain, it's ultimately a term of unity. When I was a kid I asked my dad about his space and time travel, and he was trying to explain some space theories to me and I remember him saying time and space creates a fabric, like a quilt. I thought that was such a good analogy, and this video was really predicated on time and space. We had only a year to make the video and the people were spread out between Georgia and Tennessee. Organising time and space was the biggest part of the video. We were all the threads, individual, but connected into something. I like thinking of videos as a quilt. Both are made for posterity, capturing a piece of time.
How did you meet Alex Rose and why did you guys decide to collaborate on this video?
I met Alex Rose through mutual friends. He is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is two hours north of Atlanta. Chattanooga has always been a skate trip destination for people from Atlanta. At some point we crossed paths skating and bonded over interest in skate videos. He really developed his video making and impressed me with his work in a video called Videophile, and his solo video, Ghost Town. After I finished Birdwatching, we talked about working on something together. I was watching Beware of the Flare, and wanted to incorporate some more of the documentary feel that Ty Evans and Dan Wolfe brought to that. So, I pitched doing a video of trips between Tennessee and Georgia. Alex was very receptive and enthusiastic toward the idea. We ended up going in a different direction conceptually, but that's how we decided to collaborate.
The way Threads is presented seems a bit unorthodox; can you explain the chapter/layout theme?
In Atlanta, we made a video group called .42 - it's more of a vehicle to connect people that make skate videos. Our art direction was influenced pretty heavily on Kurt Vonnegut’s drawings, so I thought it would be appropriate to have the first video from the group have the feel of a novel. It's loosely based, but that was the initial thought for the concept. I like videos that have rising and falling action like novels do. The chapters make it conducive to organising the rise and fall. That's also why we decided to have some of the hand drawn stuff and the type font.
It seems like this video is filmed with a range of cameras, excluding HD. Can you tell us why you did this and are you not into HD?
I used several cameras: the Sony VX-1000, a hi8 camera, a few different super 8 cameras, an old h16 Bolex 16mm camera and the Sony trv65, which is actually hands down my favourite camera of all time. That Sony trv65 has a warm palette naturally, and I have used warm tones with the VX almost exclusively, so they are complementary of each other. Those cameras work really well together. The super 8 and 16mm use is something I try to maintain in all my videos. I like to compare film to records on vinyl. Records create an unmatched sound; the wavelengths on vinyl are wider than ones produced on CD or any other format, giving it richer and more distinct tone possibilities. Film is the visual equivalent; film is a true photographic image, making it sharper and richer than video frame images. The contrast black and white 16mm is spectacular; it produces the strongest image in my opinion.
I have dabbled with HD, and I think it has some strong positive qualities. I was really impressed with Bill Strobeck’s ability with cherry to produce a raw street skating video that pulls you into the video, he used the HD quality as a tool to pull you into the circle like you were part of the session.
I feel like there is a lot of negative attention and connotation many filmers associate with HD, without really thinking why they actually don't like it. However, I have two main reasons I have avoided using HD:
First, the fisheye: I am not mathematically inclined, but I can say the geometry of HD is less suitable for skateboarding. Undeniably, the VX1000 has the best fisheye lens of all-time, and that is because it produces a square picture. The fisheye’s greatest strength is producing barrel distortion, that distortion needs equal or greater vertical distortion over horizontal distortion. HD produces a rectangular image; this renders vertical distortion on a fisheye far less potent. Thus, HD cannot produce the bubble effect as strongly as the VX1000. The fisheye is a big factor in the feel of a video, for that reason the VX1000 is more attractive for what I want to show in the videos I work on.
Second, is the accessibility of the VX1000. The Panasonic HD line has tried to utilise the superior ergonomic shape of the VX1000, but it's still bulky and complex, making capturing street skating a bit less natural. To truly be able to capture footage in urban environments you have to be liquid, able to move and move quickly. The VX is superior to most HD cameras, even little DSLR cameras in this regard. I think the majority of really great skate videos are great because of the what's happening in the moment, not just the skating, but filming as well. The VX is lighter and more responsive being turned and angled, making it more effective to use improvisationally, which is very important for street skating. The VX1000 is simpler and yet in many ways more dynamic. For the way I try to make videos, the greater dynamic ability is more valuable than more pixels or lines of resolution.
The music all flows to together in your videos. I first noticed this in the old Ruin video. It really helps create a kind of mood for each project. How important is the music in your films and how do you go about selecting it?
The music is definitely critical. Music is a major instrument of creating moods. It directly affects how smooth or choppy your video is. I have leaned toward making videos that flow into one piece rather than part/part/part. Music is the easiest way to control the transitional aspect of videos. Finding music is really tough. I used to listen to college radio specialty shows late at night trying to find obscure stuff. I hit a few gems, but technology has changed all that and you can go on an international tour of music in half an hour using YouTube. I like to start a video with a handful of song ideas I feel strongly about. I find it helpful using music in my head as a guide, dictating how to film certain tricks, how to shape the rhythm of a part, and timing the mood changes in the video. Actually, I finished Threads, and I had used some pretty obscure music I had found on YouTube, some German upbeat piano and guitar duet: an 8 bit sounding instrumental song that was like a mix of the Castlevania Nintendo game and a Tim Burton movie score, and lots of Sun Ra jazz with heavy church organs. I noticed it failed to captivate the people I showed it to, and it dawned on me, I was trying too hard, or to prove something. So, I redid most of the video. I want a video to be enjoyable first and foremost. I thought about old Dan Wolfe video soundtracks, stuff that is pleasant and familiar in a way. That's where the Rolling Stones came from, I always wanted to use a Rolling Stones song, but I just felt it would be too straightforward or unoriginal. The Rolling Stones song “Just Wanna See His Face" is probably my favourite song in the video, that or the Beastie Boys Check Your Head stuff. I listened to Check Your Head heavily when I was 12 or 13, and loved it. Never considered using it, until David Clark proposed using “Gratitude." It was like a defibrillator for my memory - I was so excited about using that song. I went back and listened to the whole album and then I knew I had to use “Lighten Up" as the second song in his part. Also, it was only fitting to then use “Jimmy James" for his teaser, as well.
[part title="Creasy ITW part 2"]
Can you explain how the scene is in Atlanta these days? You don’t see too much of it in videos, but I know a lot of heavy hitters live there…
Atlanta is different for me now, compared to what it was like skateboarding there growing up. When I started only 2 pros really existed in Atlanta. Fred Reeves was pro for G&S. Fred was and is the man for the record. Then, S.A.D. lived in Atlanta for a bit while he went to school. Andy Howell and the Underworld Element stuff were already done leaving a minimal impact. The rest of the skateboard world in California was so distant, like light years away distant. In the mid 90s Chris Head came to Atlanta and really made a heavy impact on the scene. That was the first time I remember being really excited about what was going on in Atlanta skateboarding. He built the old famous 40-yard spot; back before the term DIY park existed. He was a catalyst for the skate scene, personally assembling people who wanted to create something with Atlanta skateboarding. It was like no one realised before that point in time that you could make a video in Atlanta. He saw the potential to make skate videos in Atlanta, a city with unseen and untapped spots, and all sorts of new structures from the 1996 Olympics. I have to reiterate how unrelatable skateboarding out west was, the separation gave skateboarders in Atlanta a conducive setting to put all effort into our small scene, virtually suspending the outside skateboarding world. I think good scenes need that period of suspension in the beginning. People in Atlanta were proud to be in Atlanta; they knew the history, who was coming up, what was coming out, etc.
It was pretty tight knit. The downside was there was no vehicle for moving on in the skate world. If you got hooked up from a company you would be forever flow. People would go out west to California and improve their position with sponsors. Then they would move back and their boxes would magically shrink, or disappear altogether. It was all understood why, but pretty disheartening. Yet, ultimately, everyone wanted to stay in Atlanta. Even at the price of potentially never having your name on the bottom of a skateboard.
The next generation, which came in the mid 2000s, changed everything. As everyone now knows Grant Taylor is a natural wonder of the skateboard world and he broke the curse of becoming a pro in Atlanta. People like Justin Brock and Dan Plunkett moved in from surrounding states and made really successful careers as well. That was a pivotal time in Atlanta skateboarding. In a way those dudes paved the way for skating in Atlanta as far as getting coverage. The generation before had to work so hard for it, and then the younger kids no longer had to after Grant. I think people no longer had to be proud of Atlanta. It became more of an individual thing. People were from other places and not really anchored in Atlanta. The people in the limelight were all involved with their own projects, so you saw a steep drop off in Atlanta videos. Because people were so busy and going on big trips, they were getting most of their footage on their trips. So there is relatively no need to have filmers in Atlanta, anyway. That's why you don't see coverage of Atlanta very often now.
But, I see some younger kids exploring the city, making websites and new videos more about Atlanta again. It leaves me with a lot of optimism for Atlanta skateboarding.
Do you think Threads will inspire more Atlanta skaters to start filming and making their own vids?
I truly hope it will. Like I said, I have noticed that there are more kids out in Atlanta filming. I hope to show kids that there is value to making skate videos. I sense that becoming important again in Atlanta. I think it will pick up substantially within the next three years.
I saw a few people riding Palace boards in Threads. Are you guys up on what the European brands are doing and/or are you influenced by what they are doing? Any brands in particular?
Yes, I do follow quite a few of the European brands. I am a long time fan of the British skating especially. I used to be really stoked on the UK mags when I could find them occasionally at Barnes and Noble. When I saw Waiting for the World, I was really hooked. I am actually more into what I see coming from Europe now, than most stuff from over here. I certainly rode some Palace boards during Threads, and I am indeed a fan of what Palace is doing right now. I dig the unique approach they are taking on their products, and I’m really stoked on their voice and their inclination to criticise what’s going on throughout skateboarding. I have been asked if the Palace video style has influenced me several times, and I imagine that’s largely due to the hi8 usage. However, their style is not something I have tried to pull from, what they do is really unique and has become their branding to a large capacity. Palace is pretty big over here: I have been skating in some rough neighbourhoods in Atlanta and had people recognise Palace. I had a thugged out guy come grab my board when he saw the Palace logo and say: "yeah...Palace is dope!" give me daps, and then just walk off. I am a fan of some of the other British brands, as well like Landscape, The National co, and The Harmony. Observing from a distance, I really connect with what is going on over there. I am most fond of how skateboarding was in my teens, namely the mid-nineties. I see some similarities, mostly a genuine connection and unified movement based on aesthetics above all else. I think that seems to be something popular to say and talk about as of recent, but I really feel that from a lot of what I get to see from the UK. I am also a big Magenta supporter. I have a lot admiration for what they are doing as well. It is ironic, many of my favourite skaters from the U.S. like: Jimmy Lannon, Carlos Young, and James Coleman are all supported by Magenta. So, in return, I am supporting Magenta to support the skating I dig in America. I am not influenced by the video style as much as what Magenta is doing regarding their voice and contribution to skateboarding. Promoting freethinking and showcasing more of the movement and base of aesthetics in skating first and foremost - I am really digging that. That is kind of the common denominator to what I am pulling from European skateboarding; I really hope to contribute to skateboarding in the same way. Watching what is going on over there really motivates me to try to make a tight-knit group and kind of build a bubble from what is stagnant here in the States.
Who are some other skate filmmakers that have influenced you?
I have been watching skate videos for so many years that so many impressions have been burned into my memory. It is really difficult to narrow it down and feel like I’m not excluding important contributions. I have the utmost respect for Fred Mortagne; it trips me out thinking of going from Menikmati, to Sorry, to Bon Appetit. That is incredible dynamic range. It’s really inspiring to see someone expand their work and mind so wide like that. I think Fred is really inventive and his contributions stand out in skate videos.
Dan Magee, certainly has been a huge source of influence, I think Lost and Found is arguably the greatest skate video from 2000 forward - beautiful look, developing the people in the videos so strongly, connecting music, just a real masterpiece.
The Real Non-fiction video was a really big influence on me. It was one of the first videos I ever bought, and unfortunately I traded it for Prime 5. I am not sure, but I heard Jim Thiebaud did most of the editing, and its really outstanding. It catches the crux of the mid nineties metropolis skateboarding in SF and NYC in just a really raw, but still clean and unique way. I was so hyped on the continuity of the editing, as with Drake Jones’ tre flips. I loved that so much that I borrowed that one a few times over the years. Just an amazing video, the text and art direction is so fitting.
Dan Wolfe certainly changed skate videos. The Ipath promo is as close to understated perfection as you can probably ever hope for. Also, the 411 Europe 1995 video he did is one of my all time favourites.
I think without Josh Stewart, the independent video would be further along the endangered species list than it already is. I think he has created a great model for upcoming filmers to go by. I feel like the Static series is the most respected independent work in skateboarding history, and rightfully so.
Probably, the most influential video to me is Stereo’s A Visual Sound. It was a culmination of just the right place at the right time with the right people. I feel like this video probably had a huge influence on a lot of the other videos and video makers I have been influenced by. Mike Daher and young Matt Rodriguez still blows my mind. I think I will still be excited to watch this in my seventies. I have reached a point where I want to push across my unique and original expression, but this video has definitely shaped how I make videos today.
I was really into the Ty Evans era of Transworld: Feedback, Modus Operandi, and i.e. especially.
I really admire Doug Korfhagen from Cincinnati. You would be hard pressed to find a more original approach to skate videos, and Cincinnati is really aesthetically interesting in footage.
I also want to say that in my opinion, Joe Perrin is one of the greatest and I would say most underrated video makers of all time. Everything I spoke of the European brands doing with developing a consistent feel and developing their team like characters, Joe Perrin has done extraordinarily as well. I am a huge fan of video series, keeping a consistent cast, and being able to see all those people develop over time. He develops and shows the strength of his group, so well. I relate to what he does more than any other skate video makers. I want to make videos that are really about the video as a whole, and make you want to watch the entire video every time. He has an incredible ability to show personality and depth to everyone in his videos. The Good Life flows so well, plus it starts and ends so well, which I think has a tremendous impact on the whole video. The way Jimmy’s part starts out intensely with the group home song, and then Ryan Nix ending on such an optimistic tone with Jimmy Cliff... It is incredible. If you’re not familiar with Joe Perrin's work, you have a lot to look forward to.
What do you do to make ends meet? 9-5 job?
I just quit my job and moved to southern California in August, but before that I worked in a personal injury law firm as a law clerk for the past seven years. I could tell crazy stories for a week about it. It was really intense work at first: 12-hour days and no weekends off. Suffice to say, I did not skate very much. That lasted for a few years, slowly I moved up, making more money and working fewer hours. My job description was ludicrous, I would be sent to do impossible tasks daily. I would get sent two hours out of the city to some rough little town in southern Georgia in the middle of the night to try and get someone to sign a contract for my firm to represent them. Uncomfortable situations primarily occurring, after something terrible had happened to them or their family. For instance, someone who had just had their father crushed under a concrete truck that was improperly operated, really terrible things of that nature. I was introduced to a rawness I was previously oblivious to. I’ve seen some nasty stuff, babies using Vicodin bottles for a rattle, houses with plywood for a door, no furniture just a Xbox and TV, and I met some unique characters as well such as a client who was injured by an angry transvestite aggravated by denied solicitation, pinning our client against a tree with a Dodge Charger. By my desk was a little tiny all white air max 90 shoe, one that would fit a 5 or 6 year old, they were so pristine and clean except for black streak across the heel, that mark was from a school bus that ran over the child’s leg. Just gnarly stuff like that was always present and in your face. It is really ironic: the idea of private property and liability is something so terrible for skateboarding and against my beliefs. But, it was my livelihood. Oddly enough, it was kind of conducive to making skate videos for me. I think most skateboarders and filmers who put their lives into skateboarding consider themselves artists, and an artist needs to have a strong inner identity to express their thoughts. A lot of regular jobs take that identity away, if you were John Smith the artist, regular job makes you John S. sales associate, or John customer service rep. since 2012. Doing what I did prevented me from being absorbed by normality. And it allowed me to still be isolated from the real world. I owe a lot of spots I found to that job, as well.
What’s next? Any new plans for more projects?
I just moved to southern California, it is still crazy to me. This is a place I never envisioned living in. My fiancé used to live out here and she always wanted to move back here, so we thought it might be a catalyst to begin a new chapter in our lives, work on things outside of skateboarding. But, that has not been the case; I have already begun working on two new videos. I only knew one person out here, my old friend, Chris Thiessen. Ironically, he is now doing all the TWS videos and so I went out skating some with him when I first moved out. He got excited at the prospect of doing a VX video after I showed him Threads, and he sort of proposed the idea. I was equally excited and so we are beginning that now. It is in the infancy stages, but we have a pretty strong vision of what we want to do with it. We want to focus on a small cast: Brad Cromer, David Clark, and Jimmy Lannon. Additionally, we are going to have a few more people tying the video together, so far we have James Coleman, Taylor Nawrocki, and Danny Renaud.
I am also working on another video with Alex Rose. It will be a similar cast to Threads. It will focus more on individual personality and influences of the people with full parts. It will be a video with the emphasis on individual parts. It is a chance for me to take on a new role making videos; I am going to do most of the art direction and general conceptualising. I am also hoping to do more skating myself for this video. I wish I would have been able to do that a little more years ago, but I am excited to skate now all the same. I was afraid I would dislike skating here, but I am actually pretty inspired with the spots here. I think coming from a different type of skating, I see a new type of potential with the spots here in So Cal. I see so much stuff that is untouched, it’s exciting to have so many ideas to look forward to with skateboarding.
Thanks Matt. Good luck out there!