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
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.
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.