Going Behind the Lenses of 'Supervisual'
If you haven't heard of the Threads videos, don't worry, we won't hold it against you. With their now 4th video offering releasing this week, and several of their videos being hosted on the Transworld website, it's crazy that the video series is still so underground. But it doesn't seem to phase the guys who make up Threads Collective. They seem to really be onto something with their video creations and the contentment they're finding in the creative process and getting their friends recognized on a wider scale seems to be enough for them. But we found the new video so strong and grabbing that we decided we needed to catch up to the dudes behind the camera and find out just exactly who was behind these ethereal videos. The mysterious collective is made up of three very different skater/filmmakers all based in different locations. We caught up with each one of them, Alex Rose in Chattanooga, Matt Creasy in Atlanta and Chris Thiessen in Long Beach and got to the bottom of the story.....so please enjoy this glimpse behind the curtain of the Threads Collective.
How did you, Matt and Chris come to form your video partnership?
I remember when I had my first VX1000, I needed a fisheye for it, and somehow I found out he was selling his. I drove down to Atlanta to meet him to buy the lens, and when I got there he was really serious about selling it. He gave me a good deal, but you could tell it wasn't about the money, just how important the fisheye was to him. He must've been making videos for at least 10 years at that point, and they were all shot with that lens. Anyways, I kept skating and filming with Matt and a few years and a few videos later, he asked me to work on a video with him. I was really excited, Matt's crew and his videos were my favorites growing up. I still feel that way, and am still excited to work and skate with him. We've talked about videos, characters, ideas, and skating on the phone nearly every day since then.
After the first Threads video, Matt moved to California. He wanted to keep making videos together even though we wouldn't be able to work in person as easily. He started skating with Thiessen (who is also originally from Atlanta) in Long Beach and they formed a small group to film with. I remember Matt calling me, and introducing the idea of putting the group in a new Threads video (which would become Headcleaner). I was pretty skeptical, until I saw what they were really doing. It was the side of Southern California I had seen in much older videos; skating the back alleys and sidewalk cuts, promoting the roots of street skateboarding! By the time I visited them, I could see it was going to be a really valuable part for the new video.
How much of a difference do you think it's made working together with these guys, combining scenes from 3 different parts of the country? Do you think it's brought a lot more eyes to your work?
It has actually made a huge difference in the design of the videos and given us tons of ideas to work with, based on presenting these regions. What was available to connect our skating to, has just became much larger by skating in all these places. You know there are a lot of skaters in middle America, and they see an Everytown, U.S.A spot being presented in an exciting way, and it inspires them. They have the same stuff to skate! In California, there are so many skaters fighting to get their shine on the same spot. You know, racing to get a trick and get it published or in a video first. It is where the industry is, so I understand, it's basically like an oversaturated job market & there are only so many jobs available. But what about the regular skateboarders? The ones who are working other jobs and skate for the love. They shouldn't be in videos even if they skate with all their heart and think about spots and tricks at work all day? I think this is how we are able to relate to people who watch our videos. It's important to try while you skate, to get better and think about skating in your own way. Take what you have and do it to the best of your ability, and know that it's cool to take skating and videos seriously.
I'm grateful for how all these different scenes have related and want to be involved with Threads! We really do believe in the stuff we put in our videos, so to see people enjoying it and promoting it is effectively getting our voice as skateboarders out there.
You guys have achieved something that's really difficult to pull off these days....you've found a formula that makes your videos more than just skate footage set to music. It's more of an experience, you really FEEL these videos instead of just watching them. Was there a specific moment when you just knew you had found it? Like, a moment where it all just clicked?
It still feels like Threads is clicking, the momentum has been gaining since the first video. Creasy had the idea to make the annotated video text; cites, puns and references to connect shots and skating to broader ideas. Threads aesthetic is generally about the connections and congruence occurring in our realm of skating. We use multiple formats; the hi8+24p telecine footage has its own novel mood. The dramatic quality of 16mm juxtaposing against the scratchy and erratic look of the 8mm and the sharp, vibrance of the VX1000 allows the videos to rise and fall and brings a balance, similar to how albums are arranged. Also, we try to present the skating and characters equally and honestly, and that could help people feel Threads.
Do you think that your decision to launch certain parts or the full edit of some of the Threads videos on the Transworld site has helped a lot with bringing new eyes to the projects? Are there any cons to that decision or do you only see pros?
It's been mostly positive, and definitely the largest platform available to us. When we premiered Headcleaner on their site, it was a time when TWS began to promote the independent skating movement, while Thrasher was the dominating platform of mainstream skating. So there was an interesting shift, I noticed a lot of independent brands began advertising with TWS and they even offered to have an article for Headcleaner in their magazine. It's not a secret that Chris Thiessen was employed by TWS throughout the Threads videos, up until now. But we weren't and aren't in a position with them to really unite and utilize the platform consistently enough to create something different with the editorial content. It's interesting because with the text in Threads videos, there's more potential given a platform that's, well, text based.
This time, we are going to wait a bit to premiere Supervisual online to give shops and distributors time to sell the DVDs.
Who first sparked things off by proposing that you guys all collaborate on the first Threads video?
Creasy. Matt moved to California in the summer of 2014. We started filming and skating together and began getting excited about the potential that Long Beach and the surrounding areas had for spots and aesthetics. This naturally sparked the idea to start a project together. Creasy and Rose had recently completed the first Threads video and were still in constant contact. Creasy saw the big picture and the potential for a video that would cover what we were doing in Long Beach along with what Rose was doing in Chattanooga as well as mixing in Bryan Reynolds and the crew in Atlanta. Once we got started it was really exciting to watch it grow, it all came together pretty quickly.
How important is it that you have the Threads videos as an outlet for your work and creativity?
It is very important to me. Threads is about freedom, we do exactly what we want with it which is what skateboarding and filming should be about. The chemistry is righteous and everyone has room to grow and do what they are into. It is also inspiring, I get sparked to spot hunt and search out new stuff that will add to the look and feel of the projects.
With something as oversaturated as the skate video world, how did you guys manage to make something different with the Threads videos?
I think it has to do with the combination of everyones own individual approaches and styles together. Everyone is like minded but also their own person so it is the natural mix of everyones own filming, editing and skateboarding that makes them what they are.
How important do you think indie videos are to the skateboarding world as a whole?
Very important. They are true outlets of expression and progression that breathe new life into skateboarding and bring inspiration and motivation to keep the fires burning.
How did the Threads collective thing first come about?
I had become pretty disenfranchised with making skate videos for a few years, yet I continued watching them just as frequent. So while one day watching 'Beware of the Flare' with no particular agenda, I ended up building this whole concept of making a video based on the formula of that Lakai tour video. I really liked that Ty Evans and Dan Wolfe combined in that era of skating to make a video in a month or so. It seemed like they both were above collaborating at that point, but it turned out so interesting for how simple the idea was. I related the idea to my friends from Tennessee, the Tennskate crew. They had just released Videophile, and I had lots of respect for the duo of Josh Shupe and Alex Rose. Almost serendipitously, I saw Alex Rose a week or so after the impulsive tour video concept was drawn in my imagination. I just immediately pitched it: So what if we made a video where a few of my friends from Atlanta, and a few of your friends from Chattanooga made a video together. Go back and forth between cities, it would be similar to the approach taken for a tour video. A few days later Alex came down with Jim Arnold and Nick Guertin, and by the end of day one, both Alex and I felt like the collaborative process seemed evident that it would work.
During the making of Threads, Alex and I became really good friends, bonding through skating and videos. We probably discussed skate videos: our opinions, our observations, and our pet peeves for hundreds of cumulative hours. One of the biggest challenges we diagnosed with skate videos was cooperative work between filmmakers. So often we cited shortsighted goals and singular motivation, which we felt to be putting ceilings on so many good videos that could be. From a simple goal just to make a video, a greater point was now an emphasis: to make a video that's sum of work and ideas from multiple video makers would be greater than the individual's efforts. That really became a central focus once I moved to California and Chris Thiessen joined in. That was really the pivotal point that threads became a collective effort. Chris represented a whole new side, and a whole new perspective. Having Chris made it literally a group, as opposed to just two people, which put us in a position to communicate much more efficiently by necessity. Chris had a strong approach, and it was the first opportunity we had to diversify and broaden our conceptual avenues, making something beyond just one person's strength, as Alex (Rose) and I share strengths and conceptual views. Learning how Chris, Alex, and I could combine forces in Headcleaner, paved the way to collaborate with a ton of people we dig like: Bryan Reynolds (Headcleaner), Marshall Nicholson (Supervisual), Josh Shupe (Conjure), Chris James (Threadcleaner/Threads), and consistent contributions from prominent independent video figures like Zach Chamberlin and Colin Read. Expanding the collective aspect is a main priority for threads, we hope to continue to include new video makers into the videos we put out.
Is there a story behind the name "Threads"?
Definitely. It came from a story that was always received with laughs, but always resonated with me. It was told to me, how the phrase ‚Äúthreads‚Äù, was used during a Satori trip here in Atlanta while skating a rail in a set of government projects. These particular projects had self-proclaimed security guards, ones not particularly friendly to skateboarders. As the security guards were attempting to forcibly remove everyone holding a board, Nilton Neves intervened with a uniting slogan, he said, ‚Äúthreads, man‚Ä¶we are all from Africa‚Äù. The security guards cut him off immediately, laughing and telling him he wasn't the same type of ‚Äúblack‚Äù. I was seeing a similar discord between skateboarders. In skate videos specifically, there is a lot of disparity and separation between the people making the videos. After Alex and I grew the original ideals, we really felt like we could show people that combined efforts could not only work, but actually be more effective. We wanted to pull one of the best qualities from older videos, which was the personality of the characters in the videos. In my opinion, a lot of what was being presented in skating was 2 dimensional, or flat: just talent or tricks. There was a time when that was more original to do, but we saw a space to try and show individuals. The irony is that we needed to unify two skate scenes in order to do so. Toward the end of the first video we talked about the importance of making physical videos, something we are excited has taken a rise, but that a skate video is essentially a fabric of time and space woven with a deliberate design. The ‚Äúthreads‚Äù were the pieces putting the video together. Probably much too metaphysical for a skate video description, but I think it is just really a testament to how much Alex and I were considering the video.
I honestly didn't know you were into filming and editing until I saw the first Threads video. What got you into making videos?
I think I actually got into skating just to make videos. I kind of fell in love with skate videos before I fell in love with skateboarding. I got Rolling Thunder and Heavy Metal, and they blew my mind. The skate video was this mesmerizing melting pot of a music video, a documentary, and a short story. I knew I had to make them within a few days of my first taste. All I had to do was learn how to skate and find other people who could skate and film too. My friends that I started skating and I would make one video a year. We would all stay at my mom's house for one weekend and setup the edit studio: two vcr's connected with analog cables and an audio mixer that allowed a Discman cd player to be connected by headphone cables. The mixer had a video fade button, as well. You would plug the camera up to the vcr and edit the video in a linear fashion, it was so rad. The move was to press record pause, then pause again to start recording on the vcr, because it made seamless edits, the only problem was if you took too long make one of the edits, usually caused by not being able to cue up the right trick you were looking for quick enough, you would lose the control track, meaning there would be a space and possibly tracking lines between tricks. It was just as big of a challenge as the skating itself.[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="2500.0"] Matt's diagram of his home editing system in the late 1990's [/caption]
Eventually, when I got into High School, I learned how to assemble edit on professional decks. I would make edits on my lunch period almost every day. My teacher took notice, and let me use their big new technology, a non-linear editing machine. It looked like a computer, but it was only a monitor with the editing program, no other applications. I was able to use slow-motion, and so my first real skate videos were born. In 2000 when the vx-1000 was discontinued, my dad happened to be doing business with Sony and his customer at Sony told him they would all be gone soon. My dad worked out some deal where he got a vx, and then I took my first real steps. I actually stopped skating for a few years, just to film only. After I finished High School, I felt like I was wondering aimlessly for the videos, so I just started skating again. It changed my whole perspective on videos, and I think it was then that I actually began to express things in videos and have real concepts. When I had been making videos, and not skating, I was just emulating more or less. Trying to see a work I liked and not necessarily copy it, but try to figure out how it was constructed, and build something in the same vain. When I began skating again, I still got video ideas, but they were more original because my view was from the action, not from a bird's eye view, so the ideas and concepts where based on what my friends and I were doing. Understanding and being in touch is actually the biggest catalyst in developing video making style, understanding how tricks really work, or what makes them difficult, and what part of the mechanics make each person's unique allows you to show skating in a more interesting way. I know this a long-winded answer, but it really comes down to skating and the videos being synonymous with my interest in skateboarding. The Threads videos have a very unique texture and style all of their own.
Where do you think you guys got the influence to develop that concept?
I think it is equally mixing influences out of skating, to those from the history of skating. One of the key concepts we believe in is paying homage to the history of skate videos, think and thank. We got so much out of analyzing, dissecting, and just thoroughly enjoying skate videos, we want to urge and promote younger generations to be able to get into all video, too. When I would listen to hip hop and rap at a younger age, I would be impressed by all the references and cross- references flying around. It seemed like a subculture with such a huge premium placed on knowledge of the game and being a student to its history. I wanted to include references like that too, do something that not just paid homage to videos that both directly and subtly influenced our ideas, but cite them in a way that hopefully makes people curious enough to check out those videos, and get lost in the many rabbit holes of skate videos. The other aspect, the more visual concepts are based on non-skate videos. I was afraid of falling into a formulated style of filming skate videos, it's easy to do if you only watch skate videos. It's a given you are going to use a fisheye, but Alex and I believed there was more potential, styles, and deliberate camera function than what we had been previously doing. Martin Scorsese, probably was the biggest initial influence, his camera moves from raging bull and taxi driver where a huge factor. The long camera shots going away from and back to the character or action, perfect for skating. With the fisheye, you can add a depth of field trick to that idea, and it's like this way different and more exciting way of looking at skating. The camera becomes the story teller, it suspends how you might normally look at skating, and provides seeing skating in a more open and imaginative perspective. Raging Bull used the overcranking on a 16mm camera, this means they manipulate the camera to shoot more frames per second and then bring the frame rate back down to make the speed normal. Effectively this is ‚Äúramped slow-mo‚Äù, a good twenty years prior to skating getting a hold of the idea. The idea to shoot 16 mm to include the overcranked shots was totally something we pulled from outside of skating. The text use, that is something that honestly was mostly inspired by Dan Magee and the first two blueprint videos. I never want to force-feed ideas to a viewer, but for us the text seems very direct in getting across specific ideas, something nearly impossible to do with just video shots. I think that skate videos were slightly reticent to be open an honest, and the text helped us do that, or at least that is the goal.
The last part of the texture to threads that I feel is unique to us is the HI-8 stuff that we make a homemade dvx 24p telecine for. The 24 p process blends the frames in a way that shows the electricity and moving volatile nature of magnetic video tape, something that doesn't exist on film or purely digital formats. Yet, we can still include a lot of the contrast and saturation that makes film look cool. This was also pulled outside of skating. In 2004-2005 my roommate and I were making this short film that included playing Madden on a PlayStation, when shooting the screen during the game with a Panasonic DVX, I thought the result was really unique and rad for lack of better description. My vx was broken at the time, so I filmed a few clips with my HI-8 and tested the 24 P telecine with that footy. I thought the results where even more interesting than the video game footage. The way the quick HI-8 zooms mix with the telecine was a look that I think is completely unique and original to the process.
How important is it that you have the Threads videos as an outlet for your work and creativity?
As an outlet, threads is direct, many of the ideas come from my actual viewpoint. Whatever I am thinking about, whatever I see‚Ä¶literally that is what ends up becoming the material for threads. I think that is important because there isn't much distortion in transferring ideas, and that I do not have many borders or limitations on stuff put out through threads.