Reel Talk: Headcleaner with Matt Creasy

Creasy is a true individual. His passion for skateboarding and skateboarding films shows in his zealous work. A true radical with his authentic approach to filming and editing, Matt has been behind some of the best independent skate videos over the past decade. Hailing from Atlanta and recently relocating to the shores of the Pacific coast Matt has been quietly putting in copious hours this winter and spring along with the Threads Idea Vacuum (Alex Rose, Chris Thiessen, and Bryan Reynolds) for their latest contribution to skateboarding, Headcleaner.—Chris Thiessen

Matt Creasy. Photo / MORICO
Matt Creasy. Photo / MORICO

Interview by Blair Alley

Why do you prefer the VX?
Hard to put into one brief answer, but it’s partly the SD format in general and part the VX-1000 in particular. Simply, SD is a square format, which brings the most out of the fisheye distortion. The death lens for the VX 1000, is in my opinion the best video fisheye lens available, so that is a huge upside to the VX. The VX was not created to be a consumer camera, it was intended to be a backup broadcast capable camera for TV crews, so Sony made them durable and really crisp to cater to that role. I think they are still so relevant today because of the adaptability that VX shape and size creates. It’s lightweight, has a quick setup, and the way it fits in your hand allows a fast response to what your aiming to film. It’s similar to having vulcanized shoes to feel your board well. Other cameras that are more bulky and require more setup really don’t allow you to utilize as many spots where time and accessibility are factors.

How did you arrive at the cast and crew that's featured in Headcleaner?
Everyone involved brought people into the Headcleaner cast. David Clark and Jimmy Lannon are my favorite skateboarders, and I’m lucky enough to be friends with both of them, so asking both of them to be a part of it was the very first thing I did. Chris [Thiessen] had a good filming chemistry with Brad Cromer from working on Outliers, so he was able to pull Brad in. Chris also suggested trying to involve his friend Taylor Nawrocki. Taylor was interested so he came out to Long Beach to film and brought Jason Spivey with him. I think literally a few days into their 2-3 week stay we knew they could get full parts. Fletcher Renegar and Tyson Peterson were also both friends of Chris’ that happened to be living in Long Beach. To be honest, at the beginning we went out with them with no intention to get parts, but we saw something in both of them quickly, as well. Alex [Rose] brought the Chattanooga crew. Alex and I work really well with James Coleman so it was completely natural to include him. Bryan Reynolds was introduced to us through Jimmy Lannon, and through Bryan came Glen Fox. Danny Renaud is someone I’m a big fan of, and as luck would have it my friend Chris Head had been skating with him regularly, so Chris mentioned to Danny about having footage in the video and set his involvement in motion.

Do you have a day job? Or are you filming full time?
I have a full time job, I have actually had one for the last three videos I’ve made. It’s more of a mountain than a hurdle, if I had to make comparisons. But, having this video made with a group effort made it possible. Having a full time job is positive in many regards though. It gives you a really wide perspective of making a video, sometimes helping being more level-headed about the whole process.

How did you fund this indy project?
I don’t exactly know how we did, it kind of boggles my mind. The last video I did before this, Threads, I made with Alex. I was making pretty good money at the time so I picked up some slack on the funding. I would get bonuses at my job and just use it all to buy 16 mm film. The tables turned when I moved to California, Alex was in a better financial position, so he took some big hits for the team. We got help from Politic, they made sure Taylor and Jason were able to get time to film with us. Then we were able to get funding from the rest of the sponsors to get the video into duplication.

What's the decision behind selling DVDs and putting out a free online video?
Yeah, it kind of seems counter intuitive in a way. But, originally I had this wild crusade of an idea to make a video with hard copies for free. That’s really difficult to manage, especially with a small budget. So, having the video up online satisfies part of the goal to have the video more free and accessible. Having the video on a major site like TransWorld, that is going to bring the video to lots of people who would otherwise be unfamiliar with what we are doing, I think that’s rad. It was a given that we would make hard copies. There is a loyal group that’s continuing to buy videos, because they know without making real physical full length videos, skateboard videos would quickly gravitate toward being essentially commercials. We want to be part of that group contributing to keeping the videos going. So retaining the ability to put physical copies out was a must.

What's next? Are you filming anyone else for future projects? Are the big companies hitting you up for a staff filmer position?
I put so much on hold in my life to get Headcleaner done, I’m switching my priorities up to spend more time with my family. Chris just had a baby, too. So, we are already coming up with the concept for the next one. Alex is gonna be the leader on this one, and we are gonna switch our roles up.
We already started talking about ideas before we finished Headcleaner. We want to do something different, go beyond the more routine skate video structure, but still be a skate video. Try to develop and show people individually more, I dig how videos use to do that, bring back voice overs. Really hyped on the less inhibited style of videos, photos, and skating from the late ’80s so I think that kind of influence would be cool, too.
No companies have been knocking on the door so far.

Creasy's got skills on board too! Ollie over the planter to wallride. Photo / MORICO
Creasy’s got skills on board too! Ollie over the planter to wallride. Photo / MORICO

How important is music in your videos? How'd you come up with the song choices for Headcleaner?
Music is really important in any video! It’s ultra important for our videos, it’s more or less the backbone. Headcleaner wanders around quite a bit, so the music had to change up and go in many different directions, as well. I like to pay homage to the videos that impacted me, so there’s definitely some alluding to some great mid ’90s videos.
Some of the songs I had been holding onto for years. For example, James’ part was an effort to include all aspects of how his skating has changed and developed. I made a part with James where he used a Goodie Mob song, and I wanted to include some of that feel. James and I were driving to Florida 11-12 years ago and the only tape we had was Outkast Southernplayalistic, so it meant a lot to me personally to start the video off the way we did.
With all the internet resources to go through songs, it’s really easy to comb through endless catalogs of music throughout the world. Without that, a song like Brad Cromer’s by a church choir would be nearly impossible to find. So the internet searches were a big part of getting songs.

How long did you film for for Headcleaner?
There were some clips filmed in August and September of 2014, but I would say 85-percent of the video was filmed from January to May of 2015, which I think is insane. That is without any doubt the fastest I’ve put a video together.  I don’t know that I would ever try to meet that kind of timeline again, but it was a really valuable experience to have.

What filmers influence you?
When I started filming, Ryan Dearth from Atlanta was the the first filmer influence. I learned a lot by watching him. French Fred in Bon Appetit! was a big influence, how the fisheye shots were always moving. Mike Atwood is someone I think was ahead of the times with the fast fisheye movements and getting close to the action, and similarly, being around Alex Rose has been an influence. He actually gets inside the action with the fisheye to a super high degree. Going more into particular shots, Aaron Meza from FTC Penal Code. The super 8 intro was something that left a big impact on me, the Mike York hand out in the lens—that was the first influence to use my head and really try to be creative with shots. The 16mm stuff in the TWS vids from Feedback to Modus was really inspiring to me. Without those vids, I probably wouldn’t have been turned on to the 16mm stuff. Separately, a really big influence has been some signature camera shots that Martin Scorsese has used, the action moving away from the camera and leaving the shots going long in those situations. I also have to say that the big inspiration has come from how people put the videos together more than the filming itself. Dan Wolfe really stands out, what he did was so simple, but he assembled really great groups of people and showed them really straightforward with classic skate music. Dan Magee with the Blueprint videos were really strong, the videos have strong flavor, the parts all portray people’s personalities well. Buddy Nichols and Rick Charnoski, what they did with Tent City is pretty remarkable, it transcends just a skate video, yet they don’t seem to attempt to make that happen, that’s really special. Joe Perrin is really underrated. He did all the Westside Skateshop videos, and he showed so much personality with everyone in the video. I really like how he also built a group or cast that stayed the same. The Westside videos are what made me understand and see the power you have in how you present the people in your videos.
Chris has influenced me with the way he goes out and films, how meticulous and organized he is. Getting to feed off his M.O. was a big factor in being able to finish Headcleaner in the short amount of time. Josh Stewart with the Static series, he paved the way for branding video style and having a video series.

Creasy with Thiessen in the background. Photo / MORICO
Creasy with Thiessen in the background. Photo / MORICO

Your favorite clip in the video we should look out for:
I have a favorite thing that each person filmed:
Chris filmed a long lens clip of Taylor ollieing over a wall long lens, the colors and the picture are so crisp. It shows the highest potential to how good a VX can look.
Bryan filmed a line with Cole Frazier that looks really good with how he keeps the camera in nearly a straight line and Cole moves in and out of the camera’s path.
Alex filmed a line of Logan Lewis where he’s doing a manual in the middle of the street and he’s so close that the lens is practically resting on the bottom of Logan’s board.
For myself, I filmed some downhill lines in Tyson Peterson’s part from the front, I’m proud of those lines.

Screen grab of Tyson Peterson.
Screen grab of Tyson Peterson.

Follow Matt on Instagram: @pikeycoco

Headcleaner premieres Friday, May 29 in Long Beach, California at the Howl Event Space, 8 p.m. It will be live on our site Monday June 1.

Brad Cromer Headcleaner 5 Trick Fix
Tyson Peterson Headcleaner Roll Call
Fletcher Renegar Headcleaner Roll Call