Adam Bos has an impressive video catalog which also doubles as an eye-opening window into the upstate New York scene. Headroom, Crawlspace, steel, and his latest, wide open, should all be familiar titles. If not, go back and do some homework. His videos are always thoughtful, well-crafted, and give a certain feel of the industrial zones they’re filmed in. With talented brothers always down to skate and film, and one of them just going pro for Politic, we figured we’d pick the brain of this filmmaker we really don’t know much about. It’s an inspiring and impressive interview. Read on.
Interview by Blair Alley
Your videos are mostly filmed in upstate New York, but you’re not actually from there, right?
A lot of people think we’re from Upstate NY. I guess because we skate there so much, but my brothers and I are Canadian. We are from Kingston, Ontario, a small city between Toronto and Montreal with a population around 120,000. Kingston is very close to the US border, that's why we are always in Upstate. We really don't have much to skate at home so almost every weekend we are gone somewhere.
What's the scene like upstate for someone who's never been?
Upstate scene is really strong in the main cities like Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo. Upstate has some of the best skate spots in the world, a lot of hidden gems. Same goes for the skating, a lot of talent. The past several years upstate has gotten a lot of attention to the main cities at least. There is a bunch of small cities that don't seem to have much for skate scenes. But those cities get overlooked and they have amazing hidden spots if you look hard enough. Thats's kind of like Kingston, Ontario, it's a small city with a low amount of active skateboarders. Visiting Kingston you can have a lot of fun, but living here is pretty tough from a skateboarder's perspective. There isn't much opportunity, and spots are few.
What keeps you and your crew so productive up there? You've been pumping out videos non-stop.
I think the main reason is having two brothers that are as obsessed with skateboarding as I am. We always want to skate, even if we're not filming. Also, the fact that we come from a small city with low opportunity for skating forces us to travel. Travelling changes things up, keeps it interesting and makes it easier to collect footage. A lot of skaters don't have a vehicle and get stuck going to the same spots. That is usually unproductive.
What cameras have you used over the years, and what got you into using older model cameras?
The main three cameras I always use are VX1000, Super 8, and Hi8. The VX was the standard when I started filming and to me it will always be. This is my opinion, but when you look back at VX2100 footage it looks terrible. It was an advance in technology that didn't hold any type of value. HD is here to stay and I can enjoy videos in HD, but nothing will beat well filmed VX1000 footage. I was attracted to super 8 because of the look but also the size of the camera. I have a 16mm and it is inconvenient. It takes too much effort to get it set up and that makes you miss opportunities to capture things in the moment. Super 8 is quick. I like the way you can glitch Hi8 footage creating imperfections. It also has this amazing washed out look that is great not just for skating but everything. Old family videos have this look that you can't get with an iPhone.
What's your take on videos in 2019, are they to be sold or put out online for free?
If I don't put my videos online they will not be seen. I think that because social media puts so much out there, people expect it. I make videos so skaters can enjoy them whether or not they can afford it. I have never sold enough videos to ever pay for anything. It would be nice but I don't expect to ever make money from skating. There is still a demand for physical copies of videos. It's not a huge market but it has become like buying vinyl records.
How important is music in your videos, and what's your process for finding the right song?
This is the hardest thing about making a video. It is also the only part of a video that isn't my content. It can take me months to find a song that works or a song I'm comfortable enough with to use. It's always such a hard decision because as much as I love music, there is no personal connection to it. It's just another song. How am I supposed to pick a single song to put over someone's footage they have been collecting for years? It's stressful. I get to the point where nothing is good enough, and I'd rather figure out how to make an edit interesting without the use of music. I usually get the footage laid out and have an idea of the way I want the edit to feel, then I will search for the song that fits that feeling. Once I feel comfortable enough with the edit, then I show my brothers. Usually Jake will be hesitant with my music decisions. It's good because I will look harder for better fitting music, or he will suggest something he thinks I might like. Picking music can be easy and it just works, or it takes forever. Basically I just search until I'm comfortable.
I love the Alex Cameron song in Crawlspace. I've seen that dude twice and I own his records. How'd you find him and why'd you choose to use one of his songs?
I heard one of his songs from a skate edit and liked it. Searched his music and found other songs I liked. That's the easy way to find music, because maybe the song you've chosen hasn't been used but the band has. Someone else laid that out. When I was making steel I had finished the video and was ready to post it online but was waiting to promote it a bit. Then an edit came out with a song I had used. So I had to find a replacement quickly. There is so much music in the world, what are the chances of that happening? But it worked out in the end.
There's a lot of imagery of run-down buildings in your videos, even the titles steel and crawlspace and wide open kind of have a feel of post-industrialism. Is that a vibe you're consciously going for?
Yes, all of those shots are to create that type of feeling. Almost 50-percent of a skate spot is the feeling I have looking for it. The things I pass on the way. The way a spot looks with its surroundings. If I only document tricks I run the risk of missing what makes a spot so great. Those long slow telephoto shots are to help recreate those feelings. I guess my brothers and I are just attracted to the look of those spots.
How did the opportunity come about for you to make your brother's rookie pro graphic for Politic?
Around the time that steel was coming out, Damon Vorce emailed me and said that they wanted to give Joshua a board. I'm always messing around with graphics and shit, so Damon asked me to take a shot at making one for him. It was a lot harder than I thought. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I know what Joshua likes so it was just a matter of making it happen. I had made a bunch of graphics that felt pretty cool but I wasn't fully happy with. Then my nephew Eli who is four years old had started drawing really well. Eli drew a family portrait and included his ATV in the drawing as part of the family. My older brother Matt (Eli's father) doesn't skate, but we grew up riding ATVs and dirt bikes so that's why Eli is so into it. He's really good on a four wheeler too. I've never seen a four year old so in control on a machine, it's pretty amazing. I used Eli's drawing of the ATV and took other pieces from artwork that Jake and Joshua created when they were children. Put it all together and came up with the graphic that was used. I'm really happy with the way the boards turned out, and thankful to everyone at Politic for giving me that opportunity.
What filmers influence you?
Most of the time skate videos get me pumped to skate, not necessarily pumped to make videos. I look to many different VX filmers for camera techniques. Studying camera movements and trying to incorporate what I like into my own filming. Andrew Petillo would be an influence. A more recent influence is Max Mattoon, a filmer from Virginia. His Hi8 imagery and Instagram stories create a lot of ideas for me. I look to older videos for inspiration. Old Alien/Habitat videos, Anti Hero videos, old motocross videos as well. Photos and art are probably my biggest influence, I can stare at something for hours, because it has triggered thoughts and new ideas. For the past several years I find more inspiration in non skate related things that could be incorporated into skating. Could be anything, nothing specifically as far as filming.
What's the next project you're going to work on?
It's getting harder and harder to make videos from where I am. Traveling is awesome but it wears on you and is expensive. I'm just going to keep skating and collecting footage. It would be nice to make another video. I'd really like to do everything I've been putting off.