Giving Himself Total Freedom
“I don’t think I have really tried consciously to find acceptance for my work. I just did creatively what I felt was right for me and got me excited. In that I guess others also wanted to come along for the ride. I’m not really sure what my image is, but working for these major companies and designers has aloud me to make a living from doing what I love.”
Introduction & Interview by Adria Leeper-Sullivan
Home page photograph by Gordon Nicholas
Portrait by Miki Heaps
Corey Adams has been inspired by skateboarding since he was a young boy. Knowing that he wanted that free-for-all rebellious nature to be a part of his life, he began to skateboard. Quickly he realized that his talents were in the medium of film. Adams can create worlds that not only display the need for detachment from traditions or possessions, but that sell products with uplifting music and colorful images. He is also able to focus his filming on the resilience of the body, and the freedom of the mind through skateboarding. Corey Adams has perfected a balance between the beautifully bizarre and the mainstream. One can never sell out if they do what they love.
Many of your characters/videos display chaotic destruction, discord, contrasts. Are these characteristics displayed in any spiritual sense, like the impermanence of sand art by Tibetan monks and some Native American tribes, to practice detachment? Or is it a celebration of freedom, lack of authority, and fun for no particular reason? What is the importance of letting go, and what have you given up to fuel your dreams? Are you successfully living those dreams?
It might be different for every character/video but for the most part I think you are correct about the practice of detachment. Especially in the Mister Heavenly Bronx Sniper video. The family portrayed in the video is somewhat bored with their existence. The parents sit in the same room yet they are completely unaware of each other. It isn’t until the Manwolfs come around and destroy all these things they have surrounded themselves with that the family reconnects, as you can see at the end when they have embraced and are being showered with fine champagne and rare goose feathers. I think at a certain point in life it’s good to let go. Obviously we love our possessions, myself included. But a cleansing once in awhile can be highly beneficial. Then on the other side of the coin this destruction can also be at times a celebration of freedom. Like when you were a child and you just loved to smash things. I think humans may be born with a natural instinct to destroy. If you look around the world they seem to be doing it quite often. There must be some kind of pleasure in it for them. When you ask what have I given up to fuel my dreams it relates back to detachment. In 2004 I was living comfortably. I had a house filled with things that I felt reflected my personality. I was very attached to all these things right down to the couch. But I wasn’t that happy. So I made a decision, or a decision was made for me to get rid of everything. I then rid myself of all possessions and made a few moves towards what I wanted to do in my life. Things began working out and I ended up living out of two bags for about 5 years of my life. That’s not to say I didn’t have a home for some of this time. I rented rooms occasionally from friends and such but my whole life could fit into two bags. There is a certain freedom you have when you can do this. Although I’m slowly gathering things again but now it feels right. It is really nice to sleep in a bed that is your own as well.
Related to that, there is a lot of talk about legal systems lately, and how the constitution is becoming obsolete. What is your reaction to restricted freedom in the real world? Is it only a matter of time before we are on lock down in police states? What will you do?
I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the majority of humans as they are today. It’s not their fault really, but more the way they have been raised by society. I think if you were to give them total freedom now it would be very messy. If a police state does happen I think I will just go away to the woods and live as long as I can happily with my girl and my friends. Otherwise I guess suicide is an option. As far as the constitution goes I think it might have been flawed from the beginning.
Your work may seem very edgy, and over the top to many people. There is a lot of focus on youngsters, ‘mentors’ it seems, toys, and products. What part of your life does this stem from? Is it an extension of childhood, or a lack of childhood that helps to create these images of disappointed youth, and angry teens, or dissatisfied adults? What aspects of your youth are so important, and how much of your life is reflected by your directing?
That comes from Star Wars action figures, G.I Joe’s and early Transformers toys. Before they were making bad movies about them. I was a child of the 80′s so I grew up with all these great action figures that I would use to play out scenes in my bedroom. I think that is where I first started playing around with stories and scenarios. I would build bases and tar pits and have epic battles with these toys. I think my life slips into my directing once in awhile. But it’s not something that is always present. I peel from it when I can. In Harvey Spannos there was definitely some things in there that stemmed from real experiences I had had as a child.
Connected to the last few questions, how difficult has it been to find acceptance for your work? You make commercials for a few major companies, and designers, is that at all counter productive to your image? What has it been like molding your style to public appeal, and a product?
I don’t think I have really tried consciously to find acceptance for my work. I just did creatively what I felt was right for me and got me excited. In that I guess others also wanted to come along for the ride. I’m not really sure what my image is, but working for these major companies and designers has aloud me to make a living from doing what I love. At the same time I get to practice that craft using other peoples’ money which is good as it can be expensive. I still do my own projects which gives me the creative freedom to do whatever I want and not have to think about a product. I couldn’t just do commercial work, there needs to be a balance. My style seems to lend well to advertising so I haven’t really had to mold it much. It’s more of just subject matter I think. But I have always felt that a filmmaker should be able to take any subject matter and put his or her original voice to it. I really like the challenge of taking a subject that your first reaction is fuck no and getting past that initial fear to create something good from it.
I have these cards that are like tarot cards, but with animal spirit guides. For me it is sort of a fun thing to do when in a group, I don’t do any particular spreads to read futures, but have a person pick one card and read the characteristics of that animal, what lessons it is supposed to teach. If a card is upside down it is the opposite meaning, et cetera. The antelope keeps coming up lately so I remember some of what is written. The antelope represents doing, teaching, and sacrificing. What is the importance of doing, teaching, and sacrificing to you? Additionally, animals aside, what characteristics do you wish to possess that you think you may not? Why do you aspire to them and why can’t you achieve them yet?
Many people talk about doing things. You hear it all the time. So much that your ears soon shut off from listening to people talk about what they are going to do. I much prefer to see someone actually do something and then talk about it. I feel lucky in that I have been able to just do a lot of things. It’s important to be ignorant to rules in the beginning. Being stupid and just trying whatever you want and not thinking about “cans” and “cant’s” is highly beneficial to learning I think. There is a certain beauty that can be achieved with being a total retard. The more projects I do the more I think about them too much to the point sometimes that I over think things and make them way more complicated than they have to be. So I guess I could simplify things more. That would be a beneficial characteristic.
From Harvey Spannos to Machotaildrop, and shorts featuring Mongo Man, or the Manwolfs it is clear that skateboarding interests you tremendously. What was your first introduction to skateboarding? What role does skateboarding play in your life outside of film? How has it come to be a staple of your filmmaking?
Skateboarding was a huge part of my youth. I was at a parade as a small child and remember seeing my first skateboarder. He was young with blonde hair covering one of his eyes and dressed in the filthiest white t-shirt, cut off shorts and some worn out high top vans. He came flying past me and ollied off a curb. The moment I saw this performance I knew I wanted to be just like that. As soon as you get on a skateboard as a child you are introduced to a whole different world. The skateboard took me to the dirtiest alleys and industrial compounds, just looking for new spots to skate. Places that no ordinary child would be roaming around. I think this gives you a good perspective on life and shows you a lot of what the world is. Outside of film skateboarding is just something that I occasionally do now a days.