Weekend Weirdness Exclusive Interview: Corey Adams and Alex Craig, Directors of the Skateboarder Fantasy Machotaildrop; Trailer and Photos
Posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2010 by Hunter Stephenson
It’s a crazy, mixed up world and we are thankful for movies, sans The Tooth Fairy, that offer proof. /Film’s Weekend Weirdness examines such flicks, whether in the form of a new trailer for a provocative indie, a mini review, or an interview…
For all of the world’s fireplaces used to stack skateboard videos and DVDs, it’s increasingly strange how few, if any, feature films exist to directly reflect the ubiquity of the sport and lifestyle in pop culture. The new indie film, Machotaildrop, might be the only across-the-board example. Not only does it have a skateboarder named Walter (played by skater/actor Anthony Amedori) as its main character, the movie’s plush fantasy world serves as a metaphorical backdrop for a modern skater’s journey from passionate amateur to paid-and-jaded pro. After Walter is recruited to the hedonistic dream estate of a major skateboard corporation called Machotaildrop, he’s soon ordered by its shady overseer, The Baron, to tour the base of an outlaw skater gang called the Manwolfs. Herein lies a moral dilemma and awakening: help Machotaildrop establish its kooky skater theme park on the Manwolfs’ sacred turf and “fulfill the dream.” Or bail.
Machotaildrop is already stirring curiosity online for its attractive cinematography and for surreal imagery that evokes the prim-and-proper stylings of Wes Anderson, the offbeat humor of Spike Jonze, and the acid-tab abstraction of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Accessible to fans of those directors, Machotaildrop still glows with the esoteric yet stonerish attitude synonymous with a lot of skate culture. Veteran and current pro’s like Steve Olson (as a baker-skater) and Rick McCrank (as a snobbish, injured icon) get laughs in supporting roles and the plot lends itself to well-shot bouts of skate tricks. I interviewed writers/directors, Corey Adams and Adam Craig, about what they wanted to accomplish, their film’s themes, and all of the skater-and-cineaste history that inspired it. Trailer and images included after the jump.
Hunter Stephenson: We are seeing skate video culture assimilated into indie films more and more, as seen in the work of directors like Spike Jonze and Jody Hill. Do you agree? And what discussions did you and Alex have before making the film in regard to contributing to this cinematic/cultural bridge?
Corey Adams: Well the one discussion we kept having was that we didn’t want the film to look anything like a skateboard video, that all the skateboarding we shot in the film was done so in a way that it didn’t over glorify it. No wide angle lenses or handheld shots—except for some of the skateboard video elements, which we had no control over as it was all actual footage from the kid.
Alex Craig: Even though we both come from a skateboarding background, it was always our intention to approach this project cinematically as opposed to using skate video conventions. I think it would have been foolish to try and recreate a skate video vibe in the film mainly because it wasn’t appropriate to our idea but also because we could never do it justice. We wanted the film to stay in a farcical world.
This is perhaps the first indie film to address—albeit in nearly abstract fantastical fashion—themes of pro-am materialism run amok and the youth-fueled realities of modern skateboarding gone corporate. Do you agree with that assessment? Is the film a modern caution-tale of sorts?
Corey Adams: I’m not sure if it’s a caution tale; we didn’t want to lay too heavy of a message down. But in these action sporting industries you have a limited amount of time to get something done, after the age of 26 or so then you’re starting to get old. These kids are never really taught how to take care of themselves, most have never even worked a day in their life. Then suddenly they can’t perform on the level of the next young buck that’s tossing himself onto a large set of stairs. At this point the company feels sympathy for this manchild who has made them some good money and he is offered a position in the warehouse sweeping floors or something. Unless you were a freestyle skateboarder in the ’80s because they seemed to have had a secret plan that not many knew about, where they were going to run all the companies. Maybe it was a revenge plan for being made fun off all the time. I’m not sure.
Alex Craig: Yeah. I don’t think we ever set out to give any kind of cautionary tale or moral. I think corporate involvement in peoples’ lives is something that is very apparent nowadays, and is celebrated to a certain degree. It’s perfectly acceptable to whore yourself out for some easy money or an easier life. Few things are sacred anymore, so why not? It’s pretty tragic but inevitable I guess.
What do you make of early comparisons of Machotaildrop to Wes Anderson? Another director and film that seems like a direct influence—in the a very kick-ass montage near the end—is [Alejandro] Jodorowsky and The Holy Mountain. Was the montage a homage? Aesthetically, who and what were other inspirations?
Corey Adams: Maybe in some of the colors and costumes, but I think a lot of the reference comes from Peter Greenaway, who Wes Anderson also seems influenced by. The Greenaway film A Zed and Two Noughts is one of my personal favorite films. There is also reference to [Werner] Herzog and [Pier] Pasolini, Jodorowsky is a huge influence for both of us. When I first watched Holy Mountain it changed the way I thought films could be made; it was more like an experience than a film, like taking acid or something. The Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr was also a big influence.
Alex Craig: It’s funny ’cause I never even thought about Wes Anderson’s films when we were making Machotaildrop and now it keeps being likened to one. I mean it makes sense I suppose…I can see why people think that, but it was never our intention. The montage at the end, however is very much a homage to Jodorowsky. We tried to get him to play in that scene but he wanted 20,000 Euros a day. That was more than our entire casting budget.
When you asked Steve Olson to be the grizzled proprietor of a cake shop slash skate shop, how did he react? How did that come about? How important was it for you and Alex to include real skaters, skate footage, and can you explain for readers who don’t or won’t skate what Olson and Rick McCrank (pictured above with beard and horse) represent to the plot as icons?
Alex Craig: It was never a question for us whether or not we should use real skaters as actors. It was the only option. The thought of using stunt doubles was ridiculous. For those who are not aware, Rick McCrank and John Rattray, who both play characters in the film, are very well regarded and highly talented professional skateboarders. And again for George we wanted to have a legit older professional skateboarder so we thought of Steve Olson. Neither of us had met him before so when he agreed we were pretty stoked. He had less than a week’s notice but still came up to Vancouver to shoot. He ruled. He’s a rare human specimen.
Corey Adams: To use guys like Rick and Steve in the film gives the it a certain credibility. They have both done so much for skateboarding and always kept their integrity, which I think not everyone is able to do. These are two guys you will never see selling sticks of deodorant…
What estate in Canada served as the lucious headquarters for the Machotaildrop company in the film? However oddly, the setting reminded me of the use of the Biltmore Estate in Ri¢hie Ri¢h and also Hogwarts….
Corey Adams: The estate was actually in Budapest, Hungary—we shot about half the film over there. It was a Beethoven museum; I guess [Beethoven] had stayed there a few times or something.
Alex Craig: It was in a village called Martonvásár in the Danube River Valley. It took a fair bit of bartering for us to be allowed to shoot there but we managed. There was actually quite a lot of bartering in Hungary to do anything.
Is there a narrative Hollywood or indie film that has featured skateboarding in a respectable way. Obviously, besides Gleaming the Cube?
Corey Adams: I don’t think there is, actually. But there is a French Canadian film called The Devil’s Toy that is probably the greatest film ever made involving skateboarding.
Alex Craig: No, I don’t think so, either. Not that I’ve seen anyway.
The film is embedded with a deep appreciation for illustration, and stop-motion and claymation. Can you elaborate on this? Who was behind the illustrations for the film’s Ape Snake theme park and the Manwolfs gang?
Corey Adams: I have always been a fan of stop-motion, movies like Clash of the Titans and Sinbad were very inspiring for me as a child. Then I was introduced to the work of Jan Švankmajer and the Brothers Quay and discovered a whole new way you could use these techniques. As for the Illustrations, our production designer Jeffro Halladay did most of the ones in the film.
Alex Craig: There’s quite an incredible history of art and illustrators within skateboarding, so we had to represent that as best we could in the film. Our friend Jeffro who we’ve been working with for a number of years is an endless pit of hilarious ideas and imagery. The Manwolfs themselves have been around for quite some time now in various forms and have an existence far beyond the realms of this movie.
What is your favorite image or imagery in the film? The vert ramp that’s set on fire and set free off the dock was particularly inspired.
Corey Adams: Yeah. The last image of the burnt ramp floating away is my favorite. We tried to make the ramp look like a whale carcass that had been barbecued and picked dry of all its tender meat. We had about half-an-hour to shoot those shots as we were losing light fast; we couldn’t let the ramp float too far down the river because there was a boat club down there that had rented us the boat to pull the ramp. The boat driver was afraid he would get in trouble if they had seen us out there doing what we were doing. We had no permits or anything.
Alex Craig: One of my favorite images is when Rick [McCrank's] character, Blair Stanley, is in a giant monastic spa, holding his breath underwater, clutching a life-sized head bust of himself to weigh him down. It was also the final shot on the last day of the shoot. I think Rick may have been exorcising some demons while down there.
Who exactly funded the $1 million budget and what do you and Alex have planned next?
Corey Adam: They call themselves Fuel TV. As far as next plans go, me and Alex are planning to go to South America to film a transvestite soccer team play against a team of clowns in a remote fishing village. Perhaps there will be a love story involved. And we have a science fiction tale of bravery in the works, too.