A lot of times filmers don’t get the credit they deserve. No matter how good a skateboarder is, it’s almost essential to have a talented and dedicated filmer in order to get recognition. Jackson Casey is from a small town in Michigan called Ionia (known mostly for its state prison and the Ionia Free Fair–whatever the hell that is), somewhere between Grand Rapids and Lansing. After making a few Michigan videos, he moved out to Arizona and did his own thing–made some more independent videos and started his own brand, Pyramid Country–making a name for himself and his group of friends that all skate and party together. When he first walked in the shop maybe ten years ago, probably with a half-shaved mustache, bleached hair, and adidas track pants–what the owners thought was just weird at first–he is actually one of the most original dudes we’ve ever met to come from Michigan.
While Pyramid Country was on tour through Grand Rapids, Toronto and New York, Shitfoot staff caught up with Jackson to talk about the process of growing up in a shithole town to becoming a distinctive filmer and editor in the world of skateboarding.
What was it like being a skateboarder in Ionia, MI? When did you start coming to Grand Rapids?
It was weird, man. There were a couple of really cool spots for kids who’d just begun skateboarding, though. We had a metal edged curb that went on for like 20 feet right after a crusty 4 stair. That was basically it. Oh, and a skate park that was built in a river basin that floods every year just after winter until June–you couldn’t even see the park it was that underwater. The park was also located in the Fairgrounds…which, you’ve heard of the “Free Fair.” That was always pleasant, especially when the RV campers for the week of Frazee’s fries and lemonade, corn dogs and deep fried Oreos dumped their mobile septic tanks out 40 feet from the park in some weird hole. I started coming to GR as soon as my oldest buds got their first cars, around 14. I’m really thankful I was able to get out of Ionia and see what else is out there, inspired me to get and stay the fuck out of there.
I remember a period of time when all these dudes from Michigan were moving to Arizona, and a lot of people still do. Why Arizona instead of going a little further to maybe California?
Because California sucks dog! Haha, Arizona is really so nice. Traffic is mellow but it’s like the 4th largest city in the USA and the fastest growing, so there are new spots like daily. Urban sprawl is no joke. Everyone here is super nice with one another. It’s awesome here.
What’s Tempe Eskimos?
Top fuckin secret.
Dude. What’s Tempe Eskimos?
You mean it’s printed on a t-shirt but it’s top secret?
It’s not something to openly speak on bud. Blood in blood out.
I fuck with that. Speaking of t-shirt, the most thug-ass dude from the projects just bought one of your tees from us. Like this dude seriously showed me a picture of him and his homies on his birthday wearing the “coldest fit” that included a DGK bucket hat with matching button down shirt. He’s like, “I had this on with the all white Vans…Them other dudes just wearing they hood rat shit!” And he was super hyped on the discount Compton bucket hat in the aqua color. And now he wears Pyramid Country.
Hahahaha hell yeah that’s tight.
It seems that having a dedicated filmer is crucial for any skate scene, and especially for skateboarders who have come up in the industry. Did you ever realize you wanted to take on that role of being a filmer?
I realized it when I moved to AZ with hopes of primarily skateboarding and maybe getting some tricks of myself–then my first night in AZ I went to the skate park and ended up skating with Robbie Brockel, Justin Modica, Jonathan Pierce, John Rob Moore, etc. It blew me away to see dudes of that caliber back then–guess it still does. But it was shocking, so I figured fuck it, I’ll just focus more on filming and editing better, then who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to keep skating because of that.
What was the first video you watched, and what are some of your favorite videos that still get you stoked?
The first video I watched was Fulfill The Dream…but I was most hyped on This Is Skateboarding. I’d fall asleep to that VHS every night when I got it. Can’t Stop The Firm was the last video I really really got into.
I’ve noticed every time we’ve skated that you never complain about how long it takes to get a trick, and by the time it’s landed it’s on to the next spot. Sometimes it takes hours. Do you ever want to just say fuck it and drop the camera and skate?
I usually try to skate while people warm up. In my head I think I’m better at skating than I really am and think, “oh I could totally fuck this spot up,” but I really can’t. So by the time someone wants to film something, I’ve usually realized I got nothing for the spot and just kinda come to terms with “I’ll be here ‘til the batteries are dead or the trick is landed.” Its nice–helps me be patient in a really instant world.
I’ve also noticed we do a lot of car camping, or driving around from spot to spot. Is it because it’s hard skating with a big crew a lot of times, or is it just because everything is more spread out there in Arizona? Do you guys ever just go pushing around downtown Phoenix?
We do skate around, but there aren’t a ton of spots. We made “The Phoenix Lights” in a few months and basically hit every nightspot we could think of–and in doing so we kind of made downtown a bust. There’s usually a pretty sizeable crew. Not to mention it’s fucking hot out here dude. AC is dope and so is being able to drive to get gallons rather than skate around with that shit. You also need extra shirts and shit sometimes. Nice having a car on the session…Bondo, signs, you name it. Shits way more spread out in AZ. Cars kinda essential. Plus, I’ve noticed there’s a spot in every village, town, city, etc. Might as well drive to all of ‘em and see what happens.
“That’s like telling Michael Jordan his basketball dunks itself really well, or telling Bill Cosby the Quaaludes rape super well. Too much? Fuck rapists.”
I’m pretty sure every filmer gets this question, but are you strictly VX now or do you ever see yourself filming HD?
I’m not really partial to either side of the argument. I like VX1000 for skating and I like HD for everything else, basically. But I film with a few people in HD for other projects they need filmed for and it’s kinda more fun, way more versatile and way easier to capture. It’s easier to get good-looking skate footage with a VX for sure. I really don’t care too much, I guess. My friend Patrick and I joke a lot about when girls say, “Your camera takes such good pictures!” It’s dumb as fuck. That’s like telling Michael Jordan his basketball dunks itself really well, or telling Bill Cosby the Quaaludes rape super well. Too much? Fuck rapists.
Haha hell yeah, never too much.
You just released a new full-length video for Pyramid Country called Exeter. What’s the story behind Pyramid Country, and who the fuck is Exeter?
Shit, I’ve tried to answer this a bunch. Pyramid Country is an outlet for the homies. It’s run by Myself, Bobby Green & JJ Horner. We all love doing it and wanna do whatever we can to keep all of our friends on the road, if only for one month a year. Stay young. It’s fun and we hope to keep it moving. Exeter is our friend from somewhere else; I don’t really know him that well. He’s kind of a mooch, though. Always trying to bum cigs.
“Stay young. It’s fun and we hope to keep it moving.”
It seems like you’ve created your own unique style as a filmer and especially with the way you edit. Each video kind of has a weird theme, like in Friends With Benefits you mixed in a bunch of black and white sci-fi movie scenes, and Exeter has an almost comic book story line. Where did that come from?
I have no idea, I don’t really watch movies or TV or anything except comedy. And my shits pretty serious sometimes, so I don’t know. I like to film stuff and let it go freely, then once things start to develop I like to adapt the storyline to what’s happened already. I don’t like plans at all, so it’s nice to let things create themselves, sorta. That’s what’s awesome about editing. You can do whatever you want. Granted, lots of our shit takes a lot of thought, but it’s a very eventual process.
Also, why are the some of the names slightly homo-erotic (Friends With Benefits, Boyish)?
Cuz when I first moved to AZ I made some homo-erotic skate montages as a joke with my friends and these dudes that were in it (that weren’t really our friends, per-se, just kinda skating) took it seriously and to heart and were super bummed to be involved. They were like, “Fuck you gay faggots” or some really, really cool shit like that. So I figured I’d just let that stigma exist and make a joke out of it to diffuse it. Or enhance it. It all worked out in the rear end.
Another thing that makes your videos unique are the soundtracks, like that weird bedroom fantasy/slop pop shit that I really like, Adeodat Warfield. How do you find that stuff?
Music is huge. You get goose bumps from music, not so much photo or video. You feel calm listening to good music, crazy listening to shit you don’t like, and comforted by a significant other’s voice. I think it plays the largest role in emotions in regards to film. I’ve never looked at a picture and felt like, damn, lets go fucking skate!! Or lets go get hammered!! You get the point I’m trying to make I think. I spend a lot of time on YouTube, Soundcloud, trading music with Ryan Sublette, etc. Ryan (Adeodat Warfield) is a genius.
What was it like going from just having fun making videos with the homies to working with an outlet like Thrasher and running your own company?
Pretty cool, it adds a little stress but it’s mainly all very similar. Except now, we’re able to pay for gas and places to stay on trips. That makes it a lot more possible for dudes on the “team”, or our friends, to get out of work for long enough to hit the road with the boys. Thrasher has been incredible to us. Can’t thank those dudes enough, been such a rad experience.
Yes. I’m sending Thrasher an invoice for that shoutout. We were pretty lit one night after the bar and I remember you saying something about how there are people that just don’t get the difference between skating and filming? What do you mean by that?
I mean some people skate sooo well and are so talented, but their footage or skate parts fucking suck, no offense to anybody, just relative to what you know they can do. Maybe that’s out of lack of interest in filming a part? Sometimes I think it’s the editors bad as well. Filmers should film whatever, but you don’t have to use every clip a dude gets. Looks kinda shitty that way to me. On the flip side, some people can’t do shit on flatground but put out kinda rad parts. It’s mind-boggling. It’s the best to see someone who understands their talent and how videos and attention spans work. Why do a 40 second line with 30 seconds of pushing? Shit like that. It’s not that hard to see a trend in what works and what doesn’t. So it’s weird to see really talented people just not understand how to have that translate on film.
Pyramid Country is on tour and after Michigan it’s Toronto and New York. Why those cities, and what’s it like traveling with 20 dirty ass skateboarders?
Initially we were supposed to go visit and film some shit with the 1puglife guys from YouTube, the crazy Canadians who jump redneck lawn chairs off of ramps made of old washing machines and screen doors and shit. I got ahold of them and they were down for us to come up and hit some jumps and shit, but we got rained out when it was supposed to really happen. So to shape a trip around that, they are based right between Detroit and Toronto… figured fuck, I’m from Michigan, there’s mad spots there… guys would love them.. It was basically just a suggestion I made that turned into a reality. We just ran with the first idea, really. It was either that or another trip somewhere in the southwest–which is fun, but gets old. Traveling with everyone was so fucked up. I can’t describe how it felt. Basically how you’d imagine it would be–horrible and awesome.
I know the Windsor/Detroit border is strict for Americans trying to get over. What was the excuse to get 20 skateboarders across it?
We rode in three separate cars and they searched all of them, thoroughly. It was fucked. Bart Jones was with us and he had a jug of water that he wrote, “FAT GINGER JEW RETARD FAGGOT HEP-C WATER” on so nobody else would drink it. The border patrol found that and kinda thought like, these guys are all right. They hate Jews and fags too. Those people fuckin’ sucked really bad. I couldn’t believe we made it in, really. [Kevin] Skutnik was so nervous when they asked what he does for work that he did the thing where you just choke. It was fucked. There are Tim Horton’s on every corner there, too. Pretty interesting.
Seems pretty difficult skating with such a big crew in New York. What’s going to happen when a few of you don’t make it through the subway gate in time and have to wait three hours to catch up?
Funny you say that. A guy on the team hated riding the train so much. He’d get this piss-anxiety and just have to piss. So he stopped riding the train like day one, and a few people would always just posse with him. They skated from Brooklyn to Manhattan more than a few times. It was pretty fucked up, but I mean you skate so much there anyways so fuck it. It all worked out. Especially coming from Canada, where none of our phones worked, it seemed like a breeze being able to call, text, or send pins and just kinda meet whenever.
What is the future of Pyramid Country and what would you like to accomplish as a filmer?
I’m open to whatever. I’d love for Pyramid Country to grow and to continue filming. That’s all I know.
Anything you want to add?
Thanks for having us at your house. It was awesome of you guys. Nothing else. I’d just be saying thanks to more people. Thanks to all of the other people I would thank.
It was a pleasure. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us, Jack.