by Grady Mitchell | “It was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. I had not a clue what I was getting into.” That’s Corey Adams talking about his first feature film, Machotaildrop, which he wrote and directed with Alex Craig in 2009. If you’ve never seen it, you really should. Filmed in Vancouver and Hungary, it’s a grippingly bizarre, Willy Wonka-inspired fantasy that follows the misadventures of Walter Rhum, a young skateboarder and newly-turned pro for the shadowy skate company Machotaildrop. Featuring John Rattray and Rick McCrank, the film is a cult favourite, especially among skateboarders for its squad of roving villains, the iconic Manwolfs (more on them later).
A big part of the film’s appeal is its totally immersive world, about which Alex and Craig were ludicrously detailed. From each characters’ distinctly odd costume to the dreamlike nooks and vaulting chambers of the castle they inhabit (not to mention the strange retro knick-knacks that occupy those rooms), every minute detail contributes to the Machotaildrop universe. Mementos from the film are spread across Corey and Alex’s East Vancouver studio: a banner depicting a hand throwing three lightning bolts, a Manwolfs vest hung on the wall, a bust of Rick’s head on a shelf above a desk.
Machtaildrop came off with help from Fuel TV, who awarded Alex and Corey a million dollar investment after they won a short film contest with their entry Harvey Spannos. The signature style they developed in the feature carries over into most of Corey’s work – few filmmakers blend their personal and commissioned projects so seamlessly. Whether he’s making an ad for Poler or a music video for Jacuzzi Boys, Corey injects each project with his playful vision. Rather than limit the possibilities, often the assignment’s restrictions allow for inventive solutions that wouldn’t happen if he were given free reign. “It’s good to be put in that situation and try and do something that’s completely foreign to you,” Corey says.
There’s no secret to his creative process – or if there is, he wishes somebody would fill him in. “I probably wouldn’t struggle so much,” he says. One thing he knows for sure is that inspiration never strikes while you’re staring at a blank screen. “That’s the worst place to come up with an idea, sitting in front of that stupid machine.” It’s in the off-the-clock moments that his ideas spark.
A childhood enchantment with campy spy disguises shows up often in his characters’ fake beards, prosthetics, and costumes. “I’ve always loved the idea of dressing up,” Corey says. It’s also a throwback to his experience working on special effects for films (his last job was pumping gallons and gallons of blood for Freddy Vs. Jason).
Often his characters run through lightning fast quick-cut montages of their adventures. Some of them, as in Poler’s Landlouping ad or his commercial for Native Shoes, document the process of how a product gets made – although it more often involves sorcery and potions than stitches and glue. Other times, as in the video for Mister Heavenly’s song Bronx Sniper, it’s all mayhem and debauchery. For that one they took over a condemned house and set loose a savage gang of Manwolfs to demolish it with sledgehammers, motorcycles and chainsaws.
The Manwolfs quasi-cult has become one of Corey’s most enduring creations. If you’ve spent any time around East Van you’ve probably seen the patch of a howling, blue-furred werewolf. The Manwolfs often pop up in Corey’s films, generally in a shit-stirring capacity. The beloved hooligans even inspired a signature shoe from skate company Es.
Looking at his work, it’s easy to see that skateboarding has had a profound influence on Corey’s career. It was the way he got introduced to a camera in the first place. When he and his friends wanted to film themselves skateboarding growing up, it meant begging their moms to rent a camera. Not the slim digital jobs of today, but one of those hulking VHS monsters. That night, just for kicks and knowing they had to return the camera in the morning, they’d make short films and fake commercials. “The skateboard takes you to these weird spots that you’d otherwise never go to,” Corey says. “It always led you into the unknown.”
Next Corey’s working on a project entitled Atlas Electric. Without giving too much away, Corey explains that the film will follow three young boys who discover and harbour a fugitive robot. Filming has already begun, and the project will be tied in with an app, although he’s not sharing the details of that yet. They hope to hit the festival circuit next year, then release the film episodically.
To see some of Corey’s work, visit his site.