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Behind the Lens with Prism Skate Co: Interview with Jack Boston and Liam Cliff

Earlier this year Prism Skate Co. came on the scene with a host of big names behind the brand and James Kelly and Liam Morgan as the cornerstones. After dropping a couple videos and releasing the line up, the brand was shaping up to have a stunning visual aesthetic to go with the banging people they had gathered. All of a sudden a few weeks back they dropped a new video and kinda set the web on fire with Into The Mind: Liam Cliff. Not everything was positive. Personally, I was stoked. As an editor for this magazine I am forced watch videos all day everyday and they are lame! Really fucking lame. If not for near death or someone just letting loose with some fire like we haven’t seen, I watch a lot of the same stuff. We don’t have much in the way of art or culture in this scene, straight up. Street Skating accepts a wider range of creativity, artistic expression and exploring ones self. Look at Jessie James. While the dude rips, he is an utter maniac and completely avant guarde gnar-artist. For the most part, only a handful of people and even fewer brands are taking the opportunity to explore their boundaries and push the limits of what is otherwise a pretty formulaic method of making wheelie boards and selling them. So seems to be life in general. Kinda great and bland for a lot of people and if you try and give them anything outside of their box, it’s easier to hate on colour than embrace whats new and different and see what kind of warmth it can create.

Without going too far into editorializing this. I had to take an opportunity and reach out to Prism Skate Co. and Jack Smith and Liam Cliff, and find out more about the new video, where it came from and where the brand is headed with this kind of art direction. I hope we see more exploration and creativity. Without further wordiness, lets see what Jack and Liam have to say.

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Jack, Liam, hi! Most people tend to know who Jack is, but I am not sure we’re all as familiar with you Liam. If you could give us a quick run down. Name, age, where you’re from?

Liam: My name is Liam Cliff. I am 21 years old. I am currently living in San Francisco but grew up in Santa Cruz. I am studying fashion design but also enjoy designing graphics and making short videos portraying my work.

Have you guys have been working together for some time? What is your relationship and how did it bring you guys together at Prism.

Liam: I have worked with Prism for about one year. It started with the graphics for the Artist Series line, which my mentor Davy Reynolds set up for me and a few other artists from Santa Cruz. After the line released Jack approached me with the idea of the Artist Series video and I was thrilled to be a part of it. Jack had a clear vision of the video from the start, which was inspiring.

Jack: Yeah I had met Liam briefly on a shoot for Revelry but that was it. When we were brain storming ideas for the video at the office it seemed natural to get Liam involved in front of the lens. He really anchored the piece and helped me a lot as far as coming up with a loose storyline.

The people behind Prism have come together to put out some landmark footage over the years with other brands. The new Prism video is a bit of different direction. How did the idea come about?

Jack: I think from the start everyone involved with the brand wanted to do something different than what we’d been doing with Caliber and Blood Orange. We had just released Pilgrims and we were trying to figure out what to do for the cruiser line. It started out as something that would incorporate the Resin line too but the more we worked on ideas the more it seemed like we should focus solely on Liam’s artist series. I felt like he’d created a really distinct visual landscape that would crossover well to video, and once he got involved it naturally evolved into a kind of artist profile.

Much of what is seen as “longboarding” feels pretty formulaic, to me anyways. Bigger skills, better gear, or bigger budget its a lot of downhill. You guys have kind of pushed the bar and the limits of it in many ways with your past efforts. Creativity and deviation from this kind of norm doesn’t happen often. What’s the message with this video? What do you hope to inspire with it?

Jack: I’m not sure, that’s a tough question to answer without sounding like a pretentious prick haha. I think the goal from our perspective is to challenge ourselves to operate outside of the normal framework of longboarding videos. We want to look at things like product highlights, artist profiles, welcome to the team parts, and say how can we put our own twist on this? How can we make this stand out from the herd? And hopefully we start to inspire other kids out there to mix it up with their filmmaking too.

What did it take to film this kind of video? We’re familiar with skate filming, but I don’t think a lot of people have a true appreciation for what goes into this?

Jack: Fuck it’s pretty hectic how much goes into a little shoot like this. The masks alone were a pretty big undertaking. When you buy them you just get a template and you have to cut, fold, and glue everything yourself. Everyone at the warehouse pitched in and worked on them for two days. We looked like a bunch of kindergartners doing arts and crafts, it was pretty classic. Filming on a green screen is a strange head space to put yourself in too, it’s such a bland, empty environment. We spent about two weeks before the shoot doing test shots in the studio, workshopping different ideas, building a shot list and all that stuff.

The actual shoot days were intense because we only had two days to film to keep rental costs down etc. We filmed for ten hours the first day only to find out that evening that the memory card we were using was corrupted and we’d lost 90% of the days work. So day two ended up being around 15 hours by the time we got the stuff we needed and re-shot everything we’d lost the day before. 15 hours in this little hot, stuffy, cramped studio, it definitely tested our resolve But I was lucky to have a good crew. No one complained, everyone stayed positive and kept it light hearted and when you have that kind of vibe on set its easy to get shit done.

You had some special camera gear? What kind of techy details can you drop for the camera and film geeks reading?

Jack: We used the good old fashioned tried and true Sony FS700, aka “the slomo camera”. Although the camera is less important when your shooting green screen stuff, it’s the lighting that’s really crucial. You want to light your subjects in an interesting way but the screen needs to have super bright, even light to work properly so it’s a constant balancing act. Dusty came up to handle all the lighting stuff and that was a huge weight off my shoulders, I could just tell him what I wanted and he would handle it.

How long does it take to edit something like this down to a final draft? Was there a lot of debate or do you guys gel and have more mutual consensus in your vision?

I think it took Chubbs and I about three weeks of editing before we had the final version. Again it’s different than a normal edit because you have to go shot by shot and edit out the green screen. When Brandon saw the first draft half the shots were still just people standing in a studio which is weird. The workflow is a bitch too because you may spend all day working on a shot only to realize it doesn’t really work within the edit. Once we started screening it for people there were some notes here and there but for the most part everyone was stoked. When you’ve been working on something for over two weeks sometimes the best feedback is just having a fresh pair of eyes to watch it. When I screen something for someone for the first time I usually get as much from their feedback as from just watching it next to them. Having someone in the room will make you a hundred times more self conscious about your work and you start to see things you would never notice watching it by yourself.

Liam, you’re a designer and artist and have a lot of experience in fashion right? I checked out your instagram in particular and some youtube videos. You have a very unique style. How does your art and creativity transfer into film and a project like this?

Liam: The entire theme of mixing graphics and footage relates perfectly to my work. The ability to mix the two mediums creates the limitless boundary for the content of the video.

Can we expect more of this kind of vogue and avant garde content from Prism?

Liam: I hope so.

Jack: Yeah I imagine so. We’ve gotten a pretty mixed response on this one obviously but we knew that would be the case going into it. On a selfish level I hope we do more, from a filmmaking perspective its a lot of fun to mix it up and challenge myself with stuff like this.

Will there be more core skate style content coming as well? What can we hope to expect from the more skate-purist celebrated gnarliness? or how will that cross over with a more artistic vision of the brand?

Jack: Yeah for sure. We’re doing another team trip soon that I’m really excited for. As far as edit style it’s still early to say for sure. I want to keep distancing ourselves from conventional edits but that may not be a realistic goal. It’s so easy to strap a camera onto a car hood and get gnarly footage, anyone can do it and its the most over saturated style of filming out there. I want to keep experimenting with different angles and methods, even if its a car mount higher up, lower to ground, off axis, whatever I just want it to look different. Tom just shot all that push culture stuff out the top of their van and it looked awesome, such a simple idea but really effective.

Prism hasn’t been out very long now. Where can skaters get it if they want to check it out or pick something up?

Jack: We always ask for you to support your local retailer. If your skateshop carries Caliber and Blood Orange, they can carry Prism too. Please let the stores know if they aren’t already carrying. That said, if you are having trouble finding the exact board you are looking for, daddiesboardshop.com, muirskate.com, and our website prismskateco.com will always offer the full lineup.

Thanks for your time guys. As we do, any last words? something I missed? Shout outs?

Jack: Shout out to everyone working at our warehouse for killing it everyday. Without all their hard work it wouldn’t be possible for me to do what I do.

Liam: Just a thank you to Davy Reynolds for putting me on contact with Prism and a thank you to Prism for this support and movement

Check out more from Prism Skate Co. here.

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