Cal Travis Oaks ‘Terrarium’ video and Interview

Cal Travis Oaks ‘Terrarium’ video and Interview

Posted by Carlee Benito on

Every once in awhile a young skater embodies the soul and spirit of someone who’s been skating for decades. Cal Oaks is one of those kids. Born in 1995, you would swear his new video project ‘Terrarium’ was made that very year…as it evokes the early-mid 90s creative vibes of videos from Alien Workshop, Stereo or Josh Stewarts ‘Static’ videos. Raw and unique spots, Super 8 film, underground rad skaters, etc. This video makes skateboarding look fun and cool.

And Cal himself is one cool cat too, part James Dean, part Chet Baker, part talented filmmaker, part ripping skateboarder, all the way Richer Poorer.


We’re proud to support Cal and his Knoxville based video project, which is premiering exclusively at for 24 hours starting at 12pm PST TODAY.

Don’t miss it!

So tell us a bit about the Terrarium film that just released on HellaClips…

Terrarium is my 2nd full length skate film shot in super 8 film and HD footage. It took me about 3 years to make. The skate scene here is hard to figure out and there isn’t a great community (in Knoxville at least, Nashville and Chattanooga have some pretty solid dudes) but I worked with what I had and tried to make something visually exciting for the people skating here now and to leave a bit of local history for future kids to watch that might get them hyped to get out in this community,skate, and be creative.


Where did the name “Terrarium” come from?

I had completed my first full-length skate film, “My Generation” at age 17.  That was a good time. I was coming up from the down of returning to Tennessee after briefly living in California and the therapy of making that film stoked me. I was ready to hit it hard with my next film, but it was a strange time. I was older, everyone else was older. We had jobs, girlfriends, addictions, or whatever that was keeping everyone from really committing to making another film. Living with those conditions and living in what I call the ‘humid gut’ of the South, is what lead me to naming this film “Terrarium”.  Here in the heat and pollution and all the obstacles that kept getting in the way. Terrariums are beautiful, but they are confined and restricted spaces.  I guess that’s how I felt about TN at the time and I somehow negotiated a way to thrive in this environment and pull off a piece of work that I feel is visually successful.


Tell us a bit about who’s in it? 

 The Knoxville skate scene with some homies from Chattanooga and Nashville. The two main skaters are Erik Phillips and D.j. Griffis.

Erik is totally devoted. He’s a dude that’ll take fall after fall and end up owning it in the end. D.J. is someone I met after moving back to Tennessee, he’s one of those reliable friends that’s always there.


HellaClips is premiering the video online for 24 hours, then releasing some parts throughout the week…which parts should they definitely get out there?

I think the night time section! I’m happy with the whole video, but in my opinion that might be the most fun, hype, and interesting part to watch!


What prompted you to make a local video? 

Well, I was stuck here.  That was part of it.  But it wouldn’t have mattered where I had been stuck, I would have made a local video.  I love everything about skateboarding.  I’m glad it has become as widespread as it has, but what I think keeps it going are local scenes.  There is this “tree” of skateboarding, but all the small pockets of underground skaters – everything from small companies to diy parks, and so on – are the roots.  I grew up here and was fortunate to be introduced to that whole kind of legendary old man pool skate scene at a young age and met the early 90’s shredders along the way, as well as the generation of the early 2000’s.  All those people played their role in Knoxville skate history and I felt like I needed to continue to carry the torch and make a contribution to the local scene.


Describe the Tennessee skate scene a  bit more for us…How do you think it differs from California?

Skating in Tennessee is rough.  My experiences in LA, SD, and SF have been wonderful.  Not really much harassment and everything is so perfect and smooth.  Here you have crumbling asphalt and structures that are just so gnarly that you have to really figure out a way to, first of all find spots, then figure out how you are gonna make a line out of it.  The cops here really want you to quit being a faggot and take up football…at least that’s what I’ve been told by them.  I also think that there is a whole other culture of love involved.  When you grow up someplace like L.A. where there are 9 year old kids blowing jaw dropping airs out of the pool at Venice, it can seem kind of like the norm.  In a town where football is absolutely a god, you have to seek out another culture and really love it for it to thrive (kind of like the way skating used to be in the early 80’s).


What are a few of your favorite skate videos and what Filmer/Editors do you most admire?

That is hard question. I have been influenced by so many amazing artists. Here is what comes off the top of my head.

Blueprints Lost and Found, First Broadcast, Dialogue Between Insiders, all of the Static videos, Stereo Tincan Folklore, A Visual Sound, Eastern Exposure 3, Good and Evil, Suffer the Joy, Inhabitants, First love, No Complies and Wallrides + Shuvits, Magenta skateboards SF Hill St Blues…there are so many more but these are the videos I specifically remember off the top of my head that changed the way I looked at skateboarding forever as far as style, attitude, and approach.  Anything I did in skating was heavily influenced by some of these. There are so many filmers out there that I’ve looked up to but the cats that are getting me hyped right now are Chris Mulhern, Colton Light, Matt Bublitz, Alex Rose, Logan Lewis, Josh Stewart, Pontus Alv, and Yoan Taillandier. Those are the best filmers in the Game right now.

Thanks on the Stereo video mentions (Tincan Folklore & A Visual Sound) my man! 


What do you think makes skateboarders so creative? 

I guess part of it is the diversity. People from all walks of life are in this collective brotherhood, so whatever clique or subculture you are involved in within that brotherhood, there is a mutual respect. I also think that it is super therapeutic. I know plenty of people from broken situations that use skateboarding for therapy, and it seems to work. Channeling that frustration seems to work – those people usually shred.

Also, it’s the whole perception of life and landscape that makes us creative.  When you take something utilitarian – something like a rail, or curb, or bench, or even a hill – and you turn that into something that you can make a line out of, that’s pretty creative.

Being your such a stylish dude, who are some your style influences?

Alyasha Owerka-Moore, my Mom and Dad, Morrissey, Old Men, Roger Miller, James Dean (white t shirt and jeans, nothing better than that), Ouigi Theodore, Tito Deler, Kerouac, Lou Reed, Steve McQeen, Tom Selleck,  Iggy many others…


Favorite music?

I listen to all kinds of music a lot of 60’s garage, 50’s-60’s foreign music is rad, 80s punk, 90s rap, OLD country, 1940s-60s jazz, pop music like (Pulp, Iggy Pop, The Clash,  Joy Division, The Cure).  And, for better or worse, I do listen to The Smiths every day.


How did you initially come in contact with Richer Poorer 

I was in LA for Agenda to meet up with Alyasha and the PF crew. Walking around with Aly, I ran into you (Chris) and Vince and I guess we hit it off.  I was super stoked to see a product that offered an extra punch of style.


What drew you to the brand beyond that first meeting? 

First, it was the socks because they are super comfortable to skate in and very cool designs (that matters because I care) but then when I saw the lineup for the team it just made sense… I dig everyones style on the team and RPA has a ripping team!

What’s life been like back at home?

Back home life is jittery.  I am really chomping at the bit to get out of town.  I’ve recently invested in a new camera set up and need a couple of other things before I leave.  I want to be in a community that is just as exited about what I do as I am.  I have lots of folks that support me here and that are very stoked about what I do (the Terrarium premiere had over 300 people), but I am in need of that constant creative energy community.  It is also about to get wet, cold, and nasty here.  While I wait to move (as patiently as I can), I’ll continue to skate, film a bit, and work my gig at Old City Java – slinging coffee drinks – until I can head out before summer of 2016.


Any more video projects in the works?

I’ll be doing some small skate videos and a few lifestyle branding projects for some other companies that I’m working for, but I don’t plan on any major productions until after the move.


What are you most looking forward to in 2016?

I’ve already said it – the Move!  I’m stoked about 2016 in general though.  I feel like it’ll be a good year and I hope that the world can get beyond the pain and suffering it’s going through.  These are strange times and life is just too good to live it in fear and misery – so blessings for the world!

Thanks much Cal! We’re stoked to have you a part of the RP Fam.