Q&A with Modern Collective Director Kai Neville

30 11 2009

Years from now we might look back and say Kai Neville is the man who changed surfing. His film, Modern Collective, may be the vehicle that propels a new generation of surfers to heights that seemed unimaginable 10 years ago. After completing a trek across the U.S. two weeks ago, he’s is back in Australia after premiering the film across his home continent. Kai talks to Nugable about the process of making the film, Jordy Smith’s performance, his liver and ASP judges.—Nug

So you are back in Australia after premiering Modern Collective across the States. How did that go?
Couldn’t have gone any better. I organized the L.A. premiere so things were pretty wild right up to the first screening. After the bass dropped and the movie played through we jumped straight on the party program. Me and the boys went to around five premieres over the next week. It was non stop. All the crowds were hooting and that made us psyched so we watched the movie right through around eight times. Good to be home now… the liver needed some rest.

What goals did you have in the process of making this film and did you accomplish them?
I just wanted to showcase how these guys actually surf. What you see is what you get. We would film a session and try keep the continuity from start to finish in the edit. I love making surf films and wanted to make Modern Collective still amping by nature with an enjoyable location feel. No interviews or anything too setup (except the intro titles). Pretty much just cruise with the boys and document this unique group.

Everybody seems to be really enjoying the film. Especially the kids. Is that the true test?
I’m stoked to hear everyone is enjoying it. Youth is the target audience. I want to get them amped. Hopefully the next crop will feed off these guys and just try ridiculous shit. You hear some of the older crew complaining there is too many airs… but they should know that’s what we are about. Rocking up to some beachie and just trying the biggest punts. If you want to see perfect barrels don’t watch this movie. There are a few nice pits but riding the tube isn’t exactly something new in surfing.

When did you become interested in filmmaking?
At around 15 I started taking film class at school and eventually combined film with my love for surfing.

Surfing’s Travis Ferre called you the Guy Ritchie of surfing. I may be way off base but I thought I saw some Coppola influence. What filmmakers do you look up to?
(Laughs) That is pretty rad. I just see myself as a surf filmmaker. If people see some technical aspects that may relate to the likes of Ritchie and Coppola that’s cool. Obviously Lockstock and Snatch have been an influence, the editing especially. I like the films of Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Terrence Malick, Wes Anderson, Tarantino to name a few.

The opening sequence and the editing were fantastic. The music was eclectic and fitting. Do you consider yourself an auteur?
I filmed, edited, directed the soundtrack basically covered all aspects of the film, so I guess in some ways I could be considered an auteur.

I was amazed by Jordy’s surfing in the film. Some are calling it the best performance in a surf film ever. Thoughts?
Best performance I have seen this year. He is going loony!

How involved in the filmmaking process were the surfers? Did Jordy, Mitch, Dion, Dane, and the boys give you a lot of feedback?
I tried to get them involved as much as I could… locations, angles, music. I would send edits over the web to try get feedback from the boys. Hard to get feedback though as the guys are so busy. Wave selection is key. I don’t want to use something in the movie they aren’t happy with.

I imagine every kid with a surfboard will now be hucking and spinning after seeing MC. Should they send doctor’s bills for broken ankles to you or Jordy?
(laughs) Yeah get out and punt… send bills to Jordy though, not me.

Will Modern Collective change surfing?
I hope so. I really want to paddle out and see groms trying crazy shit.

Can you do surf fans across the world a favor and send a copy of the film to all of the ASP judges?
They can’t tell a reverse from a rodeo. They should really study new moves… also the commentators. I piss my pants with some of the names they throw around on the webcast.

Are you working on a follow up?
Not right now, but something might drop in the distant future.

Modern Collective is available now on iTunes for just $8.99.

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6 responses

30 11 2009
Miles

Nice get Nug. MC is the shit!

30 11 2009
Jay

Interesting to hear Kai’s thoughts on the ASP judges. So true. Jordy does do some serious damage in this movie. Same with dion.

30 11 2009
Elwood

Nice work Nug. The brilliance of Jordy’s surfing doesn’t just lie in his ridiculous bag of tricks but in his progression of the classic front-side power gouges and lay-back snaps. Almost like he’s sticking his middle finger up a Kelly, Occy, Curren and all those before.

Amazing how much surfing has progressed in the last several years…. every surfer in MC would easily have the closing part in any of the campaign movies… Now if we can just get the surf media and ASP to progress along with them… hah!

30 11 2009
Izzy

@Elwood
I agree that surfing has progessed so much. But I don’t think Jordy’s sticking his finger up at Kelly, Occy or Curren any more than they are stickicg there middle fingers up at Rabbit or MR.

1 12 2009
Dave Mailman

From the really blond guy who bores you all to tears when he wins events…

Hi Guys just wondering if you could pass this onto anyone with a website that can get the word out. Also to the guys on tour.

Hi All
Just want to inform you guys that there is going to be a fundraiser for Kehau Sullivan youngest and newest addition to the Pancho Sullivan Family. Kehau was born with heart troubles and has already had an operation to help her keep going. She will need around 4 operations in her lifetime and as we all know insurance will only cover so much. We all know Pancho from when he was on tour and being a North Shore standout forever. Pancho did so much to help out whilst he was on tour and has always been willing to lend a helping hand to anyone that has ever needed it. So lets show our love and support by helping him and his beautiful family.
Myles Padaca and his wife have organized a fundraiser night on the 5th December at Breakers 6pm to help Pancho and Haunani with the huge medical costs. There is a website where you can donate money and there is also going to be an on-line board auction so if you have a spare board feel free to contact Myles and help out with the cause. Myles’ contact details are mylespadaca@gmail.com and the link to donate money is

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/Friends-of-Kehau-Sullivan/182872574919?ref=mf

Lets all pitch in and help such a wonderful loving family so they can concentrate on getting little Kehau strong and healthy for a long and amazing life.
Thanks for your time.

Mick Fanning

1 12 2009
The Nug

Thanks Dave. Always good to hear from Mick and the cause is worthy. If you haven’t picked up the 50th Anniversary issue of Surfer do so. It’s truly outstanding. And I’m certain Kampion, Hynd, Warshaw and Hawk would approve.

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