Full Circle: The Taylor Steele Interview

26 01 2010

My first job in high school was at a little surf forecasting/reporting outfit in Orange County called 976-Surf. This was before the Internet boom and surf cams were just being introduced. My job was simple. I’d check conditions and relay them back the office by telephone. They’d then transcribe the conditions into pre-recorded messages. Surfers could call in (for a few dollars a minute) for the report.  That was long time ago. Things have changed quite a bit since then.

It appears I’ve come full circle. That company is now called Surfline.

Recently, I was able to track down filmmaker Taylor Steele and interview him about his user-generated video project titled Innersection.

You can read the interview here.





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.





Who in the Hell is Travis Ferre?

29 10 2009
Travis Ferre

Travis Ferre logs some tube time in Mexico. Photo: DJ Struntz

You might not know the name now, but you will. Trust me. Travis Ferre is the new editor-in-chief for Surfing Magazine. Right now Surfing is documenting “what is now” in the surf world better than any other American surf mag. He was gracious enough to answer my questions about his background, the state of surf media and his enormous woody for the Modern Collective.–Nug

In April you took over the editorial duties at Surfing. Has it been a challenge to fill Evan Slater’s shoes?
No one will ever fill Evan Slater’s shoes. Evan would be disappointed if I only tried to fill his shoes. I’m trying to make my own.

What is your background? How did you find yourself as the editor-in-chief of one of the largest surf mags in the world?
I grew up in Huntington Beach. I started surfing when I was nine. Mostly because wax smelled good and my dad got me a cool little board shaped by Jeff Widener. I remember walking through HSS when it was on 16th street with my dad, wandering through, hugging all the rubber wetsuits and smelling the wax. I liked the lifestyle. It smelled good. I didn’t go to Huntington High School. I only dated their girls. I went to Marina High School. We were the Vikings. We almost beat Huntington’s surf team once when I was the captain.

My dad is an artist and a car painter. I couldn’t paint, but I liked to write. As I got older, I found out my dad’s best friend in high school was Chris Carter. He wrote the X-Files, but he started out as associate editor at Surfing Magazine. My dad always told me stories about their surfing adventures and getting in trouble and then how he went on to work at the magazine. I thought that would be a cool gig if emulating Kalani Robb ever failed — which it did.

I went to OCC (Orange Coast College) out of high school and traveled a bit with my friends, surfing and getting reckless. I decided I wanted to study English literature because you could drink while doing homework. I then set the goal of becoming an editor while sitting in my truck listening to an Interpol record. I transferred to San Diego State and that was really the turning point. I was sitting in a Shakespeare class, doing everything I could to relate that class to my future in surf writing when I sat next to Kimball Taylor. He recognized me from surfing Mission Beach and we got to talking. He told me he was a writer for Surfer magazine, I told him that I wanted to be an editor at a surf magazine. He tried to get me an internship at Surfer but they never called back. He then passed me on to Evan at Surfing and a couple days later I was in their office, writing stories for the website. Nathan Myers and Evan took me under their wing and I never left. Kimball still calls me Hamlet.

Print has fallen on hard times. Surfing and Surfer’s parent company (Source Interlink) filed for bankruptcy. The magazine even has a furlough tracker. Additionally, the recession has hit a lot the advertiser’s bottom lines, decreasing ad budgets. Is it difficult to produce a quality magazine that relies so heavily on advertising under these conditions?
Have you ever taken a furlough? It’s amazing. You take it on a Friday. Turn the phone off. Go surfing. Drink beer at lunch. Go surf again. You make happy hour. It’s the most inspiring thing our company has ever implemented. I’m so proud of them. As for making magazines right now: sure, it’s a bit tougher. The beauty of our crew though is we’re all young. We know no other condition. We’ll make you a 100-page magazine or we’ll make you a 300-page magazine. We don’t care. It’s going to be a good representation of what we’re into that month and it will matter. It will represent modern surfing. We’ll stay late. Work our ass off. Put everything we have into making it. We’re creative, we like the challenge.

Well there is the whole pay issue with the furloughs. But then again I think it was Nick Carroll who told me no one gets rich from writing about surfing (Except the aforementioned Chris Carter).
We’re not here to make money. We’re here because we love it. Sounds corny, cliché and predictable, but it’s true. We like doing this. A day off to go surfing so the corpos can get back on track is fine by us.

I preferred it when Surfing and Surfer were bitter rivals. They have been under the same corporate umbrella for a while now. Has this diluted the product?
Look at the December issues of Surfing and Surfer. They don’t even look like they were made on the same planet. The products are going their own directions and I’m fine with that. So is Joel Patterson. Joel and I make different products and for the first time in five to ten years, Surfer and Surfing have their own identity. We’re doing what we’re into. They’re doing what they’re into. And while we’re probably not going to send them donuts we shoved in our ass, our editorial staffs are pretty damn competitive. The fact that we’re under the same umbrella doesn’t dilute the rivalry much. We’ll get into a cocktail argument anytime but we’ll take furlough together the next day and it’ll be all good. They’ll ride Alaias and we’ll ride Protons.

Looking at the masthead I don’t recognize many of the names on the editorial staff, but I like what I’ve seen recently out of the mag. And I’m a fairly harsh critic. Is Surfing Mag like the 1972 Dolphins “No Name Defense?”
Sure. And Jimmy Wilson would be very happy to hear you make a football reference out of us. We’re all pretty unknown I guess, but we’ve had our share of Don Shulas on the sidelines to influence us though. Nathan Myers taught Stuart Cornuelle and I everything we know about making magazines, late night drinking and how to get shit done in this environment. He lives in Bali now but we still call on him daily.

Evan Slater passed down the formula of how to get a magazine of this caliber out on time each month. We’re just putting our spin on it now. We’re young. I’m 26. Stuart is 21. Our art directors are young. Photo team is young. We make a magazine for us and the people who are us happen to be our median age, so that works out. We do pride ourselves on that youthful energy, but we don’t intend on sacrificing the quality of the product.

We want to maintain a sense of sophistication, even if it is hidden beneath a bad word or Mitch Coleborn’s mustache. We don’t want to lose the legitimacy of the brand. We’re just here to make it relevant again. Lord knows anyone with a computer can be a critic, a journalist or a voice now. And we’re aware of that. Which is why we’re not afraid to make bold decisions or to run with a new idea. We’ve also begun to enlist new writers to the mag like Chas Smith and Jed Smith: young guys with guts who can write a good page. We like that. Guys who have a bone to pick with tradition. That’s why surf media has a tendency to get stale. It’s stuck on tradition.

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