"They all worked really hard the last 24 hours, but it seems like they had a great time. There was no swell, but luckily the theme of the competition didn't necessarily need good surf footage," explained Tyler Breuer of New York's SMASH Productions on July 9.
Breuer is talking about the 24-Hour Short Film Competition presented by Kind Healthy Snacks that is part of SMASH Fest this month. SMASH stands for Surf/Movies/Art/Shaping/History, and it's Breuer's attempt to bring the greater New York surf community together through sharing different facets of the culture. In this instance, the challenge to six New York filmmakers was to "write, film, direct, edit and screen a two-minute short film within 24 hours" to represent their local communities on July 8.
It's fortunate that the contest didn't require good surf footage, because after a run of Bermuda High south wind-chop that ranged from shoulder to knee high since the start of summer, July 8 was very much flat for the entire mid-Atlantic. But you know those East Coasters ...
"The theme of the contest was 'Do the Kind thing for your community.' They were supposed to give us an example [of] how surfing and the surfers contribute positively to their community," added Breuer. "Some of the films that came in were incredible for how little time they had. Some balanced the serious and positive and some were just hysterical ... Pretty epic."
Shooting anything in one day is an obvious challenge. Early July gives you a good bit of daylight. The idea of sitting down and doing all that post-production before midnight is just crazy. But it also seemed to be a whole lot of laughs for the invited filmmakers: Davina Greene, Ben Potter, James Katsipis, Nate Best and Thomas Brookins.
"We were so pumped when Tyler asked us to participate in it -- just honored. We were brainstorming ideas and concepts for weeks. In my head I was thinking it was going to be some, like, dramatic post-apocalyptic scenario! How do you prepare for that? We had no clue. But that was the fun part and [the] suspense. We teamed up with our local crew of surfers. We have a nice lineup ... [of] our good friends, so it made working together really easy -- for me, at least," laughed Katsipis, co-owner, with Nate Best, of Montauk Studios.
But all five crews dug deep and bought out their creative bests for the Empire State.
"Shooting surfing in the Northeast in the summer is pretty much an oxymoron. It's usually flat. And we planned for that ahead of time. We were thinking we would take out our buddy's Jet Ski and do tow-ats, but he's a captain of a commercial fishing boat and had to go fishing that day. We ended up having a tiny little bump at our local break -- just enough so that the boys could get a couple turns in. I mean, Leif Engstrom doesn't need a whole lot of wave to punt airs anyway, so I wasn't too worried about that. He kind of saved the day in the end there," Katsipis added.
Like surfing itself, surf films have really explored outside the standard formula in the last 10 years. And while that's easy to translate on wave-rich coastal regions like Orange County, Calif., or Byron Bay, Australia, it's still a challenge in places like the East Coast. Still, what it doesn't have in consistency, the state of New York has a thing or two going on out of the water at any given time.
"The whole idea of the 24-hour short film comp was to push the local filmmakers' creativity and skill while also being able to showcase how much talent we have here," continued Breuer. "I think surfing and surf filmmaking in the New York area is fertile right now. It feels like more and more local surfers are making films and this is just another way to inspire the local community. It's also another great way to help promote these local filmmakers getting together, meeting each other and feeding off what everyone is doing. I think the competition is a great way for these filmmakers to bond, and also competition will push everyone to make better and better films."
SMASH Fest kicked off this week. The next screenings are at the Villain Theatre in Brooklyn on July 25-26, which will include "Learning to Breathe," Anthony Ruffo's story of addiction and recovery and the larger issue of substance abuse in pro surfing. Each of the screenings will feature these 24-hour shorts and audiences will vote for their favorites to determine a winner. Ballots are cast via Smash's new mobile app, found at the iTunes store. The Fest moves to Rockaway Beach Club on July 27 and wraps up at Sole East in Montauk on July 28. These films are short, but so is summer in New York.