Bill Ballard has been documenting the world’s best surfers in a moving format, be it video or film, for over 13 years. His company, BillyGoat Productions, is synonymous with top-shelf surfing entertainment. Ballard’s latest release, The Mystic, was recently honored by the X-Dance Film Festival, and will be showing this January during the festival. I sat down with Bill in December at his new home located a stones throw from Makaha on Oahu’s western shore. Despite the fact that he has a baby girl on the way, a new home in the remodel phase, an X-Dance honored film, and new projects stacked computer monitor high on his desk, Bill’s life seems to be in a very tranquil space. I caught up with Bill in order to excavate insight from him about the surf film genre, his company, his projects and BillyGoats place in surf film history. — SCOTT BASS
SURFERMAG.COM: Tell me about your very first project?
BILL BALLARD: My first movie was called Insanity, and what I did is, I was trying to figure out what to do for work, and this kid John Lynch, who actually makes movies now, was staying with Cody Graham—this was 14 years ago—John Lynch was staying with Flipper (Pete Hodgson) and Cody Graham was straight out of college. John’s dad had just bought him a new camera, and he came to the North Shore to film, but didn’t film one day in the two months he was here; and he had to sell the camera—he was broke. I took out a loan to buy a car and that camera, bought the camera; back then it was High-8, which is what everyone shot. I traveled the world for the whole entire year, shot all year and then was trying to figure out how to put it together; Sonny Miller was kind of my mentor back then, and I asked if I could come over and edit with Sonny, so he’s all “Yeah, Yeah, I’ll help you out.” Well, he said, “I’m going to the East Coast with Tom Curren,” on Tom Curren’s musical tour back then. I came over, and in two days he taught me how to edit. So long story short: I shot my whole first movie, and in two days Sonny taught me how to edit it. I slept in Jamie Mausberg and Sonny Miller’s studio…slept in there for six weeks, and after six weeks we had finished Insanity.
SURFERMAG.COM: You may have touched on this already, but what one experience from Insanity sticks out.
BILL BALLARD: A couple things come out. First off, uh, Bruce and Andy, you know, Bruce and Andy and Kalani, Cory, and Wardo––they were all 13, 14, and 15 and we just started working, and if you look at 13, 14, and 15-year-olds today, they were so beyond imagination, like even in today’s—they really were—Bruce and Andy, along with Kalani and Wardo, were just so beyond, that…that was amazing for me. I remember working with those guys on a day-to-day basis and just going, “This is epic,” like, “These guys are amazing surfers.” The other thing that stands out about Insanity is how I sold it; when we finished, I had bought an old car for 300 bucks, d I drove from the Mexican border all the way up to Humboldt County and sold the movies out of my trunk for five days and did very well.
SURFERMAG.COM: Wow, core.
BILL BALLARD: I did incredibly well. That’s how BillyGoat got started.
SURFERMAG.COM: Back of the trunk, huh?
BILL BALLARD: Back of the trunk. Made the whole movie and the movie did incredible. Like, Insanity, for a first time movie, I mean, today the numbers I did with that movie would just destroy…it was mind blowing—the numbers we used to do back then.