When we left off (sorry about that, but if your Internet attention span is anything like ours, then…uh, what were we saying?)… When we left off, Taylor Steele, in the final phases of finishing his next big surf film, was just finishing his first Bali Bintang, ordering another, and breaking the facts from the fiction on his newest high-performance film. With the final section up for grabs, with a whole new generation of super-stars entering the ring, with a new editor almost ready to take the Campaign-film reigns from Taylor, there was still much left to talk about.
SURFING MAGAZINE: THESE FILMS HAVE A LEGACY OF DEFINING THE CUTTING EDGE — IS THIS THE PRO TOUR OF VIDEO CLIPS?
TAYLOR STEELE: That’s what I hope. At this stage, it’s not about me, it’s not about one surfer, but it’s about creating a platform. That there’s one video that comes out with all the top guys in it, regardless of their sponsors. It’s not just a team video. Skateboarding doesn’t really have that. I don’t think snowboarding has it properly. But surfing’s had it for a while — and it might change in the future — but for now, all the top guys will still work on one project together.
YOU’RE ONE OF THE FEW GUYS OUT THERE WHO ARE ENTIRELY UNAFFILIATED.
Well, hopefully at this stage there’s a little history to these films, so that helps it carry on. Hopefully it goes beyond the sponsors. It’s bigger than that.
KAI [NEVILLE, TAYLOR’S INTERNATIONAL FILMER/EDITOR] WAS PRETTY INTEGRAL IN THIS FILM, DOING LOTS OF FILMING AND EDITING?
Yeah, he reminds me of myself at his age. He’s hanging out with the guys, going on trips, in tune with the music, and, for me, it’s important to have someone around who’s got this fresh take on it. I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I don’t really need validation. I’m satisfied with just the end result. So, having guys like Kai come up with a fresh take really helps.
DO YOU SEE HIM MAYBE CARRYING ON THE LEGACY OF MAKING THESE FILMS?
Yeah, I could easily see something like that happening — as long as it keeps that same platform, that’s the main thing. The end result is bigger than me, so anyone who has the passion for it could carry it on. If I wasn’t doing it, I would hope someone else would step in and do it.
IT’S AN OPEN FORUM FOR THE BEST SURFING, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR PROGRAM IS; COMPETITIVE OR NOT. BUT THE WORLD TOUR GUYS STILL HAVE SOME OF THE BEST SECTIONS IN THE MOVIE.
Well, that just validates that the World Tour is in a good place. So, that’s good for the tour. For us, the tour is really time consuming, so it helps validate what we’re doing to have the top guys putting their energy into it. It’s exciting on our level to have those guys involved.
YOU LET THE GUYS SIT IN FOR THE EDITING OF THEIR SECTIONS, RIGHT?
That’s one of the things that have really helped this project. We’ve done it more on this project than on any other one. It’s good being in Bali for that, so everyone’s always coming through anyway. I mean, after doing four trips and spending a year filming, for us to pick random clips that maybe they don’t even like felt a little wrong. To have them sit in and debate about the clips as we go through ’em, that’s the ideal scenario. Then once they’re gone, we go through and sequence everything in a way that works.
AND WHEN YOU HAVE A GUY WORKING ON THEIR SECTION, THEY ALWAYS GET A LITTLE SNEAK PREVIEW OF SOME OTHER GUYS’ SECTIONS, TOO, RIGHT? THAT SEEMS TO BE A SUBTLE PART OF THE PROCESS.
Yeah, well, for me, I love to get a lot of feedback. It helps me know if I’m on the right track. The more input that better. I don’t want to be out on my own island trying to figure it out. I’d rather have Kai, the surfers, the more people the better commenting on the sections. It’s not me deciding, it’s the top guys in the world.
YEAH, THOSE GUYS KNOW THE BEST SURFING BETTER THAN ANYONE.
Exactly. So, with deciding the final section, I’ll show the top four contenders to a bunch of guys and get their impression. Some of the results have surprised me. But, I try to figure out why. Like, maybe they’ve seen someone surf too much, or maybe the part is a bit different or they like a particular carve or aerial. But I think it’s important to show people other people’s section for a couple reasons. Early in the process, we do it to inspire them, like, this is the level we’re trying to get to. And then later, just to validate, like, is this a good section?
YOU’VE USED THAT TRICK SINCE MOMENTUM DAYS. GUYS HAVE TOLD ME HOW YOU USED TO SHOW THEM SOMEONE ELSE’S WAVES IN THE VIDEO CAMERA BEFORE THEY PADDLED OUT JUST TO GET THEM FIRED UP.
I think friendly competition is a good thing. But I believe that each guy is working on a mini-movie inside each movie. It may be a minute and a half, but it’s their time. So, let’s look at it, watch it, and fill in the blanks. Like, Julian and Dusty came over before they went on a trip and I sat them down and showed them their section. But it was incomplete. So, it was playing, but then there’d be blank spots. So I’d say, OK, what do you want to put in those blank spots? It’s obvious what you need here. You have no lefts. You need a couple of combos. And then they left on their trip with that in the front of the minds. That’s part of the process, too.
SO, IT’S DOWN TO FOUR SECTIONS IN THE RUNNING FOR THE FINAL SECTION, RIGHT?
The main four, right now, are Parko, Taj, Dane and Jordy.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THOSE SECTIONS. I MEAN, PARKO SEEMS A BIT LIKE THE ODD-MAN OUT HERE — HE’S MORE ABOUT STRENGTH AND FLOW, WHERE THE OTHER GUYS ARE REAL TECHNICAL SURFERS.
Well, I would agree Parko’s known for being smooth and making things look easy. His section really pops out in this movie and makes him one of the top four because he got half of his stuff in one hour. It was a one hour session that he was just on fire, doing three to four turns per wave, and they were all different, and all in the flow, and he was just on. I hadn’t seen that kinda session in a long time, if ever. After the session, I was like, “Hey, if you break that board, can I have it?” That session felt historical to me. But along with that, he’s also doing some huge airs, huge alley oops, he’s doing all the technical stuff, but looking really smooth on all the in-between parts. There’s no style compromise through all that. So, a lot of people have been saying he deserves the end section.
AND JORDY, HE’S PRETTY NEW TO THE WHOLE VIDEOING PROCESS, RIGHT? HE DIDN’T HAVE ANYONE TO FILM HIM FOR A WHILE, I HEARD.
Yeah, he’s just a freak. Like, he’s so new to it, he’s just going crazy. He’s a madman when it comes to getting clips. In Mexico, he was getting six or seven clips a session, all different turns, two rodeos, everything you could do. Really technical. Just crazy. For me, Jordy’s section…I hadn’t really seen him surf before. So, to see what he’s doing is really fresh and really exciting, like, “OK, here’s where surfing’s going. Here’s the next ten years.”
YOU MUST HAVE KNOWN GOING INTO THIS THAT HE WAS WORTHY, CONSIDERING ALL THE HYPE AROUND HIS SURFING GETTING ONTO THE WCT?
Yeah, I knew he ripped, but only from seeing photos. And I talked to some video guys and they were just shaking their heads, going, Jordy gets clips like nobody we’ve ever seen. He’ll get a couple clips every session. And I was like, come on. And they said, you’re gonna freak. But I didn’t think too much of it until the clips started coming in. Getting a Jordy on the program for the next movie…you just don’t know where their mindset is. I want someone who’s putting the energy into it, rather than just, yeah, go ahead and shoot my freesurfing during the contest. So, I was just really excited that he put that energy towards it. And it shows.
Rob Machado gets his kicks in for his section.
TAJ USUALLY JUST DELIVERS HIS OWN PACKAGE, RIGHT? BUT THIS YEAR HE’S REALLY TOUR FOCUSED…
Yeah, Taj was a different process for us. Usually he shoots all year round at home and some video guy will just turn in a package to us. Most of the movies we do, we shoot most of the footage ourselves. Very few clips are shot by outside guys. But it’s exciting to us, ’cause it means a lot of energy was put into it by the guy, focusing on this video and not multiple things. So, this year, Taj just penciled in his break, and said, Yeah, I’m gonna come over to Bali and get my clips. And, you can’t really just plan it like that. And he said, right before I go to Bali, have Kai come down to Bells and we’ll shoot there. And Bells is pretty much the least productive place I’ve ever shot. But Kai goes down to Bells, gets three good clips there, then comes over to Bali and gets the best waves of the year. A perfect swell size for the most rippable surfing, and it was like for eight days straight. So, he just had eight days of perfect waves here, and he was just on fire. He pulled off his first frontside flip that he’s been working on. So, that solidified his part.
AND DANE DID THE FULL PROGRAM — LIKE, HE PUT THE FULL EFFORT IN, RIGHT?
Yeah, when we started, he was on our first trip. We sort of got skunked. And then he was on a good trip every couple months. He basically had so much good stuff real early on, there was no doubt that it was Dane who had the end section. He had it so early, it was his to lose. And then in the last four months it was like, Oh, here’s Jordy, here’s Parko having a dream trip, here’s Taj doing flips…boom, boom, boom. And Dane kept sending us stuff…but it gets to this point that everyone keeps sending in new stuff to compete with the other guys.
WHAT’S LEFT TO DO TO FINISH THIS THING ON TIME?
Basically, we drop in the last minute clips, go to California, put the graphics in, put the titles in, and then we lay out the movie in the proper order, shoot the last skits, drop those in, lay it out altogether once more, and then we go to the premiere. After the premier we make any final changes, author it, add the bonus materials, and start shipping. This one will be on shelves by mid-July.
BAM, ON TO THE NEXT ONE?
Yeah, we’re already planning the next two. We have the next Campaign-style film planned, and a little in between one planned out, too.
THE TRAIN STOPS AT THE STATION AND THEN IT KEEPS MOVING.
By the time the next on comes out, this one will already feel old.
ALL ABOARD, LAST STOP FOR THE MOMENTUM GENERATION, ALL BELOW THE LIP SURFING MUST DE-BOARD THE TRAIN.
Ah, those guys are making their way above the lip. We’ll be seeing plenty more from them, in some form or another.
WELL, WE HOPE SO. GOOD LUCK WITH THE PREMIERE. ANY CHANCE WE CAN GET ONE OF THOSE “GOLDEN TICKETS” FROM YOU IN ADVANCE?
Not even a slight one.
[Look for Taylor Steele’s STRANGER THAN FICTION in surf shops this July. Or stay tuned to www.surfingmagazine.com to win one of the “golden tickets” the film’s VIP-only premiere.]