In 2015, Oliver Kurtz and Sean Benik collaborated to create Serotonin, a 6-minute short. In it, Oliver scores one of the best waves of the winter at Pipe and the best wave of the summer at Newport Point (which landed him the cover of SURFER), and together with Sean's quick cuts and abrupt song changes, it turned out to be one of the most memorable edits of year. Now, two years later, Sean and Oliver teamed up again to make Aftermath. While it's clearly a sequel to Serotonin, it's three times as long, and three times as weird (in the best possible way). This is what Oliver and Sean have to say about it.
How long have you been working on this project?
Oliver: Around two years. I started filming for it in the later part of 2015. But then I did a project with Brixton in the summer of 2016, and they used around 60 percent of the clips I'd been holding onto, so I sort of had to start over. At that point, I really started focusing on getting clips for this, but I ended up battling injury. I blew out my knee twice — I had a compression fracture in my right knee, then a grade 1 MCL tear, came back from that to fly to Costa Rica, and ended up doing a grade 2 tear of my left MCL there. A few months later, I did my right one — again — surfing in California. So it was really tough to get into any sort rhythm surfing last year.
So while it took longer than you would have liked to complete the edit, this is the follow-up to Serotonin, right?
Yeah. And I'm pretty excited. Like with Serotonin, we put our focus on the soundtrack, cinematography, and the editing, as opposed to something like Julian's edit [Wayward] that just came out, where the action was a 10 out of 10, and all of the emphasis was on the surfing.
What's the highlight of Aftermath?
As far as the actual surfing goes, it's the Tahiti stuff. I went over there with Brent Bielmann and Eric Sterman and those guys are the best drone surf operators in the world. To have them filming on that trip was really special. I think that was one of the best swells they've had at Teahupo'o in the last three or four years, too. But honestly, I'm really excited about the segues from part-to-part, the music, and the editing. It's not like most 15-minute surf edits. That's all Sean.
Sean, how was working with Oliver on this?
Sean: I didn't pick the songs. Maybe one. Oliver threw 50 songs at me and it was my job to figure out what songs work for what part and the pacing of it all. How to start it out, how to bring the energy and the mood up and back down. But hopefully, because it's always changing, it keeps your attention the whole time.
To me, it resembles an album. Like it's meant to be watched from start to finish.
Every part doesn't have the same stylistic editing, either, which I feel like a lot of people do nowadays. If someone is gonna make a 15-minute thing they make it feel all the same. But this edit is only consistent in its inconsistencies. As soon as you get used to a style, song, or session, it should change. I think that's what helps hold your attention. It should actually confuse you.
Oliver, how was it received at the world premiere in Miami last week?
Really well. I thought a couple hundred people might come, and it ended up being closer to 600. It was above and beyond what I expected. The surf scene is so big in Florida and everyone over there really supports their own people. It's awesome to see. We sold tickets and raffled off boards from Kerrzy [Josh Kerr], [Kelly] Slater, Kolohe [Andino], Filipe [Toledo], and myself, and all of that money went straight to the Coastal Conservation of Florida.