After three years of journeying around the cold edges of Iceland, Nova Scotia, and Ireland, filmmakers Mike Bromley and Ryan Meichtry are set for the August release of Perilous Sea, a feature-film shot entirely in the North Atlantic. Featuring a coldwater cast that includes Noah Cohen, Wilem Banks, Heidar Eliasson, Sam Hammer, and more, the film draws inspiration from classic maritime novels of the past, where the seascape is as real a character as the sailors who test its forgiveness. We asked Bromley about the film, the memorable moments from his travels, and what the icy odyssey holds in store for audiences.
What made you and your team want to shoot a full-length film entirely in the North Atlantic? How long has this project been in the making?
It seems silly, eh? We wanted to do this because we have never seen a film take place entirely in the cold and in such an unexplored zone. Sure, people have made some amazing movies with coldwater sections, but growing up in Nova Scotia, I knew how good the Atlantic can get. We wanted to showcase that. I had taken a trip to Iceland a few years back and absolutely scored. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I figured, how cool it would it be to make a film that takes place entirely in 5-mms and entirely in a zone that you really only hear about every now and then, or during hurricane season. Places like Indo are amazing, but this scenery of mountains, cliffs, and fishing villages from hundreds of years ago, with waves in view, is something really special.
The project has been in the works for over three years. It started as a conversation between my good friend and filmmaking partner Ryan Meichtry on a trip to Baja. We wanted to make a surf film that hadn’t really been done before. As soon as we were on our first trip, we realized it was going to be a very long, cold road.
You've said that the storytelling in the film will be based on that of classic sea novels. What elements of those books are you looking to bring in?
Growing up in the maritimes, I was always fascinated by stories like The Old Man and The Sea. We wanted to make a film that was structured a little bit like those old adventure novels with a group of people trying to brave the dark, mysterious, beautiful beast. Ryan Meichtry and I worked hard to find a narrator and the scenery that would make it feel like one of those old adventure books come to life. But instead of a rescue mission or a fishing trip, people are looking to get barreled and do airs in uncrowded waves.
Talk a little about the international cast in the film. How’d you choose which guys you wanted to bring on board?
Being a Canadian surf filmmaker and photographer, you can kind of get stuck in a rut — whenever you put something out, people think it’s just you and your local crew at your local spot. I wanted to branch out and make a film in all these cold locations with new and exciting surfers taking on the waves we see the local legends surf. I thought bringing some young California surfers to the cold could be a cool idea to show that these guys really are that good, and that 5-mms of rubber doesn’t hold them back. We also wanted some staple coldwater gentlemen. We were game to have almost anyone on our crew, but positive attitudes were a must. The cold can take a toll on the best of us. In our film, we see young Californians, seasoned East Coasters, European pros, and Canadian coldwater veterans.
I know you can't share too much about the film's details yet, but can you talk about how the film will be structured?
Our narrator, an old man of the sea, brings you on an adventure through the Atlantic while talking about his life. As he begins to explain his different stories of life lived on the ocean, his stories begin to correlate with our surfers’ locations and adventures. We visit the Canadian Maritimes during the colorful fall months and the ice-covered winter. We move to the far North and explore an unknown slab in Iceland. And we surf some fun points in Ireland.
What was a personal highlight for you while filming? A unique session? An unexpected situation?
I know it’s cliché, but there were too many to count. There was a running joke with the crew over the last few years that the movie is cursed because we thought we could tame the Atlantic like so many men thought they could do in the past. We had a whole lot of bad luck on this trip, surfing-wise. There were days and days on end where we were stuck inside, hiding from the cold, drinking hot toddies to keep warm. Being around a group of guys in those situations forces you to become not only friends, but brothers. That was pretty special.
We had some pretty wild times in Iceland. We chased a mysto-wave into a snowstorm, in the middle of the night, with nowhere to stay on ice-covered mountain roads, with no guardrails to protect us from a five-hundred-foot freefall into the Atlantic. We were essentially stranded until we came across the sweetest old couple that insisted they feed us and let us stay with them for the evening. I often think where we could have ended up if it wasn’t for them.
From the first days of the moviemaking to the final days in the editing bay, what new reflections or thoughts do you have about surfing in the North Atlantic?
No new reflections here. It always leads you on quite the adventure. It’s a cold, perfect, fickle bitch, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.