The words “full-length feature film” get thrown around rather loosely these days when it comes to surf cinema. While there’s no defining minute-marker that constitutes a full-length feature surf film, auteur Kevin Jansen is pretty sure it’s not 15 to 20 minutes. With his new film, “Please Have Fun”, running a full hour, Jansen has drawn his line in the sand on the topic.
“Please Have Fun” is an ode to the contemporary state of California surfing. It’s a film that’s exhaustive, diverse in cast and artful in b-roll. Nearly every premier righthander along the Golden State, from San Francisco to San Diego, is included. Its soundtrack is tranquil and plays like a Pacific Coast sunset setting in your ear. The film is a mash-up of stylish longboarding and progressive, hi-fi shredding–both types of surfing that help define California surf culture. Give it a watch above, courtesy of our friends at NobodySurf.
Jansen has been on a surf-edit making tear lately. The 26-year-old filmmaker from Lomita, CA has been consistently churning out a lot of content, producing both “Please Have Fun” and the “Robots From Outerspace” episodic series. SURFER rang up Jansen to learn more about the man behind the lens of some of the most aesthetically original edits on the internet right now.
From watching “Please Have Fun” and your “Robots from Outer Space” episodes, it seems that you’re pulling from a wheelhouse that transcends the normal, run-of-the-mill surf edits. What are some of your influences outside of surfing?
I don’t really watch that many surf movies. I’ve seen a few and I’ll watch some that my friends make. I watch a lot of fashion films on Vimeo and I watch a ton of movies. I try to watch a movie a day, so I’m all over the place. But the people I always look to are Paul Thomas Anderson and Nicolas Winding Refn. There’s this film on Netflix called “Slow West”, it’s so good.
I’ve definitely picked up a Jean-Luc Godard influence from some of the b-roll in “Please Have Fun”.
Yeah, there’s definitely a heavy French New Wave influence. In surfing, budgets are so tight, especially for an independent film like “Please Have Fun” that you start to look to people from a similar situation. You start looking at film movements like the French New Wave and Dogme 95 and stuff like that where you’re using natural light and sounds that are happening on the screen. It’s definitely French New Wave influenced in that I used non-actors and handheld cameras and stuff like that.
Even down to the special effects, I loved how you used red paint to simulate blood. It’s cool when filmmakers use whatever resources are around for a lo-fi interpretation of an idea.
I actually had fake cinema blood to use but it just seemed too serious, especially for a clunky metaphor of murdering a surfboard. I picked up red paint at the last minute to make it look more comical and cartoon. As serious as you want to get about it, at the end of the day, it’s just surfing. Surfing is such a luxury to so many but you get trapped where you’re like, ‘Surfing is such a life changing experience.’ You hear so many pros get so romantic about it but in the grand scheme of things, surfing is just riding foam in the ocean. It’s not that serious.
“Please Have Fun” is 60 minutes. That’s pretty long for a surf video. What were you thinking going for that type of scope?
It mostly just came from being obnoxious a little bit. I went to a film premiere and all the advertising was calling it a “feature film.” The film was maybe 15 minutes long. After a couple beers or whatever I was like, “That was not a feature film.” So I decided that I had to make my movie a proper “feature film.” Maybe that was the wrong choice, it’s a little long, but I dig it. It’s something that I probably won’t be able to do again and so I’m glad I got to try it at least once.
When you watch shorter surf films, you can tell that there’s probably a lot left on the cutting room floor. Only the A-grade clips from a session make the final cut. As a surfer, I feel like I get more pumped watching some of the no-makes and then seeing how a surfer re-calibrates to nail a clip.
I try to incorporate a lot of what I saw on Dane Reynolds’ “Marine Layer Productions” edits. He would include falls and paddling, that stuff’s always been more interesting to me because it shows the surfer’s style as a whole–which is something I really tried to focus on with “Please Have Fun.” I wanted to show how surfers interact with one wave at a time.
Surfing is almost two sports. You choose to be a complete athlete in surfing or you can choose to be the farthest thing from that. That’s why someone like Dion Agius can exist in the same sport as Filipe Toledo and Gabriel Medina. That doesn’t happen in much else except maybe snowboarding and skating. In surfing, you have a complete athlete doing the exact same thing as someone who considers his or herself the exact opposite. I tried to focus on the side that was the opposite of an athlete, which I think could make surfing more appealing to a mass audience.
In your opinion, what’s the most exciting thing going on in California surfing right now?
I’m super biased. I always go to the longboard scenes that are popping up in California. I love the crew at San Onofre and Blackies in Newport. Those aren’t super new but I feel like they’re starting to get a second wave of attention. I like some of the guys who are riding different boards up in Santa Cruz like Darshan Gooch on Noah Wegrich. I’m excited for everyone to find out who Wilem Banks is. I think he works construction right now, but I think he could be in the same conversation as Matt Meola and Albee Layer. Wilem can charge big waves and do insane airs too. I’m also excited for more people to find out who Worm [Erin Ashley] is, because she’s the sickest and is so good at longboarding.
As far as what’s going on in California, I’d say the most exciting thing is surfers building on what’s already there. I love the crew of people who are just as good on longboards as they are on shortboards. Guys like Bryce Young and Ryan Burch, who can ride anything in any condition. Jesse Guglielmana can noseride on a longboard and also throw airs with the best of them–that’s something that’s pretty new. Scotty Stopnik and Grant Noble can do that too. I think that’s trippy–people who ride anything and can rip. So I think the interesting aspects in surfing right now boil down to individuals for me, not necessarily any big movements.
I watched your short film, “LA Sundays”. Tell me about that project–are there any parallels to shooting something like that and surfing.?
If you’re shooting surfing, your creativity is so limiting. You’re on a tripod, on a beach and there’s a line you can’t cross. You’re at the mercy of whatever the landscape is, you might be able to get a different angle if there’s a jetty for you to go out on, but for the most part you’re on the beach and they’re in the water. Where with something like “LA Sundays”, you have more control. You can choose to shoot from whatever angle you want.
The only thing that would be similar between the two is showing up with a camera somewhere that people don’t want cameras at. “LA Sundays” is based around a photographer named Jason Cordova, the only reason I was allowed to have the camera out there was because he posted my picture on Instagram saying, “If you see this kid he’s with me. Don’t steal all of his stuff.” That project took a really long time because some of our best footage was of people who ended up in prison or where tied up with legal issues. It just got put on hold for ages and finally we were able to release it. I try to shoot different stuff because it gets so stale if you shoot the same thing all the time.
Follow Kevin Jansen on Instagram, @robotsfrom.
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