Taylor Steele Interview

Taylor talks about the first Innersection and what to expect in 2011

Taylor Steele and Nathan Myers, announcing the winner of the first season of Innersection on the Gold Coast last month. Photo: Irons

The first Innersection wasn’t perfect, but it did bring something fresh to a genre in need of a reboot. By using the very same platform that threatened to slash the DVD sales of his more conventional flicks, Taylor Steele proposed a new way to make a surf movie. Fast forward one year, one hundred thousand dollars, and one stoked young surfer from Maui, and we find Taylor and his crew hopping back in the saddle for the next season of Innersection. With the submission window for the first round now open, we figured it was a good time to catch up with Taylor and talk about his Frankenstein of surf films.

With the first round getting started soon, have people already started sending in their footage?
We never know who has footage; nobody really tells us. We probably get like one or two percent of them that even tell us they are going to enter. We just send out emails and make phone calls and ask people if they are going to do it, but we usually don't get any replies back, so we don't know until the round starts. It's pretty fun for us during the upload time, when we just watch and see who starts popping up on there.

Some have criticized the winner-takes-all prize money distribution and think that it should be divided among the top three or top five. Have you considered changing that?
No, right now we are still going all-for-one. Because I don't think somebody would still be stoked if they got $20,000 compared to losing out on $100,000. If we diluted the prize money then it's not really that big of an impact. To really make it effective it has to be $100,000 for the winner, and we don't have the luxury of going here's $100,000 and another $50,000 and here's another $20,000. It's a bummer for Ando, but hopefully the guys aren't really doing it just for that reason. They're doing it for their sponsors and their own career, so hopefully that is more satisfying in the long scope of it.

Many people have called Innersection a competition for the underdogs because people don't want to give someone like Kelly the prize money when it can make a much bigger impact on the life of an unknown like Matt Meola. What do you think about that?
The fans definitely cater to the underdogs. So to compensate for that, instead of having all five picked by the fans, I pick the fifth spot, the wildcard spot, because a lot of the time I have seen sections that are maybe better, but are by established guys who don't get in. So four of every five are picked by the fans and I pick the fifth one, but when it comes to the overall prize money, who knows what's going to happen. I'd love for next year to have an established name win it. Having an unknown win the first year was cool, but next year it would be cool if an established name won, just to show to everybody that it's open and it's not just for the underdogs. But you never know. I thought Matt's section was a lot of people's favorite across the board, people that weren't just rooting for the underdog. They liked the song and they liked his maneuvers, so I didn't feel like he won because of the fact that he was an underdog, because there were a lot of underdogs. But I was happy that it was Craig and Matt in the top two because Craig wasn't an underdog and Matt was, but both of them just showed really high performance and picked good songs. But I would love for Dane Reynolds to win next year, that would be my first choice without even seeing who has entered.

It seems like many big names like Dane's were missing from the first Innersection. Did you expect a lot of people to be hesitant to jump on board the first time around?
The first year was a complete experiment, and we didn't know if it was going to work. I liked seeing all the new guys that I've never even heard of come into it, and I liked seeing all the established guys came in too. I think everybody just knows how it all works now, and I'm excited to see what people do with that first year under their belt, and how everybody approaches it with new strategies and creative ideas. Hopefully this year will be a much more creative filmmaking year.

The finished product last year had kind of a choppy, inconsistent feel to it because each part was edited differently. Have you considered getting the raw footage from the winners of each round and giving it a more consistent edit for the DVD?
That is something that we have thought about, but with the prize money involved, I wouldn't want to get in the middle of it. They got there with their filmmaker and we look at it like a team so I wouldn't want to swipe the filmmaker because obviously he has skill to get the surfer in there. But you know, the movie is a mixed tape. We are looking for ways to bridge the sections together with something that I do that is completely unrelated to their section but maybe it bridges them all together. Basically, it's an extension of Momentum or Stranger Than Fiction where there are mini movies, and then it's like a three-minute movie of each guy. So it's not really going to flow because there are so many different characters and styles, and I don't know if the other movies I've made flowed that well if you really look at them. There probably wasn't the greatest flow in those ones either, except that there was one camera style, which is sort of a pro and a con.

Do you have plans to work on your own films again sometime in the near future, or is Innersection going to be your main focus?
I have probably four projects I'm working on for the next three years, maybe a little bit more. I'm just approaching them differently. The Internet has really cut down on DVD sales, so DVDs aren't a major focus, but there are a lot more cool things that have come from it and ways to use the Internet in a cool way, whether it's shorts and behind-the-scenes…there are just tons of different ways to refocus on it. So TV, theatrical, all of these different avenues are the ways that we are moving forward.