A Westside Story

The Westsiders Movie Poster

With The Westsiders set to premiere this weekend at the Newport Film Festival we caught up with director Joshua Pomer to talk inspiration, helgy beatings and The Godfather

SURFING Magazine: How did you first meet Flea, Ratboy, and Barney?
Joshua Pomer: I met Flea in sixth grade. He came to school with half of his face-swollen shut. I couldn't believe it when he told me he was out surfing at Steamer Lane. I had heard of Steamer Lane, but only knew it as a place you should stay away from. At that time, there was something called "Helgy Beatings," where older kids would hold you down and give you beatings. There was nowhere worse for a beating than Steamer Lane.

But, if you could take your beatings, and then prove yourself in the big waves, then you could count yourself as one of "The Westsiders" Surf Gang. Vince Collier, VC, was the biggest brute force in the water at Steamer Lane, and he got any wave he wanted.

As I started surfing with Jason "Ratboy" Collins, Darryl "Flea" Virostko--and then went on to meet Sean "Barney" Barron, Kenny "Skindog" Collins, Anthony Ruffo and Mike Brummit--I became part of the family.

What was the most surprising thing that you learned while filming the movie?
I learned so much, I didn’t know Flea ate insulation as a kid and had to get his stomach pumped, I didn’t know the details of Barney’s bipolar brake-down in Australia, I didn’t know that the city of Santa Cruz planted a tree and put a plaque in Lighthouse field to Honor Ratboy’s father Jay Collins. I don’t think many people in Santa Cruz know that. It’s right behind the “Carp lot” and Ratboy and his brothers decorate the tree every Christmas, because their father was born on Christmas.

Vince “The Godfather” Collier revealed his inner soul. I didn’t know The Godfather was running drugs and picking up bails and bails of weed in the Monterey Bay. Everyone in the film revealed their struggles, and trusted me with their stories of pain, success and conflicts. I am so proud of this film and honored to be able to tell the stories of my best friends.

When did you decide to start making the movie?
I documented my friends with the advent of the video camera and chronicled their rising surfing fame in a surfing action video series called The Kill. My friends rose to the top of the surfing world while I was going to film school at University California, Santa Barbara. I was learning from studying the masters, De Sica, Ford, Spielberg, and Wells.

In 2003 I decided that it was time to begin this lifelong project. I needed to start The Westsiders movie full time and craft a comprehensive and compelling feature. I had no choice – every bone in my body said make this film. I hope everyone that sees it feels inspired.

Is this your first documentary?
This is my first feature length Documentary Film. This is my true directorial debut.

How was making this movie different from the other surf videos you have made?
The Westsiders is a story driven feature film narrated by Rossana Arquette (Pulp Fiction) with music scored by Mike McReady, Art Directed by Mike DeNicola, and Executive Produced by Brian Hirrell. I had a full team that helped fulfill my vision.

What was the one thing you cut from the movie that you wished you could have kept?
We are doing a series of webisodes that will feature scenes that are not in the movie. There was a thousand hours of interviews and footage. I started shooting super 8 when I was eight years old, then when I was 12 I got a Pentax K-1000 for my birthday. Plus we scored footage from the 1950’s at Cowells Beach, and seventies footage of Richard Schmitt at Mitchell’s Cove when it was thirty feet.

What do you hope that viewers will take away from this movie?
I hope that many people from all walks of life see The Westsiders, because it’s a film about universal themes, love, loss, and forgiveness. We came from broken homes, we made bad decisions but we always believed that if we stuck together and formed our own family that we could survive. I hope that The Westsiders comforts as well as inspires viewers to follow their bliss.

I would especially like to thank everyone who has been involved in this film, from my video productions teacher in High School, to Brian Hirrel the Executive Producer. There are so many generous people who took part in this project. Most especially, I'd like to thank the city of Santa Cruz and the families and people in the film who share their lives so openly and honestly.

The Westsiders premiers this Saturday, April 24, 8:00pm at the Regency South Coast Village Theatre as part of the Newport Film Festival. Tickets are $12.