Frank Solomon is your average big wave surfer. Except not.
Sure, he possesses all the standard traits of a liquid mountain enthusiast — he's humble yet confident; ambitious and forthright; probably a little bit loony. But Frank, unlike many of his peers, is now a movie star!
His feature film Let's Be Frank is coming out next month, and it is sure to send shockwaves through the surfing world and beyond. Because, well, it's not really about surfing. Being fortunate enough to have seen the film before its release, I can tell you that this movie will entertain unlike any 'surf' flick that has come before it. The visuals are stunning, the writing is impeccable, and the creativity behind the project is unparalleled in the surfing world.
So naturally, we wanted to talk to the man himself. Frank Solomon — big wave surfer, movie star, and happily surprised by all of it. – Michael Ciaramella
Frank has an eclectic group of friends, but the ocean unites them all.
Surfing: How old are you and where are you from?
Frank: I'm 33 and I'm from Hout Bay in Cape Town, South Africa.
S: I read that Peter Hamblin, the director, proposed the idea of making a different kind of surf movie with you as the focus. But who came up with this obscure story line?
F: Pete and I met in a bar and we were both pretty drunk, and I'd just seen the premier of one of his other films, and he had been following me on Instagram so he said, "Hey man it lookks like you live the dream — traveling the world surfing." And I was like, "Actually no Pete, I go to these places but I don't really have money or anything. I sleep on people's couches and work in a pizza place to make traveling possible — pretty much what every big wave surfer does." And he was like, "Whoa that's really cool, I never thought that." He really liked the juxtaposition of what he thought was reality and what was actually reality, so that's kinda where the idea from the film came about.
S: Not to be rude, but I was a little surprised by your cameo in VFABM. Just a relatively unknown South African dude cruising with the best in the biz. Did you know JJF pretty well before this film? What is your connection to him?
F: John John and I have been friends for almost 10 years, he's been coming to stay with me since he was a little kid. We never had the conversation like, "Oh we're both making movies, let's be in each other's films". I just happened to manage the whole South Africa section of VFABM, because he and I had been surfing these waves on the west coast (of South Africa) for a years, and he wanted to do a section of his movie over there. Then when my movie came around, we thought it would be cool for him to have a big part in it. Plus he kinda owed me a bit for helping out with his movie, ya know [laughs]. But nah we just spent two weeks together at the JBay event, and I just consider him one of my good friends, and I'd do that for any of my mates.
S: Did you ever think that a feature film of this magnitude would be made about you? Was frank Solomon destined for greatness?
F: To be honest mate, I never even thought I would be a pro surfer, I couldn't even imagine in my wildest dreams that someone would make a movie like this about me. But I just went with the flow, and I'm super grateful for the opportunities I've been given, and stoked that so many rad people believed in the story. I never thought I'd be a movie star, that's for sure.
A Patchy O’ appearance? Bruce Brown eat your heart out!
S: What was the budget on this film?
F: I think it was several hundred thousand Euros, but I'm not sure about the exact amount. When we started the film it was just going to be a small web edit... I never could have dreamed that it would grow to the proportions that it has. We didn't really have any backing in the beginning, but we secured some funds from Red Bull South Africa, but just enough basically for me to go to London, where we filmed a trailer of me watering the cement. From there, someone international saw that and thought it was really cool and they wanted to get involved, so it just snowballed from there.
S: What were your goals for the surfing aspect of the film?
F: The surfing was definitely a worry for me. Pete put a lot of emphasis on those scenes, but being a surfer obviously I wanted to make sure that the surfing was as good as possible. I would have liked to do a couple more trips, like to Teahupo'o or maybe The Right. I'm definitely stoked with how it came out, but it would have been nice to have more of a budget
S: Do you feel as though this movie captures your personality fairly well, or were you more playing a character?
F: That's a tough one. I guess it does show some of my character. Obviously a lot of it is fictional, but the movie is based on stories that Pete learned from people around me. He just changed them in his own way.
S: What will a movie like this do for your career?
F: I'm just enjoying the whole experience because maybe it won't ever happen again, but I definitely hope that I can carry on with surfing and traveling for a living because that's what I'm really passionate about.
S: What’s next for Frank?
F: Well first off I just hope that people enjoy the film. It's definitely different, I mean, not one air was done in the filming of this movie [laughs]. As far as acting, Redbull has said they might want me to do some additional stuff for them for RedbullTV. So maybe that's something I could work on. Other than that, I'll just be going to all the premiers in September and then I've got a trip planned for Ireland in October, then the usual Hawaii and California winter sessions. So not much has changed for me [laughs].
S: Any final thoughts?
F: Just want to say thanks to all my sponsors, Boardhub, Wazoogles Superfood, Stance, Pyzel Surfboards, Red Bull, and especially Hurley for all of their help on this project and in general. Cheers boys!