A few months back, Perry Gershkow teased the surf world with the trailer for “Just For Kicks,” an independent full-length surf film starring Noah Wegrich, Nate Tyler, Mitch Coleborn, Torren Martyn, Frank Solomon and Wilem Banks. The film follows Wegrich and co. around the world to Central California, Africa, and beyond. Once Perry wrapped up the film, he toured the film around to a few cities, planning on an online release shortly after. Then the North Pacific began spooling up, sending swells into Central California, prompting Perry to gather even more footage. The film above is just the kind of edit to kick off the year with. We called up Perry to get a better understanding of the man behind the lens, how he began shooting with Noah, and the state of surf films.
(This interview was conducted before the extra bit of filming was complete.)
Hey Perry, how did the premieres go?
The premieres were epic. San Francisco is my hometown, so we had the premieres at this really cool brewery with an upstairs and downstairs and we had like 300 people. Then we went down to Santa Cruz. We weren't actually going to have one in San Luis Obispo, but a bunch of people kept hitting me up from SLO and a couple of surf shop managers were like, "Would you bring your computer and play the movie while you're here?'" I was just going to go stay at a buddy's house and just chill but we ended up playing it there and like 100 people came. It was rad, especially since it was so last minute. The LA premiere was hosted at a huge venue and they threw a big party, it was epic. I'm stoked with how it all went.
So you’re originally from San Francisco, but when did you make it to Santa Cruz?
I studied film at UC Santa Cruz. Right off the bat, I met Kyle Buthman, who is my film partner now. He introduced me to Nat Young. I started working with Nat for a few years and we still do a bunch of work together. I really started filming in Northern and Central California with Kyle Buthman, and all these Santa Cruz guys. That's where it all really started. Then I started to link up with Noah Wegrich and Kolohe Andino. In the last two years or so, I've been able to buy more equipment and understand the system way more in the industry. I make most of my money through commercial and non-surf related stuff. So a lot of it transitions really well together.
What got you interested in wanting to study film? Have you always had an affinity for filmmaking or were you slowly introduced to it?
My dad was actually a documentary editor and my mom was a producer for a long time. I saw that growing up and I thought it was amazing, but I didn't see myself doing that. I was living in San Luis Obispo when I was 19 years old and all my roommates skated and surfed. One of my roommates was a photographer and I took his camera and started messing around with it and making fun little videos. Once I started editing those videos I just loved it. From there I just decided to keep filming surfing to see where it took me.
Was surf filmmaking where you wanted to end up or was it more of a passion project?
I definitely didn't think I would take surf filmmaking this far, to where I am today. I definitely had influences. I always loved watching Joe G films. “Year Zero” was my favorite film when I started shooting. When I moved to Santa Cruz, Kyle Buthman had an influence on me as well and he introduced me to a lot of people in Santa Cruz. Now it's like my second home. Also just watching surf videos is where I've learned a lot of my own techniques.
How do you feel about surf videos nowadays? It seems like with the Internet and Instagram, there are more short web edits than big video projects. I'm just curious as to what you think the state of surf filmmaking is nowadays.
I think it's different watching them versus actually making them. When I first got into it, I was into filming for a week and then coming out with the edit the next week. I really just wanted to get as much material as I possibly could out there. After filming so much surfing over the last 10 years, I've come to realize that it's about more than just filming and pumping stuff out immediately. It's more about creating something interesting and visually pleasing that has some sort of unique story. I'm not rushing to do anything crazy or rushing to put out edits all the time.
You want your stuff to have a longer shelf life than an edit that just gets buried in a feed after a while.
Yeah, totally. In the last two years, I haven't made anything that's been less than 15 minutes. The last three surf edits I've done have been “Just For Kicks,” "Mr. Goodtimes" last year, and "Vertical Lines." Everything has become more put together and are more elongated. They're not done just to get them over with. I filmed like 90 percent of this last movie and there was so much footage everywhere. I think people give more respect when you're not just putting it together and putting your name on it, but actually putting in like 8 months and a lot of your time. You're not really getting paid; I don't make my money from surfing so it's more of a passion project.
How did you get started on Just For Kicks?
Noah hit me up, "Hey, would you be down to film? It looks like a fun swell is coming." It really just started with us filming a session. After linking up on a few really good sessions I was realized, "We should keep doing this and see if we could put together some money and make this something big." All our sponsors were really excited to help out and it ended up going from just a few sessions with Noah to everyone coming in. Nate Tyler heard we were making a movie so he wanted to film a bunch and then Torren Martyn came out to South Africa and all these random pieces just started connecting. It just evolved really fast and it was rad."
What kind of influences do you draw from outside of the surf filmmaking world? Are there any famous directors that influenced you in a way?
I really like watching Planet Earth. I'll watch like 5 of those a day. Whenever something is visually pleasing and has great audio. Whenever the sound is good and the visuals are really nice I just get super fired up. I think over the last couple of years that's what I've personally tried to work on the most–making sound really important and making sure that every shot has some unique story to it. I want every shot in the movie to be unique.
I’ve never really heard any surf filmmakers talk about sound. At least from the outside, it seems like you just get the music you can and try to cut it the best you can to the film. How do you hone in on a sound for a specific shot?
What I've been trying to do with mine is find really interesting sounds that can pair well with what you're seeing. In "Just For Kicks," there's a whole intro scene where Noah’s running on the beach and there are sounds of the ocean and the rocks that are all being combined to run you through the whole intro. I don't think a lot of people who watch those movies understand what's actually happening. They might see that and just think it's natural sounds but it's actually a lot of different work that goes into doing all that sound stuff. For me, whether it's surfing or non-surfing stuff, the sound is such a rad part of filmmaking.
How did you and Noah Wegrich meet?
I met Noah probably 4 years ago in Santa Cruz and seeing his progression from when I first started filming him to now is so insane. He used to be such a little grom with little reverse flicks and no power in his turns. Now his style is so fluid. One thing about Noah is he will take in every little piece of information that you tell him and take it to heart. Like, 'Hey make sure you hit the lip right here instead of right here.' and you can see it in his eyes that it's just working in his brain. Like a year ago he was doing these straight airs and it wasn't the most visually pleasing thing but now a year later his straight airs are some of the biggest I've seen out of anyone. His style is also one of a kind. He's got amazing style, a crazy air game, his turns are getting much better and much more powerful. I keep telling him this, but I think he's one of the better free surfers in California right, and if he keeps improving this way, he'll be one of the best free surfers in the world.
Noah has starred in two other films, "Sea Wolf" and "Perilous Sea," as well as your film, which takes place in many cold-water spots. Seems like he's got cold-water spots so dialed.
Noah has become one of my favorite surfers to shoot over the years because he has such a positive outlook, not just on life, but it'll be a mediocre day out and you're just like, "Eh, it looks like dogshit out there," but he'll see a weird random section pop up out of nowhere and be like, 'Yeah, I'm out there. Let's bag a couple clips.' He'll end up getting some of your best clips from those shitty little sections. A lot of it is just the attitude that you have about surfing and where you grew up. He's from such an incredible family. They're all the nicest humans. He was just born right into that sort of atmosphere and it reflects in his personality.
Do you have anything in the works? Looking forward to any projects or are you just doing your thing this winter?
Noah and I will possibly link up in Europe somewhere and start a new project. Definitely, in the next 6 months to a year, we'll be doing something. Whether it'll be a movie with just him and a few other guys or I get involved in a different project, he's definitely number one on my list. He's such a fun guy to watch and film. I'm sure we'll come out with something pretty soon.