Filmmaker and editor Sean Benik has been at the creative helm of some of the biggest surf releases in the last five years. From his projects with Surfing Magazine like Spinning At The Speed Of Now and E.Geiselman, to independent edits like Serotonin and Aftermath, to his critical vision in productions like Taylor Steele’s Innersection and Ian Walsh’s Distance Between Dreams, Benik is the complete package, with a seasoned hand in near every step of the movie-making process. His first-ever showreel includes some of the defining scenes from his last few years of professional work. We caught up with him before the reel dropped and asked him about his progression as a do-everything cinematic mind.
How many years of work factor into your showreel?
This reel consists of the last four years, basically my entire time at SURFING. I was fortunate enough to be involved in a variety of projects at that mag, not just for surfing.
Where were the main locations you traveled to? Which place was the best challenge for you as a filmmaker, and why?
This thing is all over the place, really. Let’s say Samoa, Aruba, France, Mexico, California and more. Location wise, Samoa was pretty rough. We were staying in tiny, 3-bed rooms, essentially outside in mosquito nets, and it was dumping rain every night. Bringing a RED to places like that is always a challenge. That was for Grom Games, so having five kids running around the whole time and being the only filmer was pretty hilarious. Such a fun trip.
From the the earliest edit you did that's included in this reel, to the latest one, how do you feel like you've developed as a filmmaker? Have any of your techniques or philosophies undergone changes or evolutions?
I’d say in the beginning, I was shooting way more than I do now. I went through maybe a 2-year period where I was just editing so much stuff and not filming much at all. It’s funny, I think it definitely helped me with my editing, but being able to see so many other filmers’ styles and what they focused on helped me as a filmer, as well.
Working with the entire SURFING family for 12 issues a year and all of the projects that we did in-between, I was able to get so much advice and influence from people at every different step of the creative process. Writers, photographers, art directors…I never expected that the print magazine process would influence me in a completely unrelated digital field. There are a lot of parallels in the movie and magazine-building processes. Those guys are masterminds at what they do, and I wouldn't be here today without them.
What was the standout moment for you in Filipe's movie, Spinning At The Speed Of Now?
The standout moment for this project is really clear. There was one afternoon at Lakey's that Jimmicane [Jimmy Wilson] and I were shooting off a boat looking into the right, and it happened to glass off when we got out there. I think it was just Filipe, Victor Bernardo, Miguel Pupo, and two other guys out. The lighting was perfect, a little overhead, and Filipe did the most impressive surfing I've ever seen. 90% land rate with the airs he was doing. I literally don't remember him deliberately kicking out or falling on an air. Stalefishes, slobs, reverses, combos, everything. And actually, it was how I got the shot of that backside air from behind that's in the reel – which is one of my favorite shots.
Is there any other section in the reel you have a strong attachment to?
Being able to work on the Geiselman movie as a kid from Florida who grew up just an hour south of them was the best experience ever. It's rare for people to let you into their lives, and when doing profile pieces, you have to dig into some tough places, which for this project was covering Evan's incident at Pipe last year. Doing those interviews in France showed how strong their brotherly bond was, and coming from a big family myself, it was amazing to see. They would rag on each other 24-7, but when it came down to it, they're as close as it gets — so supportive. That's definitely a project I'll never forget.