Throughout the course of building Swami's, there have been few projects that we've been prouder of than Portrait of a Surfer.
Alan Aboud and I had been friends from our days at St. Martins School of Art, he's a creative director who has worked with Paul Smith for over 20 years. Coincidently through the Swami's x PS collaboration project we crossed paths on a work level for the first time.
I'd always wanted to make a surf movie that felt a little different and could give a more personal account of what it means to be a surfer. I'd mentioned this to Alan and whether or not he knew of anyone we could work with, to my surprise he said that he'd love to be involved. We'd been working with Sam (Bleakley) for a few years and for me I couldn't think of anyone that epitomises the committed life of a surfer / writer than Sam, he was the perfect person to build the project around and we were very stoked when he agreed to be involved.
Alan had been collaborating on some amazing film projects with the director Steve Langmanis, as soon as we saw his work we knew immediately that they would create the most incredible film. Steve has a natural sense of story telling and a very inquisitive nature, we talked through some ideas together and set about planning the shoot. Time wasn't on our side, we were all super busy and finding a slot to schedule the shoot in was getting tricky. So it wasn't until late November that we actually got the chance to get down to Cornwall. The shoot was scheduled for 3 days, it was going to be a challenge, we needed sun and hopefully some swell to at least create the sense of a fading summer.
Due to the limited time we'd have at the location Steve recommended that we should storyboard some ideas. Ilka and I went down a few days before to prep the shoot and hang out with Sam. Alan, Steve, Stefan (the steadicam and second camera) and Ian (Steve's assistant) arrived a few days later at sunset. We walked down the hill and straight to the house. Everyone was amazed by the location, the light and landscape, everything.. The house, perched right on the headland just above the beach was a mind blowing situation. I presented the script, he glanced over it, laid it down on the table and politely explained they needed to be much more free form..
They wanted to embed themselves down at the beach, get up at first light, capture everything they could, embrace the atmosphere, the elements, the colour etc.. the script was out but we had complete trust in both Alan's and Steve's vision, we could see that they were super inspired to be there and for us that was just about perfect.
The crew spent the next three days filming non stop, jumping from one scenario to the next, planning scenes as they went along. So much of what we could do was based on the weather, we were as far west as we could be in England and the weather and light changed almost every minute. Having been raised on the headland Sam could literally tell us when the best light would appear and miraculously it seemed to. Everything turned on including a great hefty swell to boot. After 3 days of filming they had cans of footage and we wrapped, packed the van and left for home, cautiously optimistic.
Previously I'd contacted Julius Brighton who Sam had introduced us to. Julius is the most amazing wild life photographer and we commissioned him to capture the surf footage that we wanted to weave into the film. They'd waited for the right swells throughout October and connected to film some beautiful slowmo footage. The board which we'd made especially for the shoot was finish just in time, in fact what you see in the film is the first session Sam had ever had with it.
Over the next few months the film was carefully knit together, the editing process saw the film come to life and miraculously made all the spontaneity of the filming flow seamlessly together, there had been a plan all along!
Sam's narrative brought an honest and personal tone that was amazing. The icing on the cake was the sound design created by Steve's brother Andrew at Radium Audio.
Our aim with everything to do with Swami's is to create ideas and products that come with a high level of integrity, thought and passion, that's what lead us to work with Alan, Steve, Sam and all the other photographers, designers and crafts people that we work with. Portrait of a Surfer went beyond what we'd ever expected as a film and somehow captured what we're attempting as a brand. To date over 34,000 people have seen it and I think it's a testament to the skill and passion that went into making it. We're very proud and grateful to everyone that was involved.
With many thanks,
Ilka and Giles
Alan Aboud, Aboud Creative
Steve Langisman, Digital Pro
Andrew Diey, Radium Audio
left to right: Sandy and Sam Bleakley, Stefan Krt, Stephen Langmanis, Alan Aboud, Ilka and Giles Dunn.