It was a simple enough email. A student from the Raglan Surf Academy was asking if I would share his video clip on the GoSurf website. No biggy, in fact as the new Editor-slash-content chaser, it was what I wanted. The clip wasn't great, a bit shakey, a bit grey. Just shot around the Surf Academy surf sessions. But it was local Kiwi content.
A week later and there's another email from another Raglan Surf Academy surfer about their new clip. Ahhh me old mate Larry [Fisher] has got the kids onto media wrangling eh! Sure enough, same camera opp, same surf sessions just the cut of a different surfer.
There was a series of these clips posted on GoSurf. They helped grow the site's popularity. It was grass-roots stuff. Every clip was shot a bit better, edited a bit tighter and had more personality. Billy Lee Pope, a Surf Academy student himself was the grommet on lens and edit duties.
GoSurf took Billy on as an intern. The Raglan born'n'bred grommie moved up to his grandparent's place in Auckland for the weekdays. Tasked to do the day to day office crap that had no application for what he wanted to do. But in amongst it we got him out on shoots and he did gain an insight to some of the surf industry.
GoSurf was gaining popularity and cred in the surf community. And then it evaporated, the owner changed tact, we were all left high and dry.
Billy took it hard, he had been so stoked to work in a growing media entity. He worried about his own reputation within the surf industry [as did we all]. Would we be tarred with the same brush as the decision maker?
He need not have. The cream always rises to the top. In the past few years Billy has plugged away at his craft. He has gone on to study media at Waikato Uni all the while keeping up a solid output of video content.
His entry 'Little Things' in the Aotearoa Surf Film Festival 2016 came second. Underscored judges, underscored!! It showcased Billy's evolution as a camera opp/director/editor.
And then last week he dropped 'Old Toast' - the highlight reel of his first trip in Indo this year with Billy Stairmand and Tim O'Connor. Every surf site world wide has picked it up, 20K views so far on Billy's Vimeo account...but a staggering 60K+ on the SURFER Fb page- it's a huge thing, here's a bunch of Kiwis running with the big boys.
No better time to grill the ex intern/dish bitch right? Here's Billy:
Was the Raglan Surf Academy where you started getting into filming?
No it wasn’t. I used to skate heaps with my friends when I was pretty young. I got a hand me down digital camera which could also record video. The quality was terrible, but that didn’t matter to us, I made a few cringe worthy skate clips that I hope no one ever digs up haha! From there I continued my interest in film, taking it as a subject in High School. Then I attended the Surf Academy which really grew my passion for surfing and film-making/photography and kinda molded it as one.
Because of the clips, we got you interning at GoSurf, what were the highlights of that?
Yeah straight after High School I was swooped into the big smoke as a nervous, nail biting 18 year old to Intern at GoSurf. Looking back It was pretty cool being to hang out observe and pick the brains of guys like Jake Munro & Scotty Sinton who are both super talented Filmmakers/Photographers. I never realized it at the time but it was also a good opportunity to have glimpse of the NZ surf industry & make contacts with some smart guys who I still stay in touch with today, haha CPL was one of those guys.
A highlight that inspired me a lot at the time was hanging out with CPL and shooting Taylor Knox when he was in town for the Rip Curl Pro. Seeing content being created by Jerry Aubertin, Rambo of DGZ & Cory Scott of NZSM before it was in the next magazine, that got my mind ticking.
This year- first Bali mission- and you make a banger of a clip that gets shared on every surf site in the world- you're viral. Are the job opportunities rolling in? What's the Billy L P master plan?
Yeah the Bali trip was epic! It was a really cool experience, nothing but good people, good vibes, good food, fun waves and the clip has gone down pretty well too! Really stoked Billy and Liana had me on the trip, still frothing on it!
Haha I haven’t quite got an inbox filled with John John and Jack Freestone emails. I think the main thing is that I’m out there doing it, creating projects that I’m stoked on. I'm still learning heaps too, every 6 months I'll kinda look back at myself as a filmmaker and think; wow I was a full kook! No doubt it will happen to me again 6 months on from now.
I'd love to one day get to a level where I am creating video parts that people anticipate and then freak out on! I don’t really have a master plan. I just want to keep progressing, honing my skills and stay open to all opportunities in and out of surfing.
Check out more of Billy's good work via his Media page on Facebook HERE