Last week, my mate and colleague Damon Meade was up from his native Gisborne. He stayed for four days of good shooting conditions. It was super fun. Hanging out, talking shit and plans for the future. It is rad to realise we have known and worked alongside each other for more than 15 years. We've often been a part of the media scrum at surf events. You don't do that event in event out, spending days on end behind the tripods not becoming firm friends.
Meady has become one a veteran of NZ surf media- perhaps a dubious title. But there is no doubt he's done the yards. So for this post, it's all about the moving image.
How and when did you get started shooting surf videos?
I was at Massey University studying fine art in the early 2000's and my work involved doing video installation. I bought a mini DV camera to document and create my art projects. I started playing around with shooting some surf in the holidays. I came home from Uni one time and Maz was living next door to my parents. I hit him up to see if he wanted to shoot. The next day I got a 5am call up and we shot up the coast to a mysto spot for the day and that was kind of the start of it.
There were a bunch of other crew living in Gisborne at the time that were all surfing at a world class level. Bobby Hansen, Blair Stewart and Ricardo Christie for instance. The talent was there so it was pretty easy to roll up to the beach and capture what was going down. I knew I was witnessing a particularly high level era in NZ surfing. I made it my job to document this. After enough hours and months spent on the beach had passed I had enough for a full feature surf film; The DVD Wolfskinz was born.
https://vimeo.com/175660918 - Wolfskinz
Even early on my goal was to get NZ surfing onto a Taylor Steele video. I sent him a miniDV tape packed with all my best stuff of the Kiwi crew, but never quite made the cut.
That radical layback of Bobby from the opening wave of Wolfskinz was penciled in to an early rough cut of 'Stranger Than Fiction', but didn't make the final cut. Around 2010 the Innersection platform emerged and my goal was achieved, securing Luke Cederman into one of Taylor's vids.
I backed that up the year following working with Ricardo Christie. I had achieved everything I'd set out to do with surf filming in NZ once the dust had settled.
But Meady didn't stop there. Under the Weather is NZ's most viewed surf video. How did the project start, and could you explain the crowd funding and then subsequent distribution?
https://vimeo.com/55901233 - Under The Weather
Goals were fulfilled. Cameras destroyed and the show reel was shining, but the money wasn't there. So I brain stormed a way to spend 12 months chasing action around the country and put something tangible together one last time. I crowd funded Under the Weather, which always intended to remain online, free, forever. There was a print run of just 200 DVD's that were effectively pre ordered by some of the funders. Other rewards included surf product that generous sponsors had donated, which I then on sold as part of the funding campaign. When the film was completed, I sent it out to every surf related website worldwide. Within a couple of months it had reached 50k views. A lot of time went into getting it front of the right people. Making sure every surf site in the world knew about it and had the option of posting it. The film itself took the best part of a year to put together.
Can someone make a living out of filming surf in NZ or even the world for that matter?
I wouldn't want to discourage anybody with the desire to pursue this path. It's important to emphasize that if you want it anything is possible. I think being passionate about your craft and putting in the time are two of the most important ingredients for success. There are definitely folks out there at the top of their game that have the skills to command highly sought after day rates and production gigs within the industry. I think it comes down to being innovative with your vision from a business model perspective. Realising that shooting surf is a part of the bigger whole. Ultimately it's a passion gig with the potential to earn income and lead to other things.
One advantage is that surf films take a long time to put together. Through this time spent behind the camera and in real life shooting scenarios, you get pretty good. That skill set can translate into a career, and the world is literally your oyster with where you can take it.
Career spin offs could lead to following the WSL around the world as a cameraman full time, working on self directed initiatives with a sponsorship backbone, or creating content for brands. If you're good at what you do, keep it up but treat yourself as a business. You can spend all the time in the world standing on the beach, but you still have to put bread on the table at the end of the day. It's always nice to be able to afford that brand new camera you've always needed too and big cameras get big jobs.
Who told you that line Meady :) Great advance bro. So speaking of skills, what do you think your key work ones are?
My job generally involves showing up as a one man production company. So shooting with the edit in mind, self directing and making sure I walk away with everything I need to put together a video once I walk off set. So it's crucial to get every shot right and to be able to think on your feet. I know how to shoot tack sharp footage that has great audio under pressure situations, because that's what I have to be able to do. Lately I'm doing a lot of time lapse work and shooting a heap of landscape photography, which is also forming part of my business model moving forwards. Here are some snippets of some recent work:
https://vimeo.com/238639606 - Showreel
You are doing a lot more corporate work now, will this eventually drag you away from the beach forever?
To be honest 75-80% of my work is non surf related, so yes that's happening. But those jobs provide challenges of their own and they are mighty enjoyable in their own ways. I do a lot of construction time lapses. I tell brand stories and document products and processes for all sorts of companies. The work is really interesting and it is putting me I'm in a position where I have to learn everything there is to know about a business to tell its story. Technically these jobs keep me on my toes in regards to equipment and filming techniques. I like the balance, and having this work makes it that much more enjoyable to be called away to a surf event for a weekend and catch up with all of the legends that put on that show.
So there you go; check out the links and enjoy some fine work from one of NZ's best.