Richard Stewart is the director of the new Surfers Against Sewage film ‘Protect Our Waves’, which is currently being screened around the country, and will be showing this Friday at Howies, Bristol, at 7pm.
This inspirational film captures some of the best waves and beautiful coastline around the country, but contrasts this with a strong environmental message, as you would expect from our homegrown ocean guardians. Drift managed to grab five minutes with Rich, to find out a little more about the man behind the film…
How did you break into filmmaking?
I started out as an assistant to a few artists (Tony Hill, mainly) who were involved in filmmaking. A little while later I briefly became a wildlife film cameraman, but pretty much on the same day as I made it I fell in love with Anna, my sweetheart, and the idea of being away from her (and now our three daughters) some 300 days a year wasn’t feeling good.
Also, I wanted to be able to craft what I was working on, and so I became a director of photography (DOP), working on documentaries and music videos to begin with and then later on commercials, animations and films (you can see some of my other work at www.rsdop.com).
I filmed the Arctic Challenge 2000 in the Lofoten islands and there met Terje Haakonsen. Over the last few years I’ve been to the far north with Terje and his friends, and I think it was this work that made me think about filming surf.
Who or what influences and inspires you?
I’m influenced by so much stuff… I think Sean Mullens’ ‘Birthright’ is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen recently and I pretty much always cry watching the video for ‘1234’ by Feist.
Andrew Kidman’s films made me feel in some way connected to other surfers around the world and I like Patrick Trefz and Mickey Smith’s work. But it’s the guys I see every day near my home at the beach and their relationship with the water that inspires me to reflect that love on film.
How did you get involved with SAS?
I had been interested in working with SAS for a long time. I admired what Chris Hines was doing back in the beginning and then I started bumping into Andy Cummins around the place playing around with sustainable surfboard ideas (www.loraxsurf.com is a project I’ve been neglecting recently – I love surfboard design). Andy and Hugo saw ‘Powers of 3’ and asked me to come see them for a cup of tea and it just seemed like it was the right time to do something. The cup of tea was back in the spring last year but we didn’t really get started until the autumn. The film came out at the end of February, so only really took us a few months to put it together.
Did you storyboard the film, or shoot organically and piece it together afterwards?
There were no storyboards. I liked the way in ‘Powers of 3’ you could feel the friendship between the surfers,. so the SAS film had a kind of loose narrative of some friends on a road trip meeting locals at quiet spots. I was hoping that through these characters and the way the film is shot you would experience the sea and the coastline in an intimate and familiar way. We shot mainly at dawn and dusk to capture the most beautiful light and help protect the identity of some of the secret spots that we wanted to shoot at. We had decided from the beginning that all of the SAS issues would be contained in some funny little animated sequences and that the surfing – and most importantly the sea – should be idyllic, hopefully inspiring you to protect what you love and are passionate about – clean, beautiful waves. In the end the film has no need for words
Who got involved with the project?
I had so much support on this film; I was really inspired by the generosity and attitude of the surfers we worked with, and by those we came across in the early mornings on the cliffs and in the water. Charlie Chambers, a friend and filmmaker, was by my side, laden with gear clambering up and down cliffs and sliding across reefs, as well as driving us hundreds of miles through dark icy nights. Thanks must also go to the gang of accomplices from the world of music videos who helped us to finish the film once it was photographed.
Was this your first ‘environmental’ project?
I’ve always been interested in the relationship we have with nature (especially the sea and water), so I’ve done a few projects that had environmental ideas. It was pretty interesting for me to see how it affected my own life and attitudes once we got started – I’m suddenly acutely aware of litter and the amount of junk that is produced because of my existence.
I wanted to make this film for Surfers Against Sewage, but also to express in the simplest way possible my own relationship with the sea; to protect it and honour it. We all share in this world and these are our problems, which we face together, so all we can ask of each other is to do our best. I think that the apocalyptic cloud that hangs over us can be paralysing – all we can do is little things in our everyday lives. Whatever we feel we can do on any one day. Some days we can pick up the shit on the beach and other days we say “fuck it” but that’s ok… it’s just doing what we can, when we can. If everyone did just little things it would make a huge difference.
What’s next for you?
I’m in the middle of shooting a new video for the Chemical Brothers, and after that I’m starting on a film about terrorism.
All photos by Charlie Chambers