THREE weeks in the Mentawai filming 21 Days Later was a bit of dream for solo film-maker Anthony Butler, having only started Mr B Productions in 2006. No big brands or troublesome helicopters, just one man and a video camera. Here's the 'making of' an independent surf movie in pictures:
I do everything from shooting, editing, directing, producing to distributing. Writes Anthony Butler. The production itself, '21 Days Later - Mentawais' follows seven British and Irish surfers: Reubyn Ash, Lee Bartlett, Easkey Britton, Robyn Davies, Sam Lamiroy, Mike Morgan and Alan Stokes - on a three week boat trip around the Mentawai Islands. Organised by Roger Sharp of Slide Magazine, this was going to be the trip of the season and I didn't need much motivation to attend.
Trials and tribulations of shooting in a tropical paradise...
Actually filming the project presented all kinds of crazy obstacles. During a couple of water sessions I was washed over the falls and smashed into the very shallow reef - but that just goes with shooting in the water - you expect it. The hardest thing was shooting from Land in the Mentawai. At Macaronis and a couple of other spots I had to swim through about shoulder to head-high waves breaking on dry reef with all my camera equipment in a peli-case on a bodyboard and my tripod wrapped in three bin bags sat on top. After getting smashed-up there and making it on land I had to stand there whilst getting eaten alive by ants and mozzies. All good fun.
Prior to the trip I hadn't worked with some of the surfers so I was excited to go along. A very short DVD was edited up of the trip previously using my footage and given away with Slide Mag, which Tim Nunn edited.
Tim had worked on no budget and literally had no time to edit the film, so considering this he did a fantastic job. But I just felt like I wanted to take the film in a different direction, one which focused more on the surfers quirks whilst exploring the waves' individual personalities.
When I shot the trip, I didn't really have a vision for the film, as I was just about to release my first 'real' film. I was just on board to shoot the surfing and get to know everyone. When I started to go through the footage again last year, I thought I'd like to make a film about the Mentawai where you learned more about the actual waves themselves, rather than just a montage of highlights to music.
I've had some reasonable success with movies such as Substance but to there's never much support for independent surf films and it's got to the point where it's nearly impossible to do without financial backing, which is hard to come by. Free DVD's with mags, You Tube and sponsor films seem to be taking over a bit nowadays. I've got some ideas for some different style of films that I'm currently trying to get funding for, so fingers crossed, and I've had a great time doing what I do so no complaints.
But I don't think I'll be making another film until I can secure the funding beforehand. Hopefully there will be some support coming and if not I'll have to find alternative funding to create interesting new projects based around British surfing.
State of the nation
All the surfers in the movie are UK based and on top of their respective games. Reubyn Ash's free surfing has just gone to another level in the last year or two and can be comparable to a world standard at times - he's also starting to put it together in comps too. I think it's a shame Russ Winter didn't get more support and a following while he was on the Dream Tour. I think if Reubyn could get a section in the next Billabong flick it would be great for British surfing, I think it's going to be tough for guys to make it onto the Dream Tour but it would be fantastic for British surfing if they could, it would need the commitment and focus that Russ Winter had.
There's a lot of international young talent coming up so it's very competitive. I can see Ireland making a big impact on the big wave scene soon (with guys like Ferg, Al, Cotty and all the other local chargers). I've seen Aileens on a massive clean day that was inaccessible and had anyone been able to get out and catch one I think it would have won the XXL award.
I take my inspiration from everything around me: previous surf films, feature movies, art house films, TV, and pretty much anything that can spark an idea. Probably one of the most influential surf films of recent times for me was 'Secret Machine' which I think was really well put together, but there's been so many. Also just the waves, the surfing, and the characters are inspirational enough to spark that flow.
I have to thank John Downie for somehow designing the poster and cover whilst working 26 hour days, 9 days a week. Roger Sharp for organizing the trip and his fantastic images. All the artists and bands who gave the film a great, varied soundtrack. My fiancé Tamsyn for always supporting me. Steph Hopgood who has organized the screening and is going to be a fantastic big time producer one day! All the surfers from the trip.
Check out the movie HERE