2017 Florida Surf Film Festival Announces Awards

Left to right:  Kevin Miller, Executive Director; Scott Hulet, Editor – The Surfer’s Journal; Takuji Masuda, Dir. – BUNKER77; Ira Opper, Dir. – The Secrets of Desert Point; John Brooks, Festival Dir.; Keith Malloy, Dir. – Fishpeople

November 19, 2017

New Smyrna Beach, FL – The Fifth Annual Florida Surf Film Festival (FSFF), presented by Monster Energy, is a wrap, and the juries and founders are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 awards.

The 2017 festival kicked off Friday with Perilous Sea, the award-winning work of Mike Bromley and Ryan Meichtry.  Sometimes, the east coast gets good, in Nova Scotia…  The further reaches of the Northern Atlantic also produced for the duo, who won Best Surf Movie – Short and Best Cinematography – Short for their efforts.

Joe G.’s world premiere of Cult of Freedom – The Australia Part, pulled in Viewer’s Choice – Short with some footage of Taj right after retirement, and the Globe boys – Dion Agius, Eric Geiselman, Nate Tyler, and Noa Deane, among others, taking to the air and free-falling into thumping, clear-water caverns with the director’s personal voiceover giving light and humor to their travels.  Mr. G. included 16-milimeter work, provoking audible gasps, old-school howls, and an undercurrent of whispers.

Next, right into Ira Opper’s vision and Bill Heick’s family footage of friends who roughed it in the early days of Lombok’s eastern parts in The Secrets of Desert Point.  Ira used Bill’s voice for the voiceover, a personal touch that resonated with veteran travelers.  Ira met with and greeted questions from many fans during the course of the weekend, and shared some harrowing stories of engine failure in the Java straights, only to be rescued to score incredible footage for his ESPN series back in the late 80’s.

Friday night ended on a big note.  Albee Layer and Dan Norkunas presented their work Nervous Laughter and drew a huge grom-count.  The footage of the often-hilarious Q and A can be found online, but the work speaks for itself.  Find it somewhere and enjoy.

On Saturday morning, Sam George, filmmaker, surfer, and voice of surf journalism for many fans, greeted 14 early birds to the founders’ room of the Pabst Visitor’s Center and Gallery at Atlantic Center for the Arts.  What followed was an eight-hour workshop detailing the creation and execution of documentary filmmaking.  As a veteran story-teller and Emmy Award winning director, he shared knowledge that only comes from having brought an idea to the screen, many times.

Matt Warshaw sits in on Sam’s Workshop. Photo: David Moorefield

Saturday night, Church of the Open Sky, winner of the Best Soundtrack – Feature award, brought a thoughtful look at how the act of surfing can bring joy and gratitude into the lives of surfing communities.  Beauty in sound and sun-saturated images from Sri Lanka and Australia initiated new fans and veterans to Nathan Oldfield’s stunning, peaceful work.  It was nothing short of perfection.

Eric Ebner came to the festival expecting a t-shirt, and he walked away with Best Documentary – Short.  His film, The Bull, is the quintessential short bio-doc about a Baja surfer, Glen Horn.  His often home, the bluffs of Never Never Land (kept confidential by the filmmaker) could be found with a little bit of research.  Crafting a movie with such efficiency and beauty happens infrequently, believe it or not.  Eric did it.

Keith Malloy brought the lives of six people to the screen.  Somewhere in Fishpeople, each and every fan found the confidence, dedication, and courage of the ensemble cast too much to bear.   Keith Malloy shook a lot of hands, took photos with fans, but he also managed to gain even more respect as a filmmaker and artist, if that’s possible.  His ability to find the emotional key upon which a segment depends and embolden it with editing, scoring, and strong interviews makes his film this year’s Viewer’s Choice – Feature.

The final film of the 2017 festival documented the life and ultimate sadness of a man wrestling with inheriting millions of dollars and the absence of a father-figure.  Bunker Spreckels stumbled out of the forest onto the North Shore of Oahu in his teens with a creative, youthful approach to Pipeline and penchant for partying.  Oh, and his step-dad was Clark Gable. The feature film jury unanimously voted Takuji Masuda’s Bunker77 Best Documentary – Feature for 2017.  The films essence was captured by a near end-of-life interview by Craig Stecyk, that weaved throughout the film, ominously and from the bottom.  Despite the love and support of his friends, his heartbreaking early death came at the throes of addiction and abuse.  Sometimes, you don’t get back up when you hit rock bottom, and Takuji told the story in a dramatic climb and fall structure, capturing contemporary’s recollections, anecdotes, and photographs that combined with Stecyk’s interview, complete this excellent documentary film.

The screening panelists have entered their selections, along with our viewers’ choices.  The awards are as follows:

  • Best Documentary – Feature:  Bunker77; Director – Takuji Masuda
  • Best Surf Movie – Feature:  Proximity; Director – Taylor Steele
  • Best Cinematography – Feature:  Under an Arctic Sky; Director – Chris Burkard and Director of Photography – Ben Weiland
  • Best Soundtrack – Feature:  Church of the Open Sky; Director – Nathan Oldfield
  • Viewers’ Choice – Feature:  Fishpeople; Director – Keith Malloy
  • Best Documentary – Short:  The Bull; Director – Eric Ebner
  • Best Surf Movie – Short:  Perilous Sea; Directors – Mike Bromley and Ryan Meichtry
  • Best Cinematography – Short:  Perilous Sea; Directors – Mike Bromley and Ryan Meichtry
  • Best Soundtrack – Short:  Pedro’s Bay – Director – Eddie Obrand
  • Viewers’ Choice – Short:  Cult of Freedom – The Australia Part, Director – Joe G.

Juries include: Feature Jury – Scott Hulet, Sam George, Christian Beamish, Joe Turpel, Matt Pruett, Chad Campbell, and Ben Mondy.  Short Jury – Matt Warshaw, Lewis Samuels, Matt Kechele, and Bryan Forand.  Festival director, John Brooks, and executive director, Kevin Miller, also submit votes for competition.

We were again proud to have Monster Energy serve as our presenting sponsor for this year’s festival, providing travel and lodging for the filmmakers who attend the festival.

Surfline provided coverage and marketing services for the 2017 festival as our principal media sponsor.

Cigar City Brewing and Oskar Blues Brewery served as the festival’s official beer sponsors, with St. Augustine Distillery serving as the official spirits sponsor of the festival.  Clancy’s Cantina and Café Verde served as the festival’s official food sponsor.

Other sponsors we’d like to thank include:  Serenity Springs Recovery Center, Globe, Brian Layman Wealth Management, Richer Poorer, Anson Stoner, Encyclopedia of Surfing, Florida Virtual School, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Dakine, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Nixon Watches, JT Handcrafted Surfboards, Holistic Movements, Biological Consulting Services, Mangrove Bay Design, Lundev Homes, La Ponderosa Beach and Jungle Resort, Total Vision, SDR Massage, Funxion IT, Hampton Inn, Red Dog Surf Shop, Kembali, and Surfrider Foundation (Volusia/Flagler Chapter).  A silent auction featuring some of our sponsors’ products was held in the Pabst Visitor Center and Gallery.

Florida Surf Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to invigorate surf culture and artistic appreciation by exhibiting contemporary documentary films with surfing as a focus from artists far and wide and operate featured-artist workshops in journalism, photography, and filmmaking.

–Kevin Miller