Friday, September 12, 2008

What a couple of days.

Wednesday I had to go down to Torquay to have a brief meeting in the Quiksilver headquarters. Never been there before and very low key, art filled offices spelled a gentler company than I'm used to in the world of surf business.

Then a dash for an hour in the waves, that hour being a little frustrated by an errant north wind which, though offshore for many of our breaks, means an ugly cross wind at Bells and Winki, both of which had been pretty damn fine until an hour or so before I became available to splash.

Eventually though I found a little peak at 13th and had a fun hour almost to myself before having to head back to the office. Felt a bit odd while out there and while driving, had a nice dinner and hit the sack around 10.30, only to wake in agony at about midnight. Rolled around the bed for about an hour then got up and drove the little porcelain bus for another 2 before deciding hospital was the only way out

Snuck out leaving a note and the family to sleep and drove to the emergency ward where I spent the next 12 hours. Bloody gall stone attack, lots of morphine and assorted pills, x-rays, ultra sound and proddings meant a variety packed day through the drug induced haze.

They were going to whip it out but decided against it, as the pain finally settled as something must have shifted in the Minotaur's Labyrinth that is my innards.

So back to work today, a bit woozy and sore, but ready for the weekend.

Other Things.

I'm off to New York in ten days to attend the New York Surf Film Festival and show my scruffy head on behalf of Musica Surfica, and perhaps find someone interested in showing it on the American telly. Whatever happens it'll be an interesting time as I've never been to the Big Apple, four days not enough to see it nor will I have the chance really but I guess I'll be doing a lot of gazing up, up, up and going 'fuck that's big".

Which never happens when I'm gazing down.

Still, it should be fun. If anyone who reads this is there, look me up as I'd love to catch up. Ras.. this is for you.

As part of all this I thought I'd begin to write something about the beginnings of the whole shebang. Hopefully for publication, but me being me, I thought I'd test drive the first bit on you, who manage to drop by the blog when you get a free moment.

So here is how Musica Surfica happened... right up to the first wave ridden. Comments gratefully accepted, critical and otherwise.

Musica Surfica the film was serendipity on celluloid.

A happy accident followed by many lucky moments written on blind faith and the fates.

When Richard Tognetti first asked if I’d like to join him on remote King Island off the south coast of Victoria, Australia, along with Derek Hynd, a mixed bag of surfers and surfer/musicians, to play and ride some surfboards without fins, my first response was.. “huh?”

He’d called out of the blue, about a month after my first contact with him, that being an email from me flying an idea I’d had, a “would he be interested letter” as, if that idea ever saw the filmic light of day, I’d like him to do the sound design.

Why Richard? Why ask an Australian National Living Treasure, a virtuoso violinist who’s art is played out on a 300 year old, ten million dollar violin, to do the soundtrack to a surf movie?

The clear and only answer was first, he is a surfer.

The day of that email he called and we had a long conversation, we got on, understood each other, and the thread of a bond was formed.

His call a month later invited to me to an Australian Chamber Orchestra concert at the Victorian Arts Centre, and to catch up afterwards for a chat. “Derek Hynd and I are going to King Island, to surf without fins! Would you like to come and film it?” This is where I said: “Huh?” Then, walking through the cool Melbourne streets at 10.30 on a March Monday night, I began to ask questions. Later I wrote a two page treatment of what I thought they were trying to achieve, and what it could become. That treatment became Musica Surfica the Film.

Before I even began to get anywhere though, Richard said I had to meet Derek.

A week or so later Derek called me, we spoke for over an hour (which never happens with him) and then we arranged to meet in a little inner city Melbourne restaurant, to sound each other out. He was down to catch a Bells swell, had scored good waves and was to begin the thousand kilometre drive back to Sydney as soon as we’d eaten.

I was full of questions about how the hell you ride a board without fins, would they hold a trim, could you bottom turn, could you...well,... anything?

His answers were all... “yep”, ...except for the bit about could you do a cutback.

“Naaa, can’t really cutback, but I just head up toward the lip and do a three sixty.” Or nine, as I was soon to discover.

After dinner I was dying to find out what one of these things looked like and wandered back to his car on a dark, hooker filled Melbourne street. I stood agape in front of a couple of the strangest looking boards I’ve ever seen, not least because they were ridiculously short, so short in fact that they made the hookers miniskirts look positively Victorian.

Both around five foot eight, and pretty much reshaped knee boards with scallops in the rails, concaves and flutes on the bottoms, just subtle little experiments in drag and release. Derek had been thinking long and hard, and was experimenting in real time as he’s take a board home after a surf, scrape, grind and glass, take it back out, refining or discarding these strange little ideas on strange little boards generated in his strange, not so little mind.

Where these thoughts were taking him I had no real idea, but the scuttlebutt coming back from the coast was that he had been doing some weird, but very impressive things. To further confirm these impressions halfway through our meal a young guy came up to us, just having to compliment Derek on how good he had been surfing that afternoon.

Dropping backwards down an eight foot Bells wave and making it?

Getting tubed out there without fins or leg rope, and still rarely swimming?

I couldn’t wait to get to King Island.

To get there though required money and since I’d recently sold the family home to free up my life so that a dream or two might see the light of day, I had been prepared to throw, mad fool that I am, what I could at it. I’d called John Frank, of Litmus fame, to see if he might join me. A friend put me in touch with a freelance sound guy, Craig Johnson, who was to become a mainstay of the time down there. I got more and more nervous, wondering what the hell I was getting myself into, while I also marveled that it was actually happening to me.

And how would I ever make any money back? Stuff the money I thought back to myself. Things like this just doesn’t happen that often. In reality it had never happened before and could never, ever be repeated again, but I still didn’t know that, yet. I was on Cloud Nine, and didn’t really care.

Meanwhile, back on earth, wheels were turning.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra is a machine with many cogs, and one of the Big Cogs was Jessica Bloch, Assistant General Manager and a big fan of the treatment I’d written. She passed it on to a Board Member, who passed it onto his mate Kym Williams, head of Foxtel Australia, who passed it on to his documentary department who in turn decided they could help us. I suddenly had a (bit) bigger budget, and our team grew to include a producer friend of mine, Simon Whitney, who had a clue.... where I didn’t, and a mainstream director of photography. Tony Brennan didn’t have a clue about surfing, but did know how to shoot, and together with Jon they made a formidable team.

Two weeks later we were on King Island, and I was wondering what the fuck do I do now?

We did have plans, I’d shot listed certain scenes I wanted to get and my writing was all based around going with the flow with a vision of where I wanted it to all end up. With Derek running the surfing side of things it was very clearly, or it would soon become clear, really the Mad Cap Adventures of Dada Derek, as his deconstructionist tendencies nearly drove Simon mad, while I followed along, called waves for Tony, let Jon shoot surf from in the water and out to his heart’s content, and generally let things happen.

My God we were lucky.

Our first day at Martha’s, just hours after we landed, was high excitement for everyone. The atmosphere was electric as we unloaded the boards, boards so varied and in some cases, so damn beautiful, they begged to be ridden as, naturally, peoples’ internal visions of what they would do were, I imagined, spectacular and wildly successful.

When it came to the crunch though it proved to be wildly anything but. Wave after wave went by with fall after fall, until Derek... hit the water.

Almost the first wave he caught, a wedging peak rising from two feet to five saw him swing in a surprisingly tight trim and, climbing to its apex, suddenly throw five or six lightening fast three sixty degree turns before using the exit from the final spin to drive down the line and set up another display of surfing pyrotechnics.

At that moment I knew I had a movie.


Santos SurfArt said...

Nice Mick,
Lovely reading.

clayfin said...

Mick, get that bloody thing taken out as soon as you get home! Trust me, you'll feel a hell of a lot better.

I didn't have time to read the whole article right now but of course you should keep going for publication.

First time in NYC? Only been three times myself but you must hit the art museums - Met, MOMA, Whitney, Guggenheim. And touristy as it is, go to the top of the Empire State Building... Should be great weather in Sept.

Niegà said...

Excellent reading. Hope you have a great time in NYC.



* TONYA * said...

First of all, feel better honey. I'm sure Sue was over the moon at you sneaking out at some ungodly hour to drive yourself to the ER.

Secondly, I would look you up while you are over here if you weren't going to be on the other side of the bloody country. Oh woe is me. You'll have a marvellous time gazing up though.

Hope the movie is an absolute hit. I'm sure it will be. How could it not, you are behind it.

Jamie Watson said...

Wow Mick, this was fascinating! I wish you the best of luck in New York. You mentioned TV in America - I can totally see PBS being a perfect vehicle for your film.

I really hope you are feeling better and can't wait to hear about your trip to NYC.

seamouse said...

Ouch! Hope your feeling better now mate.
Know that those seppos are going to love musica surfica, have a great time.

Flying said...

For what I have seen, Musica Surfica is one of the highly expected surf movies of the year ! I have a small surfshop on the north shore of spain, and I am waiting anxiously to get it on the shelves !
In the mean time, I added you to my contact list at
I hope you don't mind.