"The best surf movie since
The Endless Summer." - Hugo Perez
"a jewel-like, non-traditional film I’ll enjoy watching (or
just listening to) again and
— Scott Hulet
is contemporary surfing and surf-filmmaking at it’s freshest."
— Michael Solomon, Water Magazine
genius of Halsband’s wordless documentary is its all-subsuming
power, fully immersive and experiential, a post-modern meditation on
the oceanic alchemy that takes place where board, imagination, athletics
and ingenuity meet the sea."
— Carlo McCormick, Paper Magazine
"[SURF MOVIE] is Halsband’s
take on surfing, the way it really is—raw and spontaneous"
Devon Howard- Longboard Review
of pure, uncut surfing at three legendary surf breaks around the Pacific
Ocean. SURF MOVIE: reels 1-14 features everyday free surfing, giving
surfers and non surfers alike the sensation of a surf session. There's
nothing predictable about this film. The viewer discovers the images
as spontaneously as the filmmaker experienced them. With an original
music score composed and performed to the picture. color/b&w.
made SURF MOVIE: reels 1-14 during my travels with world champion surfer
Joel Tudor. As we toured various legendary surf spots in California,
Hawaii & Australia, I was primarily photographing for a book project
Joel & I are working on. However, when the moment felt right, I
put down the still camera in favor of a super 8 movie camera.
I ended up with 14 reels of film that I then arranged into a rough chronological
order. I showed the film to a few people as it was. Although I hadn’t
edited it yet, viewers found the movie engaging and refreshing. This
encouraged me to leave the film in its original form, unedited. I told
a close friend, Guitarist/Producer, Richard Fortus, about the film and
he expressed a serious interest in scoring the picture. After seeing
it, Richard insisted on composing all of the music. Warren Kemp, and
Prashant Bhargava designed & created the title sequences and the
package design to be synchronous with the movie.
This movie is made up of fourteen reels of Super 8mm film, both black
& white and color mixed. They have been spliced together in their
entirety. The film is unedited (not a frame taken out or added). The
music is composed and performed to the picture, creating a dialog that
is extremely rare and refreshing. It is unlike music videos where the
picture is made to the music, or in a motion picture where the music
is used as a dramatic tool. As a result this film has a unique personality.
SURF MOVIE: reels 1-14 gives surfers and non-surfers alike the sensation
of a surf session. This experience is created by the combination of
picture and music. There is nothing predictable about this film. The
viewer discovers the images as spontaneously as I experienced them.
It is surf scenes and music combined to create the range of sensations
of the surfing experience.
A Film By
MOVIE: Reels 1-14
Starring the Pacific Ocean
Featuring Special Guests
Windansea La Jolla, California
Pipeline North Shore Haliewa, Hawaii
(w/a slight return to Windansea)
The Pass Byron Bay, Australia
Cameo Appearances by:
This film Is edited in camera all of the reels
are spliced together in there entirity.
of Film Credits
Produced, Directed, and Filmed by:
Camera Operator for one reel in Australia: “Wingnut”
Title Track “Hitting The Ground” by
Telecine – The Tape House, NYC
Titles Designed by
Alinear; Prashant Bhargava & Warren Kemp
Special Thanks to:
Donald Takayama & Joel Tudor
for their endless Aloha spirit & Stoke
Shot Entirely on Kodak Super 8mm film
©MICHAEL HALSBAND STUDIO, 2001
in The Surfers Journal, Volume Eleven Number Three / Summer 2002
It doesn’t come more no-tech than
this film from New York rock’ n’ roll photographer Michael
Halsband. Shot entirely with a cheap Super 8 camera and assembled by
splicing the resultant 14 reels together, Surf Movie is garage to the
hilt. The whole 48 minute feature was edited in-camera, with no shots
added or removed in the post-production—every scrap of film is
presented exactly as it was shot, burnt ends and all.
If that sounds like a recipe for glaucoma,
I’ll risk scaring away even more potential viewers by noting that
Surf Movie —like a slew of other recent projects—focuses
heavily on the surfing of Joel Tudor. No surprise there: the Thin White
Duke attracts artistic video projects like Penelope Cruz draws midget
Halsband, a highly-regarded New York
art, fashion, and music specialist with a dopp kit full of references
(Mick and Keith hired him to document the 1981 Stones tour), is also
a local surfer at Georgica Beach on Long Island. You might know him
for his ubiquitous portrait of Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, his
work in the permanent collection at MOMA, or endless photo credits in
Interview and Rolling Stone. He’s been traveling with Joel the
last couple of years firing photos for a book the two are working on
(more on that in a future issue). During down time, he shot Super 8
of JT, Machado, Kelly and Steven Slater surfing Windansea, Pipe, and
the Pass at Byron Bay...thus Surf Movie.
The result is really quite remarkable.
Footage that normally ends up on the cutting room floor—missed
waves, long paddle-ins, kickouts, b-roll—is front-and-center here.
The feeling of an entire surf session is conveyed, and there’s
an honesty to that. In the constant quest for All Killer No Filler the
baby is too often flushed with the bathwater.
Halsband was easily up to the challenge of the in-camera edit process;
after all, there is no plot or narrative to forward here. The payoff
is that Surf Movie does, in fact, tell stories. For example, we see
Tudor trying out a round, stubby bonzer at small Pipe, and from his
early wave fumblings straight through to some Warm Jet tube rides, we
watch as he dials in to the boards’ eccentricities. The five-fin,
while obviously soap-bar fast, seems to hang up at the end of cutbacks.
As Joel adjusts to the new axe, subsequent waves find him gliding through
the recovery phase of figure-eight carves like he’s on Pirelli
rain tires. That’s something you just don’t get in the average
cut-and-paste surf video. (Memo to self: Joel’s bete noire is
the way he wipes his eyes with a dorky, stiff hand swipe every time
he exits the tube; the only obvious chink in his stylistic armor.)
The volume cranks up figuratively and
literally when Halsband turns his lens to the 2000 Pipe Masters, with
Backdoor double tubes, ass-dragging Slater-stalls, and free-fall blood-lettings
finding themselves underscored by a spot-on, angular bit of guitar work.
Indeed, the music in Surf Movie is worthy on its own. Custom scored
by NYC soundsmith Richard Fortus with the goal of “...creating
a dialog between music and picture,” the tracks beautifully interpret
All in all this is a jewel-like, non-traditional
film I’ll enjoy watching (or just listening to) again
Mike Solomon, WATER magazine summer issue 7/02
Surf Movie a film
by Michael Halsband, offers up an unusual blend of film genres.
It balances concepts and processes found in art films with surf film’s
culture and aesthetic and in so doing creates a new experience for both
surf and art film audiences alike.
For those oriented towards surf films: Halsband pushes the envelope
in a number of ways. By linking the golden era of surf film-making with
the contemporary, if iconoclastic explorations in surfing by Longboard
Champion Joel Tudor. Halsband like Tudor, warps the time-space continuum.
By working in the same format as early surf cinematographers through
shooting on Super 8 Film with Century Lenses, Halsband elicits the archetypal
mystical and heroic images of surfing found in the early surf films
of 50s and 60s. His frames have all that romance– the sepia tones,
the flicker of candied reds and oranges that wash over the warp and
weave of footage of turquoise waves and the lonely dance of a silhouetted
figure. All these elements bring you right back to the Halcyon days
when surfing was still innocent, raw, spiritual and unincocorporated,
but actually this is contemporary surfing and surf-filmmaking at it’s
Halsband jumps out of the box by splicing 14 unedited reels of Super
8 together to make Surf Movie. This procedure reflects his orientation
as an artist- photographer and filmmaker and has its roots in the avant
garde history of art films, in particular in the film making of Fredric
Weisman and Andy Warhol. Used as a device in the genre of surf films
it breaks the pattern of films that are over-edited to deliver only
the money shots. Warhol was once interested in the surf culture but
never produced anything significant from it. If Warhol had made an image
of surfing it might very likely be close to one’s memory- after
vision of Halsband’s Surf Movie.
Surfing’s activities have so much more to them than what is harvested
for film production and Halsband’s film shows us this wider “cinema
verite¢” spectrum. We certainly see great surfing and waves,
but we also see paddling, swimming, loosing a board, checking the bottom
of a board for dings, and all the other “mundan”e incidentals
that are so much a part of the core experience of surfing. At Byron
Bay we have the goings on in the shore break while surfers negotiate
the waves beyond. We see hanging out, walking back to the take off spot
up the beach and adjusting apparel. The get back-to-reality, the human
quality of the film, is perhaps best illustrated by the sequence of
Legendary Master Surfer Shaper Bob Mc Tavish who is well into his 60s,
in long-legged contemporary boardshorts having a really nice ride and
coming in to the flat wide beach where a little six year old surfer
is trying to carry his board up the beach. As they walk down the beach
, perhaps most interesting part of the surfing life, is encapsulated
in the moment.
The original score by composer/ musician Richard Fortus further color’s
the footage through sumptuous guitar and keyboard lines. In two instances
where the reels fade out to white leader, the score uses a parallel
sound effect, a roll- out and rewind, to break completely, the entire
linear movement of the film. This is done only twice in the 48 minutes
of the movie. It is thebreath, the inhaleand duck before the mesmerizing
flow of variegated amber liquid footage engulfs you.
Halsband likes to demystify the situation by showing us the fringes,
while at the same time respecting the excellence and accomplishment
of Tudors’s surfing. Though unassuming in its tone, Surf Movie
may be the Trojan Horse of surf videos. Its structure, aesthetic and
view point are sure to penetrate a fairly one dimensional genre and
help it grow up and out and it can and should . Surf Movie is two things;
a strait ahead statement about the whole experience and the deconstruction
of a genre.
Carlo McCormick, Paper Magazine
With a twenty-five year career in photography that has brought him international
renown in the worlds of popular music, fine art and fashion, Michael
Halsband makes his feature film directorial debut in Surf Movie 1-14.
More than a master lens-man, Halsband captures the essence of his subjects
at those unique moments where verite authenticity meets iconic myth.
Whether working with The Rolling Stones, AC/DC or Malcolm McLaren, Andy
Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, The American Ballet Theater or sex
industry workers, Halsband is the rare true collaborator capable of
entering the inner sanctum of professional surfing and imaging its most
sublime and sacred epiphanies in the pure visual language of the surf
Harkening back to the pioneering golden age surf movies of yore, Halsband’s
pictorial poetics is direct descendent of America’s lesser-known
legacy of avant-garde experimental film-making. Shot in the low-tech
obsolete format of black and white Super-8, Surf Movie 1-14 is entirely
edited within the camera, as spontaneous and fluid as this ancient sport’s
greatest contemporary practitioners. In striking contrast to the hyped
up music video action tricks of current extreme marketers, Surf Movie
offers the true moves in real time. Conceptually grounded in its structuralist
formalism, the genius of Halsband’s wordless documentary is its
all-subsuming power, fully immersive and experiential, a post-modern
meditation on the oceanic alchemy that takes place where board, imagination,
athletics and ingenuity meet the sea.
Howard- Longboard Review
For a few decades
now, a surf film’s formula for success has been the same: Capture
world-class surfers in perfect waves and light, then edit the raw footage
to sync with a rocking soundtrack. However, Michael Halsband’s
new release, Surf Movie: reels 1-14, essentially throws that concept
under the tire and proceeds to drive over it.
Halsband is best known for the fashion and editorial still images he’s
produced over the past 20-some years from his Manhattan, NY studio.
His list of prestigious clients has included Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel
Basquîat, Peter Tosh, David Bowie, Hunter S. Thompson and John
Grisham, to name just a few. Recently, however, Halsband’s friendship
with ’98 World Longboard Champion Joel Tudor has helped expand
the list to include familiar surfing faces like Donald Takayama, John
Peck, Kelly Slater, Wayne Lynch, Jock Sutherland and many more. But
more importantly, it’s Halsband’s own interests and impressions
from surfing on Long Island that inspired him to assume this unique
approach for producing a film.
Make no mistake, though, Surf Movie is not a “longboard film.”
It probably doesn’t even fit into any known realm of the surf
film genre. What it is, however, is Halsband’s take on surfing,
the way it really is—raw and spontaneous—and the device
he uses to express his view is spelled out in the opening credits: “This
film is edited in camera. All of the reels are spliced together in their
entirety.” Meaning, not a single frame is cut out of it.
While there is some longboarding in it, the majority of the action revolves
around sessions of Tudor riding an assortment of board shapes, and includes
the rides of friends he encounters at home and while on the road. The
14 reels of spliced Super 8mm film were compiled during some of Halsband’s
travels with Tudor while the two were working on a book project together.
The result: an unusual approach to visually relaying the surfing experience.
For example, Halsband doesn’t edit out the real life happenings
of a surf sessoin besides just the act of riding itself—like paddling,
losing a board, retrieving it, paddling back out and chatting in the
lineup. Equally unique is the score by musician Richard Fortus—ranging
from mellow acoustic rhythms to modern rock techno sounds—that
was customized for Surf Movie after the reels had already been spliced.
Because of Surf Movie’s unconventional nature, it will likely
be written off by some as a failed art experiment. Some may even feel
that the raw camera work, grainy film stock and “edited in camera”
format hard to digest. However, if given the chance, viewers will find
that Surf Movie is like a book that’s storyline seems unsure at
first but then fully comes together toward the end. In this case, the
scene of Bob McTavish encouraging a very young gremmie, poignantly sums
up what Halsband is trying to say.
If you want to compare Surf Movie to other films, by its very nature,
it won’t measure up to mainstream expectations, and should probably
be avoided. However, if you are not afraid to think outside of the box,
and want a fresh look at the surfing experience, Surf Movie is a must