Demi Taylor’s 5 Favourite Short Surf Films

Demi Taylor, London, September 2019. Photo: Owen Tozer

London Surf Film Festival and Lockdown Surf Film Festival Organiser Demi Taylor on her favourite surf indies.

“The thing for me about short films is that it’s such an accessible, egalitarian form of filmmaking, and one that I think often allows for the most originality and expression. It’s not about the size of your budget or the quality of your equipment but rather your creativity, and your ability to craft a story and draw your audience in. In surfing we have that great oral tradition of storytelling – of the sessions, the legends, the places, the characters, the boards, the journeys, the moments in time. There is such deep vein to mine, and so many ways to tell a tale. 

It’s hard to pick my five favourite anything… it kind of depends on the day so I’ve focussed in on those independent shorts that really resonate, raise the bar and move the conversation onwards. I’ve focussed on narrative rather than performance surfing as I feel the bigger budgets and brand-backed films often have the edge here”.

1. George Greenough – Echoes

“This is a singular piece of cinematography. POV may be an oft-used mechanism now but in the 1970s when George Greenough strapped that 13kg camera rig to his back – a jerry-rigged 16mm film camera in a water housing – and paddled out on his spoon he took us inside the barrel for one of the very first times, offering us a shared surfing experience.

Echoes is more than a technical success and a celebration of the DIY surf mentality though. It’s 22 mesmerising minutes of light and water and sound… and it’s that perfect intersection of surf, art and music, and of course collaboration with the mighty Pink Floyd”. 

2. Mickey Smith – Dark Side Of The Lens

“When this film came out it won every award going and rightly so. It shifted the narrative, reframed what surf movies could look like. Ten years on it still feels groundbreaking, and still has the power to move you, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Everyone should see this film.”

3. Chris McClean & Mark Waters – Uncommon Ideals

“Then Chris McClean and Mark Waters came along with Uncommon Ideals and did it all over again. Combining visually arresting cinematography (very little of which was any actual surf footage), original poetry from Dan Crockett, music from UNKLE (that they managed to use because they asked and the band believed in their project) and produced using Chris’s wife’s student loan, Uncommon Ideals won the very first edition of London Surf / Film Festival Shorties homegrown short film strand. It set the bar, and it set it high.

The film went viral, won countless awards at numerous festivals and set both filmmakers off on their own very successful journeys. But more importantly it is a real testament to how creativity and ambition, rather than cashflow can and should shape a film. It’s also one of the most – ahem – ‘emulated’ films of recent times”.

4. Crayfish – The Shaper

“The Shaper is so funny and so wry because it threads such a fine line. Rob Lockyear and Jeremy Joyce are award-winning filmmakers and talented comedy writers because they have the canny ability to capture the zeitgeist and poke fun at it without being mean or demeaning. Rather, they take you along for the ride so we’re laughing ‘with’, not ‘at’. It was a toss up for me between this and their first film Wreckers (which shows just how well you can tell a tale in 2 minutes 30). They’ve gone on to make a number of award winning surf films including Freezing and The Outrider, which was Surfer Poll nominated”.

5. Peter Baker – Maurice Cole: The First Wave

“With filmmaking you ask yourself, what am I trying to say? How am I adding to the conversation? And with a great documentary you want to give your audience a better sense of the character and real story that drives them. This is that great film. It tackles so many issues – race, identity, mental health, community in such a short space of time, and does it beautifully. It makes you feel, it makes you think, plus there is some incredible surfing in there to back it all up”.