3 factors to making epic surf films (and Tequila) with filmmaker, Taylor Steele.
Legendary surf filmmaker Taylor Steele, has found a way to blend his passions to create something meaningful and memorable for the past 30 years. Whether it was his breakthrough with “Momentum”, his vision to pair the world of punk rock and surf films or now, with his unique brand of Solento Tequila, Steele has paid extra close attention to the small details that make the biggest difference.
On a recent episode of Artist Waves Live, Steele broke down three of his key components to the art of making surf films.
Surfing was always the lead horse for me, but filmmaking wasn’t far behind. I was making little Claymation videos and short films with me friends, and then shooting surfing as well. My dad and mom both surfed and they bought a video camera so that they would have video footage of them both surfing.
I was also friends with Rob Machado and he introduced me to Kelly Slater. I road their coattails and learned a lot on how to make films. It took me a good ten years to really know what I was doing.
When you give up on your dreams, what do you have? There’s a way. It may be hard work, but I knew I’d get there. In high school I was the third best filmmaker. But I cared so much more than them. That carried me through, and I learned how to do it by caring so much.
There early stuff was my standing on the beach with a long lens. As you get more budget you get more angles and more filmers. There’s always someone on the beach. As it grew, it became two guys on the beach and one guy in the water. Then we’d add a guy in a helicopter to film from above and a guy in a boat. We’ve used drones as well since the technology has gotten better.
I approach music a bit differently now, but back when I first started adding music to my surf films it was really to enhance the performance. I wanted the energy of the music to fit the intensity. Punk rock was my music choice at 18-years-old. It was music I could get. I would edit each wave to the drum cymbal. There’s a certain tempo with the drum cymbal where the spray flying off the top turn I would pair with the sound of the drum cymbal, and it would add energy to that turn. It was all about highlighting the surfing performance. I would edit on the song beats and to the drum cymbals. There was a certain formula I was looking for to always compliment the surfing.
I can’t avoid thinking of what the ocean does for patience as a surfer. You don’t know if the wave is going to come in five minutes or thirty. It’s a meditative state where you’re just sitting there waiting, not listening to music, you’re just waiting for a wave to come. Many times, you’ll be in a crowded lineup, and nobody is talking to each other. They’re all focused. Then when the wave comes, you just have to go and you’re reacting to what the wave gives. I was taught that early on and have applied it to sitting on the beach. I’ve had sessions where I’ve filmed 12 hours straight without a break and I’m focused on not missing a wave. That’s exhausting, but you have to get in the right mind space. Good things take time. If it’s something you care about, you don’t mind putting in that time.
WATCH: Steele’s full interview on Artist Waves Live: