This is it, the culmination of the Southbound series. Seven countries and 8000 miles later Mikey and Rita arrive at their final destination, the southern coast of Portugal.
This throughly modern travelogue format only exists because of the internet, YouTube, and all the other gubbins of our tech-driven lifestyles. And documenting travel in this manner is a tough slog, this is certainly not escapism by any means. We caught up with Mikey to chat about the process behind producing the series.
How would you describe the final episode Mikey?
Our two athletes represented here showcase very different ends of the surfing sphere, with the graceful longboard skills of Andrea Molina Torn counterbalanced with the power based shortboard approach of the hard charging Eric Rebiere. Just like the full European experience, ending with this diverse mix of gender and styles feels appropriate. We were also very fortunate to have the amazing Frankie Chavez from Lisbon perform the soundtrack for us, which he did on a 12 string Portuguese Guitarra.
The two things I would hope to achieve, or at least feel I’ve given the person who has watched it, is some inspiration to go out and have their own adventure, and if they cannot do that, then at least some pleasant escapism and entertainment.
Tell us a bit about the Southbound project? Where did you go? Who did you travel with?
The Southbound series was a documentary of a European surfing road trip, starting up in the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway, and ending in Southern Portugal. Although we were hooking up with local and travelling surfers all along the way, it was essentially just my wife Rita and myself doing the full journey together in our van.
What do you hope to achieve when making a surf flick? Do you have a specific audience in mind? Or a rationale with the creative process?
The two things I would hope to achieve, or at least feel I’ve given the person who has watched it, is some inspiration to go out and have their own adventure, and if they cannot do that, then at least some pleasant escapism and entertainment. With the Southbound series I was appealing to a wider audience, and hopefully this is reflected in the diversity of surfing styles and approaches featured. I suppose that this idea of having mixed styles and approaches to wave riding resonates more with how I like to travel and document a travel piece, to be open to new and different experiences that occur along the way.
How do you come up with ideas for a new project?
The biggest inspiration is probably trying to figure out what I really want to do. Once I work that out then I see if I can formulate a project around it. Either like that, or working hard to come up with a concept that I believe will have appeal, and then seeing if I can marry a sensible budget and production plan to the concept.
Was there a fixed plan when you set off?
The plan was to start in Norway and end in Portugal. Originally it was going to be three months, with six edits, so every two weeks pop an edit out. Things changed and it became four-and-half months.
Did you propose the idea? How do you go about getting someone to fund a surf trip?
What surf trip? This was all work! Just kidding, but I did have 17 edits to complete, so it did feel as though the work element was constantly a priority.
Epic TV were looking for someone to produce a series documenting some European surf spots through the summer, and although there was just enough budget to do this, I felt that we could do something a lot nicer with a little more budget, so I proposed the idea that I shoot the Southbound series alongside the spot guides. By being able to deliver two projects I could justify the request for more budget. In this case i was really lucky as a friend had passed on my details to the guys at Epic TV, but usually its a lot of cold calling and emailing to try get your ideas in front of someone.
Do you find yourself over promising to swing the deal?
It’s hard not to really. When you sell the concept, you have to really sell the concept! It’s based on best case scenarios, but Mother Nature is certainly not going to respond to financial incentive, or outright pleading and tantrums. When I left for this trip I did have a mild panic attack that we might just get skunked the whole way and not get waves cos it was really mid-summer, but luckily we managed to score waves in all the regions we needed to get an edit from.
How tough was it getting the edits out? If you are having fun then are you doing something wrong? I.e. not filming enough…
There were moments it was pretty tough, especially when it was firing! It’s way harder holing up in the van, or wherever, and getting an edit out though, beacuse then you’re not even on the beach shooting but geeking out in a dark corner instead. All in all it’s not too bad, beats any other job I’ve had, and I actually really enjoy the creative process of editing, and shooting from the water. I’m now enjoying shooting off land more too and finding interesting angles, but for me water is where it’s at. It’s almost as good as surfing yourself when you nail a good clip.
Do you sometimes feel that filming can get in the way of a good surf adventure?
Yes and no, it’s like ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds’ scenario. I would always prefer to be on holiday and just going on an adventure, but having the film production aspect for me seems a great balance between work and play. If I won the Lotto I would film less, and surf more probably, but until then I’ll just try keep the two in some kind of harmony. I also find working with people that are involved in the project is a great bonding experience, and I don’t think my trip would be as rich and full without that element to it. The camera is like a magical tool that connects you to people and place.
How has the internet altered the way you approach a project?
Was there life before internet? All the digital film production I have been involved in has been for the internet, so I have not had to change anything in my approach. I do think that producing for the internet is a very specific art though, with short audience attention spans as well as competing with a constant stream of available content as two factors that are very specific to the online platforms.
Travelling is like mouthwash for the brain for me, just freshens up my perspectives.
How often did you sleep in the car?
Roughly half the time over the duration of the trip probably. At least two months. We were also put up by so many amazing people, to which we are very grateful for too.
What do you love and hate about travelling?
What I love is meeting new people and that feeling when you wake up in the morning and you don’t know what the day is going to present to you, what person you might meet, or what little mission you might be on later that day. Just getting little gifts from the universe. When I’m home I get into a routine but travelling is like mouthwash for the brain for me, just freshens up my perspectives. The only thing I hate about travelling is having to deal with things like visas, and saying goodbyes.
Just English really, but have a very vague working knowledge of Afrikaans, Dutch, Spanish and Bahasa Indonesian.
Do you stay in contact with the homeland or cross your fingers and hope for the best when you are away?
Im crap at staying in contact, every now and then I might have some beers and get emotional and send a message to someone, but all-in-all I’m bad at staying in contact. My wife is brilliant at it though, and so she makes sure postcards get sent to all the relatives and friends!
Where would you like to go for your next trip?
If I won that Lotto I mentioned earlier it would be all my best buds, our better halves, a nice boat and some empty waves in warm water. In the meantime I’m planning production on the next series which is going to be North Atlantic focussed this winter, so scary alpha males thumping chests in windswept freezing car parks and horrifying waves threatening to rip my face off.
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