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Fifteen hundred hours of editing. That’s what Justin Gane reckons he’s expended on Re-Pulse, his latest film project. “I didn’t know how long it was going to be,” he says. “I cut it and it ended up at 2 hours and ten minutes. I had to go in and cut it more.
“I just wanted to get all the generations in there.”
He’s talking about “Re-Pulse”, the long awaited follow-up to Justin’s classic 1995 Aussie Passion flick “Pulse”.
Justin is 50 years old now, with three kids, one of whom is still in primary school. When the seeds of “Pulse” were sown, he was 23, surfing up a storm, and thinking about a pro surfing career with his mates Brenden Margieson and Neal Purchase Jr.
He suggested to Margo that they pitch in for a video camera, to take turns filming each other, trying to step it up to pro level.
Very quickly, Justin found himself on a knife edge: pro surfer, or film-maker?
Equally quickly, he made the choice. “It annoyed me that the kids around me in Australia were worshipping the American generation of that time,” he says.
“I wanted Australian kids to idolise Australian surfers.”
He shot and cut a film called “Unleashed”, produced 2000 copies, and “they just disappeared. They were asking me to print more.”
That tipped him away from his pro ambitions and into surf film world. The result was “Pulse” — a film that re-framed the surfing world energies of the time. Suddenly it wasn’t just Kelly, Rob, Shane and co; it was Margo, Purcho, Lee Winkler, Trent Munro, Rasta, Parko, Dingo — this pack of kids who were every bit as skilled as the superstars across the Pacific, but hadn’t quite known it till now.
“Pulse” was cut on a home computer. Ganey thinks it might have been the first surf film made this way, in Australia at least. He did it on a machine that’d been “souped up” by a computer geek buddy. “It had a 2.2GB hard drive,” he says. “The guy had to install a cooler fan. It was huge! Back then, that hard drive cost $1500.”
The machine could store around three and a half minutes of film at a time. Justin had to cut that much, export it all on to Hi-8 videotape, then wipe the computer and start on the next three and a half minutes. “It was a big project. Computers were shit then. Things would just disappear and you wouldn’t know what happened to them.”
Similarly, he devised guerrilla methods to get around the hostility filmers often encountered at less well known surfing locations. “I would go out and buy the shittiest little camera, but make sure it had a big zoom on it. Other guys had these cameras with big white lenses on ‘em and I noticed that people would get agitated when they saw those big lenses coming down the beach. I wanted to be incognito. I’d just say, ‘I’m just filming me mates so they can watch themselves surfing.’
“I was kinda jealous of other people’s cameras. But I could shoot wherever I wanted, I would never run into resistance.”
He also spent many hours building what he calls a “database” of surf shop owners around the country, constructing a film distribution system based on personal relationships. “I always distributed my own films,” he says. “Chris Bystrom was a mentor and he told me, ‘Don’t let anyone take your stuff, they’ll take the cream and leave you the dregs.’
“So I learned all about all these shop owners, How long they’d been there, their surfing histories, everything. I could call any of them and talk with them about stuff. I’d offer them three dvds and they’d say, ‘Nah I’ll take ten.’”
After “Pulse”, he says: “I didn’t have to sell my films — people would be ringing me, asking for them.”
“Re-Pulse” comes from a slightly different place: a realisation on Justin’s part that his original film’s stars were now adults, and a whole new generation was arising, smitten by social media. “I had Margo and Purcho telling me, ‘Get your stuff on Insta!’ I started digitising the footage and thinking, ‘Wow there’s a lot of stuff that could work here’.”
Then the pandemic arrived, and he saw a chance. “I thought, we’re all gonna be local now for a while … I didn’t know any of the young crew. But I thought I’ll get out there and film, see what’s going on.”
The result is “Re-Pulse”, and while the world is different today than back in 1995, there’s still a lot of resonance in this long-form style of surf film-making. Ganey is a fan of the Australian surfing family tree, and you can see the roots of that massive tree in both movies. He is hopeful that everyone will gain from it in some fashion: “This is a good way to connect and have an appreciation of each other.”