[Photo courtesy & Copyright © John Isaac]
SJ: Where did the idea for Land of Saints come from?
Lee: The name came from an old painting in Truro Cathedral but the idea itself came from my need to share my thoughts and feelings on surfing and use Cornwall as a canvas and its characters to share that joy and stoke of surfing.
SJ: It’s been a long while in production now, how long has it been in the making?
Lee: Two years in the filming and getting on for ten months in the post-production. It’s really important to make sure that all those 100’s of hours spent filming were actually not just abused once we got to the point of post-production. It’s really important to make something which really did reflect our own little perspective and try and share this little point of view and lifestyle.
SJ: What was the worst part about making this film?
Lee: Pretty simple really – not being able to go surfing. Being a surfer and knowing that during the Winter months that I’d walked miles and miles trying to find all those little spots and basically try and discover them myself and then work out how they worked, when they worked, what swell direction and winds and that sort of thing and then know that I haven’t surfed them myself and then ring up the boys and say, ‘look I’ve got an idea for a place that we can shoot. No crowds and then just get down there and get waves and then be standing there watching them. Surfed places I hadn’t surfed before and I discovered myself so that was really difficult.
SJ: Did you do a lot of the filming yourself?
Lee: All the filming was done myself. I had a bit of contribution of Super-8 footage from a friend of mine called Steve Cameron who’s got a real nice eye.
SJ: What were your favourite memories about making the film?
Lee: Just seeing the three main surfers and a few others really start to see it come together and get stoked on it and go out and get good sessions and all feel that it wasn’t just going into history but that it was being documented and that was really really nice. The whole experience of the camaraderie in the making and production of it. It’s not one of those films where somebody has turned up videoed and gone home, it was a very very close thing that we were all doing and we kind of formed our own production company if you like.
SJ: In the finished article, what were your favourite bits of the film?
Lee: I think the introduction of Alan Stokes, Mark Harris, and Lee Bartlett and me being able to really tune into their characters and try and bring that out. I wouldn’t say any particular sequence or session would be a favourite. I’ve seen some pretty heavy sessions going down and really putting themselves out to get some really good footage so I wouldn’t like to pinpoint anybody as having the best wave or being the best surfer but yeah bringing the guys characters out was really nice.
SJ: Are there any nasty or close-calls in the film?
Lee: Yeah there were quite a few. You see Stokesy getting locked into some pretty heavy barrels, going through it, and just really putting himself on the line. There’s a few boards in the faces and that sort of thing but there were a few heavy sessions with Egor and Stokesy and a couple of nasty spots that we went to and not all of it made the cut but there’s a few heavy ones there.
SJ: The spots covered were all in Cornwall? What would you say about them?
Lee: It’s all Cornwall, the whole thing is Cornwall. I won’t say anything else, I’ve always protected the spots and anything that did give away spots then I would clip and cut out. I got some beautiful line-up shots but I knew there’d be people on my back if I left them in the film.
SJ: On the adventurous side what would you say about some of the areas covered?
Lee: There’re hidden treasures and places which I’ve seen since which we didn’t get to but there are a lot of places to go and find good waves if you just don’t turn up at Fistral and pay the parking fee!
(Photo courtesy & Copyright © Shiraz Jiwa)
SJ: Do you think it showcases Cornwall and offers something new?
Lee: Alan Connor uses this phrase that, the final film looks like a picture postcard. I hope it doesn’t crowd the line-up by painting this picture of the place and having a real nice adventurous way about the film and setting this dream into peoples minds. But basically it is going to make people want to come down here and surf. The vibe of the film itself brings these people out of the woodwork and gets these people adventuring with the right sort of attitude just to chill-out, respect each other and just to get a bit of joy out of surfing rather than just to trying to make themselves look like the next Kelly Slater or Mick Fanning.
SJ: You’ve already mentioned the likes of Lee Bartlett and Mark Harris in the film. Are there any other notable names?
Lee: Oh yeah. Obviously Tom Curren. Three Days with Tom Curren was pretty amazing. I can guarantee there’s tens of thousands of surfers that would just love to meet the guy let alone spend three days trying to get to know him and get his vibes so I could put a sequence together.
SJ: What do you think makes Land of Saints different from other films out there at the moment?
Lee: I haven’t tried to hit a commercial market with an idea of what’s going to make money and what people want to see. I think if I tried to make something that people wanted to watch then that film is already planing them, their own lives. So what I tried to do was come from my own perspective, our perspective, like the collective of the people I’m working with and then just put it out there. And because you’re working with a group of individuals and using their viewpoints on collective ideas then it’s going to be different from another set of people so it’s definitely going to seem really different to a lot of people.
SJ: What do you plan to do next?
Lee: I don’t want to give my ideas out too much! Again I think that the UK surf community really does need something more to feed off but basically since they see a perspective or viewpoint of what’s going on in this country then it puts their own lifestyle into perspective. Basically, the more it’s documented, the more we can build a general set of ideas of what surfing is in this country and maybe grow as a community more.
SJ: Is Land of Saints 2 in the pipeline?
Lee: Maybe not. But there’ll probably be some Cornwall but we’ll get some bigger maps and stretch it further afield. The surfers I’ve worked with have almost formed their own little production company as far as working with me is concerned. There are some people that I really want to work with or more but I think there’s been a core formed that people have gravitated to who wanted to make a certain kind of style of film. So yeah, there’ll be plenty to come I reckon.
SJ: Any last words?
Lee: Just like to thank all the surfers for all the effort they’ve put in especially Alan Stokes, Lee Bartlett and Mark Harris. They’ve put in a lot of hard work there, and a couple of cars went ‘Ka-Boom’ on the way. Just to thank those guys, and the guys who worked with me on the music and soundtrack – all the musicians who contributed. They helped me have the freedom to add the soundtrack and make the film what it is.
SJ: How will you measure the film?
Lee: I will measure its’ success by how much it might bring to a surfers ideas of what the surfing lifestyle is, the approach to surfing, and how much entertainment and stoke people get out of it. It’s a chill-out film, but there’s still plenty of stoke in it, and that’s how I’ll measure the film – by how much they get stoked off it.
SJ: The amount of gossip and talk about the film probably makes it one of the most eagerly awaited of all time?
Lee: I’m not totally naive to the fact that we’ve worked everybody up about it because such a lot of work has gone into it. I really wanted to make sure there’s a good audience there to receive it. It’s all been a little bit pre-meditated but it hasn’t been held back for too many reasons other than to make sure it’s been well made.