Filmmaker Feature: Taki Bibelas

Taki Bibelas was born in Athens, Greece and grew up in Canada. He lives and works between Paris and Biarritz France as a photographer and film maker. He works for international fashion and art magazines and has exposed in galleries and museums throughout Europe.  His recent film, The Still Point, has won accaim at various international film festivals this past year. We recently caught up with him to find out a bit more about what he does.

When did you get into surfing? Have you always had a special affinity with the ocean?

I grew up in Canada so it came a little later then it should have. I was on a trip in Morocco with some Moroccan friends and one morning I woke up on a surf beach. I was hooked by the end of the day. It was at the end of my Morocco trip and I had to get back to Paris for a job, but 2 weeks later I was back at that beach. This was about 15 years ago.

What about filmmaking and photography? Where did you acquire your skills?

I was taking pictures since I can remember and making films with a super 8 camera since I was in junior high school. I traveled and photographed for a few years after university and then settled in Paris where I started working in fashion. I was an assistant for a bit a a big studio in Paris where I worked with a lot of well known photographers until setting out on my own. I continued in film, making music videos and art films.

What is your take on the current state of filmmaking in the surf industry? And what about overall in the world? Where do you see it going in the future?

I think its amazing, after years of seeing the same old surf films being made over and over we are seeing a huge release of creativity through the use of new affordable technology that lets people make quality images on film. Of course you still need to have the ideas and be creative in exploiting them and have something to say, but at least the are now doable on your own if you have to. I hope the surf community including the big companies will support this “local” creativity and not try to stifle it.

For those of us who don’t know, can you talk a little about your film, The Still Point? What inspired you to start this project?

I was fortunate enough to get to know Miki Dora in France and one day he invited me to a dinner with Stacy Peralta who wanted to make a movie about him. After that dinner I saw Dog Town and was really impressed. I had a chat with Miki who told me that he was too sick to make any movie and if someone ever made a movie about him it should not be a surf movie. I thought why not make a surf movie that was not a surf movie, a movie that had no surfing in it. Well, that was not completely possible, but it was the beginning. I ended up putting some surf in it. I also made it because I wanted to know why I and why anyone can be so attracted to the oceans waves so much that it can completely change your lifestyle. The filming was a journey to discover that reason. The reason I found, speaking with these masters of surf , masters of the sea and masters of the waves, quickly showed itself in the water, the answer was in the wave itself, the ocean, the water. That became the theme of the film, trying to share that information and the way of seeing the ocean and waves that takes into account that it might just be alive.

What was the process like in filming? How did you get in contact with them? And were they generally excited to sit down with you and share their stories?

It was amazing to spend time with those people. I learned things that changed my life to this day and it was a film that took me 5 years to finish. The way I got in contact with them was simple really. Miki Dora led me to Tom Adler, who led me to Steve Pezman, who led me to George Downing and a list of people who grew as a snowball effect.

Rather than having the majority of the film be shots of surfing, yours follows more of a poetic flow paired with philosophical dialogue. Tell us a little about the structure of the film and why you chose to set it up like that.

I had the feeling that to really understand surfing, for someone who has never surfed, they had to feel it more then to see it. Feeling is often more inspiring then seeing. The poem from T.S Eliot that opens the film described my feeling on a wave better then any image I have ever seen. “Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, The Still Point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance”

It must have been truly amazing to explore the minds of such influential ‘water-men’ … After completing your interviews, were you able to find any common themes between their beliefs?

As I said it really changed my outlook on my day to day living. I think a common point between those amazing people would be that they all had a spiritual connection to the ocean and they all understood that there was a life force in the ocean that we can connect with if we allow ourselves to forget ourselves.

It may be difficult to put into words, but how do you think your personal views or thoughts about the ocean were impacted from your journey?

Before making this film I thought that the ocean was just part of the earth that took up the most space. After filming I understood that the oceans were the source of all life on the planet and are still the source of that life. Before making the film I was stoked after a good surf, after making the film I am still stoked, but I thank the ocean whenever I enter it. I now se the ocean and the life in it as the main sorce of life on the planet and that we are just guests. Unfortunately we are not good guests.

Was there any one interview that was particularly thought provoking? Why?

They all had something that left strong memories with me. The time with George Downing was very moving and emotional and he is really part of surfing’s history. What he did at the time on huge waves with primitive equipment was amazing, Ricky Grigg amazed me with his perception of reality and his knowledge of the ocean and why we surf. Brian Keaulana was more in touch with the spirit of the ocean then I could have ever imagined before having met him and I walked away feeling I had met a real zen master, whether he knew it or not. I learned that we can become water.

Do you have any other projects in mind for the future?

I am currently working on a film about a race car driver, but the one after will be back to surf. I have written a fictional surf film and am looking for funding. Otherwise I am going to develop The Still Point film’s website called dancingonwaves.com. We will keep adding audio and video from the film’s out takes that we could not fit on the Bonus part of the DVD and I want to keep interviewing and filming pioneers and making those available through DancingOnWaves.com as an ongoing project of collecting these peoples thoughts, wisdom and feelings to be able to share.

For more on Taki, check out his website www.bibelas.com and The Still Point website at www.dancingonwaves.com

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