Reel Talk: Beyond the Surface Filmmaker Interview

The San Diego Surf Film Festival is around the corner and there are a ton of great films on the list this year. One is Beyond the Surface, a documentary about surfing, yoga and spirituality in India, as experienced by pioneering women in the region. For filmmaker Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, spending eight weeks driving up and down the Indian coast, absorbing the culture and riding the waves was “a great reminder of why I love to surf: just for the pure joy of riding waves.” In this interview, she shares details on her filmmaking career, the difficulties of filming in such a go-with-the-flow kind of place, how it’s been hard to break into the mainstream film fests due to the surfing aspect of the film, and the retro gear that she and her husband were determined to use to make this film. Check out the trailer below, and if you’re in San Diego, you can catch the whole thing at Bird’s Surf Shed on May 10 at 9 p.m.

Why India? How did you get familiar with the surf culture there? What prompted you to make a movie about it?

My husband and cinematographer, Dave Homcy, and I have worked on various projects together such as, Sliding LiberiaEl Mar Mi AlmaCome Hell Or High Water, and Dig It, to name a few, but we never had full creative control. This being a dream of ours, we made a commitment that we would only shoot using film, first and foremost. Dave and I had so many ideas of what our first film was going to be, and of course, this film was nothing we could have planned.

Beyond the Surface Film India

I was approached by Emi Koch to work on an article for the women’s magazine FOAM, and it was then when I heard about her efforts in India with her non-profit Beyond The Surface International promoting and funding the Kovalam Surf Club, and Social Projects they are partnered withI have a very strong connection to Asian culture, art, and spirituality, so it immediately drew my attention. I had never really even thought of surfing in India, for some reason, but I knew I wanted to adventure there to explore it and it’s growing popularity.

We teamed up with Freetheo Productions to make the whole project come to light. Our film Beyond The Surface is about Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer, joined by a unique group of women – myself, Liz Clark, Lauren Hill, Emi Koch, and Kate Baldwin. With unshakable determination for a better world, we traveled through Southern India documenting the ways in which surfing, yoga, and ecological creativity are bringing hope and fueling change for local people and the planet.

Beyond the Surface Film India

Right now is a very exciting time in India to witness the up-and-coming surf culture. It’s so new and fresh, and was a great reminder of why I love to surf: just for the pure joy of riding waves. The surfing culture is starting to sink in with surf contests happening around India for surf clubs to come together and compete. Some find it an opportunity to possibly become professional and gain sponsors, while others just do it for fun. It’s becoming very popular and has been a great thing for their community. Surfing has brought a positive impact on tourist beaches due to the fact that locals can rent out surfboards or even give surf lessons, as well as offer ding repair. Surfing has also been a great outlet for people to enjoy nature and it gives an opportunity to wash away the day’s worries.  I believe that the more people who gain that bond and respect for the beach and the ocean, the more will want to keep it clean and protect it.

How long did you spend shooting there? 

We spent a total of about eight weeks filming in India for Beyond The Surface driving up and down the coastlines trying to absorb as much of the coastal cultures as possible.

What were some of the difficulties of getting this film made?

One of the hardest things we encountered while making our film was organizing any sort of plan while traveling throughout India. It was a good thing that everyone in our group, for the most part, was very flexible. Because Asia is definitely a place you can not plan for, you just have to relax as best as you can and let the county take you where it wants you to go, and experience. That being said, I think it adds a rawness to our film because everything is very much documentary style.

Beyond the Surface Film India

What is the process of submitting to film festivals like? 

Submitting to film festivals has been an interesting process because our film is so distinct, it incorporates aspects of social issues, environmental happenings, spirituality and yoga insights as well as an homage to the sport and art of surfing. In some cases, it might be hard for the larger mainstream festivals to commit to our project because of the surfing aspect, mostly. They normally don’t screen films that focus on a “sport.” But, we have had an overwhelming amount of support from around the world already and we are thrilled to share the film with such a diverse audience. I’m sure as the film is being released we will have other opportunities for unique screenings.

Beyond the Surface Film India

What gear did you use? Anything that you wished you had that would have made the process smoother? 

Our passion and number one mandatory aspect of making Beyond The Surface was to actually shoot it on film. It was entirely shot on 16mm motion picture using Arri SR2, Bolex, Milliken, and K100 film cameras. Sound is always a challenge when making a film, but we made do and with the help of our camera assistant, Erik Knutson, things rolled a lot smoother. Another cinematographer would have been helpful, but it also would have added more gear and dynamics to the experience.

Have you made other movies like this one? 

I don’t think there are any other films like Beyond The Surface. Being a film focused on women, and one with such intertwined stories that highlight gender, the environment, philosophy, and all the while capturing our adventures on the road finding waves to ride, I think it’s one of a kind.

Beyond the Surface Film India

What’s next for you?

Dave and I are now focused on life back at home on the North Shore in the garden, ocean and spending time with family and friends. We hope to set off on some fun trips this summer and fall to tour the film at various venues. Dave will more than likely continue to work on the T.V. show Hawaii 5-0 as camera operator this next year as well as other fun film projects on the side. I’d like to tap back into my fine arts, such as ceramics, and photography. Possibly brainstorm on our next film collaboration.

For more info about our film:

Website: www.beyondthesurfacefilm.com

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