Filmmaker Feature: Riley Blakeway

Riley Blakeway snuck on to the scene after being voted the winner Stab Magazine’s Little Weeds contest by Kai Nevelle in 2009. His style and attention to detail have landed him into the forefront of surf filmmaking and have put some of surfing’s brightest starts in front of his lens. From shooting and editing “Now“, a film featuring his good friend and surfing’s most technical innovator, Chippa Wilson, to fashion shoots, skateboarding, and music videos, Riley’s feels that in order to be a good filmmaker, one has to go outside of the comfort zone of one particular industry. Obviously, Riley’s on the right track.

How did you get started into filmmaking? How old were you when you picked up the camera?

I got given my first camcorder when I was 9 years old. It took VHS tapes and the battery was broken so I could only shoot subjects in reach of the extension lead. I started editing when I was about 15 and got serious about it when I was in my last two years of high school. I’ve always admired time based art.

Being only 21 years old, how did you get discovered so early on? What factors attributed to your early successes in the industry?

The biggest contributor would be persistence. I was always raised to believe that if you want something bad enough then go get it. I worked under some amazing mentors on some good projects and I never slowed down. I won Stab magazines ‘Little Weeds’, released a cover-mount and worked on a project called lovers land all in the same month and I’ve been filmmaking as a career ever since.

How would you describe your filmmaking style? What are you trying to convey to the viewers?

I don’t like to pigeon hole my style too much even though I think most of my work has a distinct vibe. The most important characteristic to me is making my work evocative.

Having shot some of the most progressive surfers on the planet, i.e. Taj, Chippa Wilson, etc., where do you see the future of surfing going? What do you think we will start seeing in the near future?

Hard to say. Chippa is in a league of his own when it comes to technical skate style tricks. It’s only natural for surfing to look to skating or snowboarding for inspiration but I really can’t see anyone coming close to Chippa’s tech ability with board varials at the moment. I filmed him do a fs big spin a couple weeks ago. The grabs are getting better and better. Every up and coming kid can do a slob air reverse these days it seems like. It will be really interesting to see what some of these kids are doing in a couple years time.

Who has been your favorite surfer to work with? What makes that connection/relationship work so well for you?

Chippa for sure. We came up together and we have allot of mutual respect. He’s one of my closest friends and he appreciates the time and effort that goes into making surfers look their best. He’s a hard worker and damn he’s consistent.

With technology advancing so rapidly and the internet allowing for a worldwide viewership, where do you think the surf film industry is heading? What is going to take to have your stuff stand out and get the views?

Premise. If theirs no premise then it doesn’t matter how well you can film and edit, you won’t get the views. I think the online content will just get better and better until DVD’s are totally phased out. It’s a sad truth but I think it’s only a matter of time.

It seems as though many surf filmmakers, i.e. Taylor Steele, Blake Myers, yourself, etc. are also shooting fashion. What is the connection to the fashion industry and surfing? How do you approach a fashion shoot differently then you would if you were shooting surfing?

I don’t really consider myself a surf filmmaker that shoots fashion. This year I’ve shot more fashion then surf. Surf filmmaking just combines two of my favorite pastimes. A good filmmaker should be able to shoot all matter of subjects, regardless of their industry. Shooting surfing and shooting fashion are polar opposites, I think the most important part is being comfortable working with talent.

What’s next for Riley Blakeway?

Man, I’ve got about 10 edits to finish and I just shot a short film in Fiji with Taj, Chippa and Jay Davies. So I’ll be cutting that up for the next couple weeks then I want to start working on another feature. I have so many projects I want to do, there’s just not enough hours in the day!

For more about Riley, visit his website at

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