The Sea, My Soul

Stephen Jones has been working on “El Mar, Mi Alma” for a few years now. That’s not unusual for filmmakers, but we’ve seen the clips and have been waiting so patiently to release it, and it’s finally here. We have a few clips to share, along with an interview with Jones to get an idea about the whole film, how it was shot, and how they managed to keep the whole thing independent (hint: Kickstarter). To kick it off, check out this bonus clip of Dave, Joel and CDM snagging a long Chilean left:

Yew! Now, here are the details from Mr. Jones:

Tell us about the film El Mar, Mi Alma. Who is it about? Where do they surf? When/where can we watch it?

Shot entirely on 16mm, with an enchanting soundtrack, the film is a visual love song to the surf blessed land of Chile, its people and the ocean that defines it. Featuring striking landscapes and seascapes, insightful commentary, and the surfing of Dave Rastovich, Ramon Navarro, Gabriel Villarán, Dane Ward, Chris Del Moro, Joel Parkinson, Crystal Thornburg, Cristian Merello and Diego Medina.

The journey begins in the arid north of Chile, slabs and reef breaks, then travels some three thousand kilometers south between the Andes and the sea, through the Atacama desert, the colorful port town of Valparaiso, to Pichilemu, Punta De lobos, and the long sand bottom left point breaks Chile’s renown for.

Since premiering in Chile the film has screened in cinemas around the world including official selection in the 27th Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the 32nd Hawaiian International Film Festival as well as receiving numerous awards at genre focused international film festivals. We’ve toured the film independently around Australia and in Europe, as well as screenings in Japan. It’s been our intention to get it on the big screen as much as possible, for people to have the cinematic experience and keep an age-old tradition of surf films on the big screen alive. It’s the best way to view it – mesmerizing.

How did you decide on following those surfers?

The adventure began when Tatiana Velasco (producer) and I met with Dave Rastovich who was planning a trip to Chile with Surfers for Cetaceans and wanted to do something special. Teaming up with master Hawaiian surf cinematographer Dave Homcy, companioned by (now wife) longboarder Crystal Thornburg, we journeyed the coast capturing the surfing action, landscapes, and seaside culture of Chile on 16mm film. Tatiana and I organized the Chilean surfers and Rasta had his surfing buddies join us along the way. Parko had time off between events and came along for the second half of the trip. It all just came together like that, people joining in along the way.

Chile crew (Jeff Flindt)

So you took this on as an independent project. How has that been? Worth it?

The film has been self funded and independently produced. We tried to get financial support through the screen industry and several surf brands with no success. Financing has been the biggest hurdle. We’ve taken it one step at a time. We ran out of money after the shooting so postproduction was slow, especially as we had to process and digitize film. Through the generosity of the musicians we recorded some original music for the film, so that took time too. Since we completed the film we’ve toured extensively, screening in cinemas as much as possible. In Europe we’d make enough from one show to get to the next… most of the time ha! It takes a great deal of commitment, patience and passion to see it through. Being able to share it with people after putting your heart and soul into it makes it all worth it, especially touring it and meeting people along the way.

Dave Homcy & Stephen Jones (Crystal Thornburg-Homcy)

Have you done other films that weren’t independent? How was this different?

I’ve worked in commercial television production and in production on big budget feature films, totally different, opposite end of the spectrum. Mega budgets with finance in place and massive crews with departments dedicated to every aspect of the process, as opposed to scratching together a dollar here a dollar there and doing a bit of everything yourself.

Dane Ward (Jeff Flindt)

What equipment were you using?

DOP Dave Homcy brought his 16mm cameras and lenses. I brought sound gear. I also had video cameras for behind the scenes. We shot the film on an Arri High Speed SRII Super 16mm camera and a Bolex Super 16mm camera, the water sequences on a Miliken High Speed underwater camera.

You probably had tons of footage to work with. How did you decide what stayed and what got cut

We did a second trip to shoot some more water footage, plus we had a few shots from a friend Blake Copland who’d been to Chile and shot Ramon Navarro and Gabriel Villaran on 16mm the year before. In all we had a little over 10 hours of raw film footage. The basic premise was to compile scenes geographically from north to south, as we’d travelled on the road trip. The edit process was largely about marrying the vision to the music scene by scene, with intimate cultural insight.

The first cut was too long. We did some advanced screenings, got some feedback, and trimmed the fat. A lot of what didn’t make the final cut is in the DVD bonus section, it’s equally as good as what’s in the film, just couldn’t fit it all in. We’ve also got about 80 hours of behind the scenes video footage too ha! But that’s another story.

left lineup (Hilton Dawe)

From start to finish, how long did you work on this?

Too long ha! Preproduction was 6 months. Initial shoot was 1 month, plus an extra few weeks travelling around doing interviews. Pick up shoot was 2 weeks. Postproduction was part time over 2 years. We’ve been screening the film at festivals and touring on and off for over two years.

Rasta righthander (Jeff Flindt)

What are your distribution plans?

We’ve recently released it on DVD. The DVD pack includes 30 minutes bonus footage (9 additional scenes) and 3 postcard prints containing sea inspired poetry. It will also be available on download before the end of the year. The soundtrack is available on iTunes.

We’re now planning a US tour for early December with shows along the West Coast and New York. To make it happen we’re in need of a little support ~ we’ve got a campaign to help get it on the road. In return for money pledged we’re offering DVD’s, t-shirts, limited edition prints amongst other rewards including a 7-day trip for two to Tavarua Island Resort. You can pledge your support and help us bring ‘El Mar, Mi Alma’ to big screens in the US by donating here ~

DVD & Soundtrack available here –

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