We recently sat down with the king of surf filmmaking, a man who has won numerous awards for his contributions to the sport of surfing. Read on to hear about the new The Endless Summer Directors Special Edition DVD, what Bruce thinks about the action sports world today, his words of wisdom to aspiring filmmakers, what his favorite movie is all time, and why he just bought a new gun. Yup, this is good stuff my friends.
Dailystoke.com: First, we want to thank you for taking the time. Your contributions to the sport of surfing are unmatched, so it's a real honor.
Bruce Brown: Well, I just feel real fortunate, glad you said that…
Dailystoke.com: We recently interviewed your son, Dana Brown (see it here), and he said you bought him a super 8 movie camera when he was 10 years old and how you influenced him, so it begs the question: who influenced Bruce Brown? How did you get your start and what drove you to make films?
Bruce Brown: Surfing influenced me!! I got some cheap still camera to take pics of me and my buddy surfing. Back then, we were the only surfers. Then I got an 8mm movie camera to show other people, and to recruit someone to go surfing with. I took it with me everywhere. I was on a submarine in Pearl Harbor back in '56 or '57 and I took bunch of 8mm movies on The North Shore and other places.
Bruce Brown: Yes, they did a really good job. I am really pleased to be with Monterey Media, they have all my films now, and they are like family. Many years ago, god maybe before VHS, they had Endless Summer, and years later I went back with to them with Endless Summer and On Any Sunday.
Dailystoke.com: In one of the behind the scenes segments on the new DVD, you say “the perfect wave was just what we found, not necessarily big…something that anyone could surf.” That statement says a lot, and made us think. Do you like what the sport of surfing is all about today? Are too many kids jumping on shortboards too early and is the attitude more aggressive today than it was, say, back in the '60s?
Bruce Brown: Oh yeah for sure….All the spots today are more crowded and the only place you had any aggression back in '50s was Malibu. Most other places you wouldn't have to worry. Not only that, but how about trying to find a place to park today?! Some days, I say, maybe I'll stop by and watch a bit, but jesus, I can't find a place to park! (laughter). At Cape St. Francis that day, anyone could have surfed it.
I am not much for the competition aspect of it because so much has to be held in crappy surf. But, people are now making a living from surfing. That is something we never dreamed of. When I first met Wingnut, he said he wanted to make living surfing, and I said wow that's cool. Now it's mainstream, but in the '50s and '60s you were an outcast, you didn't want to mention it some circles. Then when drugs entered the scene, too many good guys got caught up. I'm a super anti-drug guy, but thank god it wasn't my era as I would have been hooked!
DailyStoke.com: When did drugs really hit the scene?
It started in the late '60s I think, since I was never into it, you never knew the people that were doing it. Then you had people saying Mike Hynson was smuggling marijuana during filming…that was bullshit. He didn't do it during the movie, he mentioned in India he smuggled drugs in film cans, his recollection is different than reality. I would have never given those film cans to anybody.
Dailystoke.com: We have a bunch of surf filmmakers as readers, if you started BROWN BROWN FILM SCHOOL what would be the steps to make a great movie? What would you tell our readers who are aspiring surf moviemakers? What are the keys to success?
Bruce Brown: Well, number one, don't go surfing! Unless you have a camera in the in water…because you're going miss half of the good stuff. Some guys want to film, but go surfing and miss it. You can go on crappy days. It's a lot of work. People don't realize it, to make things happen, because nothing ever goes according to plan. Oh, the sunset is really good, but then it's something else.
The other thing is to make sure you have a good surfer to shoot, a good surfer can make crappy waves look much better.
Dailystoke.com: So who is/was good to shoot?
Bruce Brown: In the old days, Bill Edwards, Dewey, Butch, all those guys. Pat O'Connell and Wingnut were great. Today, there are so many guys that are so good, it's just amazing. You used to be able to drive by a surf spot and know who it was, now there are tons of guys.
Dailystoke.com: On Any Sunday was a huge success. Are you amazed at how far the actions sports industry has come since then? Today we have action sports 24/7 on Fuel TV, X Games, etc….
Bruce Brown: Yeah, it's amazing, all the stuff people are doing. I'm a fan of some of it, other parts of it not so much. That doesn't mean I don't admire people doing it. Guys like Travis Pastrana, he's a great role model for Motorcross.
When I filmed On Any Sunday, we had trials going over logs, now they are jumping over houses and road racing is now a multi-million dollar business. Visually, it's still spectacular. The only thing that hasn't changed is the flat-track. Motorcross back then was Levis, a t-shirt and a helmet. Now you have sponsors and vans.
Dailystoke.com: What is the craziest thing that happened while shooting the Endless Summer?
Bruce Brown: Oh god, every other day was crazy. I guess when we flew to Senegal, we had all this excess baggage and they wanted to charge us $300 bucks (a ton of money back then). We would have had to stay in Senegal. We somehow talked them out of it, though. The funny thing is I met some guy a few years back, he was a member of Senegal Surf Club, there are a lot of good surf spots in Senegal we didn't even know about then!
Dailystoke.com: What is your favorite movie all-time, surfing or otherwise?
Bruce Brown: The Great Escape, I met John (Sturges, the director) once at Steve's (Steve McQueen) and asked him do you sit in the editing room for months on end? and he says, oh yeah. He started out as a film editor. That's what a lot of guys don't realize, its a lot of work.
Dailystoke.com: So what's next for Bruce Brown?
Bruce Brown: I switch interests about every 2 years, I was into restoring old cars, motorcycles, model airplanes, hadn't owned a gun (rifle) since the '60s and now I'm interested in that again on my ranch. I target practice, that's all. I haven't been surfing in a few years. When my wife got cancer I felt it wasn't appropriate. Then when I did surf, I was in such bad shape I thought I was going to get killed!
Dailystoke.com: OK, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. We'll be sure to tell our readers to check out the Endless Summer Special Director's Edition DVD.
Bruce Brown: Thank you.