After the success of his award-winning short film Uncommon Ideals, UK film director Chris McClean is back with another short film offering (this year commissioned by Channel 4) that’s been doing the film festival rounds. In fact if you’re in the San Sebastian area this weekend, there’s a screening of ‘Beyond The Scars’ at this year’s Surfilmfestibal tomorrow.
We’ve only seen the teaser but Beyond The Scars looks to be based on the North Sea surf experience again. How does it differ from your previous hit Uncommon Ideals?
They’re different on several levels, Uncommon Ideals was about the waiting for a swell (which generally happens quite a lot in the North Sea) and the beauty lying in its inconsistency. We also shot the majority of it in Norway so landscape wise it’s more spectacular. Whereas Beyond the Scars is about that swell filling in and meeting north east and Scottish reefs. Our best season is the depths of winter so it definitely has a darker more intense vibe to it. Hopefully we’ve captured that once-in-a-blue-moon, cracking winter’s day that North Sea surfers live for.
Who does it feature?
It features Gabe Davies, Sandy Kerr, Fergal Smith, Jesse Davies, Ollie O’Flaherty and Ben Howard makes a fleeting appearance.
This year you were actually commissioned by Channel 4. Were you happy with the way the film came out?
Yeah, it kinda came out the blue half way through production; by this point I had a pretty strong idea of where it was heading. Opportunities like that don’t come knocking every day, so the pressure was definitely upped. We had a tight crew so I knew if it turned out sub-standard they’d be the first to pipe up. The response has been great, it won best international film at the Shore Shorts Festival in Dublin in April so yeah we’re stoked with how it’s been received.
Did you come up against any obstacles?
Waves! They seemed to avoid us. We had plenty of okay sessions in the bag but finding that killer session was hard work. We ended up calling C4 and asking to delay as we spotted a chart for the NE that looked promising, it ending up being the best NE chart in three years. It made the film really.
It’s the second time you’ve teamed up with Daniel Crockett, whose poem you set the film to. How did you guys meet/end up working with each other?
I think it was through his independent magazine/newspaper KOOK, I saw something he’d written and dropped him a line. It was a very loose idea at that stage but I loved the way he connected words and the fact he had the North Sea in his roots. We spoke the other day about doing a third in the series… can’t wait to hear what he comes up with for that.
The surf short really seems to dominate today. Why do you think that is?
I’m not quite sure, I guess in the increasingly online world we live in, it can be seen as a quick fix for viewers, film makers and brands to get a message out there. But with a short you do have more license to experiment too, there’s not necessarily so much riding in them. If it’s bad it’s forgotten in days, if it’s good it can get two million hits, like ‘Dark Side of the Lens’ for example. Either way it’s great to see such an eclectic mix of surf films coming out online these days.
Have you done much other film work before these two shorts?
Nope, nada. Uncommon Ideas was my first experience in film-making.
Will you now look to do something different in film?
Yeah, I’ve been working on a mini-doc with the band Maximo Park that screens on C4 in the summer and a few other music video and documentary pieces that are in the works. Plans are afoot for a longer European focused surf film, but a full length film is a totally different kettle of fish to a 5 minute short, so we’ll see how that pans out. And I’ve just agreed to do a surf series for EPIC.tv that will kick off in the autumn called ‘Atlantic Diversions’ so pretty pumped on that… look out for it!
For those who can’t make it to the festivals, when will the full short will be available for viewing online?
Think C4 have removed it from their site now, but we plan to put it online at the end of the summer after this run of festivals. We’ll keep you posted!
Director: Chris McClean
Producer: Gabe Davies/Lola Cove Films
Directors of Photography: Lewis Arnold + Chris McClean
Edit: Chris McClean
Poem: Daniel Crockett
Read by: Jeff Hordley
Colour: Robert Thomas – Darlings Post Production, Amsterdam
Sound Engineer: Will Evans
Sea Recording: Andrew Taylor-Maskery
Additional Camera: Kevin Smith
Title Font Design: David Beckitt