Hangs Upon...Something (A Backstory)


I was trying to document Chuck Corbett's wanderings in Kiribati and also shoot some surf footage. I had already done four-and-a-half months as crew on his boat, the S/V Tuaraoi, most of that time spent in Hawaii fixing it up, then sailing it down to Christmas Island, a nine-day passage. I had some establishing footage, but almost no surf footage. I wondered if I'd be able to make a surf film materialize at that point. I almost threw in the towel.

I decided I had to get back home to Indiana for a while. There was no surf when we had arrived down on Christmas Island midsummer. I flew home, regrouped, worked, and then headed back down many months later to continue trying to make a surf film.

There was no room for me on Chuck's boat the first week I was back on Christmas Island, as writer Michael Kew and his crew had flown down on the same flight and were staying onboard. So I stayed on land, and decided to stay out of their way for the week.

Not having much to do, I figured, well, I'll bike into town with my Bolex. The visiting crew were out surfing and shooting in London, the main village of the island. I was impressed by their surfing—it was beautiful to watch. The waves were not amazing that day, but the colors were, and I'd never in person seen anyone surf at this level. There was a safari hat-clad photographer (Chris Burkard) shooting handheld with a long lens from shore, moving around everywhere, far back from the beach, shooting rapid-fire. It reminded me of a camera machine gun.

I pulled out my Bolex and shot a bit of footage, too, all handheld. I had to. It was all so beautiful. There were village kids gathered on the beach to watch the show. Later, one of the surfers was on the beach, shooting with a video camera. I went up and introduced myself. It was Mikala Jones.

"Is that a Milliken?" he asked.

"No, it's a Bolex. It's 16mm, though."

I briefly met all the guys on the beach that day. Kew had arranged the trip, recruiting surfers Josh Mulcoy, Nate Tyler, Mikala, and Daniel Jones, along with Burkard. I went back to where I was staying and decided to edit a trailer for my film, to try to get on Chuck's boat before they all left, show them the trailer, and see if any of them would want to be a part of my film project.

I worked hard the next few days, editing something together from time-lapse footage plus some surfing footage I had shot in different places, mostly on video.

I managed to get onto the boat the last night they were aboard. They were watching a surf movie at the time, and they all seemed pretty tired. I asked if I could show them a trailer for my film.

I showed them the trailer and everyone liked it a lot. The surfers said sure, come shoot with us anytime. Mikala and Daniel gave me an invite to meet up with them in Indo next time I was there, and to shoot with them. Everyone was really cool to me. I'd expected to possibly be met with egos, but the opposite happened. They were all welcoming and down-to-earth. Nate Tyler gave me one of his sponsor’s hats. They were all really encouraging, and it gave me a boost to see that these guys appreciated what I was attempting to make.

This chance encounter with Kew and crew ended up shaping the rest of the film project. I met up with Mikala and Daniel in Indonesia a few months later, and, slowly but surely, “Hangs Upon Nothing” became reality.

It seems to be a polarizing film—either people like it a lot, or they don't like it at all. I'm still trying to figure out if there is an audience for it. Some people tell me it had a profound effect on them, and then some dismiss it. It's the sort of film you have to be ready to sit back and just take in for 90 minutes. It's not a party film or action sports flick.


"Hangs Upon Nothing" site

"Hangs Upon Nothing" Instagram

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