A corner of the earth

Interview with filmmaker Spencer frost by Oscar Long. 

SW: First off, what made you guys decide on the North Atlantic and up into the Arctic of all places ? 
SF: Guy (Director of photography ) and I had been chatting about doing a trip up there for years, I think initially it was going to be a bit more of a sight-seeing trip – but when we saw photos of guys actually surfing in those places we thought we had to give it a crack so we decided to try and make a project out of it. We asked a few higher profile surfers that we were mates with whether they would be interested and everyone seemed kinda keen on the idea but never 100% sold. I think knowing there was a really good chance of not even being able to surf on this (surf) trip freaked people out a bit. But Fras seemed pretty keen from the get go and when it came time to lock it all in and buy flights and everything he committed. Stoked we found someone to come with – haha- I don’t think any of us knew what we were getting ourselves into.

What mindset did you travel over there with? 
We kind of went over there with a bit of a “whatever happens, happens” mindset. I think you have to on trips like this – especially the time of year we went. There was only five hours of daylight up in the Arctic and some days we pretty much couldn’t leave our cabin because of snow, wind and wild weather. We got so lucky in the first two weeks chasing waves in the North Atlantic (no name dropping) – we scored some of the better waves I’ve seen with not a single other surfer around. We pretty much felt that everything was going our way, the project was looking good, Then we went on up to the arctic and got skunked for seven days straight, and for a surf trip, and trying to make a film, that’s pretty soul destroying. It looked fucking cold, what type of prep did you have to do in terms of equipment? It was fucking cold haha. Up in the Arctic it was 2 degrees in the water – icebergs and all – the air temp was anywhere between –5 and –20. It was so amazing when we did actually get to surf up there, but in reality it was pretty brutal – you can only ever surf for an hour or so and most of the time afterwards you’re in some pretty serious pain from the cold. For our surf gear we tried to prepare as best so we could, so ended up rocking 6 mm neoprene head to toe, with fingers so I could still control the buttons on my camera, but you’d be completely numb within 20 minutes.

Did you set out with a vision of what you wanted the film to be? 
I definitely had a vision of how I wanted the film to be and some dream shots I really wanted to get – but that was totally thrown out the window once we got up there and started working on the film. Every day, no matter where we were, I’d just shoot what I thought looked cool and told a bit of a story. Any “real moments”- like being freezing cold after a surf, talking to locals, and car sliding off the road were definitely amazing moments to grab for the film as well. But you can’t plan any of that, you just have to be ready for when it happens. Once I got back home I had the challenge of sitting down with almost two months of footage to try shape a story and make a surf film with it – that was the hard part.

Did you come across any challenges, in terms of getting around and finding waves?
The weather was always the first thing that we’d have to keep an eye on. It snows so much up there in winter that if the snow plows haven’t got around to the roads early enough you just can’t drive on them. A lot of the roads, and access to some of the waves, were shut during the middle of winter so we probably missed some amazing days of waves because we couldn’t actually get to them. 
Daylight hours also stitched us up big time – there was only around 5 hours so if the tide, wind or swell was wrong for a wave you didn’t really get another shot that day. One day we tied to pull over and the car ended up sliding into a ditch and the car was tilted on a pretty wild angle, a rock has gotten caught under the car and I’m fairly sure that’s what stopped us from keeping on sliding or flipping the whole car and rolling into a frozen river. It was a pretty crazy day.

In the age of Instagram clips and minute long web edits, was it tough to pursue making a proper surf film in terms of financing and support ?
For sure, it’s definitely been a tough one – especially because I self-funded this whole project from start to finish – which in the end was rad because I’ve had total creative control over it and also totally own the whole thing. I also think this film is so different to a web clip – I’ve tried to make this film cinematic and I don’t think chucking it online for the masses to watch for free will do it justice. Instead we’re hosting a run of premieres on full cinema screens (all over the place) with epic sound and then a bit of an after-party after each screening – which I think people will really enjoy. It’s more of a community vibe rather than just sitting at home watching it on an iPhone. At the end of the day I didn’t make this film to make money, I did it because I really enjoy doing it.

How does it feel now that the film has been selected for the London film festival ? 
Yeah it was amazing to get selected for LSFF – I actually missed their deadline but sent them a message and told them I’d have the film finished in 2 weeks if there was any chance of a late entry – they’d been following the trip and loved the idea of it all. Then once they got eyes on it they loved it and that’s that. It’s definitely a bit of reassurance when you’ve worked on a film for a whole year without having shown anyone to be selected straight off the bat into an international film festival on the other side of the world.

Are you planning on touring it anywhere else? 
We’e still not 100% sure what were going to be doing with the film – I’m pretty keen to see how it’s received at this first run of festivals then go from there – but so far it’s: London – 10th October, Santa Barbra 9th November, Avalon (Sydney) 10th November, Sydney 15th November, Byron Bay 26th November, Torquay 3rd January. If anyone reading this thinks they should have a screening in their home town or would like to help run a screening please get in contact on our website – www.acorneroftheearth.com


Surfing World