For years, the surf industry has been spitting out brand sponsored long-form surf videos (movies). “Surf porn” as it is known in the industry. The surf videographers take whatever just arrived yesterday, state-of-the-art-video-camera-of-the-moment, along with a bunch of cards and hard drives, the athletes and the brands are trying to push… and they head to some remote surf destination to shoot catalogue shots. The surrounding video for those shoots gets stitched together in montage form, added with a Bon Jovi song or two that has been licensed to play solely at the Sandusky High Film Festival, plus a couple of songs from the Director of Marketing assistant’s garage band, thrown in with some cheeseball new film grain filter from Final Cut, and voilà… a surf movie! But not George Trimm! George has made the most innovative, Anti-Surf Porn piece of surf cinema the industry has seen in a long time. It has a real narrative. It has real music. It is a comedy?! And it can honestly call itself something that 99% of the others can’t… a FILM!
New Movie “Forbidden Trim” Might be the Most Bitchin’ Surf Flick Ever. It’s probably the coolest thing I’ve seen since that one time Jesus turned wine to water. – The Inertia
Surfer Mag says “Forbidden Trim” can’t get here soon enough! It won’t be another brick in the wall of traditional surf films. It will leave a bold mark on the genre, like a signature in black spray-paint, reminding us: Forbidden Trim was here. It even won best surf film trailer of the year.
“Masterpiece, this is going to be worth watching, we guarantee you!” – San Onofre Surf
“One of the most intensive surf movie projects ever. Like nothing er have seen before in the surf world”. – Grind TV
Yes, Forbidden Trim was shot on real honest to goodness celluloid. It takes about 1 nanosecond to see that this work of art was NOT captured by pixels or ones and zeros. It is a spectacular work of film art and beautiful to look at. You get to watch surfing, narrative and the beautiful and refreshing look of film at the same time. Candidly the screenshots we have here don’t do the picture quality just. Projected on a screen, the images are simply beautiful!
While so many action sport productions are shooting 8K video out of a bird, shooting another heli shooting 8K, (there’s the actual subject matter of the shot in there somewhere) pointing at someone putting their skis away or holding onto a jet ski, Trimm chose to make a surf film! He made it like Bruce Brown or Warren Miller would have and again the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Seeing the true film grain of Forbidden Trim on screen makes you wonder what the hell we’ve been thinking for the last decade watching surf videos that look like surf soap operas. While so many bands are headed back to 8mm and Ron Howard is about to launch his new Beatles movie steeped with 8mm, Trimm has smashed a new narrative, real music with the esthetic of real film and created something that will stand the test of time – an 8mm Surf Film.
We spoke to George about the experience:
What was the inspiration for the movie?
The movie is basically a Surf Spy Military Sci-Fi Comedy. So we had a lot of inspirations. I tried to grab from a lot of different sources and put them all together. Old surf movies, Spy films, Military films, b-movies, and the pulp art of Bruce Minney. My crew also made 27 of the 31 songs in the film. Our musical inspirations were Martin Denny, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, and Mark Ribot to name a few.
Was there anything above and beyond that were you trying to accomplish?
We wanted to make a narrative feature film. We wanted to create own our music. We also wanted to try to make a film that would be one of a kind. Something hard to copy. My main actor and co-writer Colin Whitbread is really good at building miniature models. So we wanted to use miniatures effectively, and beyond all we just wanted to have fun making our first full length feature film. My girlfriend Danica Elbertse was a producer for the film as well, so for years we were all working together putting the puzzle pieces together. The whole experience was well worth it.
Most motion picture artists make surf porn. You added narrative. Talk about your reasoning for the narrative?
I think every movie tells a story. The surf industry unconsciously cycles this narrative in most surf videos, i.e. “We went to really awesome places and scored perfect waves, did a lot of tricks and we are so cool.” Forbidden Trim didn’t have a corporation backing it so we could tell whatever story we wanted. I also wanted to step up my game and make a film with a complete theme, score, and sound effects track. Most surf directors make videos that are basically montage documentaries. For a non-surfer, looking at tricks performed over and over is boring. Forbidden Trim is less about tricks, and more about a coherent story that will make you laugh a little bit.
Talk about the locations in the movie?
We shot mostly in Costa Rica and mainland Mexico. We also filmed in Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Philippines, and Cambodia. We found faux jungle in California. We shot behind my house and even in a patch of palm trees we found under the 5 freeway bridge in Oceanside. There are also some secret locations I can’t mention.
Talk about some favorite moments making the movie?
After four years of laboring on this film, Colin, Danica, and I managed to take our last filming trip to mainland Mexico. The waves were good for two weeks and I could really focus on shooting super 8mm in the water. I took my water housing out on a surfboard. Inside was my Beaulieu 4008 super 8 camera. I managed to paddle into a wave, stand up with my housing, and film Colin as we surfed along. We repeated this for hours and I got really awesome shots, probably some of the best I’ve ever taken. Coming home and seeing that footage in the telecine room was amazing. Later that month Surfer Magazine wrote an 8-page article about the trip in their March 2016 issue. Showing the film has been great. Vans started sponsoring some of our events which is a great help. We sold eight hundred tickets at our premiere. People were laughing the whole time and I was finally comfortable calling the film a Comedy.
So why did you shoot on film?
There are many reasons why I shoot film. The first most basic level is because I respect the art form. When I decided to be a filmmaker I really wanted to do just that, use film to tell a story. I am infatuated with the history of film and skeptical about digital video cameras. Most directors would want to shoot their movie on film and they make up excuses on how that’s impossible. I don’t really believe that and did what I could to make my first feature exist on celluloid. I like the idea of having a physical image burned into film rather than a bunch of ones and zeros.
How did you get into shooting on film?
I grew up watching old surf films. Endless Summer, The Inner Most Limits of Pure Fun, etc. So I fell in love with that look. Great waves in exotic locations, all shot on film makes for a magical experience. My friend Scott Stinnett started shooting on super 8mm for his skim board movies. He showed me some of his results and I saw a chance to capture some of that beauty represented in the old surf films.
What are the benefits of shooting on film?
I tend to be more focused when shooting film. I have to be selective. There’s something special about having a finite length of film in your camera. Film makes me edit before it goes into the camera. It also saves me time when I’m shooting on a set. I tend to move through scenes quicker and more efficiently. It makes me plan better. If I have a complex scene I have to shoot, I make sure I have it exact in my thumbnail sketches. Super 8mm is better than 16mm on the beach when I’m shooting surfing because it is easier to load. It takes me 10 seconds to pop in a new cartridge and stay focused on what I’m filming. Another benefit is that there is such a cool community of people in film who want to help each other out. Shooters, loaders, rental houses, the lab, Kodak, etc. all are there to help. You have a family with film that wants to help you make something amazing. With video, you have to hire and pay for help. With film, people come out of the woodwork to help. And then Kodak is ridiculous. They are like a built in marketing force.
Additionally, it is amazing the amount of consumers who just care about film! They don’t care what the subject matter is, they just want to see something that was shot on film. But probably the best part is that virtually every film festival is craving movies actually made on film. Our movie got in everywhere. We are starting a run of festivals and screenings all throughout Europe and those will be on actual 35mm film prints including London, Paris, Amsterdam and a whole host of others cities. I have heard that 8mm films transferred to 35mm are crazy beautiful. I can’t wait to see those prints!
And lastly with press, I could have never gotten the press I have gotten if I would have made my movie on video. I am doing this piece here which seems like it will be great. Pretty much every surf magazine did a significant feature on the movie. How does a little movie with no corporate sponsor get an 8-page spread in Surfer Magazine? And when the trailer came out Surfer Magazine said it was the Best Surf Film Trailer of the Year. The Inerita said it “Forbiden Trim Might Be The Most Bitchin Surf Flick Ever” While there are a gazillion surf movies every year made on video, there was only one that was made on film and that separated it from the pack.
What are the differences between film and video?
Besides the obvious image qualities, the process of shooting surfing is really different between to two. There’s a joke about “checking the clips.” This is when a surfer gets a good wave and they get out of the water to watch the playback. It’s ridiculous. With film you have to be patient and wait. By the time you’re on the airplane home, the once blank rolls of film now have images on them and you guard them with your life. I like the process of turning them in for development, then having to come back to watch the transfer. I love watching the transfer because of the suspense up to that point. When you see the images for the first time in the telecine room, it is amazing and all your hard work pays off. Most people shooting digital video are obsessed with ease of use. With my films I focus on the craft. Hopefully the outcome has more depth and isn’t about quickness and ease of use. The process is interesting to me and the fact that not a lot of people can handle it creates a buffer between my style and the rest of the circus. But the most important difference is the way the image makes you feel. You see a video image and you feel a film image. There is depth to it. Film is actually 3D. It is layer upon layer of emulsion with floating dye clouds and silver halide crystals. Film and video are so, so different. They don’t look the same and the process for making movies is different. I like film better on process and esthetic.
What film stocks did you use?
I tried everything.
• 50d is a great stock to shoot in Mexico or Australia because the sun is super bright.
• 100d reversal: The best stock for shooting surfing, something about the blues and greens.
• 200t: This is the stock I used the most for my film. Can’t really go wrong with it.
• 250d: is great for mid-morning and when the sun starts to get less intense.
• 500t: Another favorite of mine. Great for anything low light and sunsets/sunrises. (known as the golden hours.)
What do you tell someone who thought that shooting on film was impossible?
It is easier than you think. Work your ass off, shoot film, have fun and make history. I’m glad I shot it on film. Do something different and make your own style.
Where do you process the film?
I go to Pro8mm. Phil let me sit in on the transfers and I used this time to talk about everything regarding super 8mm. I really learned a lot from him. He took a liking to my film and would give me pointers and steer me in the right direction, not only about the technical aspects of filmmaking, but also the business of it all and how to navigate that. Thanks Phil!
I’d like to thank the cast and the crew who worked hard on Forbidden Trim. I’d also like to thank the additional bands that are featured in the film, The Growlers, La Femme, and The Budos Band. A special thanks to the Kickstarter backers and everyone who has helped show the film. Thanks to Pro8mm for providing me with beautiful scans. And thanks to Kodak for being there for filmmakers and providing them with the best film around! They are the best.