It is back. After taking a year off due to the pandemic, the London Surf / Film Festival returns offering a few days celebrating all things surf cinema – the shorties are making a come back too, showcasing the best short edits from the UK and Ireland.
For that part of the world, LS/FF is the surfing cultural calendar event to stick in your diary. Good vibes, run by a highly frothing and passionate crew always makes for a party. Now in its 10th edition, aka the 10-year anniversary (we'll forget about last year) Demi Taylor and Chris Nelson, directors of LS/FF sound more fired up than ever.
Book tix here!
And to celebrate the festival's return on 2-4 December 2021 at The Genesis Cinema in East London, we tapped up the duo for a special interview about the then and nows, plans for next month and just how terrible the surf's been around Cornwall recently. (Which is why the likes of Larry are very welcome, fingers crossed he arrives all good -- see HERE!).
Note: Shorties entry has been extended until October 15
Congratulations on the 10th edition of LS/FF! When this all first started, did you envision it'd ever be where it is now?
Demi Taylor: Thanks! Ten years, ten editions, when you stop and think about it, it does feel like something of a milestone.
But when you’re investing time and energy into something you love, then it’s easy to lose track of time. I know it’s an oft-used phrase, but we really have evolved the festival organically; moving and changing according to the times as well as our gut feelings.
The festival was born around our kitchen table in the deep mid winter a decade ago. We talked late into the night about creating a coming together that celebrated our community and elevated the creatives, surfers, and filmmakers we have here on our shores. We wanted to bring together together the best of film, art, culture, community. That’s what it’s always been about.
So, what did that original mission-statement look like with LS/FF, and has that changed over the years?
Chris Nelson: Our original mission was two fold – to curate a line up of the best films possible that reflect the here and now, and show them on the big screen in a way that honours what the filmmaker has created.
The second aspect was to make the experience as immersive, inclusive and interesting for the audience as possible – so not just showing a film, but hosting a screening – with the filmmaker or the stars if possible, in the best format with the best sound. That’s how we started year one and we’ve aimed to do that each year since.
I think for British surfers, it’s one of the standout events of the year, an opportunity to get the community together and experience surf cinema – what’s been some of the standout moments for you over the past 10 editions?
Chris: The obvious standout moments are the big premieres with big names – like Momentum Generation with Rob Machado or Stephanie In The Water with Steph Gilmore there in person – but then equally there are those sleeper films that have flown under the radar but we know will blow everyone away – like when we premiered North Of The Sun that Director Inge Wegge thought would never play outside Norway… but went on to win the Surfer Poll and scoop awards around the globe. Watching him surrounded by so many people wanting to talk story with him after his Premiere, that’s a pretty hard moment to beat.
Demi: Opening night, year one was pretty electrifying. The cinema was packed to the rafters, not a spare seat in the house. That sense of anticipation in the air and then the buzz in the bar afterwards with surfers and filmmakers from all corners coming together – Keith Malloy and Adam Pesce from The States, Allyn Harper from Scotland, Aleksi Raij from Finland, and all The Shorties filmmakers from across the UK, all those surfers, that really was something else … I mean we’d been imaging it and planning it for nearly a year, and then everyone just came together!
Last year was a rough time for everyone, but you put on the Lockdown Surf Film Festival, which was a small glimmer of hope for people who wouldn’t have access to those movies if you hadn’t – how was it received and would you consider moving to an all-digital format in the future?
Chris: It all seems a bit of a blur now looking back – but at the time there was a real uncertainty – not just in the surfing world but in the world in general. Surfing was banned in many countries.
People were confined to their homes. Honestly, it was an emotional response – we had the idea, reached out to friends and filmmakers across the globe and a week later, launched.
There was a real community of surf creatives who all pitched in. The idea was to just connect surf communities across the world through shared movie nights with features introduced by the filmmakers themselves – to keep the surfing stoke going through the dark times.
We got to revisit some of our favourite films and reconnect with some of our favourite creatives. The response was phenomenal - I think people really appreciated the chance to not only watch great movies – but to do it as part of a shared viewing experience – even if that was virtually.
We were getting messages from people from all over the world who were stranded abroad or just isolated at home. But I think it was very of the moment and it’s great to be thinking about bringing the community back together in person.
What’s in store for the 10th edition, or is it hush hush while things get confirmed?
Demi: It’s so good to see the very best films back where they belong – on the big screen, in surround sound watched by an amped audience of like-minded crew.
This year has been a tough one as we have nearly a hundred submissions and they are all great films – so making the choice and curating the line-up has been especially hard.
There are always films we’d love to screen but we just don’t have the space – and that’s always frustrating. We’re working to get as many filmmakers and surfers to the festival as possible to showcase their projects, plus we have live music and some very special workshops too.
What would be your dream line-up?
Chris: Our dream line-up is always the one that reflects the diversity that exists in our culture – surfing has such a rich heritage and we want to celebrate that, all of it.
We always try to curate a selection of films that highlight chargers and stylists from across the spectrum of ages, genders, backgrounds, sexuality, countries and cultures, from big wave chargers and high performance surfers to stylists through hard hitting documentaries, action movies, comedies and shorts, travelling from the North Shore of Hawaii to the most frigid corners of Finland or the most remote coastlines of Africa.
We want to get stoked on big hacking turns and informed about subjects that have avoided the spotlight until now.
And any special guests?
Demi: The fluidity of the current pandemic has changed our plans somewhat, and we have to be flexible as things can change quickly, but we are planning on a number of exciting guests at this year’s event… watch this space!
The Shorties are back! Did you send the word out beforehand? I guess people have been sitting on clips for some time now anyway.
Chris: The Shorties is basically the foundation stone for the festival. The quality of UK and Irish filmmaking is, we think, up there with anywhere in the surfing world. So being able to showcase that is super gratifying. What I like is there are filmmakers who we have been talking to about their projects for months – and then there are those that just arrive – boom! And blow everyone away. Honestly, this is what I’m looking forward to the most.
Also, how’s the surf been in Cornwall right now?
Demi: What surf [laughs] We’ve been digging deep and digging out the fins and the bellyboards so we don’t dry up! Getting to watch so many awesome films these past few months has definitely helped keep us sane – but also made us more amped to go surfing. Bring on the onshore slop, we’re ready for it!