VIDEO EDITING IS A UNIQUE BEAST.
As all filmmakers know, it’s behind the editor’s desk that the magic of all great films comes to life…
Or that the all the efforts put during production/pre-production of a project can be ruined. It’s a delicate balance, one that demands sensibility, cut throat decision-making and nerves of steel. Yup… no one will ever know (or care) how many times your export glitched, that the files you’ve been given are the wrong frame-rate or that Premiere crashed on you at the end of the day.
Despite what most would think, the success of our all time favorite surf & skate movies depend largely on the decisions taken by these dark cave heroes, and one whose work we’ve been digging for a while is Matt Payne.
Matt’s contribution to the visual aesthetic of surf and skate culture might be ignored to an undiscerning eye, but the ones who know, know that he’s up there with the best of his generation, being behind some of our favourite films of the past few years: Chippa’s Octopus part. The Cult of Freedom series. Sammy Montano’s iconic Globe part. Dylan Graves’ Explosion Salad… you name it. Working hand in hand with Joe G, Matt has been a key part in giving these projects a singular look & feel, and if you’re wondering about his personal work, just wait to see his upcoming independent projects. Rumour has it he’s been up to something good with one of our favourite Californian goofy footers… But enough of that, you’ll be hearing more about it here very soon!
In the meantime, we’ve been wanting to chat movies with Matt for a while, and when asked about some of his favourites, he came back with some absolute gold. We’ll leave it with a note from the man & a few titles we urge you to get your hands on.
“In making this list, I kinda wanted to feature some films that I can relate to as a surf filmmaker and I found that the documentary genre is a really interesting world that shapes hours and hours of footage from real life scenarios into watchable 2 hour gems. I tend to admire documentarians because they are working as a one man band or in small crews most of the time, and still make incredible stories that shine a light on a person or storyline that normally wouldn’t fit into a traditional narrative structure. Here’s some engaging real life stories where the filmmakers play fly on the wall.” — Matt Payne.
1. American Movie, Chris Smith (1999)
This documentary is an absolute classic. Chris Smith (the filmmaker behind Netflix’s Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened) documents Mark Borchardt, a blue-collar suburbanite and his dreams of being a filmmaker in rural Wisconsin. He’s basically using his family and friends to make an amateur horror film called Coven but runs into alot of speed bumps on the way there. It kinda just goes to show how hard it is to make a film (even on a small scale like this direct-to-dvd cult video) and when I’m stressing over an edit or something, I pull up scenes from the cast/crew freaking out on set of this film and laugh. Both filmmakers went on to be successful and lauded cult figures later on in their careers.
2. Burden of Dreams, Les Blank (1982)
Another making-of filmmaking disaster classic. Documentary filmmaker Les Blank follows German cinema god Werner Herzog through the Peruvian jungle while making his doomed masterpiece Fitzcarraldo. The struggle was definitely real here and I always quote Werner’s regal freakout in the jungle with his classic Bavarian accent.
3. Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog (2005)
On that note, Werner is the all knowing sage of documentary (he has a masterclass to prove it). Perhaps his best and most famous doc is probably Grizzly Man where he follows the footsteps of madman Timothy Treadwell making friends with wild grizzly bears in Alaska. This one is great as a one-off viewing but I seriously recommend going down the rabbit hole and watching all of Werner’s films (both doc and narrative). I also love how he randomly has these unexpected cameos in cool TV shows like the Mandalorian, The Simpsons or Rick and Morty.
4. Spinal Tap, Rob Reiner (1984)
This is the gold standard of mockumentary. My friends Joe G and George Manzanilla would quote the shit out of this when we were working on editing Globe’s Strange Rumblings and I was like “what the hell are you guys talking about?” then I dove into it. It gets better with every viewing. Spinal Tap basically takes the piss out of rockstars and shows how dumb it is when you take yourself too seriously. If you watched shows like Trailer Park Boys, The Office or Parks and Recreation, you can definitely see its influence.
5. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, Mami Sunada (2013)
This is a really insightful documentary into the life and mind of Hiyao Miyazaki, the man behind Studio Ghibli animation. Not to mention this is directed by a rad female filmmaker! I love all the animated films but really seeing what goes into making them and his story that lead him to becoming a legend in Japan is remarkable. There’s also something really poetic about Miyazaki’s life ethos.
6. After Life, Hirokazu Koreeda (1998)
Speaking of Japanese films, I couldn’t have this list completely all docs but this actually has some meta camera work within it. I discovered that this was one of Spike Jonze’s favorite movies and I can see why. Basically the story is that after death, people are stuck in limbo at a station where they have to choose one memory to keep for eternity. Then a film crew recreates it and sends them on their way into the afterlife. Prepare to get existential.
Strange times then and now. I don’t really need to introduce this but Apocalypse Now is an iconic benchmark for all cinema by F.F. Coppola starring Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper and Marten Sheen for sure. But once again, filmmaking is never as easy as it seems. His wife Eleanor Coppola and crew document the chaos that ensues.
8. Litmus, Andrew Kidman (1996)
Just realized that I need to include some surfing in here. I hate when people act super inspired by everything except the specialty craft that they work in. In fact, I’m super inspired by so many surf films and I could create huge list (but I think Tanner Gudauskas has that covered). The underground classic Litmus has had a bit of a resurgence lately and its really cool because it documents alot of my favorite eccentric surfers like Tom Curren and Derek Hynd getting weird in the 90’s. The soundtrack is raw and real by the Val Dusty Experiment and it’s definitely worth a late night viewing if you haven’t seen it.
9. Junun, Paul Thomas Anderson (2015)
This documentary Junun is really awesome too. Paul Thomas Anderson is probably one of the greatest filmmakers of the 21st century and we all know his narrative films. But did you know he’s friends with Radiohead and lost all of his camera gear in customs to document Johnny Greenwood making a one-off album in India? He basically had to use a BlackMagic Pocket Camera to film the whole thing and what he makes out of those constraints is amazing, in addition to the music.
10. Don’t Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker (1967)
I’m not a die hard Bob Dylan fan but since D.A. Pennebaker just passed away last year, I figure I’d highlight how he’s probably one of the most crucial documentarians of all time. I sometimes profile surfers/ skaters / musicians and it takes a bit of luck and alot of skill to catch someone’s vibe on camera without having them come off as awkward or arrogant. The way he captures Bob Dylan in his prime without ever intruding on his space is mind blowing and it feels like you’re actually there with him along for the ride.