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From the World, Interviews December 5, 2023December 19th, 2023

Kai Neville talks ‘Vacuum’

It’s been eleven years since the first motion visuals were seen from Kai Neville for Epokhe, the eyewear company started alongside friends Dion Agius and Mitch Coleborn. Fast forward to 2023 and the brand has put out in excess of 80 video pieces across commercial, profile and full length surf film formats. In accompaniment their surf & skate roster seems to have multiplied ten fold and the number of SKU’s injected each season has been nothing short of admirable knowing the size of their operation behind closed doors. The brands latest offering? A 40 minute ‘lo-fi’ surf film by none other than Mr Neville. Once the dust had settled from the premiere tour we reached out to our old friend and mentor for some intel on the making of.


Since the last full length-er all the way back in 2018 you’ve put out some phenomenal short films with Epokhe such as ‘Ceremony’ amongst others. At what point did you guys decide you needed to put out another full length film with the entire Epokhe cast?

It’s been a minute but I’m stoked you have seen the short form content in the meantime. The process of this film was unintended and not forecasted. I wasn’t in the mindset to get working on a long from, hesitant to commit to such a beast with the pull of work and family. I know what an undertaking they can be when you lock yourself into that editing dungeon. We did one EPOKHE team trip down the south coast and I was thinking ‘Beauty Pockets’ spec style of film. I feel like the team had other intentions! They kind of started just saying we are making a movie. My hands were kind of tied. But I’m thankful they did, for the nudge and support. I forgot how much I love making surfing films, especially longer form. Getting back into the edit process of this threw me into the days of cutting films like ‘Dear Suburbia’.

How long did you work on Vacuum and at what point did you have to put a definitive deadline on the project release?

I think it was around August this year the team in the office said what is going on with this film. You need to finish this thing. So they got around it, pulled some resources and cleared some time in my calendar to just lock in for around a month and start slicing. The hard drive was literally just hours or collected clips from various moments paired with three team trips. A shit show to say the least. I had no idea ‘VACUUM’ would become of it. It’s been a year and a half in the making.


There’s an eclectic mix of music throughout. Is most of the music selection done by yourself or do the surfers chime in for their parts a lot?

I have playlist dedicated to surf films I’m forever building. Creed was my partner in crime on the soundtrack. He was really engaged in this project, his taste and submissions were on point for the tone I was taking the edit.

We’ve seen some wild premieres happening across the pond for it which is always nice to see. When creating and editing these longer projects do you take into consideration that the younger generations attention span probably isn’t what it was when you first started in the industry with social media and everything else being so dispensable these days?

Maybe that’s where I’m selfish or wrapped up in my own directors ego but with long form surf films and I place ‘Vacuum’ alongside projects like ‘Cluster’, I eject all guidelines or ideas around formats and let the project just be what it is. I don’t really think about attention spans or how long its digital shelf life might be. Just work with what is on that hard drive, bust my arse to make something that feels good to me. Something that might spark a tiny emotion in the viewer.. it may find its way onto a screen in some little bar in Europe, or some kids phone. I do put a lot of energy into these longer projects. I guess it’s my art and like all artists I’m pedantic about the most minute details that  will obviously go unnoticed.There’s quite a few new faces in this film… Who’s been the latest recruit?

Lungi, Kanaiya & Jai are the freshest. They literally jumped into the EPOKHE family while I was in the final stages of editing. I’d say they will have a bigger role in the next one. Awesome kids. So humble and amazing to watch. I’m looking forward to doing trips with them.

How does the recruitment process work at Epokhe for new team riders? Do you have a team manager or is it more of a collective decision?

Collective. Surfers will come up in discussion and as a team we talk through if they are someone we see working with, traveling with. Dion, Creed, Craig have that mentoring eye and are big influences. Hopefully through the team and brand we can help new riders on their own journey too.

Creed Mctaggart was the very first team addition if we’re not mistaken, and it seems after the best part of ten years onboard he’s got the most clips in this film… Would you say he’s ageing like a fine wine?

Yes, 2023 was the year to cork for Creed. I was just thinking today how good his rail surfing is and when did it all of a sudden hit another level. Watching his old parts they have nothing on the surfing he is doing in ‘Vacuum’. It’s so refined and powerful, his style has morphed into something that looks very original. I would love to take him and shoot some more scenes on iconic point breaks. He is in a good zone right now.

Talking of ageing like fine wine, we were blown away with Dion’s surfing in this film. How has it been for you to see him stay at the top of his game since you guys first started working together 20 (or so) years ago?

He doesn’t miss a beat old dinky boy. You think about his contemporaries from Modern Collective era. Dion is still on the road nailing hammer clips alongside younger surfers in their peak. Tasmanian energy and maybe no kids. I’m happy he still has a thirst for making surf films, he’s not bitter and is still frothing, getting younger crew amped. He pairs himself with good shooters and like minded people. His corkage might still be a couple years off.

Occy has been on Epokhe for a couple of years now… how did his section with the old Jack McCoy footage first come about?

That one was a long time coming. Jack who is hands down one of surf filmmaking’s greats I’m lucky to say has been a supporter and now mentor. He came to the premiere of Lost Atlas, introduced himself, sat down and watched the film. I was blown away. We connected after and have been toying with the idea of collaborating. He invited me, Dion and Craig to his farm on the mid coast of Australia a couple years ago and blew our heads off with around 20 hours of unseen Occy footage. He’s a frother, ‘what do you reckon boyz some gold in there’. He asked me to jump in the edit chair on a cut and as life does I got pulled away (a second child will do that) and it took me almost another year to make the trip back down the coast. His sequences from Green Iguana were a stand out for me. Jack’s can’t go for longer than 3 minutes (I pushed it to 4). Chose one location and one look (wetsuit etc). I kept cross checking the original Green Iguana and couldn’t believe he hadn’t used this footage. Occ is just demoing waves. A+ clips that would hold up with any surfers today. Watching The Green Iguana again I can see how Jack was chasing perfection, clean pristine waves that worked with his direction. Most of this session I cut had a slight wind ruffle on the wave and was more harsh midday lit. But the surfing is beyond. It’s great to give it airtime. Jack and Occy are elite. Very lucky to get the opportunity to watch, let alone sit next to Jack and edit with him.

Besides people buying your beloved sunglasses, what do you hope people will take away from watching Vacuum?

Stay creative. Travel. Surf. Carve time out for bigger artistic endeavours. Not sure any of that will transcend. But if people get amped to surf or are introduced to some new stimulus in surf, music 0r art I’m happy.

Our last generic question as an EU based magazine – When are you next coming over to see us?

Can you book me a ticket? I’ll pack my camera.

You can watch Vacuum in it’s entirety below, if you haven’t already done so. And you can buy Epokhe sunglasses from us here


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