Documentary filmmaking is a bitter-sweet long haul. Once you’ve made a documentary film, you don’t ever want to go through that process again. And I’m not talking about 5-10-minute youtube clips, I’m talking feature-length cinematic experiences. Movies. The real deal. But even though I swear to never put myself through that painful process again, once I catch the glimpse of an idea or meet a person with an interesting story, I know I'm in trouble. It’s a curse and a gift. All the more it's a huge pleasure to now be able to present Standing on Water.
Anyway, I'm a filmmaker. Two years ago, I was introduced to a group of people in Klitmøller through my friend from Cowork Klitmøller. They were looking for someone to make a film for the local county, and that ended up being me.
I started researching and talking to folks in the area. Along the way, I met a local kid by the name of Casper Steinfath who at the time was 19 and had just won a world title in Stand Up Paddling. I had never heard his name even mentioned, but I immediately felt an urge to find out more about this kid. Very little time passed before I felt a film was in the making.
To begin with I had no idea what it would be about. I’ve wanted to make some sort of surf or snowboard documentary since I was plowing my first powder, chasing friends in the French Alps with a camera in my hand (pre GoPro and Internet-era). But I never found a good story in those years, and I didn't want to make another surf porn just because. It had to be a real story. And everyone have a story. It's only a matter of digging it out. Spending time with character(s) is the only way to do it – and hence what filmmaking is all about. So I did after meeting Casper, and it soon became clear to me that he's had a very special upbringing and lives a very special life.
Together with Rasmus, I applied for a bit of funding and luckily got it. This marked the beginning of my journey, and I decided to travel with Casper, his girlfriend, brother and friend, to California and Hawaii to follow his quest to win the legendary Battle of the Paddle.
I never wanted to make a sports documentary with the structure of a competition as the main story. I wanted more. The competition was a way to get to know Casper better, and to know more about SUP. Checking in to my flight from Copenhagen to San Francisco, I asked myself what I was doing and what the film would be about. I didn't know. But I knew I wanted to find the answer to that question.
One of my film teachers once said:
"When you make a film, you'll end up making three films. The one you imagine, the one you shoot, and finally the one you end up editing."
I have experienced that before and this was what happened again. I found myself constantly paying attention to everything, trying to write down what I had seen and the ideas that came to me as I went along. I wanted to compose images at the moment that would come together what I thought was the big picture.
Eighteen months of funding, traveling, shooting, and periods with hardly no sleep, sunburned shoulders, reef cuts, head butts, 200+ hours of raw footage from more than eleven different cameras, weeks of combing through the vast amount of material followed by non-stop editing with editor and assistant directors Anders Obbekjær and Kristoffer Hegnsvad, finding and fine tuning the story, keeping the music composer Adam Mckenzie on track, coordinating with Kong Gulerod Film for post production, developing the art direction with graphic designer Super Schwarz and working with sound designer Max Frost for the final mix, we ended up with something we hadn’t imagined.
Documentary filmmaking is a tough cookie. It’s a gamble, and it’s certainly not for those who want stability in their lives. At the same time that’s exactly why it’s so fulfilling, full of surprises, ups and downs. Everyday is a new beginning with new tasks and challenges.
One thing for sure though, you need your peers and supporters more than ever in such a process. You need people around you, who believe in the project and in you. Sometimes even more than you do. You need someone to lean on, and you need to be asked the right questions all along to stay the sharpest and the best you. You need help to do what you can't, and the bonds you build in the proces are priceless. It's like a family.
We've established a film community called 'Empty Chairs.' Not to necessarily produce a lot of films or make tons of money, but for the sake of working together and creating a lot of different stuff for the passion of it. As we’re approaching the premiere and release of Standing On Water, Cowork Klitmøller has been part of that family all along. I can never thank Troels, Benthe, Mette, Tina, Marie Louise and Rasmus enough for being there and for believing in me, in us. So far it has been an unforgettable journey. Unreal, and beyond imaginable. Together, the future is bright. And I hope for many new adventures in their pleasant company.