Devon Lanes and Longboards is a new movie from Andy Haworth covering a whole year of surfing in North Devon. We caught up with him to find out more about the making of this very personal film
What inspired you to make Devon Lanes and Longboards?
I have loved surfing since I was 16. Surfing has given me so many positive things in my life. I met my wife because of surfing, have some great friends through surfing, seen a bit of the world and shared some very precious times surfing with my kids.
I have been interested in making surf films for several years and have made amateur efforts for family and friends in the past, but have always had an ambition to release a ‘proper’ surf film, just to see if I could!
I had some ideas sketched out on paper in terms of a structure and script for a film and had started capturing some footage. The theme was always going to be a personal reflection of surfing in North Devon (where I live) and the fun and enjoyment that I have derived from surfing in the heart of this wonderful place and the surfing community that thrives there.
However, the stimulus and discipline to actually ‘get it done’ and out there in the public domain only emerged with the bad news that my younger sister had been diagnosed with secondary breast cancers (in her liver and bones in April 2009) after initial breast cancer five years earlier. This was devastating to the whole family as can be imagined and left me feeling empty in terms of finding some way to show her some love and support. Making a film isn’t perhaps a natural response and while the subject matter of the film is unrelated to her circumstances I thought it would be a good way of dedicating something to her struggle against this awful disease and at the same time raising funds for a related charity. I didn’t feel like organizing a charitable walk, or some other traditional fundraiser and felt that this would be a lasting tribute. Our father died in the summer after my sister’s diagnosis following a long struggle with cancer himself, so it also became a tribute to him too.
How did working on the film help you deal with your family situation?
It helped me to focus on something positive during a very difficult period and I’m glad to say that my sister also saw it as an act of support, even if only moral support, and took some comfort from the project’s purpose. My mum also appreciated the gesture and it has proved to be a real positive initiative amongst family and friends and the wider community.
Devon Lanes and Longboards is your first professional film. What’s your background in film?
It may be a little pretentious to call it a ‘professional’ film. It’s my first general public release and while I have studied the genre as a consumer and been a massive fan of surf movies, I’ve had no professional training or experience in film other than as a hobby. Of course I hope that the final product is seen as a competent and enjoyable film, but I have no illusions that it would win the Cannes Film Festival!
There is a growing surf film scene in North Devon and in the UK generally. I’m glad to say that there are a few local professional film makers and experienced semi professionals that have acted as my mentors during the process, giving me advice on cameras, editing software and techniques as well as practical and real assistance. For example final production and DVD authoring was carried out by Maniac Films based in Croyde.
What are the challenges of a surf film and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me was being on the beach filming on the best days for surf and when there were good surfers around to shoot. I have a full time job that takes me out of Devon a lot during the week (unfortunately), so every weekend was spent on the beach (often freezing cold) waiting for some action to shoot, then going back at night and spending all evening and late nights editing.
You really need to organize a shoot with the surfers you know you want to film on the days you can predict (as far as possible) that the swell, the tide and the light will all come together to give you some good footage. Having said that, the film is balanced with a good proportion of shots that show what its really like to be a surfer in Devon throughout the year (that’s the theme of the film), so it includes surfing in the winter with snow on the beach for example. So the film has remained true to its ethos of showing surfing life throughout the year, warts and all and isn’t a sanitized version based on half a dozen ‘perfect’ days shooting.
The film features the music of Chris Warner. How did that collaboration come about?
I can’t praise the contribution Chris made highly enough. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have ‘found’ him. That’s how it happened. I found him, not quite by accident, but I put the word out that I was looking for royalty free music and due to a friend of a friend of a friend, stumbled across Chris’s MySpace pages, heard some samples of his music and was completely hooked. I contacted him, told him what I was up to and he has given so much support and time to the project ever since. He wrote eight tracks specifically for the movie and although he’s based in Leicester (in fact he’s just moved to Cornwall), he has surfed a few times and just ‘got’ what the films mood and ambience was trying to do and his music fitted perfectly. He’s a very talented singer songwriter, plays all the instruments on the tracks he wrote for the film as well as the vocals and is a very experienced performer as well as experienced in the studio. I like to consider that we have become great friends during the course of the project.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
At the time of writing, my sister has responded well to her treatments and despite the seriousness of her situation remains incredibly positive. She is an inspiration. She has even returned to work part time. Her nominated charity is Macmillan Cancer Support and it would be a great thing for her morale if a film dedicated to her struggle raised a shed load of money to support people at their time of need.
I hope that I will go onto make more films in the future and feel that the positive experience and learning I can take from this project will stand me in good stead. The sales of the film are going really well so far and I’m really grateful to all those people who have shown such enthusiastic support. Thanks
Andy Haworth, many thanks
- PCA students win in RTS Devon & Cornwall Student Television Awards - May 20, 2022
- Ryan Noire | finding new truth in film - May 19, 2022
- Wild Tour of Devon | doc of extraordinary journey premieres - May 17, 2022