A treasure map adventure isn’t an everyday thing in the modern world. But, all that glisters isn’t gold and all that – and treasure is different for different people. For Matt Knight, it was the promise of a big wave in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. For director Mikey Corker it was filming that adventure for what became Savage Waters.
While Mikey was working with Matt and Andrew Cotton on the film Beneath The Surface, about the discovery of a huge wave on the Irish coastline, Matt was given the treasure hunter’s journal, where there was the description of the wave.
“We were working in Ireland,” Mikey told D&CFilm, “Matt came to us all excited one day. He said, ‘I’ve got this book, and there’s this story about a wave. It’s out in the Atlantic, and I think we should try and find it. We are on a boat, there’s cameras, there’s surfboards – let’s just go!’ He got us all fired up. And we figured out the next thing to do.”
That’s where Savage Waters began. But the relationships went way back, and are tied in with the North Devon surfer community.
“We all live in the same town, basically,” says Mikey. “I used to surf at the same spots. When I first met Matt and Taz [Matt’s son], Taz was 11 or 12 years old. He would always be out with his dad in conditions that were quite sketchy.” That fearlessness – combined with talent – struck Mikey, who ran a surf shop at the time and ‘sponsored’ Taz. “He was an amazing surfer from an early age. And he became a shop-sponsored grommet.”
The relationships run deep.
“If you’re around people like Matt and Taz and Suzanne, they quickly make you realise that with anything that’s worth doing, there will always be an amount of trepidation. You’ve got to get through it, but it’s always worth it.
‘What have I got myself into’
“As a filmmaker, there are moments of ‘what have I got myself into’, but those are generally when you feel this is the thing you should be doing and, and often what comes out of that is something that you are proud of.”
“I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some fear at times, but overriding that, I’m definitely inspired. It makes me look at the way I approach things like risk. Part of the film is all about risk and how they approach it, and being parents and partners and husbands – how we as humans deal with this concept of risk.
“I feel very inspired by them. And I hope the audience feels inspired by them. It’s a big message in the film.”
Mikey’s journey into film began way back when he was a runner, then clapper loader in South Africa. It was a good foundation, and experience in the camera department. But it wasn’t at all creative, and he wasn’t even allowed to look through the eyepiece. After five years as a clapper loader he was looking for a break from the film industry during a time when digital cameras were becoming more affordable.
“I let the camera lead me”
“I wanted to start doing my own thing. I taught myself how to edit and started putting little surf movies together because I love surfing. I let the camera lead me to follow those passions. While I was learning to edit, I was working at the surf shop.”
“When I started out, I was definitely more focused on image. I still think that’s important and relevant. For me, what’s much more important is story – making sure things feel real and authentic. The best films have the marriage of good imagery and good story.
“I love watching documentary films. In an age now with this whole idea of fake news, everybody’s living a certain facade. But some stories can cut through that facade and get to the truth of something. I favour the truth over a perfect image.”
Salt, water, electronics
As you would expect, there are specific technical challenges with filming on the high seas, trying to capture an elusive wave. Salt, water and electronics don’t go well together. And trying to combine logistics, filming and weather combines judgement, planning and a fair bit of luck. Mikey edited down 700 hours of footage for a 90 minute film.
“I learned that maybe next time, I won’t shoot as much, but maybe I’ll shoot twice as much. I don’t know,” says Mikey. That next film is about an artificial wave getting built in Abu Dhabi. “It’s an exciting project. And we should be ready to share it with the world around this time next year.”
Savage Waters is getting released in cinemas after a very rewarding festival run, picking up all kinds of accolades.
“For me, this film is special for so many reasons. I absolutely loved being involved in it every day. Getting to spend the time with everyone that I did was all the reward I needed for it. I had amazing people come on board to help. The magic of the process is the people that come with you – it’s all those relationships.
Adventure in a world that has become increasingly risk averse is an aspect of the film.
“In Savage Waters, there’s always this idea where everybody’s aiming for the adventure of finding a perfect wave. But at the end of the day, curveballs can come along, and they shape your priorities. Just being here today is a gift, and it’s easy to take each day for granted.
“One thing about the Knights, they don’t take any days for granted – they’ve had enough experiences in life to know that every day is a treasure. Even though it’s good to aim for something in the distance, it’s also good to check in with yourself and be grateful for the things you have in your life today and be appreciative. None of us know what the next day is going to bring. I think that’s the key message of the film.”
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