How to Make Your First Surf Travel Film

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 349d ago

Making an indy surf edit is no easy task. Often it's the logistics of chasing swells, or the shackles of your wallet (or both) that'll keep from getting required footage. But if you're going to take a stab at shooting and editing, then you've got to make a few sacrifices to get to where you want to be.

Here, we have an inaugural movie by Michael Veltman called Metanoia, a cut shot in Hawaii, South Australia, Indonesia and more. It's a film that fully encompasses the hand-in-hand nature of surfing and travel, of swinging and missing but keeping on anyway.

After finishing a business degree, Michael set about shooting this short film – spending 10 months bouncing over the world, staying with family and friends on the way. JJF makes an appearance, Jordy Smith, Koa Smith – at it's core, this is a well shot, stoke filled effort that could lay the blue print for Mr Veltman's future career.

But more than that, this is the epitome of throwing sail to wind and following whatever it is you want to do, with dogged enthusiasm. It's chasing your passion across the globe, documenting one aspect of your life that means a hell of a lot. And probably why this clip has stacked up 25k views on Vimeo alone.

Anyway, after this dropped on our desk, we had to get a few words from Michael, about getting started, his experience as a filmmakers (none! He's self-taught) and what it takes to make a surf/travel flick like this. Dig in.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

How difficult is it to get started in surf videography?
I think to get started has been easier than ever, with the introduction and easy access to action cams, you can get started in surf photography and videography without a lot of monetary investment.

When did the switch flip and you said, 'I want to be a filmmaker, now’s the time to do it?'
I was about halfway through my three year business degree when I realised that being a filmmaker was what I saw a future in.

It had always been my passion, especially surf-related projects, but only then did I start being paid for the part time film work I was doing. I had thoughts of dropping out and pursuing film full time from then, but thought I had come all that way in my degree and it’d be better to see it through before working at filmmaking full time.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

Did you have a plan of what film you wanted to make?
After finishing my degree, I started saying yes to all the surf film work I could. I knew I wanted to travel, and was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to go to Hawaii for the season. From there I wanted to see family in California and Australia, and then go on to Indonesia before going home.

An around the world trip. I didn’t have any plans for a film, I knew that my travels were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that I wanted to chase the best waves I could, make new friends and networks and push myself in my filming all the best surfing I could.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

When did you first start planning this movie?
It wasn’t planned as much as it all just fell into place after I got home from my travels. I was sitting with a whole lot of footage that was never bought or used. I thought this is my chance to show the type of filmmaker I am and the level of work I can produce - in hopes of securing more work in the surf industry.

It’s stunningly shot for a first movie – what equipment are you using and what’s your background?
Thank you! The majority of it was shot on a Sony FS700 with a Dave kelly waterhousing. I guess it’s quite outdated in terms of today’s camera technology. But for me, it’s worked in my budget and with the work I’ve done. Hopefully with more work, I can upgrade to better quality equipment.

I was born and raised in Durban, South Africa. I only started getting into surfing when I was about 15 and photography and videography naturally followed me, capturing the missions and trips my friends and I were doing. I got my first DSLR when I was 16 or 17 and it all just started to flow from there. I have no official film background or education, it was all just self-taught or from youtube tutorials.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

For you, personally, what does surf and travel mean?
For me, surfing and travel are synonymous. Surfing for me is about excitement, exploration, adventure, and travel holds these same qualities.

There’s nothing more exciting than going to a new place or wave for the first time, chasing a last minute swell over the border or road tripping with friends in search of waves. Even since the first famous surf films, like Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer, travel has always been a major theme.

And, where was this film shot?
The film was shot on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, South Australia, throughout Indonesia, Skeleton Bay in Namibia and a few clips from at home in Cape Town and Durban in South Africa.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

That's a whole stack of locales. Where did you feel most at home?
Besides home in South Africa, probably Indonesia. I spent four months travelling through Indo, surfing and freelancing before getting a photography gig at Kingfisher Mentawai at Lances Left.

I had been to Indonesia a number of times but never for that long of a stint. This time I was able to experience many different islands and get a grip on the language. I’m looking forward to going back again.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

With that amount o f travelling, there's got to be some juicy anecdotes. Any stories spring to mind?
Ah there’s far too many! From camping in the South Australian desert, to breaking my wrist while skateboarding in Canggu, to scoring a perfect beach break in the Mentawai’s with just my mates and I out, it’ll take ages to tell them all but I’ll share a good one.

When I was on the North Shore, my friend Wesley and I woke up one morning, feeling a bit hungover from a night at Surfer bar, to Wesley’s phone blaring an alarm-like sound. Half asleep, I told him to turn his alarm off. He looked at his phone and in a daze said “Michael… there’s a missile coming”.

Emergency alerts had been sent out to everyone's phone, tv and radio informing the whole of the Hawaiian Islands of an immanent ballistic missile strike that was set to hit Hawaii in a matter of minutes and that we needed to seek immediate shelter. “This is not a drill”. That’s when I started freaking out.

I don’t think I had ever fully contemplated death 'til that moment. After feeling confused and helpless in the wooden house we were in, having nowhere to go, having our Hawaiian Air BnB host come run in screaming and distressed, Wes and I hugged each other goodbye. Luckily after 38 minutes a false alarm report was sent through, blaming it on an employee who had “pressed the wrong button”.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

I remember that happening. A lesson in how to scare thousands of people in one fell swoop. Heavy stuff. But tell us about you, your hopes, aspirations?
I aspire to one day be able to earn a living working internationally with like minded creatives, creating imagery, still and motion, for projects surrounding the ocean and surfing.

I would love to travel and document surfing in untouched locations and landscapes, not just for surf industry brands and companies but to create something more universal that even the non-surfer can look at with awe and inspiration.

And finally, what does Metanoia mean?
Metanoia can be used to describe a process of fundamental change in the human personality. For me Metanoia represents the change of heart I experienced while traveling, going there one person and coming back another.

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

© 2020 - Michael Veltman

© 2020 - Michael Veltman