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Boardroom: Talking story with surfing's legendary surfboard shapers

Movie shot with Panasonic AG HVX200 camcorders and edited on Avid's Media Composer By John Virata

In ancient Hawaiian times, those who made surfboards used Koa wood and were revered as kahunas, building boards for royalty. On the mainland, boards were being built with Redwood in the 1920s and 1930s. In the early 1950s a cottage industry started which became the genesis of the billions dollar a year surf industry. A handful of surfers began making surfboards out of balsa wood, and then in the late 1950s to early 1960s, polyurethane-based foam. Those shapers are getting on in their years, and with the influx of inferior Chinese and other foreign surfboards made by people who don't actually surf, it is important (for those who surf), to get the history down and how the surfboard industry came to be, if not for prosperity, then for the next generation of shapers who will continue the time honored tradition of shaping and fine tuning surfboards the old fashion way, by hand.

Filmmaker Markus Davids is working on a movie that chronicles the history of surfboard making in California and Hawaii. Slated for a Summer 2010 release, the movie, Boardroom, talks to the pioneers of the surfboard building industry in their shaping rooms in California and Hawaii. DMN spoke with Markus on the making of the film as well as the equipment he chose to tell the story.

DMN: What is your background? Do you have formal filmmaking training?
Markus Davids: I went to Long Beach State University with a film production degree emphasis on directing and cinematography.

DMN:There have been many surfing oriented movies over the years, but I don`t recall a movie about those who actually make the surfboards. How did you come about with the idea of focusing on the surfboard shapers?
MD: I always like the idea of creating something and building stuff with your hands. On the other side I like the evolution of companies and the entrepreneurs it takes to take a garage business to the next level. That was one side that interested me, but the real draw was the fact that something like this has not been done before, there are plenty of surf movies out there of young kids traveling the world to exotic locations and they all look like popcorn movies to me, music videos with the same stuff. BoardRoom will be a movie that will finds its way in everybody's DVD collection  - it has an unlimited shelf-life-- it preserves a piece of surfing history.

"Uncle" Donald Takayama in his shaping bay. Image copyright Markus Davids

DMN:How many interviews have you conducted thus far and who were your subjects?
MD: We have shot Bill Stewart, Bruce Jones, Donald Takayama, Terry Martin, Mike Hynson, Robert August, Renny Yater, Rich Harbour, Hap Jacobs, Dick Metz, Bing Copeland, Larry Gordon. we have on the schedule for the next weeks/ months. This week's Hawaii trip we have Harold Iggy, George Downing, Mike Eaton, Bob "OLE" Olsen, Ben Aipa,  and in January Greg Noll, Lance Carson, Dave Sweet, Micky Munoz, Carl Ekstrom, and hopefully Phil Edwards, Gordon Clark and Hobie Alter but this will be a challenge.

DMN: Any particular shaper that you found especially interesting to talk with?
MD:  They all were but if I have to pick one - let me get back to you on that.

DMN: How many hours of footage do you have to date?
MD:  We have over 40 hours of footage and growing!
DMN:How do you archive your footage?
MD: We have a copy of the footage on the avid unity. A backup on a standalone raid. We also have a backup on hard drives in a second location.
DMN: What kind of camera did you use to capture the interviews and what did you like about that camera for this type of movie?
MD: We shot most of the footage on two Panasonic HVX cameras with a REDRock lens adapter using Canon lenses. We liked the proven and reliable work flow of the HVX, its image quality especially using the lenses is great, and the camera is great in size since we are shooting in small shaping rooms.

Bob "Ole" Oleson. Image copyright Markus Davids

DMN: What editing system are you using to assemble Boardroom and why?
MD:  We are cutting this on an Avid Media Composer system. Given the numbers of hours that we are working with, we thought the media management of the Avid would be the best choice for our project. Also we shot our feature 1080 24P. The Avid is really flexible about working with different frame-rates on the timeline. This was important because we are receiving footage from a variety of sources.
DMN: How much travel is involved during the making of Boardroom?
MD:  Our movie mainly focuses on the shapers in California, where most of the companies and businesses started. We are traveling to Hawaii this week to do more filming and interviews.

DMN: You are also an accomplished underwater cinematographer. Will we see any underwater work in Boardroom?
MD: Absolutely, we will be shooting some underwater sequences next week in Hawaii.

DMN: What type of housings do you use for your underwater videography?
MD: I have housings for the RED ONE, Panasonic HVX, DVX, 16mm and recently for the Canon 5dMK2 which is the housing I will be using in Hawaii.

DMN: When will you come out of post production and when do you anticipate the release of Boardroom?
MD: We are aiming for the summer of 2010, which is very ambitious, but I like to work under pressure.

DMN: What kind of special features will we see in the DVD?
MD:  TBD, production stills, more interviews in its entire form, preview of the next projects we have planned.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
Related Keywords:digital filmmaking, NLE, Boardroom the movie, surfboard shaping history, Donald Takayama

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