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Surf Filmmaker Arsen Brzostek

Filmmaker uses Canon, Sony cameras to capture his passion, Final Cut, After Effects, DVD Studio Pro to put it together By John Virata

Surf movies have been around since the late 50s, starting with the overblown Gidget flicks that detailed little about what was really happening in surf culture. It was an interesting series of movies with fake surf shots and pretty boy actors trying to emulate the surfer look. It wasn't until Bruce Brown's Endless Summer in 1966 that mainstream America got a real taste of the surfing lifestyle. The modern surf flick of today are mostly corporate sojourns sponsored by surf clothing companies, showcasing their sponsored surfers tearing into waves in exotic locales to the beat of a punk or rock and roll sound track. There is little, if any dialog, just shot after shot of insane waves with nobody but a few surfers out. Every once in a while, a surf moviemaker tries to tell a different story, without having to rely on surf stars. Arsen Brzostek's Arsen Productions has taken a decidedly different route with its films Jungle Juice: Surfing Adventure In Costa Rica's Southern Zone,  and Going With The Flow: Classic California Soul Surfing. A commercial artist previously focused on graphic design, Brzostek picked up a DV in camera 2004 and began filming his passion for surfing. Digital Media Net's John Virata spoke with him on aspects of his filmmaking and why and how he got into it.

DMN: Do you have formal video production training?
Arsen Brzostek: No, I don't have formal production training.  I've always been a creative since childhood and have kept my fire burning by utilizing and refining as many media as I could.  After completing every art class in high school I wanted to sharpen my creative talents further.  I have an Associates Degree in Commercial Art, from what is now the Miami Art Institute (was International Fine Arts College), and a Bachelor's in Communication from St. Thomas University also in Miami.  In art school I had two photography courses which I liked because they taught me how to compose good shots.  I
then took a couple of computer print production classes.  Photoshop had just been introduced in art school and it got me interested in digital media.  I began freelancing as well as took on a full time computer artist position at a high profile Miami design firm while working on my bachelor's degree.

After a year at the company I was promoted to computer director developing projects for American Express, Disney, Hanna Barbera, Esso Oil, Burger King, as well as many professional national sports teams from football to hockey (I designed the inaugural season tickets for the Carolina Panthers). For the past fifteen years I've been a professional graphic artist running my company, Green Dot Design in Tampa, FL, which has allowed me to efficiently utilize the computer and it's many applications for print, web and video production projects.  Everything which I've learned in regards to video production has been a combination of reading online articles at industry websites such as this one, talking with people in the industry as well as reading related books.  I read a good quote from the guru of surf films, Bruce Brown of Endless Summer fame, when he spoke at a film school and was asked, who was on his production team.  He laughed and told them he did everything himself, virtually a one man band running the camera, directing, editing, producing, distributing, etc.  Bruce also said that if he had to go to film school he'd never make any of his films due to all the do's and don'ts you learn in school.  Making films is about utilizing what you have to tell the story.  If you don't have a production crew, lack the knowledge, etc. but have a story to tell and the inspiration and motivation to pull it off, anything is possible.  You just need to go with the flow.

DMN: When did you get started in video production and why?
AB: I started my first production in 2004 titled, Jungle Juice: Surfing Adventure In Costa Rica's Southern Zone.  It's a documentary about friends and family experiencing the fun and adventure found during a Costa Rican surf trip.  I had traveled to Costa Rica every summer since 1997 to surf the country's many breaks.  I'd live for the surfing part of the trip but once out of the water I'd feel the need to be creative.  After telling the annual surf trip story to several friends they concluded I spin a good yarn and should make a film about my next trip.  I made a commitment to myself that the next time I'd return to Costa it'd be with a video camera to document the experience.

DMN: When did you form Arsen Productions?
AB: Arsen Productions was formed close to the end of the post-production process of Jungle Juice at the beginning of 2005.  I was going to reuse my existing company's name and just replace "Design" (Green Dot Design) with "Productions".  I decided to get out even further into unfamiliar territory and knew from the past that a fresh start is a good way to instantly make you think from a different perspective.  I then thought of names which would feel right.  I obviously went with Arsen, my first name, as it's not a name you see or hear often and knew would be remembered.  In addition I feel like I'm always on fire with ideas and a drive to create and make things happen, so it stuck.

Trailer from Jungle Juice

DMN: How long have you been making surf movies and why surf movies?
AB: I've been making surf films since 2004.  Surfing is such a great thing it's a lifestyle more than a sport to me.  I wanted to give back to surfing some how and in turn be able to give the stoke to others while being around some of the worlds best surfers/surfing personalities and surf films were the logical direction to accomplish all of this.  Another reason for wanting to produce surf films was the lack of quality surf films out on the market. The majority of surf films are what I call "Surf Porn" based on their fast cuts of one surfer riding a wave after another, punk rock music as the score and lack of a story line.  I had seen maybe a handful of surf films with a good story and cinematography and so felt I had something to offer.  Not
that my first film was revolutionary or anything but it did carry a story line, had decent camera work and cool original music.  After my first film was released to DVD I wanted a break and just go surfing.  I planned a week long surf trip to California with a friend.  I stopped in at a local surf shop where I knew the owner and was telling him about the upcoming trip.  He then picked up his phone and called his friend in San Diego and told him I was going to be there producing my next surf film.  At that point I had no desire to make a new film right away which I knew would be followed by late hours of post production and would surely suck all the life out of me.  It was hard to turn down the possibility of my next film especially since it
was almost effortless to line up interviews with some of the worlds greatest legendary surfers such as Linda Benson, Lance Carson, LJ Richards, and Hank Warner as well as two phenomenal longboard surfers, Kevin Connelly and Jesse Timm.  So I went for it and the second film was shot in January 2005, based on how the project came to be is titled, Going With The Flow: Classic California Soul Surfing.  My third film shot summer 2005 is the continuation of the Going With The Flow series subtitled, Surfing Costa Rica's Jungle Breaks shot entirely on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast.  The cast included surfers, Kevin Connelly and Jesse Timm as well as Allan Weisbecker (screenwriter of Miami Vice and other movies, TV shows, author of 3 surfing related books and surfer). 

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