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Santa Barbara is covering live from Santa Barbara with pictures and videos.
SBIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. SBIFF is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place each year in February. Over the past 30 years the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums. We bring the best of independent and international cinema to Santa Barbara, and we continue to expand our year-round operation to include a wide range of educational programming, fulfilling our mission to engage, enrich and inspire our community through film.

In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for our program expansion. This marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center focused on the art of film and is an incredible opportunity to expand our mission of educational outreach. Particularly important to SBIFF is making available high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Our programs and reach are more robust than ever before.


STORM SURFERS 3D (2012) World Premier at 28th SBIFF

Recently the 3D documentary film 'STORM SURFERS' (2012) made its World Premier at the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The film is about two best friends, surfers Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll, who brave some of the most dangerous of Mother Nature's elements, monstrous waves, in search of Australia's largest and most threatening.

Narrated by Australian actress Toni Collette with stunning cinematography and edge-of-your-seat suspense, this documentary is sure to keep audiences biting their nails as they ride the waves vicariously in 3D with these extreme pro surfers. As Ross and Tom say in the film: ‘Surfing big waves is not about how ripped your abs are or how much you bench press. I think it’s about your nerve.’

I interviewed director Justin McMillan during the SBIFF who co-directed the film with Chris Nelius. Here is what Justin had to say:


ME: Why a 3D surfer movie? What inspired them to make it 3D and has this ever been done before?

JUSTIN: A 3D surf movie seemed like an obvious direction for 3D, but after we started preparing for it - we soon realized why no one had done it before. IMAX had released Ultimate Wave Tahiti in 3D and even though the graphics were awesome, audiences were left expecting more from the surfing scenes. We all believed at the time that if we didn't make this film - someone else would - and we'd be kicking ourselves for not taking a chance.

ME: How did Ross and Tom meet? Have you both been lifelong friends and was this a lifelong dream of yours? Or was it something that came about recently?

JUSTIN: I've been friends with Ross and Tom for about 15yrs and have been making projects with them off and on for around 10 years. The on screen honesty displayed by both characters in Storm Surfers 3D was a result of all those years together. The guys trust Chris and myself when it comes to representing who they are as people and we're honored to have that responsibility. I used to have posters of these guys on my wall ever since I was 13 years old. If someone told me back then everything was going to work out this way - I'd never have believed them.

ME: Do you think that surfer movies are a genre that only surfers can enjoy or do you think there is something universal here that all audiences will want to see? And if so, can you explain what might interest a universal audience?

JUSTIN: Chris and myself have never considered ourselves to be surf film makers - just film makers who chose to work with two amazing characters that happen to be surfers. Our film is all about these two characters showcasing their strengths and weaknesses so a universal audience can identify with them. Lucky for us these guys are confident enough in themselves to be honest about where they are at in life and this makes it easy for people connect with the characters.

ME: How hard was this film to make? It looks very challenging to film a doc about surfing, as it requires so much filming in water.

JUSTIN: This was easily the hardest thing I've ever been involved in. The further we ventured into 3D development - the more difficult things became. By the time we realized that we'd undertaken the most difficult project you could possible take on in 3D documentary film making… it was too late. We'd jumped off the cliff and needed to figure out how to parachute pretty fast.

ME: What can you say about extreme sports? What is it that inspires people to risk their life for a great wave or a huge life-threatening sport challenge?

JUSTING: From ancient times people have been fascinated at watching people cheat death. Its something engrained in all of us and we can't help but respect people who live their life on the edge. From my experience with big wave riders is that it’s like a drug, they need it to feel alive and have every cell in their body responding to what’s happening. We get some of the best performances from our characters in and around a big wave session… everything else is like pushing shit up hill.

ME: Can you tell us something about the surfing in in Western Australia for people who don’t know the region well?

JUSTIN: WA is for the brave - massive waves - extreme winds and it’s responsible for at least six fatal shark attacks in the last year. I have a lot of respect for the guys who live and ride that coastline.

ME: How long did the film take to make from conception to edit?

JUSTIN: Around eighteen months in total.

ME: Was it hard to get the budget to finance or was it an easy sell from the start?

JUSTIN: We are lucky to have a team of passionate producers who organize the finance for these projects. Money is always difficult to secure but these guys always seem to get the job done through various funding bodies and sponsors.

ME: Do you have any stories or anecdotes about the process or journey of making this film that you can share?

JUSTIN: I'd developed a variation on an old saying that was so appropriate during the making of this project… "What doesn't kill you only makes you promise yourself to never do it again…" Now of course I can't wait to shoot more 3D doc on water or land using all the lessons learnt last time around the block.

ME: What was it like to have your world premier in Santa Barbara, CA, a surfing town and a coastal paradise?

JUSTIN: I was honored to be invited to the SBIFF. Santa Barbra is such a cool town and the people were really nice. The highlight for me was walking back stage after the film to do a Q & A and running into Tom Curren lurking in the bowels of the theatre. He was waiting to ambush Ross and Tom after the show to tell them what he thought of the film. It was a great feeling to be associated with the festival and all the people that made an effort to come and see the film. I can't wait to come back one day.

The film screened this week at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.

Interview by Vanessa McMahon

Visit the official website here:

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About Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has star wattage and a wealth of premieres in a Mediterrean-style city by the sea.

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The team of editors of the The Santa Barbara Blog:
Carol Marshall, Felicia Tomasko, Vanessa McMahon, Marla and Mark Hamperin, Kim Deisler and Bruno Chatelin

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