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“A Different Kind of Surf Movie”: Director Rory Kennedy | Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton

Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton

During its development, production or eventual distribution, what specific challenge of communication did, or will your film, face? How did you deal with it, or how are you planning to deal with it?

The greatest communication challenge in making Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton was how to take a somewhat conventional mode of storytelling – the iconic surf film – and tell it in an unexpected, unconventional way.

Most surf films operate like their own contained love stories: Man (or woman) meet wave; Man rides wave; Man reflects on riding wave before going off to ride another. It’s an age-old aesthetic that works – featuring buff surfers, beautiful tropical settings and a rocking score. But more often than not, there’s no real character development, no story arc, no plot.

What drew me to Laird – and indicated to me from the get-go that there may be a different kind of surf movie here – was how to unlock the secret of what motivated him throughout his life. How do you become the best at what you do? And at what cost? Why, in his early 50s, does he continue to push himself as hard as he does? I was interested in all these questions. They inspired me to make this film.

This said, while I didn’t want to make a typical “surf film,” I did want to embrace some of the surf genre’s cinematic flare. I wanted the film to celebrate the action we see on the screen, propelled by an amazing score (assembled with the great music supervisor Randall Poster). But I also wanted to do Laird’s story justice – to understand his character and where he came from. Ultimately, it’s a very human story, and not the one you might expect going in – full of hardship, challenges and overcoming great odds.

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Sunday, January 22 at 5:30pm — The Marc]

Sundance Responses 2017

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