TALON CLEMOW’S QUEST TO CHRONICLE AUSTRALIA’S WILDEST TRIBE OF SURFERS.
Visualisation is a big thing in Talon Clemow’s world. As the founder of OnePalm Media and creative force behind 2014’s award winning Cloudbreak exposé ‘Thundercloud’ he’s certainly proven his ability to bring some of the most epic moments in surfing to the big screen. His challenge now lies in pushing this genre into new territory… and what better place to do it than the uncharted waters of Van Diemen’s Land? A large chunk of Shipstern’s Bluff recently collapsed, leaving a mound of rubble over the area that was, until now, the jump off point for surfers and photographers willing to leave land behind at the bottom of the world and brave one of the most malformed monsters the ocean has created. The ‘Stern’ may have crumbled but the beast below remains just as vicious. Thankfully, at the time nobody was standing there. On any given day, however, that could have been the end for a keen surfer or (more likely) photographer. The guys who frequent the Stern seem to have a different sense of self-preservation than most, though. Danger equals excitement, near death experiences fuel adrenalin, and big risks can provide the most intense moment of a person’s life. The truth is, most of us have no idea just how wild things get down there. But with a new feature project from OnePalm Media in the pipes, that’s all about to change.
To document the energy of Shipstern’s Bluff, the raw environment in which it exists, and the maniacs who live to charge it, unyielding dedication is required. The Tassie lads have long been known for this trait. Braving freezing temperatures, heavy waves, fickle weather, long drives, longer hikes and large carnivorous marine life; their environment is about as gnarly as it gets. Yet they froth and thrive upon it. So it was only natural they’d attract a film-maker who’s just as committed and passionate about their island lifestyle as they are. “Nothing gets me more excited than going exploring off the beaten track, and having no idea what to expect but being with a crew of blokes I know are going to charge,” says the Stern’s newest disciple and videographer. The journey started long before Talon set foot in Tassie, though. As a young swimmer, surfer and photographer on the Gold Coast, he was always obsessed with surf films and their ability to capture our obsession. “Jack McCoy was my idol,” he declares. “Back in the day, I loved it when his film for the year would come out on VHS and we’d all be around someone’s house frothing to see it. Whoever bought that one copy would get it absolutely thrashed by all the kids in the neighbourhood. I guess that anticipation and excitement of collectively viewing something and sharing it with others has always stayed with me.” Talon’s experiences have formed a solid resume of skills required to be an independent producer who enjoys filming in heavy water. From working for a TV station fresh out of school where he was introduced to the broadcast and production side of things, to travelling as a roadie alongside the likes of Prince, Bowie, and Robbie Williams, bouncing around Europe in roles for the BBC, CNN, CNBC and Trans World, before returning home as audio visual manager for Billabong; Talon’s path has been preparing him for bigger and better things every step of the way. At the 2014 Surfer Poll awards, ‘Thundercloud’ was honoured with the much deserving accolade of best documentary. “Surf films were always my first ambition,” he admits. And he’s made it clear that he’ll go to extreme lengths to produce them. Wrangling partnerships and mortgaging his house to finance ‘Thundercloud’ while raising a young family, he’s put it all on the line to carve out a niche role in the surfing world. “It’s not all cocktails and palm trees. You have to be committed and prepared to slog it out with travel, technical and financial hurdles, and hard work. I mean postproduction on ‘Thundercloud’ took me five months of wading through Terabytes of raw footage and nearly melted my brain! That type of thing changes you as a person. So you really have to love what you’re doing. Luckily for me, it’s all worth it.”
The film will document the waves and way of life down in the deep south while focusing on the paths of four key Tasmanian hellmen; Marti Paradisis, Mikey Brennan and brothers James and Tyler Holmer-Cross. For these surfers it’s an exposé of their life’s work. Rather than trying to document their world from a distance, Talon has immersed himself in it. This project has literally dictated the direction of his life. He’s now spent years with the crew through good and bad, relocating to live and breathe the project full time. “I was jumping on flights from the Goldy to Hobart to catch swells and after a while I thought ‘why not move down full time?’ I spoke with my wife about it and we decided it would be a great spot to raise a family.” In an era where insta-gratification reigns supreme and two-minute-clips have become the norm, it’s invigorating to see someone taking the slow-cooker approach to a full-length feature. The best part is, he’s documenting it all with his trusty RED Dragon cam, (picture air drops off gurgling steps and mind meltingly thick lips in cinematic, crisp 4K slow motion) and you start to realise that this film will likely deliver some of the most jaw-dropping big-barrel footage to grace the screen. When asked what drives him, Talon’s quick to respond. “Putting the pieces of the puzzle together; figuring out what goes where and unravelling the story that’s hidden amongst the raw footage,” he says. “It’s a long road and a real challenge but I thrive on that.” “I feel that anything rushed is simply not going to be as good. I mean, there’s enough footage from our first year of filming to release a movie. I could if I had to. But it wouldn’t be the movie I want to create. I’ve got a vision for how I want to do this film. I want to progress and evolve from ‘Thundercloud’ rather than repeat it. Just like bands creating new albums, you need to change and adapt and do something innovative.” “I’ve got a bunch of responsibilities to juggle (filming, editing, production and promotion all while keeping everyone onside and happy), and there’s no doubt that it’s stressful at times. After sacrificing so much
time and effort, I want to make sure I do it in a way no other surf film has been done before. Most importantly, I want to do it on my terms.” At the crux of Clemow’s relocation lies a desire to build a strong rapport with these guys, deepen his relationship and understanding of their world and share it as accurately as possible. “The UFC pre-fight breakdowns are great at that,” he says. “The way they humanise fighters and show the real person behind the scenes instead of this ‘immortal action figure’ gives the audience a more tangible connection. That’s something we don’t see much of in surf movies. If I can portray these guys as normal people with regular lives then hopefully that will build a more emotional bond with what the audience are watching.” Both Mikey Brennan and James Holmer-Cross have recently returned from serious injury to face their demons. With Talon there to document their journeys, the film should provide some amazing insight into the minds and mentality of Tasmania’s core crew and their dedication to heavy waves. It’ll also give us, as an audience, a realistic idea of what these surfers have been through on a longterm basis. “I want the audience to feel a human interest, so when they see the boys pitching themselves over the ledge at Pedra Branca, they’re screaming, ‘No! I don’t want this guy to die!’” As for Talon’s take on the Southern Lords thus far, “Individually they all charge but as a crew their collective strength is what drives them. They push each other so hard but know they’ve got each others backs at the same time.” “The crazy thing is, none of the boys get paid to surf anymore. They get occasional bonuses and gear thrown their way but all have to work full time. Regardless of whether the cameras, sponsors or mags are there to impress, they would be out there charging just as hard.” “When I first started filming with the lads I didn’t appreciate just how hard they frothed. Now I’ve realised that I have to be setup at the beach or in the water way earlier than everyone in case anything spontaneous goes down.” “For example”, Talon explains, “there was one trip where Marti (Paradisis) and I were filming for a RedBull project in Sumatra and saw this big system heading for Tas. We ended up calling it and jetting back early. Marti got full-blown Bali belly on the flight home, and the weather was horrendous on arrival. But the next day, it cleaned up, we had the whole crew in the water at this rare, mental slab and bagged some of the best footage we’ve got to date.” When pushing the limits comes up in conversation, it’s worth noting that Marti Paradisis has no desire to tow the Stern these days. He wants to paddle every wave. There’s even been chat thrown about paddling Pedra Branca, although time will tell whether that’s even a possibility. Pedra is a spectre that looms large in the collective mindset of these guys. It’s only been surfed a handful of times and lies 30km out to sea in frigid, sharky waters.
But when fickle conditions align, it has the potential to produce some of the biggest, most perfect barrels on earth. It also nearly killed James HolmerCross back in 2014 and presents the ultimate challenge to keep these guys awake at night… Although, with so much uncharted terrain around the south-west coast, who knows what other mysto beasts they may have tackled before the film hits the editing floor? One thing is certain – these guys will not pull back. And every time they go, Talon will be there, dragon in hand to capture the insanity. For now, Talon envisages the moment when he can finally sit back and enjoy the buzz of anticipation and excitement as it pulses through the cinema. When those freezing pre-dawn mornings, gruelling hikes and countless editing hours are far behind him. That moment when he finally gets to share the stoke of the Stern and hard earned production with the world. If he does somehow manage to top ‘Thundercloud’, we’re all in for a hell of a show.
Marti Paradisis clearly marking the thin line between bliss and oblivion at Pedra Branca.