TASMANIACS

TALON CLEMOW’S QUEST TO CHRON­I­CLE AUS­TRALIA’S WILDEST TRIBE OF SURFERS.

Tracks - - Tasmaniacs - BY BRAD HUTCHINS

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.

Photo: Stu Gib­son.

Marti Par­a­di­sis clearly mark­ing the thin line be­tween bliss and obliv­ion at Pe­dra Branca.

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