Welcome to the 14th episode of our podcast.
Today’s guest is filmmaker Dana Brown son of the legendary Bruce.
We discussed with him about his new movie “A life of endless summers: The Bruce Brown Story”, surf and much more.
You can find the episode in all major podcast platforms or read the interview below (please forgive us of spelling mistakes while transcribing it)
See you next week!
TTOS: Aloha Dana, welcome to the show! Where are you today?
I am in Venice Beach, California, people are allowed to go around, but we have to wear masks, not movie theaters, those aren’t open and, cause we have a spike again over here, every day seems to be a little different…..
TTOS: First question: what is the most important thing in surfing, in your opinion?
Surfing is an interesting thing, right? If you’re a big wave rider and you’re pushing the envelope, if you’re a professional surfer and you’re trying to own your skills, but then you could just live in the suburbs and go surf with your kids and that’s just the most joyous afternoon you can have.
It’s all over the map…. Robert August is a famous shaper in Endless Summer movie, he said the best surfer in the world is the one having the most fun….. I think that’s true.
TTOS: you started surfing pretty young, do you remember your first surfboard?
Yes I do, it was a Del Canon.
It’s a total involvement on it, there are pictures of it at my folks place on the wall.
TTOS: Do you still have it?
I don’t. I think somebody told me that it’s in a museum….
Somebody got it when I was a teenager and they kept it and they gave it to a museum. I haven’t seen it in a long time,but I mean, when you’re a kid, you just go onto the next board and it sits in the garage and eventually your parents give it away kind of thing, cause you’re not using it….
TTOS: If it ended up in a museum, that’s important!
Well, it seems like that’s a little much, but it’s humbling for sure.
TTOS: Today the interview it will be totally dedicated to the movie, when have you realized that you want to do a movie about your father?
Well, about 2012, quite a while ago, I was kind of in between movies myself, bigger movies.
My mom had died and dad didn’t get out of house much and we’re trying to just kind of take them to see some of his friends. He was pretty down obviously about that.
I just had this idea, I was going to make it like a web series, kind of we’re going to do these little short vignette you just see on the internet and we filmed it and we started to cut it.
Then I got an offer to do a big film about motorcycle racing and, when I got done with that, I got offered to do a sequelof a movie I did called “Dust To Glory” , that was about the Baja 1000.
And then all these years have gone by and we’d kind of worked on a little bit on it, but then, when my father passed away, it just became like: “Oh, we can make a movie of this, cause then we’d have his life”
It was a little different than just a web series, so in 2018 we started just to cut it and we finished it last year and it’s coming out this year (2020).
TTOS: Amazing! It’s coming out in August, right? (the interview has been recorded late July 2020).
Yeah, well, it’s supposed to be at a film festival, that’s up in the air, but it’s available for the public on August 18th on ITunes, Apple TV .
A week later it will be available on a bunch more platforms and then, in September, it’s going to be available on Amazon prime, for free.
People will be able to find it in a way or another
TTOS: I have seen the movie, it is fantastic, it’s a history of life and as you say, it is a history of friendship and a history of surfing.
If you had to pick a memory of your father in a behind the scenes, which one would it be in that period of the movie….
I worked with him on Endless Summer 2, I was behind the scenes a lot with him and, in my memories, he was alwayshaving fun.
It wasn’t necessarily always trying to entertain people, but he was always such a positive influence that you could be in the middle of nowhere with two flat tires and somehow you were laughing and having a good time.
That’s what I remember is just, he brought so much joy to what he was doing, I mean, we all work hard and everything, but there’s always a joke, you know, it’s like a surf trip, right?
If you’re a surfer, you don’t spend that much time in the water compared to how much time it takes to get to the waterand all that other stuff. Surfers are usually pretty good at passing the time to have some fun.
Those are my memories. I don’t know if I have a specific memory of that, except just a general sense of laughter and just feeling stoked.
TTOS: And the movie it is like a surf trip, but without surfboards….you are in a camper van and you’re traveling across California and then you go to Hawaii and you meet a lot of friends. There is not a lot of surf per se, but there are a lot of people, it’s actually is a journey and it’s amazing….
Right, it’s a surf trip with instead of surfboards like flashbags….
TTOS: During this movie, this adventure, you and your father meet a lot of friends, personalities of the surf history, which meeting, in your opinion, was very meaningful for your father among all those?
On the surf side, because in the movie we visit some of his motorcycle friends too like Martin Longwell and Kenny Loggins, but I would say on the surf side, the most meaningful meeting was with Hobie.
My father and him were very, very close and, when you see Hobie the movie, it was probably a month or two before he passed, he was pretty ill.
He was amazing, he wanted us to come up and visit him, another meeting was with Gordon Clark “Grubby”.
You know, those guys go back to when they were teenagers, when they all were just hanging out at the beach and they knew each other.
That’s what I got, a lot of those guys knew each other long before they were successful in anything, you know, and they fed off each other’s intelligence and creativity and stuff….they were a very close group.
TTOS: What is amazing for me is the re-discovery of the true meaning of friendship, they were all there for your father when your mother died and , even if they were not meeting each other since 20 years, it was like if they had met last time 20 minutes ago.
Yeah, I think that those guys (but also surfers in general) are a bit like old cowboys, they shared something that other people didn’t had; I was so charmed as we were filming by that and I’m glad that you say such nice things, because that was kind of the point….
I think if people watch it, they don’t necessarily have to even be in surfing, it’s about the life well lived, and valuing your friends, not valuing your stuff or accomplishments….
TTOS: It also shows, in this world, especially today where we see the riots in the street and people like unhappy about basically everything, if we go back to the true meaning of friendship and do good for people, they will remember or will be friends with you forever.
It’s something that you say at the end of the movie: to be good, and your father was a clear example of this way of approaching life, correct?
Yeah, I think so too.
I think that, if you treat people like you want to be treated and then that just perpetuates itself..
That’s what I really liked about his story and those guys’ stories as well. First and foremost they are just good people. We seem now to worship stuff like success or whatnot and being a good person is a little lower on the list…. you know, I’m in Southern California, it’s probably even lower on the list here.
It’s just a little bit of a rat race, but the bottom line is if you’re a good person, you’re gonna have a good life and I think they’re all very good people and they they marched in their own drummers in a nice way….
I think somebody once said : those guys, they just have a lot of self-confidence, but they don’t have much ego, they don’t need other people to love them, but they’re very confident in who they are.
If you’re not always looking for people to love you, you can give love to them.
It’s all that there’s so much philosophy and stuff I like about the movie in a way we just show it, you know? Cause I can’t articulate it very well, but I know it when I see it.
TTOS: During the movie you said one phrase that stick to my mind “Dad made Pipeline”, can you tell me more about that?
Those guys were going to the North Shore, Waimea, Sunset Beach (he named Velzy land too) but those places werestill not visited a lot at all.
Phil Edwards went out and rode the beach breaks and dad filmed it, but they had to give it a name.
There was an open trench near the beach and they’re putting some pipeline in and they just thought that “Pipeline”makes sense because the waves looked like a pipe.
John Sieverson, who was the publisher of Surfer magazine, he shot around the same time and called it Banzai Beach and then, you know, in surf breaks some names stick and some don’t….I mean, that’s just what happened in that case, that one stuck.
TTOS: “A life of Endless Summers” is not the only movie that you have done… you have done several others. In your opinion, the most important thing in moviemaking?
I think wanting to tell a good story and believing it.
For me, it’s just kind of a crusade, you want to tell the story…
My first big feature was “Step into Liquid” and you know, it was just like, I wanted to show basically a day in the life of surfing from all these different angles, those guys surfing Cortez, to little kids, to quadriplegic Jesse Billauer surfing …. that was a crusade.
You know, I wanted to show surfing in a positive light and show how varied it was….
Every film’s a little different, you have to get it in your head.
I think if you do it like: “Oh, this is what everybody likes and I’m going to pander to this”first of all, I don’t think the films work as well and second of all, I don’t know how you keep the energy up to do that.
You got to got to get like a nut job, you know, you got to get this philosophy, I’m sure it’s the same reason you do thispodcast…
You got to believe in that you have something to say or something you want to do and you’re going to do it and see how the chips fall… .
TTOS: What was the defining moment of your career in your opinion?
It was probably when I worked “Endless Summer 2” with my father.
Then I did some TV shows and then I got a chance to do “Step into Liquid”, which took two and a half years.
The success of that film was probably when I knew I could just do this job for the rest of my life.
The film was kind of a big hit, even in theaters, it was a thing it’s a little bit of a sensation, you know?
I don’t know if that’s defining, but professionally, that was when I thought, “well, cool, now I’ll probably be able to do this the rest of my life because I established myself.”
Other than that, I don’t know if I have one defining moment, except I’ve made so many good friends.
My daughter is sitting to my right here and she works for me now and it’s just a blessing.
All my good friends, the camera guys are my buddies, we hang out on holidays together, even if we’re not working together…..It’s a large family.
That’s the one thing that makes me happy if it’s not like that, you know, life’s tough enough, you better have family and friends because it’s a cruel world, certainly not fun sometimes….
TTOS: I agree with you, let’s go back to your father, what was his most important teaching to you?
Dad, to me was just be a straight up person, “be nice to people and be as honest as you can with people, do what you say you’re going to do and don’t put yourself above people”.
I think he was a very real self-confident guy, but a humble guy, don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun.
TTOS: Definitely, it shows in the movie as well, sometimes there are a few tears, but I guess, most of the movie, it’s having a lot of fun, especially in Hawaii, it seems that was the best part of the trip.
After the release of the movie, what’s next? Are you already working on something else?
Yeah, I’m doing another historical thing on what’s been called the “Dana’s Point Mafia, which is like Hobie, Grubby, John Seeberson, my father, the Hoffman’s….
You know, in the late fifties, these guys all lived in Dana’s Point in San Clemente and, at one point in surfing, the biggest manufacturers were down there, their clothing, the biggest board makers, Gordon Clark was making all the foams, dad was doing his movies…..
They kind of made modern surfing, they changed surfing, unintentionally, they were just doing what they were going to do and a lot of them moved on to other stuff in the seventies.
It was just this look at this decade of these guys that started out as just kind of surf bums and they just wanted to live close to the beach and be able to support their families while they ended up changing surfing.
It just looking at that part of the evolution of modern surfing, we’d done a bunch of interviews for that, all these old guys and a bunch of young guys, and we’re just starting to put it together now.
TTOS: Very nice! Maybe, let’s say 40/50 years ago, life was simpler than today, but definitely it sound to be better, there was no all these like social media and exposure and globalization and whatever, it was more down to the rootsof friendship and fun and stories, a lot of jokes and a lot of fun…. maybe we all need those years back.
Well, I think so, all this social media stuff is pretty new, you know what I mean?
it’s been around a decade now or something, but it’s the first flush, I’m sure it’ll straighten back out.
There’s just a lot of lessons, instead of trying to impress a bunch of strangers that you never meet online, you wanna make sure your friends are impressed, one way or another and it’s more of a personal thing.
I think humans are like that, we’re in an interesting part of our development as a species, but these phones….I didn’t have the cell phone forever, I got one on jobs and then I just hated them, now I have one that I literally, for the last five or six years, I’m always “where’s my phone”, for some reason it affects your mind…. I get mad at myself.
Probably like you do a podcast interviewing people, I just, in a film, try to show something and then maybe it inspires people to go out, get off your butt, put the phone down and go have fun doing what you can do or do something fun.
Doesn’t have to be laughing all the time, it can just be doing something positive you feel good about.
TTOS: We’re going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please ask the first thing that comes up to your mind…..
The best surfboard that you’ve ever ridden….
Robert August “what I ride” model.
TTOS: Your favorite shaper.
Oh man, I have some good friends that are shapers….. I will say Mark Martinson.
TTOS: Your favorite song…..
Wow, that is such a good question, I should have an answer to this.
I would say “like a rolling stone” by Bob Dylan kind of cliche, but I really like that song.
TTOS: Your favorite surf spot
It’s a place called the Augie’s Hollister ranch.
TTOS: Your favorite surfer….
That’s a really good question.
I’m going to say I got two answers: one is John John Florence as I think he is unbelievable and second one, probably, my all time favorite surfer is Gerry Lopez, how elegant he is on land or in the ocean.
He’s also part of the movie….
I also have one more favorite surfer and he is Tom Curren, he is a really good friend.
I’ve often thought, I got to do a movie just on Tommy, which I know he has done movies, but he’s such a unique guyand he’s such a sweetheart too.
TTOS: Last question we ask everybody, it has nothing to do with surfing or movie-making is very unusual…. we want to know your best relationship advice….
My best relationship advice is “be nice”.
Even when you’re angry or even when you’re upset, just be nice.
If I had to ask the same question to your father, would he have answered the same?
I’m pretty sure, cause you’re obviously raised by your parents and you try to take away what’s best with them, but I think, yeah, he would have said “be nice”.
Recorded in July 2020