THE INSPIRATION BEHIND M O O D | a FRAN MILLER SURF FILM
Posted on February 14, 2017 by Trace
BEHIND THE SHOOT
‘M O O D’
A SHORT SURF FILM
F R A N M I L L E R
Fran Miller has recently submitted ‘MOOD’ to be judged in the Action category of The Surfing World Short Film Competition
— REELERS 2017 —
presented by Corona.
It has been received very favourably by the public, at just day one of submission, it has been ranking as the ‘most watched’ in the Action category & continuing to hold the position after entries have closed, thus far.
We’re chatting to Fran about what inspired her film
‘Mood’, her choice of tunes & mermaid muses.
C I T I Z E N S
O F T H E S L I D E
— Not So Ordinary Citizens Interview —
Now we wait to hear Judge Kai Neville’s, decision on the Action category and with baited breath, see if Fran will take out the coveted prize in what has been hyped as “the Worlds most prestigious surf film competition.”
We have previously chatted to Fran about her photography, equipment, friendships, photographic idols, NYC exhibition & her typical day
If you missed it catch up
h e r e
HC: The Reelers competition has been touted as ‘the freshest talent in surf-movie making in the world today’. What do accolades like these and winning this competition mean to you?
FRAN: To be perfectly honest, ‘titles’ mean very little to me. Really, what does the ‘freshest’ or the ‘best’ or whatever, signify? It’s all subjective.
At the end of the day, I just want to create and find inspiration within myself to live the best life I can.
My life is internally motivated, though the nature of what I do does lead to external accolades.
The competition came to my attention via my friend and drone flyer Hunter Johnston who messaged me whilst I was overseas recently and suggested I should create a film for it.
I’m very passionate about supporting female talent in surfing, both longboarding and shortboarding. I saw the competition as a great way to showcase a side of women’s longboarding that is not as frequently seen: a progressive, modern film that highlighted the skills and style of some of the best talents in the world.
And not just in the surfing; in the music too.
HC: Tell us about the inception of Mood and completing it before the submission date expired.
FRAN: Initially when Hunter contacted me I thought to myself; great that sounds good.
But I already had a lot of work projects on my plate and as I thought about it in the following days after his message, all I was thinking was I don’t have time to do it.
I had already hastily and excitedly messaged Roisin Carolan initially about the idea before truly weighing it up and she had responded immediately and positively that she thought it would be a great thing to do.
After this realisation, I called Roisin up and explained quite frankly that I really wanted to do it, but I couldn’t promise that I could meet the requirements of getting it done within three weeks. At that stage we had no new footage.
But Roisin called and texted me every day that first week telling me of each swell and wind event and that she was committed to going to wherever, on the East Coast to get the filming done.
Roisin is a very, very relaxed human, but I could tell she was prepared to go above and beyond to get this one done, so I felt very motivated by that. I also told her that the filming wouldn’t go to waste, I could construct something that we could release at a later date.
So I think everything happens for a reason, but within that week, I completed a major commercial project and two of my other clients postponed the filming of their projects into late January and February. It opened up my schedule and I knew it was on!
HC: Did you strategically shoot the footage for ‘Mood’ or did you piece together frames from your backlog?
What inspired the mood and hence the name?
FRAN: So on the first day of filming, we were fortunate to get a great swell event in the Byron Bay area. I filmed in water that whole day. I went through the footage that night, and found a lot of quality content that I was happy with. It wasn’t enough content for a whole film by any means, but it was easily the deciding factor in constructing the film.
I spent a lot of time filming Ivy Thomas over 2016 with the intention of constructing a film.
She has a solid backlog of footage that I have been waiting to release. I cut a light edit of the film with BB King’s Ghetto Woman to the Byron Bay footage, and slowly started to piece together the backlog.
A large amount of Ivy’s footage was shot during winter in Lennox Head last year, as you can see by her full steamer.
It didn’t fit in to the mood of the Byron footage at all which was filmed in crystal clear, Summer water.
That’s what really piqued my interest in the changing moods concept.
As I started cutting more of the film, the idea just grew, though the project was cut as ‘untitled’ until I got to the end and realised I didn’t yet have a name.
With the outline of the film done, I then strategically started filming in conditions only to match the moods.
It was actually quite difficult after the first swell event. As most locals would know, the waves disappeared for the rest of January.
HC: Entrants were enforced a time limit maximum of 3 minutes; did you find this a hinderance on creativity or a goal post for the finish point? As a passion project I’m sure you dedicated a number of hours to complete it, did it all go to schedule?
FRAN: When I first begin cutting the clips I want to use, I often end up with quadruple the amount of footage for the time available. I guess it’s a good problem to have since it allows me to select only the very best footage to cut into the film.
Most of the time when I’m looking to create something, I do already have an idea of how long the edit is going to be, and I tend not to go over that. I think it’s actually helpful to creativity as it helps focus the direction, and puts a premium on quality too.
In terms of schedule, it went mostly to plan. There were certain longboard moves I had in mind that I wanted within the film, and I knew I had the talent that could do them, but we got some pretty poor luck with a long period of horrible surf and wind.
But as I went over the footage, I started putting a premium on the ‘feeling’ of the film more so than just the manoeuvres.
I’ve seen films with the biggest barrels and biggest airs and longest nose rides, but a single flash manoeuvre has never felt enough to me, to make a film.
It’s like when you see a good looking person, one first look isn’t enough, its what‘s inside; the character, the complexities that determine if you connect.
In the end, every single clip in the film was what I wanted to be in it.
HC: The drone footage captured by HUNTER JOHNSTON contained mesmerising shades of turquoise water, some fantastic imagery, how did the collaboration come about?
FRAN: I’ve known the Johnston family for some time now, even before collaborating with Hunter. They are truly just the most beautiful family, so loving and supportive.
During the 2016 Roxy Pro, I bumped into Mel [Hunter’s mum] on the street and we were having a long chat about everything but surfing.
Towards the end of our yarn, she mentioned that Hunter had just gotten a drone, but knowing his shy and quiet character, he wasn’t confident enough to ask any surfers if he could film them. I said no worries, I could help him out.
At the time, the then current WSL World Longboard Champion Rachael Tilly and another tour surfer Victoria Vergara, were both staying at my house in Coolangatta.
Within a couple of days, Hunter was filming two world reknowned surfers. He was so nervous in the beginning, his hands were shaking on his drone controls. He was only fourteen at the time, but he nailed the footage.
We have grown to have such a fantastic relationship, and although I have had several drone controllers contact me looking to do projects, Hunter is always my first choice because of the trust we have with each other.
HC: Tell us about your extremely talented and light of foot surfers: Roisin Carolan, Ivy Thomas & Hallie Rohr..
How did you decide these were the women you wanted to showcase?
FRAN ON HALLIE : It was by coincidence of good timing that Hallie came to be part of the project; but by no means an accident.
I met Hallie in California last year. At the time, she was injured, her hand was plastered and she could barely enter the surf.
I can’t remember who said it to me exactly, it might have been Lola Mignot or Mele Saili, but someone remarked that it was a shame because she was a brilliant surfer and probably had the best heel hang of any female longboarder.
Those words coming from other reknowned loggers carries weight and I didn’t forget it. Hallie was visiting Australia on holidays and surfing a lot with Roisin. When Roisin called me down to film, I definitely made a note to get footage of Hallie, though I’m pretty sure she had no idea what it was for initially.
I don’t shoot ‘everyone’ when I’m out in the surf because I have to conserve battery and memory space for the projects I’m working on, but I definitely filmed Hallie with purpose.
After showing her some tester footage, she happily came onboard. She actually has a large amount of incredible footage not cut into the film because it had already been stylised and her trickery of footwork didn‘t quite match the visual elements, but she is phenomenally skilled.
It was fortunate timing for me that she was on holidays in Byron Bay.
HC – Hallie : What were your feelings on being featured in Frans film?
HALLIE : Initially, I had no idea I was even going to be in the movie so when Fran & Roisin asked me to come out and shoot, I was beyond excited!
I didn’t know much about the project but I’d been following Fran’s work on Instagram for some time, so I knew it would turn out beautifully. I’m just so glad we were all together in the right place at the right time and am honored to be involved!
HC – HALLIE : Did Fran’s vision require anything different from a normal surf session?
HALLIE : Everything felt very natural and it was just a great time in and out of the water! She let us do our thing and I think the film really expresses that complete freedom.
HC – HALLIE : Any stand out funny memories of the shoot?
HALLIE : I think we all had a laugh at how hectic it was shooting at the Pass & narrowly missing the beginners. But the crowds never really discouraged us & there were enough cold beers post-surf to make it a good time regardless!
HC – HALLIE : What’s your ‘mood’ watching these 3 minutes of collective salty stoke?
HALLIE : The grace & effortless style put on display by Roisin and Ivy paired with Fran’s talent behind the lens makes the film truly a mesmerizing three minutes.
Watching it now is a bit torturous as I’m freezing in Northern California, but it is a gorgeous reminder of the epic time we had playing around in the surf!
FRAN ON ROISIN : So Roisin probably doesn’t need an introduction to your audience; she is one of the most skilled and powerful loggers in the world.
You don’t win Malibu because you’re a good surfer, you win it because you are incredible.
I was introduced to Roisin years ago by one of her sponsors and I ended up shooting her at home in Byron Bay shortly after. Then we became friends haha.
I’ve been truly fortunate to spend time with Roisin and her whole family since then. Her parents have welcomed me into their home like one of their own children, and in some very difficult moments in the past, they were some of the only people who outwardly came to my side to help me through them. They didn’t have to, but they did because thats the type of loving family that they are, and you never forget those things.
So naturally, having a friend who is one of the best in the business and whose family treats you like their own, I was and am happy to give her any moment of my time, whether filming a movie, or drinking a glass of wine.
HC – ROISIN : What were your feelings on being asked to feature in Fran’s film?
ROISIN : Always a pleasure and an honour to work with Fran, and in any creative direction she plans on in the future.
HC – ROISIN : Memories from filming ‘Mood’?
ROISIN : We drank a few beers between shoots which was nice, hah! There were lots of funny times, it’s hard to think of them all… I do remember a bush turkey kept eating our peaches though, typical.
HC – ROISIN : Your reflections on watching the film?
ROISIN : SO stoked, lots of great memories from different surf sessions, with a bunch of legends!
Ivy had no idea of my profession. She was just a frothing grommet, smiling and friendly to everyone in the surf, including myself. That’s how we became friends first and foremost.
Since then, Ivy took it upon herself to transform from local grommet to a young, established name within our surfing community.
Ivy is wise beyond her years. She has acted as my muse, allowing me to shoot creatively without any expectations on what content was produced. She has put a lot of trust in my shooting, and likewise I have a lot of trust in her surfing and her professionalism.
IVY THOMAS | Putting her trust in Frans artistic direction, at Moreton Island
FRAN ON IVY : Through 2015 and 2016, we created significant amounts of photographic content for both commercial work and passion projects, and naturally when I asked her if she was interested in exploring film, she agreed. Some of her footage in Mood is from 6-9 months ago.
I honestly think she was a bit frustrated through parts of this project because her surfing has improved so signficantly since we filmed last winter, but the terrible surf conditions we received over the latter parts of filming didn’t allow her to showcase this and so we relied upon her backlogged footage, which was still outstanding.
IVY : I didn’t know Fran was interested in entering a clip into the Reelers competition until about a week or two before submissions closed!
The majority of my parts within the short film is from footage we’d filmed in the winter and late spring of 2015, that had been kind of hanging around and waiting for something to happen, which was great because now its in this clip!
Obviously I was so stoked to be involved, especially being featured alongside Roisin and Hallie, two incredibly talented surfers.
Fran has just begun branching out into filming, rather than mainly taking photos like when we first met – and she has a knack for it. The clip turned out epic!
HC – IVY : When you shoot with Fran is there a creative vision in mind or are you simply enjoying the water together?
IVY : I’d like to think that Fran and I are pretty in sync. After hanging out, shooting and surfing all the time, I have a pretty good idea of what she’s looking for, so essentially it would be a normal surf session for us.
Fran and I are always experimenting and trying new things, so we don’t put as much pressure on each other to get good content, and every session revolves around just having fun.
IVY : Surfing is always fun, shooting with Fran is always fun. The fact that we get along and can joke while we’re out there always makes it enjoyable.
One of the main parts in the clip, was shot in a particularly sharky location, and we were both kind of freaking out, which somehow made it pretty funny.
HC – IVY : Your mood on seeing the completed film?
IVY : Goosebumps. Thats what I experienced when I first watched it. Goosebumps and a whole lot of happiness, because the clip is full of good memories and great music!
HC – FRAN : What inspired the music in your film? It must be difficult to find original work which compliments your imagery.
FRAN: The music in the film is a signifcant part of the overall concept and execution of the whole edit.
Aquila Young whose song ‘Crimson Criminal’ opens the surfing in the film is, in my opinion, one of the most skilled musicians in Australia, and, by fate, we live next door to each other.
Of course I didn’t know that when we first met. I saw her perform locally and upon seeing her phenomenal musical talent, I of course started following her career and listening to her songs.
I only then found out we had several mutual musician friends and thereafter we became friends.
She is my first choice for music in any filming that I do, and I feel beyond thankful that she has supported my projects.
The instrumental in the black and white segment was commissioned for the edit. A close friend of mine, Jay Jermyn, who is part of the underground yet popular radio played band Veople came to my assistance when I had cut footage to a famous song that I had no legal rights to use. But I couldn’t let the song go.
His band mate Matt Powell, who I did know previously, is pretty much a musical genius, and Jay suggested I get in contact with him for help.
I hired Matt and five hours later, he had reconstructed a new song that matched the beats, rhythm and mood of the original.
It was brilliant. To have this local, world class talent has been a blessing. They are part of our creative Gold Coast community and having such genius around me has given me untold amounts of inspiration.
FRAN MILLER | at work. Photo by Cécilia Thibier
HC: Which photography equipment did you use to create the film?
FRAN: It’s quite funny really; I used several, very average cameras for parts of the film. One is a point and shoot panasonic and one is a Canon 70d that I literally stuffed into my 7d housing for filming in 2016.
The 70d doesn’t connect to the wiring or buttons in the 7d housing, so I added blu-tac and plastic into the buttons to make them reach the right buttons, but I had to allow the auto-focus to engage the subject, I couldn’t actually set it by choice.
That was a torturous and difficult filming process, but one I had to deal with because I didn’t know where I was going in my filming, and spending 15k on filming gear when you don’t know what you are doing would be stupidity on my part.
Then I met B&H photo in New York, the most divine camera store on Earth!! I picked up a used Sony 4k A Series camera there last Summer and have since done all my filming on that.
It’s my pocket rocket. Now I also have a Canon 1dx2 that will be my workhorse. It isn’t a Red, but I think at this stage of my career, if not at any stage of any career, quality process trumps poor process with better gear.
And I’m still such an amateur at filming, I have only progressed rapidly because of my expertise in photography.
Last year I told one of my friends Shane Fletcher, who is a world class filmer, that I never wanted to be a filmer. That I hated how much gear there is.
I still hate how much gear there is, but I do enjoy the filming and editing process and I am embracing the evolution of those skills!
HC: Your upcoming, first solo exhibition in the town you live and create from, is opening April 1st.. not an April fools joke? You are going to show up, we hope?!
What are you looking forward to presenting and do you think the mood will be different from that of last years exhibtiions in NY?
FRAN : Haha, yeah, I think I will turn up. The exhibtion is a release of new work titled, ‘Embrace Chaos’.
The work was created during a time of massive progression in my life, where work, love, life, basically stormed at me.
I think chaos has a lot of negative connotations. But it was this chaos that opened all the avenues that have allowed me to prosper, even during the tough moments within that chaos.
Embracing it, finding calm within it, and not shutting it out, is what the exhibition is about.
The exhibition is part of Bleach Festival, a massive two week Arts and Culture festival. It will be shown at the Maverick Hair and Art Space in Coolangatta, where lots of my friends work.
I think the mood of the event will be similar in some ways, such as being quite festive and buoyant like the New York Womens Surf Film Festival.
I expect to see a lot of familiar faces, which I think will make it very personal. I’m excited to show my friends and family what I do in real life. Hey mum, I actually do something hahaha.
Well actually I told my parents not to come to the opening, I don’t want them to see me too hydrated. It’s going to be a good time.
And I would love to meet new people there too, so don’t be shy to come by, say hello and see what’s going on!
To help support Fran Miller and her trio of talented lady slayers you can watch the film, share, comment and ‘like’
H E R E
‘MOOD’ features music by Aquila Young, Matt Powell and Dr Rinkel & Mindseye
Reelers by Coastalwatch / Surfing World Magazine presented by Corona