PMK, the Manufacturing Stoke Interview
Pierce Michael Kavanagh is the San Diego based filmmaker behind the ground breaking picture, Manufacturing Stoke, which recently hit the somewhat big and somewhat small screen(s). Pierce’s film dares to go where others haven’t; aligning the act of wave riding (stoke) with the acts of the surf industry (purveyors of stoke) showing the intrinsic disconnect where there should be intrinsic and overt connectedness.
TGB’s been playing email tag with the multi-tasking director, attempting to go behind the scenes of the man behind the lens and his passion project. This e-interview is the outcome, hope you enjoy it.
Where’d you grow up? How long have you been a surfer/water enthusiast?
La Jolla and all of my life. My folks moved from a pretty gnarly Bronx neighborhood and eventually settled down within a block of the reefs. I was literally raised by the beach. I grew up in a big family (seven kids) so there was no way to watch all of us. My folks made sure we all had swimming lessons and then let us loose. The beach was our front yard and the older kids were our babysitters. It was feral and I loved it.
What got you in to making films? Was there a seminal moment or from movie lover, to camera enthusiast/story teller, to…
I have always loved to draw and read so everything stems from those two lifelong passions. Mix in music and there it is. I started as a teenager with a video camera and ended with a film degree from UCSB. With filmmaking I can create pictures I cannot draw, tell stories that will not bore you and weave in music I cannot play. It is a genius medium for me.
Should have figured a man with your talent was a Gaucho. Day 1 of what was to become Manufacturing Stoke, get us in to your head a bit, what were you setting out to do and did you have a working title?
I went to a green surf expo at Seaside reef last fall with my wife Petra and noticed a shift in surfing involving organic products and recycled materials while steering away from petrochemical components. I did my initial research and told Petra I think I had a film about sustainability in the surf industry. I recruited my old film schoolmates Geoffrey and Max and set off to do a documentary miniseries called Sustainability: surfing looks inward. Originally, we were going to do four 15 minutes episodes based on surf wax, board construction, wetsuit materials and finally, the clothing industry.
When did you know you were on to something and/or when did any initial film direction shift?
I noticed a huge shift after our first couple of interviews. Since we started with wax we interviewed John Baker Dahl of Wax Research, Matt Mattoon from Matunas Wax and Lucas Dirkse who made his own wax. These guys have great stories. I knew after these three interviews that we had a feature length documentary so we went ahead and scheduled all of the interviews and changed our direction drastically. Over thirty interviews later we have rare and amazing insight into the inner workings of the surf industry. The good, the bad and the ugly.
What were some of the hardships you encountered in your production journey?
The majority of films in the surf industry are brand driven and financed by deep marketing pockets. Since this is an independent documentary analyzing the surf industry, we had to finance it ourselves. How do you take money from a company without being influenced? So, that being said, this film would not have been possible without the “collaborative” mentality. We had amazing production support from family, filmmakers, musicians, and artists alike. I was amazed and honored by all the people who truly got behind this film in any way they could.
Without divulging your thesis or giving away the “best parts,” is there a particular situation or common theme that was a shock to you?
The truth is shocking. I wanted to provide a platform for surfers to discuss their thoughts on the industry. I did not want to influence this film at all. I commend the brave individuals who agreed to be filmed and to be honest. Some companies know they have a checkered past but are still striving to do better. Some companies knew that doing an interview could possibly be damaging. While other companies flat out refused to talk to me. Think about who is in the film, and then think about who is not in the film. Everybody had a chance.
Is the film going to making the rounds on the circuit/where can folks check it out?
MANUFACTURING STOKE has a very busy summer schedule. We have been officially selected for international film festivals in Hawaii, France, and Germany. And misfit pictures also presents the MANUFACTURING STOKE anti-STADIUM SUMMER TOUR and EXPRESSION SESSIONS. Check www.manufacturingstoke.com for more film and tour information. Any excuse to get in the water is a good enough excuse for me.
Whose been your inspiration and assisted you along the way….shout-outs?
My beautiful wife Petra, who produced the film as well. My two fellow producers, Geoffrey Smart who wrote the story and Maximilian Schmige our director of photography. Sara Iyer for doing an amazing job editing. Jeff Phaklides for sound, Craig Mieritz for color and Emanueal Garcia for graphics. Eric Ramirez contributed immensely to the water photography. Damain X Fulton created the jaw dropping artwork for the film poster. Chris Prescott stepped up huge with the music and composing some amazing jams (while touring). Which reminds me of all of the bands that contributed. Support your local bands. This is what I mean by collaboration. So many people put their time and effort into the making of this film. Ed Lewis for our website and everything else. Basically everyone in the film as well. Envirosurfer, Arcona and Grain Surfboards helped make post-production easier. I made a lot of great friends because of this film. Shout outs go to Tiare Thompson, Niko Traubman and Lucas Dirkse. You guys are the future…demand a better one.