Surfer is a film about fear, hope, and finding your voice. It’s been praised for its unique perspective on teen suicide in the wake of bullying. The director recently updated us with his thoughts on how the movie has impacted teens around the world.,
“Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear” is a new movie that follows the story of a teenage surfer who must confront his fear to get back on the water.
Doug, how are you today? Tell me about yourself in a few words. What is your go-to, tried-and-true approach of directing?
My birthday is July 25th, 1963. I’ve spent my whole life studying physics and am now a professor in the Physics and Electrical Engineering departments at USC, where he teaches. He studied physics, martial arts, and acting because he was interested in the process of how spiritual energy interacts with physical matter in living things. Since the mid-1980s, I’ve been studying Method acting with Hedi Sontag at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. At Strasberg in Los Angeles, I am a member of the Group. In addition, I’ve performed in a number of plays by Tennessee Williams, William Saroyan, Chekov, and Shakespeare. As an actor, writer, and director, I’ve spent my whole life working in experimental theater and cinema. I’ve finished more than 80% of two additional films. My son Sage and I reside in Newport Beach, California. I also work as a composer. I direct from the standpoint of the actor’s requirements. As an actor, I direct.
Surfer is your first film to be released, but do you have any other projects in the horizon?
I compose plays and then choose from them. Right now, I’m working on adapting The Dark Prophet, a book I authored.
What inspired you to pursue a career in filmmaking?
I adore movies. That is the best response I can provide to your query.
I think that getting a film released is a difficult task. What’s been your most effective strategy for getting Surfer noticed? Although the film was created a few years ago, you have yet to distribute it on home video formats.
Any method you can think of to get it noticed. Then, ideally, cinemas will begin to request it. I’ve opted to self-distribute Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear and never release it online or on home media, instead opting to self-distribute it and have it viewed in cinemas. The picture is now in its third or fourth year, and I’d say it’s doing rather well considering it’s never been published on video. When you add COVID to the mix, I’d say the movie is doing rather well.
What is the most difficult component of creating independent films?
Always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always
Do you love working with others? Or would it be better if you went it alone?
Collaboration must be enjoyable. Being surrounded by creative, encouraging individuals is a powerful motivator.
Do you find filming satisfying in and of itself, given that you also write?
It’s both rewarding and delightfully lonely for me. I make a list of the characters and look for a cast. It’s all up to me. I’m looking for someone who is passionate about something. Then there’s talent.
Returning to the topic of distribution: Was it always your intention to keep this film in cinemas, or what went through your head when you first considered releasing it yourself with this film?
After the initial screening and final edit, I search for that. I did all of the distribution on my own. It’s a struggle, but I have a fantastic PR on my side to assist me.
What recommendations would you provide to filmmakers who are having trouble funding their projects?
I believe that having a talent that pays well is the finest way to be able to play at film. Fortunately, I work during the day. So, go out and find a job. Save some cash.
How did you get started with Surfer? Please walk me through the process.
When my son Sage (Julian Sage Burke) was born on November 21, 2001, I was almost completed with an experimental film. Because there was no musical score and no finances to commission one, the almost completed picture was not completed.
The experimental film was set aside as my new and major focus in life was my baby Sage. I taught my son all he knew about me when I was a kid. One of the hobbies the father and son did together was surfing. Sage rode her first wave when she was two and a half years old. Soon, I was bringing my son Sage surfing virtually every day, and I was recording him for the most of the time in order to track his growth and teach him on surfing technique. Local surfers Chris Waring and Dave Post, from Seal Beach and San Clemente, were continually recording and teaching Sage.
Sage was between the ages of five and fourteen when the surf footage in “Surfer” was shot. In February 2016, the last wave was shot.
In December 2009, on New Year’s Eve, when Sage was just eight years old, I recorded a scene with him in the fog at night, in which Sage portrays a little kid in a hallucinatory vision of a nomadic Father who wishes he had a son. The sequence was designed to have the desperate and delusional guy picture the son he never had who talked to him in poetic language and taught him lessons about life and spiritual concerns. I figured I’d use it in the vagabond film, or if that didn’t work, he’d have footage of his small kid performing, which could be stored in the family video archives and seen around the holidays years later. A hard disk was used to store the video.
Over the years, as the film of my kid surfing gathered, I started to see a tale being conveyed in the footage. My original images were of a silent picture about a little kid growing up surfing and building a bond with an ocean that dominates him until the child becomes large, strong, and skillful enough to tame the beast that previously ruled him. The silent picture was placed into production and planning started.
I started referring to the project as “The movie” as time went on. “The film” was supposed to be a silent video that would be uploaded on YouTube and used to promote Sage as a pro surfer. Sage was certainly participating in surf tournaments around California and Hawaii, and surfer edits on the internet were utilized to promote the surfer and maybe get a sponsor from a surf equipment or clothing brand. Until the movie was finished, I kept the film’s footage hidden away from the general public.
Sage began surfing the “Wedge,” the proving ground and beginning point for large surfers in Newport Beach and southern California, when he was 11 years old. I began teaching Sage the breath control and breath holding skills he had learnt in his martial arts training.
Sage surfed some waves with a face well past 20 feet at Todos Santos Island with Dave Post in the early autumn of 2014. A month later, Steve Clark joined us for another session.
I brought Sage, then 13, to Bali for a month in the summer of 2015, where he videotaped himself surfing in a variety of southern hemisphere waves. Between 2014 and 2016, a major El Nino event occurred. El Nio was a warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean that caused exceptionally warm waters to form between the South American coast and the International Date Line. The world’s weather was impacted by these extremely warm seas in a variety of ways. Large swells were formed in several regions of the planet, resulting in some of the greatest surfing conditions in decades.
Sage surfed a wave at “Desert Point” on Lombok, an island immediately east of Bali’s southern tip, during a summer vacation in July 2015. Sage received a little wave at Desert Point, but it was a wave that kept him inside the barrel for quite some time.
Then, in August 2015, I brought my son Sage to Southern Mexico, to the big wave destination Puerto Escondido, for three weeks. The bulb turned on in my mind at “Puerto” while I was looking at some of the film with Chris Waring late at night after a huge wave session. Sage was brave and could surf very huge Puerto Escondido (wave faces 20 ft+) at 13, so I figured he’d ride something big soon.
As a result, “The Movie” could not be a silent film. It needed to be a dramatic full-length feature film with a plot. If Sage was going to be so brave and actually implement the training techniques that his father had taught him, dad was going to have to go back to writing, acting, and filming in order to tell the tale of his son’s tremendous heroism in real life.
Sage rode his first waves at Mavericks Half Moon Bay in October of 2015. This was followed by a number of more sessions in the fall.
Sage surfed the waves of significance at Mavericks again in January and February 2016.
Sage surfed a monster wave in Mexico on the same day that the Hawaiians surfed the “Eddie” in Waimea Bay North Shore Oahu in February 2016. The last wave of the movie was shot three thousand miles away from the “Eddie” on Todos Santos Island, Mexico, nine miles off the shore of Ensenada bay. Sage weighed 105 pounds and was fourteen years old.
Following the filming of the wave at Todos, the planning and scripting for the feature film “Surfer” started. The surf footage was already recorded. It would be integrated into a tale in which a father teaches his kid how to overcome his worries via the use of spiritual approaches and all of its wonders.
Principle shooting of several of the conversation sequences took place in the spring and summer of 2016. Later, when he was laughing about it, Tom Badoud, cameraman and editor, would comment. “I need you to come out to the beach and shoot my kid and me chatting to each other against a rock bluff,” Doug Burke of Burke International Pictures stated. All of the lines were memorized and written down. Come down and capture it on film. My kid is a talented actor. He learned from me. After that, we’ll go to Los Angeles to shoot a scene at David Strasberg’s acting school. In the film, such location is a military hospital. It’s a surfing film. Well, not quite. It’s a film with a tale that includes a lot of surfing. Just come down and we’ll take advantage of the natural morning’magic hour’ light. Bring one or two lights with battery packs, at the very least. You’ll need battery packs. On the beach, there is no electricity. We’ll be so close to the sea that we’ll be almost in the ocean. If you don’t have excellent microphones, we’ll have to dub all of the lines in post. “The water makes a lot of noise.”
Filming for “Surfer” was finished a few months later, in late September 2016, just two months before Sage’s 15th birthday. From the first surf footage through the autumn of 2016, the whole filming process took nine years.
Early in 2017, post-production started. To begin, Chris Waring organized all of the surf video into a timeline. Then, under Burke’s instruction, he had to reconstruct the material into eight portions, each of which constituted a storyline component in the tale that would be conveyed via the moments recorded with Badoud. The surf video would be incorporated into the plot in some way. It couldn’t possibly be another surf movie. It had to be one-of-a-kind. It had to be something the director would be pleased with. It needed to convey the father’s affection and pride in his kid.
The first rough cut of the film was completed in the summer of 2017, and it ended up being roughly a four-hour version. Tom Badoud took it and cut it down to only 102 minutes.
In the spring and summer of 2017, I wrote an original soundtrack that Red Bennett synthesized electronically.
Carol Connors was the first outsider to view the complete film in November 2017. At her Beverly Hills home, she watched it on Burke’s laptop. She is the lady who co-wrote the lyrics for “Gonna Fly Now,” the movie’s theme song, with Ayn Robins. That theme tune received an Academy Award nomination.
Alex Hughes and I composed the soundtrack for this video. Carol sat down to create the words for a “Surfer” theme tune. Carol Connors finished the lyrics for “Surfer’s” theme song, “Go it Alone” (surf the Wave), in early December 2017. The words were intertwined with Alex Hughes’ guitar and instrumental, which is the music that plays in the movie. Carol Connors performs the track with her own words.
The film’s post-production was finished in late December 2018, and screening launch dates in Los Angeles were set.
Impressive! Do you create a storyboard? What about the film’s promotion? What was it like for you?
The plot and writing are both excellent. I write in the form of notes and storyboards. When feasible, the production will shoot. It takes a lot of effort to get to the premiere and sell the film.
I’m not acquainted with your cast. Where did they originate?
I cast people with whom I had previously worked on stage. Some of the characters were created with them in mind.
Do you practice?
Yes, but just a little; we practice shortly before the shoot to keep things fresh. It was made simpler by the tight filming schedule. There was no time for anxiety.
How long did the script take you to write?
Just like Carol’s song, I went it alone for a year.
Did you go over your budget in any way?
Yes. I went above by approximately half a percentage point. That just served to delay the process.
You own a production firm of your own. When did you come up with that?
It was 30 years ago. I wanted to focus on indie cinema.
You stated you were working on other projects, right? Another film?
I’m working on a few other projects, the most recent of which being Hotrod, which I’ve been filming for quite some time.
I’ve watched Surfer in a theater and it’s fantastic, but what do you want people to remember about your picture when they see it?
They will feel and assume that time is slowing down.
What are your New Year’s resolutions this year?
Finish more movies!
You also authored a book that was just released. What exactly is it?
“The Dark Prophet,” a novel I authored, is now available for purchase on Amazon.
Surfer -Teen Confronts Fear was never published on DVD or online; it was made specifically for the theater experience.
PREPARE TO BE AMAZED AFTER WATCHING THE TRAILER.
SYNOPSIS: Sage (Sage Burke) has been surfing since he was a child, but after a wipeout on a large wave at the age of 13, he is paralyzed by dread. He was almost drowned as the wave pushed him to the bottom and trapped him there without breath. Sage no longer surfs the waves since he still has his whole life ahead of him but is gripped by dread. But, unable to resist the ocean’s magical and overpowering attraction, he goes surfing and discovers more than he bargained for. This is the tale of a young woman who faces her fears…
SURFER: TEEN CONFRONTS FEAR is writer/director/composer/actor Douglas Burke’s passion project, and his profoundly emotional and spiritual masterpiece has captivated midnight cinema audiences since its theatrical premiere earlier this year. Burke’s vision has split critics: some have savaged it, while others have been fascinated by what Burke is doing. What is known is that the picture is eliciting an enthralling reaction, and the film’s cult status is barely beginning.
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