Passion and ambition drove surfing filmmaker Jack McCoy to make “A Deeper Shade of Blue,” the feature docu that opened the Maui Film Festival on June 15.
In the end, he sacrificed some of the ambition — whittling the film down from 3 1/2 hours to 90 minutes — and emerged with a stunningly photographed study tightly focused on the history of surfing culture and the technology of the surfboard.
What had to be left behind was footage based on a year and a half of research during which McCoy got his hands on more than 200 surfing films and created a database detailing the surfers in each of those movies.
“I bit off more than I could chew,” said McCoy. “I tried to tell a much bigger story. It was an ambitious project but I had to throw it aside.”
“Blue” was a labor of love for Hawaii-raised McCoy. As a teen he was inspired to make surf movies by the films of Bruce Brown, whose 1966 classic “The Endless Summer” helped globalize a sport that emerged in Hawaii and hadn’t spread much beyond California.
Since the ’60s McCoy has promoted, distributed, written, produced, directed and photographed dozens of surf movies. Along the way he has innovated the technology of capturing underwater imagery — including the invention of specialized housings that allow cameras to be operated underwater.
But perhaps his greatest contribution is an underwater jet ski that lets the cameraman follow the action beneath the waves at a speed of up to 10 knots. McCoy perfected the system over two years of practice in Tahiti and now uses it (holding his breath for up to 90 seconds) to capture never-before-seen angles from the impact zone, where waves smash onto the offshore reef.
With “Blue,” McCoy also made the transition from 16mm and Super 16 film, switching to lighter Panasonic HD cameras that record onto pocket-size P2 cards. Liberated from having to go back to shore to swap out film reels, he’s now able to stay on the water for up to six hours.
McCoy shoots with only one assistant on the water, plus a cameraperson captures additional points of view from the shore. “If you do it right you can make it look like you’ve got a crew of 20,” he said.
“Blue” used locations in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific. Its $1.8 million budget was provided by “a private investor who’s made a lot of money from surfing,” said McCoy. “It was over budget and behind schedule, but when you work hard on a production you want to get it right.”
Like other McCoy films, “Blue” uses music with lyrics that he incorporates into the storytelling. The filmmaker has built connections with several musicians – including Paul McCartney, for whom he recently created a music video for the unreleased “Blue Sway,” written 20 years ago. “I’m fortunate to have developed good relationships with artists who have allowed us to license songs within our budgets,” he said.
As for all the research he “threw aside,” McCoy turned it into three terabytes of surf movie information that he’ll donate to surfing foundations.
Bookings & Signings
Dattner Dispoto stereographer Keith Collea (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”), d.p. Arthur Reinhart (“Venice”) and production designer Jamie Vickers (commercials). Agency booked d.p.’s Jon Joffin on Vince Marcello’s “American Girl,” Eric Maddison on Josef Rusnak’s “Beyond,” Glynn Speeckaert on Martin Werner’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” Trevor Forrest on Chris Rhodes’ “Kara Murat,” Bojan Bazelli on Adam Shankman’s “Rock of Ages,” Tami Reiker on co-helmer Demi Moore’s “5 for the Cure” and Rodney Taylor on Michael Kristoff’s docu “Live at the Foxes Den.” Agency also booked line producer Patty Long on Lorene Scafaria’s “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”; production designers Cecin Gentry on Neema Barnett’s “On the Seventh Day” and Carlos Menendez on Scott Speer’s “Step Up 4”; editor Jim Flynn on Nick Cassavetes’ “Yellow”; and costume designer Mary Claire Hannan on “5 for the Cure.”
Innovative Artists signed production designer Barry Chusid (“2012”). Agency booked d.p.’s Theo Van de Sande on Danny Mooney’s “Awol,” Joseph White on Sam Kadi’s “The Citizen,” Harlan Bosmajian on Stephen Padilla’s “Backwards,” Cort Fey on NBC’s “Grimm,” Eric Edwards on co-helmer Jennifer Aniston’s “5 for the Cure” and Tobias Datum on Xan Cassavetes’ “Kiss of the Damned.”