10 Directors to Watch: The Malloy Brothers’ Surf Background a Perfect Fit for ‘The Tribes of Palos Verdes’

Experience directing surf docs and a suite of award-winning commercials served Brendan and Emmett Malloy well on their SoCal debut.

brendan emmett malloy the tribes of
Mallorys: Courtesy of brendan & emmett malloy

The self-taught sibling directors were born and raised in the L.A. beach culture and started out making videos of top surfers. So when it came to tackle their second narrative feature — made 15 years after snowboard comedy “Out Cold” — it was no surprise that they chose “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” a dysfunctional family drama set in a posh SoCal beachfront community.

However, from the start, the brothers wanted to make sure their narrative debut — a screenplay that passed through several directors’ hands during its nearly two decades of development — wasn’t overwhelmed by the surf element.

“Surfing is such an appealing thing to people from the outside, it’s so easy to sell it, and it’s so easy to get carried away in making a movie with this setting, because you get caught up in how cool everything looks when you’re out there,” says older brother Emmett. “We let 20 of the 23 days of filming be about the drama and this family, while still being able to capture those moments and give people the beauty and the power of the ocean. We made it a real character in the movie.”

For the Malloys, whose résumé already boasts an impressive range of commercial, documentary, and music-video credits, including a Nike ad honoring LeBron James’ return to Cleveland, directing “The Tribes of Palos Verdes” was the challenge they had been waiting to conquer, giving them a chance to work with Jennifer Garner, Justin Kirk, and a cast of younger actors — most of whom were already attached to the project.

“We do a lot of follow-doc work, and if the day lights up, you’ve got some good stuff, and if it doesn’t, then you don’t,” Brendan says. “But with this, we felt really in control, and we felt like we had the time to prep and make it our version of this story, and that’s just a privilege that we haven’t gotten very often.”

Ages: Brendan, 41; Emmett, 43
Influences: Hal Ashby, Spike Jonze
Agency: Joanne Wiles at ICM Partners
Lawyer: David Fox