The Surf Film Archive x Headland
Back in 2014, husband and wife team Dave Horsley and Kate Howat ran the ‘Call of the Surf’ film festival at Coffs Harbour. So successful was it, the couple, both unabashed cinephiles, grew that festival into the Screen Wave International Film Festival - or SWIFF for short.
Now in its eighth year, SWIFF is acknowledging its roots by this year running a number of surf films such as Tim Bonython’s ‘The Big Wave Project II’ - stay tuned for a Swellnet interview in coming days - and ‘That Was Then, This Is Now’, a collaboration between Jolyon Hoff of the Surf Film Archive and Murray Paterson of the band Headland.
If you’ve watched any of Torren Martyn and Ishka Folkwell’s ‘Lost Track’ films then you’ve heard Murray’s work - Headland provides the original score to each of those films, plus a few others in the needessentials stable.
Keen listeners will be aware that Murray’s work stretches back even further and very often out on the same artistic tip: Bespoke atmospheric rock inspired by projected visuals.
Improvised music set to imagery isn’t totally new, Neil Young provided a live and spontaneous soundtrack to ‘Dead Man’, Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 film starring Johnny Depp, while Andrew Kidman has also experimented with a live band on stage as a film plays. However, with Headland, Murray is pushing the format forward.
In this he’s helped by Jolyon Hoff who’s providing the visuals, all salvaged from his recent rescue mission to digitise lost and forgotten rolls of surf footage. Fifteen years ago, Jolyon made ‘Searching for Michael Peterson’ and was astounded at the amount of unseen footage he came across: whole rolls lost to the cutting room floor, or footage unused because of a slight flaw, stored away as the march of technology made old formats redundant.
Come the pandemic and Jolyon acted on an old desire, creating the Surf Film Archive to save all that lost and forgotten footage - not just of MP but any surf footage - before it turned to dust. However, rather than just open an image bank, the filmmaker within saw potential in all that footage.
“I love seeing the towns and places that I know very well,” says Jolyon, “but that have changed so dramatically, like Byron Bay or any of those coastal towns. I love seeing the old fashion and the cars and the roads that have changed so dramatically now.”
“And, of course, I enjoy the fact that the waves are exactly the same! Everything has changed, but the ocean itself; the waves are exactly the same as they always were.”
Between sourcing, saving, and digitising said footage - now well over a hundred hours’ worth - Jolyon has been whittling down the very best sections, arranging it into a running order, and collaborating with old mate Murray on how best to present it. The end result is 'That Was Then, This Is Now', a film with no narration or dialogue, which turns on a mix of Jolyon’s sequencing and Murray’s music. One pre-programmed, the other played live.
“I’ve always considered cinema to be a live experience,” says Dave Horsley. “It’s that shared moment where the lights go down, you’re in a crowd, and you have this ephemeral reaction to this thing that’s been created.”
The only difference now is that one element - the music - is being created in real time.