Ishka Folkwell and the Thrill of Filming Perfect Waves
Just days before the release of Lost Track Atlantic's third episode, filmmaker Ishka Folkwell took time out from the editing bay, and from dad duties, to chat to Swellnet about tripping down the edge of Africa, filming when he could be surfing, and surfing when he should be filming.
Swellnet: How's COVID treating you?
Ishka Folkwell: It's been OK. I've been busy.
A lot of people I know don't what to do with their spare time during COVID, but by splitting one film into four episodes you've increased your workload. Is that how it's panned out for you?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's definitely a lot more work, I guess if we made it into just one feature film, we would've cut a lot of footage out, so there's that...but yeah, it's definitely kept me busy.
Also, just after we got back from the trip, I had my first kid as well so I'm glad I could stay home.
Congratulations, what did you have?
Cheers. We had a boy, he's just turned one the other month and it's been great. It's given me the time to be at home, because normally every month or two, I'd be off filming somewhere. It's worked really well in that regard, just being able to spend time at home with the family.
That's fantastic. Now look, about the trip, at what point did you realise, 'Hey, we've got so much footage here, it's too much for one episode"?
I don't remember exactly. It probably would have been some stage in Morocco. We got a bit of footage in Europe, not exactly what we were hoping for, even though looking back on it we're stoked with it, yet at the time we were like, 'Oh, I don't know about this...'
Then yeah, once we got to Morocco, it seemed like we couldn't do anything wrong - it was just swell after swell. And then at some point we were like, 'Alright, I think we can break this up and make something more substantial.'
Did you bounce that idea around for a while? For instance, were there any negatives to splitting it up into various episodes?
I don't think so. After the initial idea was talked about between Torren and I, we had to make sure that we had enough footage that wasn't surfing to support it. By that I mean, enough footage to tell a story in each episode and for it not to be sort of repetitive. I think that was probably the main concern because the idea was always to tell a story and not just be a standard surf flick.
So we had a chat with Ryan [Scanlon - needessentials founder] and got his input, and he was all for it.
Did the COVID lockdown have any bearing on the decision..?
I don't think so, from memory. Torren and Ryan might have a different memory, but I'm pretty sure we based our decision solely on footage. Like it was never about, 'Oh, no-one can travel for a while so let's milk it.'
The way it works, you get four premieres instead of one, which is exciting.
Yeah, it's great. With 'Lost Track New Zealand', the one we did on motorbikes, we released that right at the start of COVID and all the lockdowns. We didn't get to screen it and it felt really strange - almost a bit of an anti-climax. The thing is, the screenings are just so much fun and it's really cool just getting to chat with people. It's so different to reading some comments on YouTube. A totally different atmosphere.
So yeah, the premieres are unreal.
Now, I'm gonna do a quick little sidestep here Ishka...
That footage in Morocco was insane. Tell me, did you surf at all?
Ha ha...yeah, I did. I surfed a bunch. I guess the hard thing about filming though, is you never get to surf when it's at its best. Luckily it worked out that the first day we got there - that swell we raced in for - we got, I think, two days straight off the bat where it was that great footage. Then as the swell tapered off, we were like, 'Well, we're not going to better the footage we've already got.' So that's when I jumped on the opportunity to get in the water, and we were lucky enough to keep having these runs of swell.
There's another section in Episode Two that's a lot smaller at the same wave, but it's just a long little tube. We were lucky enough to get so much surf that I was able to get in the water then.
On those flawless days, what did you talk about at night? Torren caught all these great waves, you're filming, so what can you offer? Tell him about the waves he missed..?
No, I try not to. To be honest, you're not really giving any sort of feedback...you're just sort of buzzing. Just stoked with what you got and how eveything is going.
As hard as it may be to film when the waves are pumping, I think it's harder to film when it looks fun but isn't pumping, because you're not sure if you're even going to use the footage. When the surf's that good, it's obvious. 'Oh yeah, this is epic. It's definitely going to be in the film.' I get stoked just to be capturing it.
I'm going out on a limb here, but I reckon there are one or two waves in the last episode that are as good waves as any wave I've ever seen on film.
Yeah. There are two in particular that are pretty incredible. Just from the top of the point all the way down.
One of them towards the end, there was a little bit of foreground foliage - a tree or something - towards the end of the wave. Were you ever worried that you might lose Torren down the line?
Yeah, I think you're talking about the very last wave.
I think so.
I didn't film that wave. That's the one wave...I had already gone home. So there was a local Moroccan guy who happened to be filming some other people and he got that wave. We were lucky enough to get that, because that was the closing wave of the whole episode.
Really? It was a nice touch the foreground noise...what would you call it?
Yeah, just some bushes in the foreground right at the end. I really like it. You can sort of just see him come out the end. I thought it was a cool way to finish it.
OK. So you had to dart home for the impending birth of your son and Torren keeps going down the coast, is that correct?
No. The last stop for us was Senegal. So we went down to Senegal and then we went back to Morocco and that's when I headed home, and then they continued travelling through Morocco for a few weeks after I left.
But you did film all the footage that's to come for Episode Three. Is that correct?
Yeah. I filmed everything except for that one wave that I mentioned earlier.
Right. And what can we expect in the coming episode?
Episode Three picks up where we left off Episode Two - still in Morocco. We tried to make it as chronological as possible as we moved further down the coast. We progressed down the coast and so basically we move into the Western Sahara as we got further south. It's got some more epic waves, but not quite as good as Episode Two. I'd call it different, a few more big wally waves with turns, and a nice slab that we got to shoot in the water, which we don't get to do much, so that was nice.
We also met some incredible people. One guy in particular, a Moroccan guy named Omar. He was living in a cave right in front of this perfect little slab, so we hung out with him a lot and he's got quite a big part in Episode Three.
I know you're only halfway through releasing this instalment, but are yourself and Torren planning the next one?
We haven't spoken about it too much, to be honest. There's a few ideas going round; I mean at this stage, it's probably going to be in Australia, but we're thinking it would probably be something a little more challenging, and probably not as long of a timeline. We had three months for both the last Lost Track films. It might be a bike riding film where we're on bikes or hiking or maybe kayaks and just do it maybe over a month or a few weeks.
When I threw this question at Torren, he mentioned sailing.
Yeah. That's another one.
Do you know how to sail?
No....ha ha. I don't. I've never even been on a sailboat! Torren doesn't know a whole lot about it either but he's definitely dug deep into it and anything he sets his mind to he picks up pretty quick. So yeah, it's on the cards at some stage.
I really enjoy the angle, where the film is not just about the location but about the mode of transport as well. I think it's fantastic.
Yeah. It's such a simple concept, but I think it works. I think we're lucky to have needessentials backing us. Ryan's such a legend and he's good to work with, he's really good at storytelling and it's good to be able to collaborate with him.
It's epic being able to do these projects, there's not many people that would let us go out and make them happen.
Well I look forward to seeing what you guys have got in store. See ya, Ishka.
See ya, mate.
'Lost Track Atlantic: Episode Three' will be released next week