Will Bendix And Now Now Media

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Talking Heads

Back in mid-2021, at the height of COVID-mania, two surfers from South Africa managed to get the surfing world talking about something other than immunnology and conspiracy.

In their previous lives, Will Bendix had been a print journalist and Alan van Gysen a stills photographer, yet they assumed new duties, started a company called Now Now Media, and released their debut film, 'Mirage: The Ever-Changing Story Of Skeleton Bay'.

Skeleton Bay has been the backdrop to many great surf clips, however Will and Alan didn't merely use it as a hamster wheel to brand awareness. Instead they researched the wave's history, its geology, and its ephemeral nature, noting that it didn't exist at the turn of the century and its future isn't assured either.

'Mirage' won a bunch of awards from film festivals, but perhaps most importantly it recieved accolades from discerning surfers. Here was something that was both entertaining and enlightening. What else did they have for us..?

Accustomed to a firehose of content, surfers had to patiently wait a year for their next offering - 'Chasing The Unicorn: A Mozambican Surf Story' - while last week they dropped their latest work - 'Place Of Thorns: The Story Of Puerto Escondido'. Each has been very well received; the high standard set by 'Mirage' was no fluke.

Swellnet recently chatted to Will about his mid-career transition, finding a home in a crowded marketplace, and what's next for Now Now.

Who is Now Now Media?
Now Now is myself and Alan van Gysen. The name comes from the South African expression now-now, which loosely means ‘soon’. It’s a bit of a play on ‘coming soon’ like in film trailers, but putting a little bit of a South African bent on it.

At the moment it’s just the two of us, but we try work with local producers and videographers for our projects, like Edwin Morales, who co-produced 'Place of Thorns' and shot most of the surf footage. We could never have made the film without Edwin. So we’re kind of growing our extended family as we go.

Your background is in the written word, how's it been translating that skillset to video production?
Thank god for YouTube…!

It’s been a baptism of fire and a lot of online tutorials and asking friends for help. But in a way, the fundamentals are quite similar. We’re trying to tell meaningful stories using our respective skills.

Alan and I had been working together in print for a long time prior to starting Now Now – he was the photographer and fixer, I was the writer and editor, and we’d team up and try packages stories and ideas together. But that landscape was getting harder and harder, and when COVID hit we did a hard pivot.

When we started Now Now, we pretty much translated how we operate directly to film. Alan taught himself to shoot video, I taught myself to edit, and now we approach film production in much the same way – he is the DOP and producer, and I’m the director and editor.

I think perhaps what really helped is that in print or with writing, you have to learn how to construct a good storyline or else you’re dead in the water. You can’t hide behind nice moving visuals – if you’re not engaging your reader with the story you’re telling, it’s over. So we’ve tried to take that approach to video production.

Will and Alan on set for Now Now

Which print titles had you worked for?
My first job was with the South African magazine Zigzag, starting off as an Editorial Assistant until I eventually became Editor. I was there for a long time, they couldn’t get rid of me.

In terms of surf media, I’ve contributed fairly regularly to The Surfer’s Journal, Tracks and Surfer over the years . My last full-time print gig was as editor and designer of White Horses, where I was under the guidance of two of the best in the business, Craig Sims and Gra Murdoch. Gra set the benchmark on being true to your subject matter and telling stories in an original way. Learning from him was an invaluable experience.

Now you're doing things a bit differently, not just from print work but also the application and pacing of your video content compared to typical vlogs.
Yeah, we were late to the filmmaking game and there are already a bunch of people doing incredible work, from vlogs to high-action, so we looked around the surf media landscape and tried to identify what we could do that perhaps set us apart a little, while still trying to play to our strengths.

Our interest has always veered towards travel, environmental issues, and investigative-style journalism, so we’re trying to tie that together with surf in a way that’s entertaining but also informative. Surfing isn’t our sole focus, but it’s our favourite vehicle to tell these stories.   

I think most of all, we want to do justice to these stories and the people who are trusting us with them, and perhaps that takes more time. But the truth is we’d also love to be turning over more content, so we’re trying to get to a place where we can grow and take another couple of people on board on a more formal basis.

"Surfing isn't our sole focus" - last year Now Now released 'Cutting The Line' about the Dreyer family from Walvis Bay who rescue stricken seals caught in plastic fishing debris

Working faster and having more uploads is what YouTube desires - the platform has been engineered that way. If you're not meeting those demands how can you make Now Now work commercially?
In terms of making it work commercially, we don’t rely on YouTube as our main source of revenue. We look for funding from brands and platforms to make these projects come to life. Every day is a hustle and we do a lot of work to try get work, but we really believe in the ideas and stories, so that always helps.

Monster Energy have been incredible in supporting our work from day one – none of our bigger projects would have been possible without their support, and they have backed us all the way. We’ve also started working more with some endemic surf industry brands recently, but also brands like Leatherman and environmental organisations like Plastic Oceans and Save the Waves, who’ve all been amazing to work with.

Were you approached by Save The Waves to make 'Place Of Thorns' or the other way around?
We approached them during production because it seemed like such a logical fit. When we started shooting the story, we didn’t know that the impact development has had on the town and the wave would play such a major part in the doc , but it became a very significant thread throughout the film. It’s also uncanny how the story of Puerto now is echoed by Petacalco in the 70s – two of the most incredible beachbreak waves in the world, both in Mexico, both changed by development and sand flow. That was never really planned either. The difference with Puerto is that it’s not too later to turn it around, which takes us back to Save The Waves. They are an incredible organisation doing  really important work, so we’re very grateful to have made this film with them. 

So what's next for Now Now?
What’s next..? We’re busy working on the next episodes in the ORIGINS series for season one, which are in Morocco and Indonesia, with an eye on a spot in the Pacific as well but that may only happen in 2025 . We’re hoping to stagger the episodes at three-to-four month intervals.

We’re also working on a new project with FCS about the sardine run that occurs along the east coast of South Africa, which will be part natural history doc, part surf adventure, that we’re really excited about. And we’ve got a character-driven project in development with Plastic Oceans that tells the stories of some unique environmental activists.

In your ORIGINS series, are you looking at threatened waves - as per Playa Zicatela - or any waves?
Other stories like this might surface because the idea is to look at the evolution of the wave and the communities where they are found, but we’re not intentionally looking at threatened waves. The criteria for us is iconic waves with great stories behind them and the ones we’ve started working on are quite different. 

I think as surfers, we all gravitate towards and relate to these iconic breaks because they have shaped so much of surf lore and surf culture. At the end of the day, these waves are the real stars and deserve to be celebrated.

Check out Now Now's website, and YouTube channel


Major kong's picture
Major kong's picture
Major kong Saturday, 15 Jun 2024 at 8:28am

Keep on goin' now now.. very very cool.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Saturday, 15 Jun 2024 at 9:10am

Please do a story on how the Japanese are fucking their coast under the auspices of 'erosion control' and 'tsunami mitigation'. It's just one big pork-barreling exercise enriching corrupt politicians and dodgy Yakuza backed construction companies. Plenty of fodder for a story that ticks all the boxes- greed, corruption, environmental vandalism, apathy, you name it.

It baffles me how the Japanese revere the mountains but treat the coast, which they are wholly dependent upon, like a toilet.

PS- cool interview and I wish you guys great success on the strength of your previous work.

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Tuesday, 18 Jun 2024 at 3:45pm

Yep, and you can add Madeira. Local mayors, the President of the island, and the biggest concrete producer with their snouts deep in the EU Structural Funds (for development of peripheral areas).

Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch Saturday, 15 Jun 2024 at 9:17am

The man is a gem.

basesix's picture
basesix's picture
basesix Monday, 17 Jun 2024 at 3:04pm

the stories of iconic waves seems lacking, at least in the the sort of depth these guys are doing it. It's a no-brainer that waves' stories and the surf industry and subsequent development should go hand-in-hand with board history and legendary surfers' history. especially while we all claim the WSL doesn't understand the importance of the wave being front and centre. Good on swellnet for highlighting their work - looking forward to the 2025 ORIGINS series.

theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep Thursday, 20 Jun 2024 at 3:32pm

The youtube URL above is one character wrong Should be https://www.youtube.com/NowNowTV/videos