Jack McCoy's Ultimate Five Tips For Beginning Surf Filmmakers

27 May 2015 0

Are you 21 or under? Do you surf, own a camera and enjoy combining the two? Then how’d you like to win $5,000, become a Goal Zero brand ambassador for a year (scoring $2500 of the world’s best solar powered charging stations) as well getting lorded and lauded as a star of the future by the grand poo-bah of surf films Jack McCoy?

This could all happen to you if you enter a three minute film in the Youth Category of Reelers, Surfing World’s first ever short film competition. How do you do that? It’s easy. Simply make a movie no longer than 180 seconds in length, go to the Reelers page on Coastalwatch.com upload that sucker in the Youth category before September 1st 2015, and you’re in the running.

To help you along we’ve got a few tips on how to make your film stand out from the pack with the Godfather of surf cinema and Youth category judge Jack McCoy the visionary genius behind Tubular Swells, Green Iguana, Sabotaj, The Occumentary and Blue Horizon to name only a few.

With Youth Judge Jack McCoy

Ok, I've been asked to give a few tips on what to do and what not to do as a first time videographer. I'll flash back to my start some many moons ago to share some of my experiences and bummers I've gone through when starting out as a storyteller through moving pictures.

1. Clean Lens

Make sure your lens and viewfinder are clean. I always clean my gear the night before however I double check to make sure my lens does not have any fingerprints, smudges of whatever pizza you had the night before or some dust that has landed on the front of your lens. Nothing worse than coming home after a days shoot to see some of your hard work there on a bigger screen with shit on your lens. A wide angle makes it stand out even more than ever. I use the ol’ breath of hot air out of my mouth, "Haaaaaa," to put a bit of moisture on the lens and then with a clean 100% cotton T-shirt, I wipe the lens clean. There are more professional ways of doing it that I know some guys use, however this method has worked well for me in the past. I also carry a clean 100% cotton T-shirt in my camera bag so that while shooting at the beach I can pull it out and wipe my lens down every now and then, especially when it's onshore and salt spray will layer up on the font of your lens and your crisp sharp shots will soon start to blur up.

2. Tripod

Your land camera work with anything other than a wide angle needs a good fluid head tripod. “Fluid head” means that it's liquid in the sense it makes your panning with the ride smooth because you can make the tension of the movement to your liking to get good steady shots. Wide angle lenses are fine for hand holding, like GoPros, however once you start to zoom in on your lens power and using 2x converter lenses, you need a tripod that you can make your shots clean with no shakes or up and down motion you get when you try to hand hold a lens that has any sort of power.

The best advice here is once you get you camera and tripod, go down to the beach and practice following the surfers. Not only do you have to keep them in frame, concentrate and focus on keeping them where you want them in the frame. If a guy is say surfing a right, you want to keep the surfer in the right hand side of the frame with the wall in front of him to see what he has coming up, not where he's been by putting him in the middle or to the left of frame. The more time in the saddle, as I like to say, or the more practice you do, the better your camera work will become. It doesn't happen overnight.

3. Record Button: "ON" & "OFF"

You tend to make this mistake only a few times until you get proficient at shooting.  Even to this day I still look into the view finder EVERY TIME I press the record button to make sure the little red REC indicator is on, confirming that I'm recording what I'm shooting. Everyone at some stage or another will do this. You’re standing there in the hot sun, shooting some great surf and you see your friend get the wave of the day. Little do you know that you didn't really hit the record button that hard and didn't start recording. As soon as your mate pulls out you press the button thinking you are stopping recording when actually you are just not turning it on. When you go home and start looking for that epic shot, you come across a shot that has you and everyone around you hooting and screaming audio recorded and the camera pointing up to the sky. In other words, you've totally missed the wave of the day because you THOUGHT you were recording when you were actually too excited to notice that you had not pressed RED hard enough. Boo Hoo. Make it one of the things you do instinctively to make sure you are in record mode when you put your eye to the eye cup and start recording and be sure to make sure you are, then go into framing your shot and panning smoothly and cleanly.  I also check to make sure I've turned the record button OFF because the time's I have not, I've continued recording and it eats up valuable tape or hard drive space you will want later.

4. Change Angles

Shooting a story requires many shots with as many angles as possible. Why? Because many different angles give you more to work with in the editing room and allow you to entertain your audience with something new rather than the same shots from the same angle over and over again. Here is what I do. I go down to the beach and stop and have a look at the set-up. Where the waves are best, and where your talent is going to surf. I then have a good look around at where I think the best 3-5 angles will get me the shots I want to collect. Then be sure to do a master WIDE shot to show your audience where you are and what the set up looks like and then start shooting your surfing. Take a mental note when you think you have a good shot or 3 of your talent and then after they complete the 3rd good one, RUN to your next angle and set up and do that same process again for the rest of your session. There is NOTHING worse than watching a film where the cameraman stood in one place and shot the whole thing the same over and over again. Wanking... Don't fall for it.

5. Lock 'n' Load

I ALWAYS clean my camera gear the night before, make sure my lenses are all squeaky clean, all my batteries are charged, my tapes or my hard drive cards are empty and ready to shoot. Nothing worse than turning up and your batteries are flat or your cards are full of that great session you had last week. I make sure I have a clean 100% cotton shirt to wear and a spare one in my camera bag for keeping the lens clean. Have a bottle of water and some snack bars in your pocket to hydrate while sitting in the sun for a few hours. In the military they call this LOCK and LOAD. It means you and your equipment are ready for battle. One more BONUS TIP... Stay focused at your shooting. Don't let your mind wonder or chatting with your mates OR worse, believe it or not, that pretty chick (or fella) who laid down topless next to you and wants to chat. You have to choose in being focused and in the moment or not.

Finally, we are fortunate to live in a world where our smart phones are able to shoot video. If you feel you can tell your story with a smart phone and it's good stuff, DO IT, I as a judge will LOVE to see your creative talent create something very very creative. All the best and good shootin'.

Aloha, Jack.

All ye lovers of movies and movie making… Vibe this! Reelers, Surfing World’s first short surf film competition is now on and with $20,000 up for grabs over three creative categories (and one audience award) the stakes have never been more awesome. From now until September 1 Surfing World are throwing down the challenge to filmmakers all over Australia to put together a three minute surf movie, submit it into one of three categories for the chance to win cash money prizes and mondo kudos from the most legendary judging panel ever assembled.


Story presented by Corona

Action presented by Nikon
Youth presented by Goal Zero

There is also a $5000 Audience Award presented by Coastalwatch plus

For entry details, rules and more information, head on over to the Reelers home page

Tags: reelers , jack mccoy (create Alert from these tags)

blog comments powered by Disqus
Standout Sessions: The Lunch Session At Kirra On Sunday

Standout Sessions: The Lunch Session At Kirra On Sunday

Drainpipes For Days At The Kirra Surfriders Club Contest!

13 19 Feb 2018
All The Best Malarkey Happening On Sunday Surfday at Byron Bay Surf Festival

All The Best Malarkey Happening On Sunday Surfday at Byron Bay Surf Festival

4 14 Feb 2018
Home Grown Keeps It Classic

Home Grown Keeps It Classic

0 10 Feb 2018
Video: My Home Break With Matt Wilkinson

Video: My Home Break With Matt Wilkinson

3 8 Feb 2018
Nichols And Baker Rule The Roost At The Mothernest Tweed Coast Pro

Nichols And Baker Rule The Roost At The Mothernest Tweed Coast Pro

0 7 Feb 2018
Latest News

All The Best Malarkey Happening On Sunday Surfday at Byron Bay Surf Festival

Mark Your Calendars andGrab Your Boardies For The Last Sunday In Feb

Home Grown Keeps It Classic

Billabong’s New Boardshorts Release

Video: My Home Break With Matt Wilkinson

Wilko talks about moving to the North Coast of NSW

Nichols And Baker Rule The Roost At The Mothernest Tweed Coast Pro

Upsets & Upstarts At Event Two Of The NSW Pro Surf Series

Popular This Week

Standout Sessions: The Lunch Session At Kirra On Sunday

Drainpipes For Days At The Kirra Surfriders Club Contest!

Video: The Dawn Session At Kirra Sunday Morning

Fast, Chunky Tubes For Cooly's Early Risers

Video: Rainbow Through Greenmount On Saturday Morning

Coupl'a Waves, More Than A Coupl'a People

Weekend Surf Forecast 16 - 18 February 2018

Are you ready for some late summer aquatic madness?

Tom Curren Goes Roller Skating With Occy, Indo on a 5'4" Twin Fin, and Wade Goodall's Floater-To-Chop Hop

This Week In Surfing: Ten Things From Surfing & The Internet On The Week That Was February 16, 2018

Go to Top