Interview: Cyrus Sutton and Compassing
Big Sky Wire
By Michele Lockwood
In collaboration with Reef, as part of their “Just Passing Through” series, the ever-prolific young filmmaker, Cyrus Sutton has just released his latest film entitled, Compassing, a 24-minute short showcasing his two-month road trip to Mexico.
In keeping with his DIY aesthetics, Sutton, along with a couple of handy mates completely refurbishes his old Econoline van, creating “his ultimate surf vehicle”. The redesigned roadbeast has a capacity to store 10 surfboards, 200 lbs of food, 30 gallons of water and 15 gallons of extra fuel, not to mention solar panels and space to sleep and work comfortably. Sounds like an excuse enough to want to pack up and drive the ends the earth just for the heck of it.
The free download of Compassing is set to hit screens on the 3rd of September.
CW: Can you tell us a little about your new film Compassing? Who is involved and where did you go? What did you find?
CS: Reef asked me to direct a film for their 3 part "Just Passing Through" film series. I'd always wanted to take a long road trip down to Mexico and camp out at some of the heavy beach breaks. So I pitched making a short film about the experience. And that's what Compassing is – a short surf film about my 2 plus months surfing in Mexico.
I noticed it is a short film? How short is it? Why a short?
It's just under 24 minutes long, so it's not as short as a web clip but it is more condensed than your average surf movie. I think about 20 minutes is sort of the sweet spot in terms of people's attention spans for web entertainment. Hour long programs feel to me like they drag on the web.
Will you be taking Compassing on the road? What’s on the map?
Yes, we will be screening the film all over the world. You can check out the tour schedule (minus France, Spain and Japan stops) via regressingforward.com/compassing
I’m curious about the concept of the ‘free download.’ If people can see the film for free online what is the bait in getting them to come out and pay to see it live? Does this concept rest solely on our need, as a race, to be social?
That's a good question. I guess a lot of people like to see things in person on a screen bigger than their phone or laptop. I know I do.
When approaching a new project how do you come up with ideas?
I have ideas for things at random times, mostly at like 3 or 4 in the morning. I sleep with my phone next to me and write things down. But if it is something that I am stoked on I'll usually just remember when I wake up. They are usually not complete but random little visions. After a while when I get enough ideas, I start distilling everything down and looking at the purpose behind the project. It goes back and forth like this from creative to critical until the project is done. This helps me cut unnecessary things and develop the result towards a practical, overarching goal.
What is the best part of what you do? What do you enjoy most?
The best part is bringing ideas to fruition with friends that stoke people out.
I find that there is a real dichotomy in your work. You have a very grassroots sensibility and explore a lot of homegrown ideas centred on simplifying, but on the flipside, the corporate logos are omnipresent. Do the sponsorships ever encroach on the freedom of your work? Do you have to answer to them in terms of who and what you are putting out there? Or do they say, “Here’s some money Cyrus, go for your life, we’re stoked on whatever you want to do”?
In the end it is very simple- my sponsors make good products that help me do what I love and they provide me the funds to share my experiences in a professional way. But yeah, the logo thing is new to me, over the years I've produced hundreds of indie projects as well as my fair share of commercials, but I always kept them separate. Combining the two isn't easy creatively but I just try to be honest about it and I think the film (Compassing) reflects that.
What is your best ally in staying inspired?
Just doing stuff I believe in. It is a cycle, the more I do, the more knowledge>confidence>passion I get.
Big Sky is the property on which Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood live with their two children in Northern New South Wales. Once a week they speak to writers, photographers, surfers, artists and musicians for Coastalwatch's Big Sky Wire. To follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog and to check out Michele Lockwood's blog click through here.
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