Mark Jeremias is a California surfer/filmmaker who produced and directed One California Day. Mark is also the creator of Drive, a televised series on skateboarding, and is responsible for remastering the classic films Stylemasters and Stylemasters 2. He is currently working to bring The Tyler Warren Experiments to an eager audience. We spoke with Mark to learn more.
What was it like growing up as a child?
I was born in Germany, and moved to Corona del Mar, CA when I was 8 years old. Growing up in a beach town it was only a matter of time before I discovered the ocean and shortly thereafter surfing. This was in the late 70’s, and Corona del Mar was a great place to be at that time. There was still a lot of open space and small town feel to the area. In the summer we would get dropped off at the beach and stay there all day – surfing, body boarding, and body surfing – it meant everything to us.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood up on a surfboard?
I can still vividly remember the first time that I actually rode a wave, not white wash, but actually cutting across a wave. It was in the afternoon at Big Corona State Beach and I was riding my friends brown Russell single fin. The fact that I so vividly remember it, says something about how powerful that moment was. It has largely shaped who I am today.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
I think like many people, first it would be my father. As a kid he provide everything for us, and every Sunday he would take a group of my friends and me down to San Onofre to surf. We had this tricked out Van Conversion (It was 1980 after all) and he would sit in the back and work, while we surfed. That definitely left a lasting impression, especially now that I have kids, I realize the importance of being supportive of their interests. Fortunately, my boys love San Onofre, so 30 years later, my family is still going down there.
Of all the interesting places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
I have been able to do a fair share of traveling through the years, but if I had to pick just one experience that really stands out, it would be my trip to Israel for my documentary TV series DRIVE. For one, it is just an amazing experience to walk the streets of Old Town Jerusalem and be amongst all of that history. When you realize just how important this land is for 3 of the world’s major religions, you really feel that you are walking on sacred ground.
What is your process for creating your films?
With any project, the process always starts with an idea and then flushing out that idea to the point where it can translate into a clear concise story with a beginning, middle, and end. It takes so much work to make an independent film (in the case of One California Day, it took Jason Baffa and me 4 years to complete), so the goal going in is always to make something that can stand the test of time so that it can become a reference piece for generations to come.
During production it’s important to stay true to the initial idea, but also allow room for the unexpected to help shape your story. A great example of this in One California Day is the scene of the Velzy Memorial. Obviously there was no way that we could have predicted that Dale Velzy would pass away while we were shooting, but that event became a pivotal and powerful moment in the film and in many ways helped shape (no pun intended) the storyline. It’s hard to imagine the film without it.
Lastly, in post-production you need to be willing to edit those things that don’t support or move the story forward. There are so many times when you fall in love with a shot that you think will definitely make it into the film, but no matter how good – if it doesn’t work you need to have the discipline to edit.
What were some of the challenges you encountered while filming “One California Day”?
The biggest challenge we faced in shooting One California Day was simply the logistics of covering such a big state. In many ways we just scratched the surface in the film, and could have probably gone off on a bunch of tangents, but again we had to stick with what supported our concept. Secondly, it is really hard to get all the elements to come together to capture those “quintessential” California surf sessions. There is a reason the film took four years to make, and one of the main ones was getting the swell, sun, tide, and wind to coöperate.
Tell us what we can expect from the upcoming “Tyler Warren Experiments”?
Well, I have partnered up with John Smart to make the Tyler Warren Experiments. John and Tyler had already been shooting for the film the last couple of years, and one day John showed me some of his footage and we got to talking and came to the realization that we should combine our ideas to make one film. Also, having worked with Tyler on One California Day, it seemed like a real natural fit. The theme is based on the spirit of experimentation that took place during the design revolution of the late 60’s/early 70’s and how a lot of the design principals that were tossed aside along the way are now not only being revisited, but also refined, and advanced by a new generation. The film will also feature Dave Rastovich, Joel Tudor, Christian Wach, and shapers Malcolm Campbell, Manny Caro, Chris Christenson, Josh Hall among others.
What code or “Golden Rule” do you live by?
The one rule that I abide by is to do everything with integrity.
Who/what inspires you?
I am most inspired by other people – people that are breaking the mold and doing something positive for no other reason than to inspire. I have been fortunate to document and share the stories of some pretty amazing individuals.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Well, I hope to still have a lot more years to learn, but to date I would say patience and that you have to be able to let go.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I think its only natural to have ‘’second thoughts” and they can be constructive in the learning process. That being said, they can also be destructive if you get caught up in trying to redo the past. So, no regrets, I am pretty happy and fortunate to be where I am right now.
What are you most proud of?
Being a husband and a father.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
As I mentioned earlier, the fact that I still remember the first wave is a testament to the power of surfing, at least for me. Sure there have been times in my life where I wasn’t surfing quite as regularly as I would have liked, but it has always been a major part of who I am. In many ways I have built my life around it, and I am sure that surfing has factored into many life/career decisions along the way.
What are you most grateful for?
Personally, it would again be my family. Career wise it would be that my work has inspired and empowered kids all over the world. Given the current media landscape and the crap that is out there, I am thankful to have the platform to share my point of view.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
That’s really a loaded question because I think there is a huge disconnect between what surfing is and how it is presented and perceived.
I read a quote recently that said “The corporation can manufacture, but it can’t create”, which I think is largely true. The big surf companies will always be the ones to push surfing into the mainstream and shape its image for the masses through marketing, but no matter how pure their intention may be, at the end of the day they are in the manufacturing business and need to look out for the bottom line. So for that reason I think the future of surfing (the act of riding waves) will always be in the hands of the individual shaper, surfer, and/or designer willing to take the current technique and apply an artistic spin to it – defining and redefining along the way — simply for the love and the challenge.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
It’s really tough to say what my favorite board is, because I really believe in riding everything. My quiver is fairly extensive and I rotate boards in and out quite often, but this summer I seem to be covering all the bases on my 6’0” Mandala Round Pin Quad, 7’4” Christenson C-Bucket Quad, 9’6” Hobie One Fin Pin and 10’6” Skip Frye Eagle. As for my favorite spot I like to surf a bunch of different waves from Santa Barbara, to 54th street in Newport, to Lowers and a few other nooks and crannies in between.
What’s your favorite meal?
Being from Germany and all, I’ll say Weiner schnitzel!
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
My music supervisor turns me on to a lot of different music. Some of the staples are indie bands like The Album leaf and Tristeza to more mainstream stuff like Radiohead and Coldplay. For nostalgia sake, I also enjoy all of the classics from the late 60’s to early 70’s.
What causes/ projects/ organizations do you support?
The California State Parks Foundation because it’s important to protect our backyard.
What’s next for Mark Jeremias?
Right now it’s focusing on getting the Tyler Warren Experiments completed in 2011. Beyond that, I am attached to direct a surfing based environmental film called the “End of Summer”.