Steve Cleveland is a talented surfer/filmmaker and is the creator of his latest film, A Paradigm Shift. Fast moving and full of action, it features such talents as Jared Mell, Alex Knost, Joel Tudor, and Kassia Meador. We spoke with Steve to learn more.
Tell us about your latest film, A Paradigm Shift.
A Paradigm Shift is a relatively fast paced, tightly edited surf film, with a great soundtrack (The film won awards for Best Soundtrack and Best Editing at the International Surf Film Festival in Anglet, France). A group of great surfers riding all types of surfboards on all types of waves. Filmed in Australia, California, Hawaii, Mexico, and Pohnpei. It features Jai Lee, Harley Ingleby, Brian Anderson, Colin Whitbread, Jared Mell, CJ Nelson, Joel Tudor, Dane Peterson, Leah Dawson, Kassia Meador, Jen Smith, Asher Pacey, Darshan Gooch, Chris Del Morro, Jan Wessels, Tyler Warren, Alex Knost, and Harrison Roach. The movie is chock full of unreal surfing and shows what it’s like hangin’ at some of the parties we had during the filming, too.
What were some of the challenges in creating the film?
Well, making a surf film is always challenging because you are at the mercy of the elements (Mother Nature) and the travel is a bloody mongrel these days – camera equipment, boards, TSA, etc. I was real lucky with this one though. I only got skunked on one trip/shoot and that was due to an injury to a surfer. Also I got lucky with all the coöperation I received from the cast.
What is your favorite scene in the film?
I love it all! The surfing is just at such a high level. I really like the intro and closing collage party scenes. They were fun to shoot and put together.
How did you go about choosing the diverse and talented cast for A Paradigm Shift?
I’ve been working with the same core group of guys (give or take) for a few movies now, and I’ve seen them all progress over time. For the most part (with a few exceptions) I choose guys that are considered loggers, but ride everything very well. So it’s just a matter of coördinating the shoots. I’m very blessed to be able to work with this talented group of surfers.
What were you hoping to achieve with this film?
In theory it’s really pretty simple – it’s just surfing. I’m not try to cure cancer or anything so profound. I shoot and put them together according to my own sensibilities at the time. I like to make my films stimulating to the eye and ear. I like abstract imagery and people may derive some greater meaning, but basically it’s up to their own interpretation. I want people to be chomping at the bit to have a surf when they watch the thing. At the end of the day it’s all about the surfing. My editor Nathan Apffel is very instrumental in this process.
How do you approach filmmaking? What drives you to make movies?
In as free form a manner as I can. To create and stimulate!
What is your background, both in surfing and filmmaking?
I’ve been suring since 1964. I started at the PV Cove and the beaches in Redondo. I moved to Maui in 1969 and surfed there and the other Islands until about 1980. I surfed the central California coast for about the next 4–5 years and then moved to the San Diego area and have been here ever since. I have traveled a good portion of the globe – surfing, exploring and shooting. There’s still some “secrets” out there, they are just getting a lot harder to find!
As far as film making, I started taking photography classes at Maui Community College in about 1973 and have been tripping with cameras ever since. My first surf movie was called “On Safari to Stay”. I made it with my friends Chris Ahrens and Greg Weaver in 1990. It featured Joel Tudor, Wingnut, the late great Donald Takayama and Skip Frye. I’ve made a bunch of them ever since!
What makes your films different than other surf films?
Don’t ask me, I don’t know…
What’s next for Steve Cleveland?
I’m always working on my next one – and surfing more!