we rise together

An interview with filmmakers Adam Reynolds and Shane Passantino

By Glenn Sakamoto

What was the inspiration behind your film, We Rise Together?

Adam – Inspired by the independent voices of women’s surfing, We Rise Together is a short film featuring Eveline Van Brande, Taylor Nelson, and Anna Ehrgott during a 2-day sailing adventure in Southern California. The story celebrates their passion for living adventurous lives and is driven by thought-provoking narrative, rather than commercial sex appeal or the thrill of chasing perfect waves in exotic locations.

How did you go about choosing your subjects and locations?

Adam – Choosing Eveline, Taylor and Anna as subjects for We Rise Together was an easy decision on a few levels – they inspired us. They are kind-hearted and fun-loving young women who demonstrate an undeniable zest for life. They’re also living their lives in direct pursuit of their respective passions, which quite admirably, forced Shane and I to question our own career pursuits. Wanting change from the norm, we conjured up a rough storyline for a short film and asked them if they’d be interested in participating. We wanted to hear their stories and showcase them as positive role models for the community, especially for future generations of female surfers and adventure seekers.

Shane – We’re blessed to live in California, a place where adventure is easily found in our backyard. Sailing was the obvious choice since the sea is what brought us all together. It also turned out that Taylor’s uncle is Cap’n Jack. No specific location in mind, just time on the open water.

What challenges did you encounter while producing and filming We Rise Together?

Shane – Adam got seasick within the first hour of sailing and I almost blew up the dingy’s motor. Both situations were humorous, but not really challenging. I think our biggest challenge was coordinating two days for the adventure that worked with everyone’s schedule. If we’ve learned anything from the television/film business, it’s to roll with whatever challenges/changes transpire.

Adam – Elaborating on Shane’s response, we were challenged by the restrictions of full-time work schedules and a narrow window of summer vacation availability. Our team humbly sacrificed time with loved ones, wages from work, and countless creative resources in order to outline logistics and bring the We Rise Together adventure to life. We’re still making those same sacrifices today, months after production, as we navigate through editorial and begin marketing the story.

Why is this film important to you on a personal level?

Adam – I’ve spent the past 8 years producing scripted comedies for TV. It’s been an incredible journey filled with good friends, laughter, and once in a lifetime opportunities, but now that I have a daughter, I’m shifting my focus towards producing story-driven content that I’m truly passionate about; alternative sports and adventure. I want to produce stories that showcase the people who inspire me and challenge me to live a more fulfilling life filled with more experiences and fewer things.

At this point, those stories are female-oriented. So far, they’ve taught me the value of listening with the intent to understand, as well as the importance of creating with an open mind.

Shane – We find fulfillment in creating long-lasting relationships. We believe that everyone has a story worth reading, and most, if you dig deep enough, are worth sharing. This short film is a reflection of our personal views and values, all of which make up a strong portion of our foundation.

These talented women are more than just beautiful smiles and salt-kissed skin. They offer palpable substance. Our goal was to use the tools and resources that we’ve acquired from our time in the television industry in order to represent the alternative side to women’s surfing in a positive light.

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds and training.

Adam – I got my first video camera when I was 13 years old. A Canon ZR-10. It was a Christmas present from my parents; a last ditch effort to retain my interest in the arts. They recognized a fascination I had with making movies and acted on it by giving me the critical tool I needed to create. I immediately took to the streets with my camera and began shooting and editing skate films with my younger brother Andrew and my best friend Match. The video camera was my paintbrush, my paint and my canvas. It earned me a place in the honors art program at my high school, which ultimately led me to pursue a college degree in TV and film.

In 2006, I packed my bags and moved west to pursue a TV-related job offer in Los Angeles. There were no what-ifs or second thoughts. I had an opportunity to realize my dream of living in California and I was determined to make it work. Year round surfing was the icing on the cake. When I wasn't working my day job, or honing my producing skills on side projects, I'd spend my time hunting for waves along the coast. I embraced the freedom to roam that California offered me.

Now, nearly 9 years later, I'm realizing the next chapter of my dream. With the help of family and countless friends, I'm watching humbly as everything that Shane and I have worked so diligently for is starting to take on a life of it's own. Yes, having a professional background in producing, shooting and editing has helped us shape the We Rise Together story, but the key component is undoubtedly passion.

Shane – When I was sixteen, due to equal opportunity employment, I landed a job as a camera operator shooting live news for a CBS affiliate in Idaho. My ma told me that she believed I’d shoot later on in life although all of my aspirations and goals were wrapped up in snowboarding. I shot through high school, moved around the world, and five years later I was back at the station behind the lens saving cash to attend film school in Hawaii.

I moved back to L.A. (raised till I was nearly thirteen) and shortly after started camera operating for History, Discovery, National Geographic, and Travel channels. A friend asked me if I could help him and his crew in the art department on a fairly low budget feature film. Whatever the writers came up with they would build, sculpt, paint, etc. I loved it. I accepted a few more traveling camera gigs but eventually stuck with dirtied, calloused hands in the art department and have been in the union for the last 11 years mainly working on television shows and commercials.

Two and half years ago, the day before I was embarking on a three month trip around the world, Adam asked me to download Instagram to visually document my adventures and share with some friends. I hadn’t picked up a camera in close to 9 years and the iPhone was next most accessible step. I eventually started shooting on Adam’s older camera until I purchased my own last year. My ma was right.  

What do you hope audiences will take away (feelings, inspiration, thoughts) from the film?

Adam – Life is short. There’s no sense in wasting your time on meaningless grumbles and trivial pursuits, so choose your commitments wisely. Once devoted, pursue them with the utmost of passion. We Rise Together is both the embodiment and manifestation of these views. It exemplifies changing direction, cultivating relationships and encouraging conversation. We hope audiences view our story as a celebration of the female surfing community as achieved through the collaborative efforts of like-minded people.  

Shane – Agreed. These young women inspire us on so many levels, which is why we wanted to share their stories. By offering a small glimpse into their lives, we hope to encourage others to pursue their own passions. If our story only inspires only a couple of people, then this experience will have been a success.

What are the next steps in bringing the film to completion?

Adam – We’re launching a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday, February 24th to help raise money for finishing costs – professional color correction and audio mastering – $5000. In the meantime, our efforts are focused on media outreach and building an international community of supporters. So far, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of support from the surfing community. It’s been quite humbling.

Shane – If our fundraising goal is met then we will release a professionally color corrected and audio mastered version of the short film in May of 2015. If we exceed our fundraising goal, then all additional money will be put towards development and production costs associated with our next project, an adaptation of a short story written by Corina Barnick (Ambassador for 81 Wetsuits). Honestly, the support from friends and strangers alike has floored us a bit. So grateful. Thank you. 

Check out the We Rise Together Kickstarter campaign to learn more. Click here: We Rise Together.