‘If I only scrape a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping. ‘If there’s no future in it, this is a present worth remembering.’ Mickey Smith, Dark Side of the Lens
Monstrous waves emerge from a dark sea, a massive, daunting force of nature. Cold grey clouds are punctured by shards of golden light. Ancient red cliffs, tower block high stand strong against the battering, brutal Atlantic. In contrast, a softly spoken voice, professes his passion for this powerful place, over a menacing crescendo of picked guitars and drums. Cut to a thick neoprene wrapped body, huge vintage camera in hand, floating in a rare calm between sets, at one with his adopted aquatic office.
This is Dark Side of the Lens, a moving five minute film by Penzance-born surf photographer Mickey Smith and Australian filmmaker Allan Wilson of Astray Collective – which Relentless Energy are proud to announce as the winner of their first Short Stories competition for young directors.
At a VIP event at the Relentless Energy Garage, with selected athletes, artists, industry and media in attendance, all four Short Stories films from 2010 were screened. And, after a tense tight race between votes for all films, the surf episode Dark Side of the Lens was voted the winning short by the judging panel of industry experts.
“I’ve been blown away by the response to Dark Side of the Lens – from across the world,” says Smith. “It was a deeply personal film, so for people to enjoy, appreciate and respond to it like they have is mind blowing. ”
Released online in August, the short is Smith’s stunning semi-autobiography, and a humble poem to the grandeur of Ireland’s remote West Coast which went viral instantly, clocking over a million views – and counting.
“I wanted to create that something that would give insight into what it takes to grind out a living as a water-based photographer in the surfing industry,” Smith explains, “to provide a short, experimental glimpse into life lived in the shadow of what is, for me, an obsessive pursuit.”
The surf film was the first released by Relentless for Short Stories – a challenge to filmmakers worldwide to explore, reveal, celebrate and define Relentless’ NO HALF MEASURES attitude through the medium of film.
Directors were briefed to bring Relentless’ uncompromising approach to life as powerful as possible. In addition to Dark Side, three more compelling shorts were released: Transatlantiscm by Matt Lambert, his portrait of BMX pro Mark Webb; Permanent Vocation by Finnish filmmaker Johannes Östergård, on Triple X Games champion snowboarder Jenny Jones; And the stunning Flight of Passage by multi-talented filmmakerJames Gardner, starring skater Ben Nordberg, with heartfelt narration from Steve Mason, former The Beta Band front man.
“Relentless Energy’s Short Stories is an inspirational project,” says Relentless spokesperson Steven Ruhl. “Our aim is to give young filmmakers a platform to progress creatively and showcase their work, so their talent is recognised internationally. Mickey Smith’s Dark Side of the Lens was the perfect debut: what started as a few scribbled stanzas to surfing, was transformed into a heart-stopping piece of cinema that’s captivated global audiences.”
As well as being the overall Short Stories 2010 winner, Dark Side of the Lens has already won several prestigious film awards: Best Short Film Award at the New York Surf Film Festival, Best International Short award at the inaugural Canadian Surf Film Festival, and Digital Short of the Year at the star studded Surfer Poll Awards.
“Dark Side was a powerful opener, and the next three films were just as exciting – each reimagining NO HALF MEASURES via completely different visions,” adds Ruhl. “But, with Short Stories now open to overseas filmmakers, Relentless Energy are anticipating an even more life affirming series of short films for 2011.”
Short Stories is now calling for entries for its 2011 evolution – with eight films released from February to December. Relentless invite international filmmakers to define their empowering attitude NO HALF MEASURES – where artists and athletes who pursue their obsessions without compromise – but concentrating on the theme of FOCUS.
A mental trait that great athletes and artists develop over time, focus is when freerider Xavier De Le Rue reaches the summit of a mountain after an eight hour trek: confronted with the challenge of travelling straight back down at speed, he knows precisely how to erase doubt from his mind. Focus allows him to conquer his fears, achieve the optimum state of concentration: the only state that allows him to do exactly what he needs to do.
It’s this concept of focus – the ability to create order out of chaos and a zen-like state of calm – which Relentless have asked filmmakers to use as inspiration for Short Stories 2011: to enliven the concept of focus through cinema and communicate power, scale, grandeur and mood. Nothing should be spared; no shot should go to waste.