Sam shooting his film

Q&A: ‘I love surfing – but it’s not all good news for the environment’

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when watching a film in the cinema, or watching something on television but often audio-visual productions will have some impact on the environment.

This impact isn’t always absolutely devastating at a mass scale, but can range from things such as: disturbed wildlife and landscapes from the set and crew shooting on location, to the greenhouse gases created by transport, to the hard-end impacts on Shark populations because of Jaws, and Clownfish being taken from the ocean to supply the demand for them as pets created by Finding Nemo.

Picture by Sam Sherring

Whilst he hopes his film won’t have any major impact on the environment, film student, Sam Sherring is doing all he can to make his film as kind to the environment as it can be.

Truthfal caught up with Sam to spend some time watching his film process and to ask some questions.

What is the film called? “The film’s called In Balance. The title plays on the whole idea of things being in balance with the environment, and the balance aspect of surfing.”

What is the film about? “It’s basically about the environmental efforts of surf culture being made in the UK. There’s a real issue that surfing can actually be quite bad for the environment. I’ve decided to make this film in a way which confronts the irony that surfers project an image of elemental oneness with the environment and nature when in actual fact a lot of surfing can be quite bad for the environment.”

What is it that’s bad for the environment when it comes to surfing? “Things such as travelling to tropical destinations via aeroplane for surf holidays. This is a typical part of British surf culture with many Brits heading to exotic places like Bali and Costa Rica. There’s also the air miles traveled by surfboards imported from different countries. Surfboards themselves are made from plastic and other non-biodegradable materials, and often the packaging they’re delivered in is too. Neoprene wetsuits and surf wax are also often made from petroleum-based mixtures, so not only are they unsustainable they’re also harmful to marine life.”

Picture – Sam Sherring

What motivated you to begin this project? “The main motivation behind the film is just my personal experience of surfing. I’m obsessed with getting out for a surf as much as I can, and I also love getting in the water with my camera. Through being a part of surf culture in Cornwall, the hub of British surfing I’ve also noticed that a huge part of it is loving beaches and the environment in general. However, I’ve also noticed that not everything surf related is great for the environment. Because of this I decided film is a good way to spread the word, raise awareness and help protect our oceans. Another motivation is the fact I have to produce something as a final project for my film degree in Falmouth so it just had to be something involving surfing.”

Do you think environmental issues are common with films? “Yes, especially eco and wildlife films ironically enough. They often don’t do anything other than spread the word, and sometimes can damage the location they’re filmed at. Other genres rarely consider transport, damage to locations they’re filmed at, and often set up camp that damages the ground and nature.”

Is there any potential damage your film could cause to the environment? “Yes, transport to and from shoots is going to have the same impact as everyone else traveling to and from their place of work. Other than that I’d really like to think there’s not much more.”

In Balance shoot locations

What will you do to stop this? “The idea is to try and make the film carbon-neutral, and to do good things for environment in general. This ranges from beach cleans, carefully planned transport and crew, to planting trees in collaboration with Tree Line clothing as part of the crowdfunding campaign. Hopefully all the things we do outweigh the small environmental impact of shooting In Balance.”

What does your film do to benefit the environment? “Firstly, I’ve collaborated with the incredible Tree Line clothing. They plant a fruit tree in Africa for every item of clothing sold. My collaboration with Tree Line involves a special edition t-shirt which is given to people who donate £15 on the Crowdfunder page, and a tree is planted for this. I am also working with the charity Tree Aid who are responsible for planting Tree Line’s trees. They are planting a tree for every single donation made to the In Balance Crowdfunder. We’re also organising and carrying out beach cleans at every location we film at. The crew will always be fed with sustainably sourced food, with recycled bio-degradable plates and cutlery.”

What is your role with the film? “I wanted to do as much as I could myself so I’m Director, and Cinematographer. There are a few issues with this so far such as there’s a lot of pressure on my availability. I have no b-rolll unit so I’m doing all that myself. I also have to be certified on some equipment to be in water, and I could have got marine photographer to do this. It’s proving difficult but fun!”

Final words? “Despite the challenges the film’s on track. It should be completed by May, and then screened at eco-film festivals across the UK.”

For more information check out the Crowdfunder here.

TRUTHFAL VIDEO: Ellis Collins spent a day watching Sam shooting footage for his film. Here’s his report…

PROMO VIDEO: View the promotional video for Sam’s film…