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In 2013, two years after graduating from the prestigious USC Film School, Malibu local Jack Murgatroyd set out on a cinematic journey to create a documentary about one of the most mystifying waves in all of surfing, the Wedge. Murgatroyd, along with his two partners on this film, Tim Burnham and Edwin Eversole, seized an opportunity to tell an epic story about the history of this world-famous wave. Their documentary, “Dirty Old Wedge,” covers everything from the wave’s discovery in the 1930s all the way to the biggest swell in over two decades, Hurricane Marie in 2014. The film premiered just recently at the Newport Film Festival on April 22nd to a sold out crowd and has been receiving high praise from film buffs and surf fanatics alike.
For those who may not know, the Wedge is a man-made wave located at the end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California. The wave is said to be man-made because its formation is a by-product of a rock jetty that was built in the 1930's. The wave is known for its tremendous raw power and size. Because of this, the Wedge is a place where injuries are common and even some deaths have occurred. Those who dare to body surf, boogie board, or surf the wave stare danger in the face with every wave.
Murgatroyd was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule recently to talk about DIRTY OLD WEDGE and a little bit about his own path to filmmaking.
Q: At what age did you start making films?
A: Probably around 10 or 11. Whenever my dad first got a little video camera, it was probably within the first couple hours of him bringing it home that I started messing around with it.
Q: Was there an age/moment when you thought “Hey, I’m pretty good at this (making films), this is what I want to do.”
A: I never really had an "A-ha" moment where I realized this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It all kind of just progressed seamlessly. I started making surf films with my friends then I found out my high school had a film class so I took that and then I figured I might as well apply to film school and then I got in and then I just kind of ran with it. It's been a passion that keeps growing over time and a learning process that never slows down. It's been some fun.
Q: How much did your own experience growing up a surfer in Malibu influence your decision to make this movie?
A: My whole history with filmmaking stems back to surfing. The first films I made were little surf films with my friends. Without surfing, I'm not sure I would have become a filmmaker, so when I was given the chance to not only make a movie but make a movie about surfing, it was a no-brainer.
Q: How did the idea for creating a movie about the Wedge come about?
A: The idea for the film originated from Tim Burnham. He had grown up at the Wedge and was one of the figureheads in the community down there. He had zero film knowledge though; he just knew he was sitting on a good story. We ended up linking up with him through a friend of ours and hit it off pretty much right off the bat.
Q: When did the process of this film begin to take place?
A: We were approached by Tim, the director of the film, in Spring 2013. We talked for an hour or two about what he had in mind for the film. At that point we didn't know exactly what our story was going to be but we knew we wanted to center it around the bodysurfers who pioneered the place and who really put the Wedge on the map.
Q: From what I understand this movie was fully crowdfunded through an online crowdfunding site. Is that true?
A: We raised money through Kickstarter. It was around $25,000 in total but after fulfilling all of our rewards to donors it was only around $18,000 that we had left over for production. The budget went pretty quickly considering we had buckets of 8 mm film that we had to digitize which came out to thousands of dollars. The well had pretty much run dry after Hurricane Marie. It was the biggest hurricane swell to hit in over 20 years so we knew we had to use pretty much everything we had left so we could afford to get some RED cameras on the beach along with some drones. It was pretty nerve-racking running the bank balance to zero when we still had all of post production to get through, but it ended up being some of the best footage in the film. So looking back on it, I'm pretty happy we went for it.
Q: How long was the whole process of completing this film?
A: We filmed for a little over two years and then post production took a little over a year.
Q: What was the most difficult part of this process?
A: The hardest part with the whole process was that at the same time we were making the documentary, we also had full-time jobs. Tim worked in construction and my business partner, Edwin Eversole, and I were running a commercial production company called Hunt House Pictures (www.hunthousepictures.com). Trying to balance keeping the lights on and working on your passion project was a bit of a juggling act but in the end I think we did a pretty good job of walking that tightrope and coming away with a film that we're really proud of.
Q: Do you plan on making any other surf movies in the near future?
A: We're thinking about. There's nothing set it stone yet but we're kicking around a few ideas. There's also the possibility of branching out from the surf world. The most important thing for me is to make the next film bigger and better. I would prefer it to be in the surf world if possible just because it's so much fun but there's always the possibility we could branch out into another subject matter. I'll keep you posted.
Since the premiere at the Newport Film Festival where the film sold out more showings than any other film in festival history, Murgatroyd and his partners have been very happy with how the film is being received. Along with sold-out showings, the documentary has received great press coverage from The Inertia Surf Blog, Stab Magazine, VICE, and Sports Illustrated. However, just last week their dream press coverage came true with an article praising the film from Surfline.com. Murgatroyd wrote on his personal Facebook page “DIRTY OLD WEDGE had a pretty good weekend with the press with articles from Sports Illustrated, SWELL and The Inertia but the one we've had our fingers crossed for since the start came true. Thank you Surfline for the great article! Check it out!”
Getting into a showing for the film has been no easy task, however the movie has many more screenings in the near future. Their next festival is their European premiere at the Approaching Lines Festival of Surf in Cornwall, England which takes place between May 12th and 15th (http://approachinglines.com/festival-home/). After that, the San Diego Surf Film Festival opens May 18th. They're headlining their first night of films on May 19th (http://www.sandiegosurffilmfestival.com/). Then it's on to the International Surf Film Festival in Anglet, France July 10-12 (http://surf-film.com/) and finally the London Surf Film Festival, October 16 - 24. With the extremely positive response the film has received so far, Murgatroyd is very hopeful that the film will be accepted into other festivals, including our local Malibu Film Festival.
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