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London Surf Film Festival

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Filmmaker Focus: Steven Clarey

Filmmaker Steven Clarey hails from Carmarthen in West Wales. His irreverent short “12 Months in 5 Minutes” screened at the LS/FF in 2011, capturing the year round stoke of  surfing with a tight crew of mates. While he’s learning his trade at the University of Wales Trinity St David’s, he’s perfecting his craft on borrowed equipment and his own time, shooting ‘the boys’ and waves of Pembrokeshire. We caught up with Steven to find out what he’s been up to and what makes him tick.

Steven Clarey / Image: Reece Smith 

// Where do you look for inspiration?
A big inspiration in my life was the late Richard Taylor, Richard was a professional rollerblader/skier and a good friend. He turned pro at when he was 15 and went on to win multiple competitions including the British Inline Skating Championship and British Big Air Freestyle Ski Title in 2004. Richard was an amazing person with a great outlook on life, although he was only with us for a short time, he had a positive impact on everyone he met, his favourite phrase “its all good” is something that has stuck with me and helped me throughout my life.
I would say my main inspiration for making surf films is Carve’s senior photographer Mickey Smith, I stumbled across his ‘Powers of Three and was blown away by the cinematography, the surfing, the waves. He really captured Ireland in a way that I believe few could, he’s a real talent.
My favourite surf film, that’s a tough one, its a tossup between Valley Of Scum by Ozzie Wright and Surf’s Up hahaha.

// How do you feel about your work being seen on the big screen versus online in a digital format?
When I was a nipper I used to hang about the surf shop in Carmarthen, every time it rained there would be a crowd of us around the telly watching all the newest VHS surf films. Back then it was the only way we could get to watch these films, being a kid you don’t have the money to drop £20 on a video. Its all different now though, most big surf videos are released for free over the internet, I think this is amazing! Kids who didn’t have a surf shop in their town, with a very understanding owner (Pete Rail2Grail), just wouldn’t have the chance to watch surf films, now they do with the introduction of sites such as Vimeo and YouTube. I also really like everything being digital, everything’s cheaper, more accessible and the image quality of even budget film equipment is outstanding. I’m a student and have managed to get the money together to get my own kit and get videos out there, I wouldn’t have been able to do that 5-10 years ago.
I’ve only had one of my films shown on the big screen, at your festival last year, it was amazing to see an audience sitting there watching my film, it really felt like I had accomplished something and its driven me to carry on doing what I love.

12 Months in 5 Minutes

// What equipment do you use?
I use Nikon Dslrs and a Nimar waterproof housing along with Drift Innovation action sports cameras – they are a British based company who really listen to what people like me want from action sports cameras.

// What do you think makes a good story? How do you set about translating that onto the screen?
I just keep things simple and capture what I see and what is actually going on without dramatising anything. I ring the boys up, meet them down the beach, film them hanging out and catching waves and if I’m really lucky I might get a little interview out of them. When it comes to the editing process I try to keep things simple by getting the colour as close to natural as possible, although recently I’ve been mixing black and white footage with colour and have been really pleased with the results.

// How much of the process do you think is creative and how much do you think is technical?
I’m all about being creative but I suppose you have to have some technical background to be able to capture an image in a creative way.

// What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when starting out as a filmmaker?
All of my footage is spread over multiple hard disks, in a bit of a mess, when it comes to dragging out older stuff it takes me ages to find what I’m looking for! I wish someone showed how to organize footage in a way so it’s easy to find what I’m looking for. Also, there is no money in surfing.

// Where are you doing this interview?
I’m sitting on the dinner table in my parents house trying to avoid doing uni work.

Steven is…Looking forward to finishing all his uni work and spending the summer down the beach with the PSR boys YEW!!!!!!

For more of Steven’s work click here.