Meet the Filmmaker: Chris McClean

When the crew here at the London Surf / Film Festival came up with the concept for The Shorties, our aim was to create a springboard for UK talent, a vehicle to help push our homegrown filmmakers out onto the world stage. We have been blown away, not only by the standard and level of creativity of shorts entered, but also by the incredible coverage these films have received around the globe. The winner of 2011 Shorties, Uncommon Ideals, by Chris McClean and Mark Waters, has certainly made the rest of the surfing world sit up and take notice. The film has gone viral, been viewed in excess of 100,000 times and was shortlisted for both the Surfer Poll and Vimeo Awards in 2011. We caught up with Chris McClean to find out more about his award wining project.

Tell us about Uncommon Ideals and who was involved?

Uncommon Ideals is part of a project to document the experience and culture of surfing in and around the North Sea. As far from the traditional ideal of surfing as it’s possible to get, the North Sea’s cold, grey, windy waves and murky brown water can make surfing here a frustrating experience. And yet, hidden beneath its fickle and hostile exterior is a rich heritage of seafaring traditions, from the windswept, shifting sand-bars of the Netherlands to the rocky reefs and points of Norway’s craggy coast.

Uncommon Ideals is an interim project – a short/trailer to promote a future full-length feature, but we’ve been blown away by the response. It’s a collaboration that wouldn’t have been possible without everyone involved believing in it and dedicating their time. Dan Crockett’s poem gave us the title; actor Jeff Hordley (Emmerdale’s Cain Dingle) provided the dulcet tones (recorded by Will Evans); Lewis Arnold contributed footage filmed through rain and shine; UNKLE (who loved it enough to allow us to use their music); Mark Waters, expertly oversaw the cinematography and editing; Jez Goffin for his photographic stills; Dave Beckitt (from the Numbskulls blog) for producing a lovely little book to accompany the film; and myself, with the original vision… and, it was all paid for using my wife’s student loan (ouch!).

How are you hoping to build on this success?

There’s an incredible story to tell about the North Sea, a story of interesting characters and world-class waves, dramatic coastlines and meteorological extremes. It hasn’t really been told yet – not the way that we want to tell it anyway – and by way of this short film and the success it received at the film festival, hopefully we can get the exposure and funding needed to turn it from concept to reality, and create a full-length film.

How does it feel to have won the LS/FF Shortie of the Year?

We’re all completely stoked. There were some really strong entries from the cream of UK surf-film making, and so to win is a real honour. I sense a real buzz from the other guys too, and a growing belief that we can make this project happen.

You’ve set the benchmark pretty high – what advice would you have for people entering the Shortie of the Year in 2012?

Don’t be afraid to stick your neck on the line and do something you really believe in. Aim high. I never in a million years imagined UNKLE would give us a release on their music, or that we’d have a renowned actor doing the voice over. Sometimes the best projects are right on your doorstep. There are countless surf films, all depicting the endless pursuit of perfect waves. We just wanted to tell a story, and do it in our own way.