Directed by Thomas Campbell, 2009
“Without further adieu I welcome you to The Present…”
With an introduction like that, it seems like there is something spectacular to come. “The Present” is the third Thomas Campbell film from Woodshed and it doesn’t disappoint. The film follows the same model as Campbell’s previous films, with an emphasis on the artistic infusion of color, music and surfing.
Campbell’s combination of interesting subjects and situations, plus his perfect footage, helps him create a vibe unlike his other films.
This film also starts to expand the boundaries of Campbell’s normal films. From the interview with Joel Tudor to the modern day surfing of Dane Reynolds, there is a growth to his style.
Campbell welcomes new rides. From the traditional log, to the thruster, fish single fin and now the alaia, the boards look more like something to build rather than ride.
“The Present” is a traditional Campbell film that has evolved from skits and longboarding to a more open view of surfing. Although the skits and logging are still around, Campbell has expanded his artistic style.
“Sprout” Directed by Thomas Campbell, 2004
“An exploration into the ridings of water mountains and molehills.”
“Sprout” is the second film by Thomas Campbell and Woodshed. It focuses on all forms of surfing, like short board and surf rafts in the East Indies with Rasta, fish and bonzer riding, and even log riding with the lovely girls.
“Sprout” was my introduction to Campbell’s films and, I admit, the movie remains one of my favorites. It captures a different side of surfing, and also illuminates the small insights of surfers’ activities outside the water. Campbell captures the true lifestyle of a surfer. He shows Tom Wegener’s family and workshop, where he builds all wood paulownia surfboards. He shows Rasta and friends playing Scrabble and drawing on the boat in between sessions. He shows that riding waves is only a fraction of a surfer’s life.
Campbell uses his artistic style perfectly in this film, giving it a fluid movement from beginning to end. The use of 16mm film allows Campbell’s work to have that romantic and artsy feel he is known for. His camera work is captivating. And by using champion body border Mike Stewart to film surfers from the water, he provides a new angle as the camera moves with the wave.
16mm film, water shots filled with motion, and top notch surfing makes “Sprout” a seriously enjoyable film. It takes you off the couch and into the lives of surfers you see on the screen. Plus, I love Tom Wegener’s backyard.
“The Seedling” Directed by Thomas Campbell, 1999
Thomas Campbell’s first surf film under the now Woodshed Label is a fine example of the surf film evolution. “The Seedling” focuses on a small cast of longboarders out of California who travel to Mexico, Hawaii, and even New York for a little east coast action. The true magic, though, is the 16mm film he uses, which gives the film a romantic veil. This is a fresh feeling compared to the high action fast music surf videos of the 90’s.
However, this artsy flair (along with the jazz music) can make a little sleepier than expected, especially if you pop in the DVD late at night. Luckily, the camera work is very well stitched, giving the film a decent flow. Additionally, the small “skits” tossed in, like the painting footage and surf contest between “Fecal Man” and “Star Man,” slow down the flow.
All in all, “The Seedling” sits atop my list as surf films. It’s different, but still captivating. I love the color and look of the 16mm film, as well as the unique editing and music. Campbell has an idealistic approach to surf films, which mixes modern surfing with old school construction, creating a refreshing surf film.
Note: If you are looking for high action shortboarding, try again. This is a logging movie in full trim.
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