Tha majority of the films that come out of the extended Stoke Factory family are heavy on the irony and light on the heart.
So when Maddog—Zion and Drag big cheese—texted me a few weeks back saying, “We just made a film in Iceland with Asher and I think it’s the most beautiful thing we’ve ever done,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I eventually wrestled a link off him and yanked the HDMI out of Apple TV, stabbed it into my laptop and pulled the lever on the lazy boy, I got something that I wasn’t expecting: an experience. As corny as that sounds, it’s certainly a rarity in the world of the surf movie, a realm that’s become more disposable box ticking than art form.
The Filmmaking Process
The reason that the film arm of Drag and Zion is so strong is that there’s a whole bunch of multi-talented slashies on hold to bring these projects to life. CEO Maddog filmed The Fjordman, partly with no shoes on, and James Kates (certified Drag sponger, filmmaker and drummer in South Coast band The Pinheads) cut it. Big Dav Fox, who’s another with a finger in the Drag pie is also a filmmaker (who spends a lot of time filming Craig, among others) and that’s just scratching the surface of the creatives on hand to bring any given project to life. Maddog told me that when The Fjordman was nearing completion, after hours locked in the editing bay he and James Kates looked at each other and uttered the question that inevitably crosses all creative minds after spending too long on any one thing: “This is pretty good… isn’t it?”
Maddog’s got no qualms in describing Russel Webster as “the most talented guy” he’s met, and judging by the job that he’s done scoring The Fjordman it’s no hyperbole. He’s also one of the creative forces behind Shining Bird, a chronically underrated band from the Coal Coast who sound like the sun going down over Aussie Pipe on a balmy summer’s day. And if that wasn’t all, his sax player’s name is Michael Slater! One thing that’s obvious in watching the film is just how much an original score brings to beautiful images of surf and landscape. The added narrative is much appreciated.
Asher Pacey is a deadset wizard on a surfboard; a more stylish surfer you’d be hard pushed to find. Despite paying a portion of his wage, the Zion crew had never actually met Asher in the flesh prior to this trip, and soon found out that he fitted right in with their, let’s say unique, sense of humour: “Turns out he’s a complete shit talker and he loves a pun.” Asher had three boards with him on this trip, a 4’1, a 5’1 and a 5’3 that he surfed at the slab that you’ll see near the end of the film. Anyone who’s ridden really small boards in big, powerful surf, let alone in freezing conditions and thick rubber, will know quite what a skill it is. Maddog’s quick to point out that for all the film’s natural beauty, score and edit, without Asher’s surfing it wouldn’t be half what it ended up being. “It speaks about just how good Pacey is,” he says.