Shane Fletcher: A Surf Filmmaker Who’s Interviewed Four Prime Ministers

Photos by Shane Fletcher

The first time I hung out with Shane Fletcher, we spent ludicrous amounts on negronis and ended up at an underground bunker rave.

I was wearing shorts, and thankfully, we’ve since discovered that this sort of behaviour (and dress) isn’t regular for either of us. Regular for Shane is the meticulous attention to detail that goes into everything that he does, which as you’ll soon find out, goes far beyond shooting and cutting surf clips. Those who stand and swim behind the lens in the surf world are far more influential than what they get credited for, so I decided to get Shane on the line to try and piece together what I knew was a rich and varied tapestry that’s led to him being one of the most respected filmmakers in the game.

Noa on the runway.

Shane had just returned to his Gold Coast abode from Tasmania, via Melbourne, where he’d been on a little road trip with his girl, ending up at Dion Agius’ mini-festival/art show/housewarming. Not one for sitting still, Shane says that he was actually pretty glad to be home, for a bit. “I just get so consumed, and then you realise that it’s like, three weeks since you’ve slept in your own bed,” he says. Shane grew up in Merimbula on the far south coast of New South Wales, before his parents upped and moved to Port Macquarie on the mid-north coast. It was here that Shane first picked up a camera, one gifted to him by his mum. The coastal kid being gifted a camera by an interested parent and ending up shooting surfing is a fairly regular tale. But after dropping out of uni—”A double degree in Psychology and Education, but I hated it”—Shane ended up using his camera skills in a very different world out of necessity.

The man himself.

“As soon as I dropped out I realised that I needed to work,” Shane tells me. “I ended up working for Network 10 as their regional mid-north coast cameraman. I was only in my early 20s, and was essentially a one-man show. The prime ministers would do regional tours, so I’d have to go and meet them. Julia Gillard, K Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull… I’ve interviewed them all.” One of the most humorous tales from this period, in quintessentially rural Australian fashion, involves the recent ex-prime minister who’s no doubt currently subject to a ludicrous salary bidding war from the financial sector, Malcolm Turnbull. “I had to interview him on a farm, and they wanted all the animals and stuff in the background,” Shane says. “I was out there solo, and was like ‘how am I gonna interview this guy on a farm, with all the shit going on in the background?’ So I drew a black X on my hand and held it out and told him he had to stare at the x; if there’s nothing there, their eyes wander. I was rattling off questions and then was like, ‘Sweet, we got it’. They’re just regurgitating lines anyway mate.”

In between capturing the country’s leaders dancing around poignant questions, Shane worked on whatever came his way, including the surf world, given his proximity to it and talented friends. One of whom was Noa Deane, surfing’s current free-surfing poster boy. Shane and Noa were unstoppable for a while there, and Shane looks back on it fondly. “I’m still pretty psyched on that one,” Shane says about the pair’s film Cheese II. “It was when he [Noa] really started doing his thing, and was completely self-manufactured. We went to Morocco where I’d always wanted to go, and despite three weeks of crazy car fights, it all came together pretty easily. And it was the first thing that we really got rewarded for, we won a Surfer Poll for it.”

Shane currently divides his time between surf, keeping the lights on, and music. Heading into the back end of the year, there’s one project that’s top of the agenda for Shane, and that’s a hefty undertaking with Wade Goodall and Vans. I don’t want to give too much away, but the project’s far more concept-heavy and well thought out than your average surf offering, which considering the two guys involved, isn’t too surprising. “Wade’s a big film buff,” Shane tells me. “He loves Australian films like Waking Fright and Walkabout. He wanted to assimilate them into a surf platform, and pay tribute to the look and feel of iconic Australian cinema. And I really want to try and incorporate elements into the film. Textures of the landscapes—wind on the water, rock texture… Australian film has such a distinct colour, especially when the stock film was developed in Australia, and we’ll be leaning on that when we get to grading.”

The pair have been travelling and shooting for the best part of the year, and putting everything into what’s clearly become a passion project of the highest order. And it comes with its own set of rules. Number one: No surfboards unless they’re being used. “I just don’t want to have anyone carrying a surfboard down a track,” Shane says with a chuckle. “The whole pre-surf lead in stuff, airports, pulling boards out of cars… my aim is to not have a surfboard in the movie if it’s not being used in the water.”

Keep up with Shane’s wanderings on the gram, and look out for what’s sure to be a hell of a film, dropping soonish.

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