Andrew Kaineder’s a busy man, and when we finally link up for a chat he’s running an hour and a half late, driving to a photography event that he can tell me little about because he’s got no idea.
After working on his first feature film, Beyond the Noise, for the last six months—although it’s been far longer than that in the making—living on the West coast of Ireland for most of the year, and pouring every iota of creative energy that he has into it, he’s been back in Australia cramming all the commercial jobs he’s missed (gotta keep the lights on) into a short time, before flying out to UK the next day to premiere his film at the London Surf Film Festival. I touched based with the south coast filmer and director to find out what prompted him to shirk the comfort of a regular paycheck, in pursuit of something far riskier.
“I was a shit surfer when I was a kid, so I picked up a camera in my teens and started filming my mates,” Andrew says, before briefly going silent as he passes a police car. “I worked for the WSL for a while and then after Russ (Bierke) won Cape Fear I got that O’Neill project and it snowballed after that.” Around this time, Andrew also made a film called The Man & the Sea that was to be somewhat of an epiphany, and go on to influence the direction that he wanted to take his career. The film was an exploration of growing—both metaphorically and in years—and man’s relationship with the environment, namely, the ocean. Derek Hynd’s insightful words dubbed over his avant-garde, finless surfing struck a chord. “It resonated with people outside surfing because it was about growing up and getting older and the connection to the ocean and your environment,” Andrew says. “I wanted to build on that.”
“Building on that” involved taking a seed of an idea, and nurturing it until it resulted in a 40-minute narrative-heavy, visually stunning film. “It all started a couple of years ago when I discovered Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the Canadian post-punk band,” Andrew says. “Their song ‘The Dead Flag Blues’ has opening narration for the first minute and a half, and one of the lines—’We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death’—really hit me. I wanted to create a film that was abstract but had a deeper meaning, to open the discussion around the environment and society.”
Andrew chose Ireland as the backdrop for his directorial debut of sorts, for its abundance of dangerous, broody surf, and for the sheer drama of the west coast, where raw Atlantic storm fronts smash unhindered into the sheer basalt cliffs. “Ireland’s somewhere I’ve been a few times over the past few years,” Andrew says, “And since Mickey (Smith) stopped making surf films there hasn’t been a lot done there for quite some time. There’s so many places to explore, the waves are phenomenal and I love the cold. I wanted to spend time there and document the Atlantic Ocean.” When it came to assembling a cast, Andrew’s gaze fell upon one expat—Gold Coaster turned west coast enigma Noah Lane—and a man who can do it all, Harrison Roach. “Noah I met and became mates years ago when shooting True North for Finisterre. He’s such a good dude to hang out with, and such a great surfer. And then Harrison I chose because I wanted to incorporate all the elements of surfing that inspire me.”
After hustling for funding and finally getting the project off the ground after a few false starts, Andrew faced another hurdle: breaking his leg. “Two weeks after I got it all sorted I fractured my tibia on my first wave back at home after a trip,” Andrew says. “When I flew over I was in a moon boot, so I had to hire another cinematographer for six to eight weeks as I couldn’t swim.” Andrew spent the whole of the winter on the west coast, dedicating himself to getting the footage that would enable him to fulfil the vision that he had for his film. “It was a long stint over there, but it’s what you’ve got to do to spend time on getting shots and waiting for those swells to film the surfing and the landscape when it’s being battered by massive seas,” he says.
After missing multiple self-imposed deadlines—”I didn’t realise how much of a big job making a 40-minute film would be”—Andrew’s finally got it in the can, and the London Surf Film Festival will be the first time that it’s shown in front of an audience. After the main event, Andrew’s heading to the film’s spiritual home, the west coast of Ireland, to show his work, before touring a few select corners of the south-west of England. More than anything, he’s looking forward to a break. “I’m not taking my film camera for, like, the first time in eight years,” he says. “I’m going to take time to relax and not worry about what the surf’s doing because it just consumes everything. Do the Guinness tour, and just hang out.”