Tuesday, June 23, 2009

AFF Filmmaker Follow Up with Angelo Mei

Angelo Mei grew up in Los Angeles, where he developed a passion for music, surfing and film. He received his Bachelor of Science with honors at the Art Institute of LA, studying all aspects of filmmaking but focusing primarily on directing. It is there he met mentor and soon to be colleague Maggie Carey, editor and co-writer of Chasing the Dream(Quiksilver/Metalstorm ent). It was under Maggie’s tutelage that Angelo directed the documentary short, "Film This!", a voyeuristic look into the life of a psychopathic surfer. "Film This!" was an official selection at the 2006 Austin Film Festival. Angelo’s short film "Howie", is a multi award winning dark comedy about a man in his late 20’s moving back in with his sexually active mother. Angelo’s commercial works include "Learn to Surf with Andy Irons" (Billabong/Transworld) and "Chasing The Dream" (Quiksilver/Metalstorm ent). "Learn to Surf", directed and co-written by Angelo, can be found in retail stores worldwide. "Chasing the Dream", narrated by Gary Busey, produced, directed and co-written by Angelo, an award winning feature length documentary about what it takes to become a professional surfer, was released on DVD in 2007 and can be found in retail stores worldwide. Angelo lives in Los Angeles where he is developing several projects, pursuing his passion for documentary and narrative filmmaking, while producing content for several clients on different formats.

AFF caught up with Angelo about the adventures and challenges of filming surf stories and more.

AFF: Tell me about your films that screened at the festival.

ANGELO: I had a short doc film entitled "Film This!" show back in the 2006 festival. My feature documentary, "Chasing The Dream" showed twice and was very popular at the 2007 festival. This was personal to me because John Milius was at the festival and showed "Big Wednesday", starring Gary Busey. Busey narrates my film and I had him do so because of his role in "Big Wednesday". "Chasing the Dream" is also a coming of age story, a journey into manhood like "Big Wednesday". So to meet Milius personally and give him a copy of my film was surreal. I also watched a film print of "Big Wednesday" with Milius at the festival so that was absolutely amazing too.

AFF: You have done a lot of surfing related films. How difficult is it to film on a beach? Any challenges specific to those locations?

ANGELO: Many challenges to this. Mostly with water cinematography though. Surfers just need to surf but when you are shooting film in the water, its expensive so the surfers do need to communicate and work with my camera man or we waste film and we don't get a good surf sequence. By communicate I mean surfing near the camera man and doing maneuvers where the camera is so I am not just paying guys to bob around like shark bait. Pro surfers get it but kids, like in "Chasing the Dream", need to be taught this.

Also, because my films are not typical surf films, meaning there is more story and dialogue than actual surfing (only a few waves) I, as a director need to analyze whats happening in the water and be ready to interview on the fly when the talent exits and enters the water. Like in "Chasing the Dream", there was drama at specific locations and if I was just sipping a cocktail on the beach or even surfing myself, I would have sacrificed and missed story points up and down the coast.

The actual land filming of surf is a touchy subject because you can take the best director in the world and put him on the beach with his favorite camera and tripod and he will probably not get a usable clip. Its something like a sport that takes lots of practice to do well and surfing cameraman have been doing it for years and are usually cameramen or women who's specific role is land camera surf footage. I did that way before I went to film school so I do pride myself on being a good surf cameraman.

Angelo Mei films his newest project, a lifestyle series for Billabong. Keep reading for more info!

AFF: Maggie Carey has been a very important figure in your filmmaking career. How did that relationship develop?

ANGELO: Maggie Carey is the editor and unsung hero of "Chasing the Dream". She was my professor in film school and really is the reason I pursued a career and found a passion in documentary. She went on to co-write and edit "Chasing the Dream" with me. She is a talented writer and director currently making her own show as well and being an alumni of AFF.

Maggie Carey and Angelo Mei at the Q&A for "Chasing the Dream" in 2007

AFF: Your film “Howie” is very different from your other films. Where did the idea for this movie come from?

ANGELO: "Howie" is really based off of some real life things that happened mixed with day dreams. I am currently working in documentaries but have a passion for writing/directing comedy and even love horror films. I love working with actors and do want to work on narratives in the future to pursue that love. In a perfect world, I will make documentaries, realities and narratives like many of my influences have.

AFF: Any favorite moments from your time at the festival?

ANGELO: Too many to mention really but I will try. Making friends for life at the 2006 and 2007 festival. Meeting John Milius and seeing "Big Wednesday" in the theatre with him there for the first time was surreal. Just showing "Chasing the Dream" to a sold out crowd of non-surfers and doing the best Q&A of my life was a gift I will never forget. The way I was handled and treated by all of the festival staff was like royalty. They were so intelligent and many were filmmakers themselves, making me feel like I finally found my true tribe hundreds of miles from any surf spot.

AFF: What are you working on now?

ANGELO: I am blessed by being hired by Billabong, a company I have worked with on various projects since 2005. They were the first company to hire me as a director for my first commercial work, "Learn to Surf with Andy Irons." I am directing their first lifestyle series for TV with their top athletes. There is little surf or action in this series but focuses more on the human side of board sports athletes, revealing the depth of these people while doing what they are famous for or floundering at things they are trying for the first time. Its a voyeuristic look into the life of the best board sport athletes in the world. In the last 3 months I have been to Bali, Australia, Tahiti and Japan filming with several surfers. All of whom are very different (culturally and personality wise) from one another.

Check out Angelo's full website at www.angelomei.com.

Its not too late to enter your film!

Late post-mark deadline: July 3rd

Very late deadline: July 15th

Just one more you reason you should be at the Austin Film Festival & Conference in October...

This year's panel discussions will feature case studies of the writing and script-to-screen production process with the writers and creators for such films and shows as Twilight, "Lost", Valkyrie, Watchmen, The Secret Life of Bees, "Mad Men" and the HBO hit series "Entourage".

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