MY Q&A WITH FILM DIRECTOR AND CINEMATOGRAPHER, AARON LIEBER:
Aaron, you especially did a lot of prep to make this idea of night surfing come to reality. Can you tell us some of what went into preparing for this shoot?
Aaron: “The first step to making this concept come to life was to figure out how to make LED boards. I first started researching LED lighting strips and the companies that made them. Once I figured out the LED strips I wanted to use I bought a roll and tested them out. When I saw that they would work the way I’d hoped, I started drawing and cutting the strips of LED’s to create the board design. After getting your feedback I contacted Channel Islands to see if they would help us create them and they said yes! So I drove up to Santa Barbara and spent a day working with the lead shaper Aaron who helped figure out how to take the concept and make it a reality. After shaping the boards for you and Lakey, they meticulously routered out perfect lines for the LED strips to fit in along with the wiring for the top and bottom. The whole process took about a month.”
“While they were shopping the boards I started researching lights I could take in the water as well as lights for land that could illuminate the surf enough for you and Lakey to be able to see. I found these amazing Gates lights for the underwater part and another company K5600 for the land lights. Both companies graciously donated the lights to the production to help us with the concept! Flying everything down to the Maldives was kinda crazy – so many bags and bag fees, but luckily everything made it.”
[Bethany] I thought of those boards as our superhero night boards! This actually took several nights to film. I remember being so tired after surfing all day, but then going back out to surf and film again at night! 😅 Can you explain how you captured everything?
Aaron: “We filmed the night scene with 2 RED cameras as well as a DJI drone. The process of filming each night was to meet everyone during sunset and start to film from dusk into the night. We usually filmed for a few hours each night. The boards kept having electronic issues and during the day I had to keep fixing them, which wasn’t easy! Besides a few key set up shots that I wanted to capture, most of the filming was free flowing. We’d game plan ahead of time, but once we were out there you and Lakey would do your best to catch waves and just have fun and the film crew also would do their best to capture it all. Since it’s not a movie set and there are so many moving pieces it’s really impossible to try and control it all. So my philosophy is to make the best game plan head of time so everyone knows what they are trying to achieve, but then once it starts you just have to let go and let fun happen.”
[Bethany] Night surfing while filming might have been more challenging than fun for me… haha! Lakey and I had our night shred on, but it was no easy task to surf in the dark, with lights in our eyes. There were probably some sharks cruising under us too – but Lakey and I charged anyway!!! 😎😆😁
I remember you troubleshooting during the day, Aaron. You shared with me before how you didn’t have the right power converters for the lights that went in the boards on land, and one started melting and caught on fire. It was so lucky you happened to be walking by to handle the situation 🔥😂 I remember you repairing the boards numerous times in a hot room sweating like crazy. Haha… the joys of a challenge!!! Fun memories!!!
In your mind, how were you originally planning for the night surfing scene to fit into the film? What changed that, if anything?
Aaron: “I honestly didn’t have an exact plan for the scene in the film but I had this vision to include something magical in the film that would inspire young girls. A lot of action sports films are about men, and usually these men have something special or unique that adds to the film – I wanted to make sure you had something as well, and for me this was that.”
Adaptation, creativity, and embracing the unknown were always themes for Aaron and I in filming Unstoppable – there’s so much to learn from that! I hope you enjoy his exciting final product of some really special night surfing!
P.S. Music for the bonus video “A Moment Apart” was generously provided by ODESZA
Watch Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable 🎥
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