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Simon Lamb – Documentary Film Maker

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Simon Lamb is a Melbourne filmmaker who has just completed his first documentary due for release in November. Simon’s been working in and around the fashion industry for years – shooting at various corporate parties and events and so it’s been great to see this personal project finally happen for him and all involved after so many years of involvement.

It shows that if you’re determined and one minded – it’s possible to get whatever creative project it is that you are truly passionate about off the ground.

Simon’s story below on how his documentary came about in the first instance is super interesting in itself – so take a read and be inspired.

Simon has created a documentary around both his love of surfing and story telling in bringing us the amazing true story of Tony Hussein Hinde.

Simon has interviewed many of Australia’s surf industry legends and really highlights what makes surfers tick. Surfing is not only about catching the perfect wave; it’s about finding the perfect wave – wherever that may take you around the globe. Half the fun is getting there. It’s about adventure and discovering the ultimate surf destination, and in this instance – keeping that destination a secret for the better part of 10 years.

I guess this is one of the many examples as to the reason why this blog has come about. If you have a creative dream – go and do it. If collaborating is your thing – speak to people. People may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do. So go make things happen.

It’s all possible, and when you start to share this way of thinking with other like-minded folk, it’s great to see the creative energy flow and positivity come about.

I wish Simon all the best with the release of this film and look forward to his next project coming together. Hopefully in less time than 6 years next time!

To find out more take a look here at http://www.serendipitymovie.com or to keep up to date with Simon’s other upcoming projects – keep an eye out on his site at…

http://www.blacklamb.com.au

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Q & A:

1) You’ve been working as a filmmaker, videographer for some time now and have recently finished your first doco after 6 years in the making (A big congrats!) How did you get into film/documentary making? Did you study film? Tell us about your upcoming film release and how this particular subject matter came about?

I grew up in Melbourne but went to a boarding school for most of my education and luckily they had in the curriculum the opportunity to surf 2 times a week. I was so stoked to get waves at such a young age, so I was hooked and loved the feeling of surfing. I wanted to surf my whole life and be able to travel making money and doing the things I loved and getting paid for it! My passion for travel and extreme sports became my life. I felt that photography was great fun but it didn’t offer enough for me as far as story telling went. I needed more to satisfy my urge to tell stories, so I picked up a video camera and started filming all of my trips overseas with the intention of some day making my stories of travel into a book or a feature film. Not that I’m that interesting but the people I met along the way were more the subject on my camera. I came back to Australia after years traveling and I found myself working on feature films building the sets. I worked on Charlotte’s Web, Rouge and many more… I went back to Uni and got an honors Degree in Film and TV at Swinburne University. After that I went through life searching for amazing characters, which lead me to the story on Tony. I had no idea who he was when I went on my trip to the Maldives; it all just fell into place. I was serendipitously in the right place at the right time with my camera…

The story behind the story …

This film came about through sheer fate. It was March 2008 and my girlfriend and I were planning a two-week boat trip; the first week of which was to be spent in the Maldives, the latter a tour around Himmafushi Island. Shortly before we were due to leave Melbourne, I received a call from our travel agent advising that the boat tours had been cancelled due to low numbers. They suggested a trip to Chai Island as an alternative, and, not having much choice at the time, we decided to go for it. Besides, as a keen surfer, I remembered hearing about the famous surf break, Pasta Point – just off Chai Island. Within the first few days spent surfing Pasta Point, I met an American guy. Spotting my camera (I like to take my film gear with me, just in case anything interesting happens), he asked me the purpose of my trip. I told him I was looking for a story, to which he responded: “You’ve come to the right place, my friend.” He proceeded to tell me the amazing story of a man who was shipwrecked in the area in the 1970’s. In the years that followed, the man – who turned out to be Tony “Hussein” Hinde, went on to discover the local surf and name all the breaks. Even as the American spoke, I was thinking to myself, “Here’s my story”! Not to mention what could potentially be an awesome opportunity to meet with Tony himself.

Shortly afterwards, I was once again out in the surf at Pasta Point. It was six foot and clean, and the smell of freshly cooked crayfish was traveling out to sea. I saw a large figure cutting up a mean wave. Approaching the guy on the board, I told him I was in search of some amazing waves and happened to mention that I was also in the process of finding my story. Shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Well, good luck my friend.” It was only later I learned that this humble guy was the legend Tony himself.

I approached Tony while he was sitting in front of the ‘Mojo tree’ – touched by all surfers to get the wave Gods to deliver the goods! I asked him about his story and if he’d agree to an interview, but again he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m the shy type… I don’t like being filmed, I just love the surf”. Fortunately I persisted in winning Tony over. I asked him for an interview over dinner and this time he agreed. He gave me a few magazines with articles on himself to read and I set about learning more about his story, and how he came to be in the Maldives. I was instantly in love with his tale; the sailing trip from Sri Lanka, Captain Bill and his monkey, the shipwreck… As I was reading, I couldn’t believe the amazing part in history he’d played. After learning that his adventure started in Sri Lanka, I couldn’t help but think that it was pure serendipity that had brought Tony and I together (Sri Lanka was once known as ‘Serendip’ and is the etymology of the later coined word ‘serendipity’)

I filmed my interview with Tony, however it only went for about ten minutes and I knew it wasn’t enough. I wanted more material to work with. Walking around the island with my camera, filming various locations, I made my way back to the lookout point and the Mojo tree, where I found Tony gazing out at the surf. With the camera rolling I began asking him more questions about the boat trip and the shipwreck. This time, with Tony in his element, looking out at the waves, relaxed and just being himself, I ended up with a beautiful piece of film. I now knew I had a story. But there were a lot of other people I needed to speak to if I was going to document the whole incredible tale.

The first person I chased up was the legend of surf films, Albe Falzone. I met Albe at a secret local surf break near Coffs Harbor. As it happened, I had no idea I would be surfing that day and I didn’t have a board or any shorts with me. Albe was kind enough to offer me both and as we headed to the break and breached the crest of perfect, six-foot waves, I was happy to be in the company of a living legend. It was also the perfect way for me to honor the second anniversary of my brother’s death.

It was at this point that I found out about Tony’s tragic death. The first person I spoke to after the sad news broke was Ian Lyon, Tony’s business partner. I told him I had interviewed Tony and had some footage that I could give to the family. I also mentioned that this was part of a documentary I was pursuing about Tony, with his agreement, but Ian didn’t want to know about it. I know how hard it is when you lose someone close and I didn’t want to harass him, so I left it. After a year of no contact, I decided to call Ian again about the film. Coincidentally, when I got in touch, Ian had been just about to call me! Knowing Tony had agreed to my initial interview had given him confidence in me, so it was here that I restarted the journey that was to consume the next four years of my life.

Mark Scanlon was one of the first people I spoke to after reconnecting with Ian. I tracked him down after reading one of the articles Tony had given me in the Maldives: Serendipity by Shawn Shamlou. Mark had been the closest person to Tony, as it was he who’d been shipwrecked alongside Tony so many years ago. We chatted for a bit at Mark’s house near Maroubra, before heading down to the beach to film the interview. Mark proved to be an epic character, full of stories, and I wondered if I had brought enough tapes with me to capture everything! After meeting and learning so much from Mark, I was excited to meet more of the crazy characters involved in Tony’s story.

I had been trying for a year‐and‐a‐half to get an interview with Rabbit Bartholomew, to no avail. He’d told me he didn’t think he could add any value to the documentary, as he had never met Tony personally. I had told him that he could just touch on surfing life and the like, but he remained determined not to get involved. I had almost given up when, heading back from South Africa after shooting a documentary on black empowerment, I saw Rabbit sitting in the Qantas first class lounge. Seizing the opportunity, I approached him and asked the question one more time. Much to my astonishment, he agreed to the interview. I guess the personal touch did the trick! A week later, I flew up to Brisbane to lay it down on film. As he was around in the early days, Rabbit had a lot to offer the story, telling us a lot about searching for the perfect waves without crowds, the vibe of the ‘70s, the short board revolution and being enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War. By this stage, the story was really coming together.

Thanks to his constant traveling and surfing, Tom Carroll was always a hard man to get hold of. I’d had a few phone and email conversations with him over the span of around eighteen months but I could never secure a concrete meeting with him. When I heard on the grapevine that Tom had recently broken his ankle in the Edie Ikawa Big Wave contest, in Waimia Bay, I finally saw my chance. Sure enough, he was chilling at his Sydney home when I called. In our interview, Tom touched on the subject of finding a secret wave and the importance of keeping it quiet in order to surf alone, without the crowds.

Gary Mortimer was the next to be filmed. I jumped on a plane and headed to Lennox Heads, where Gary had organized a lunch with Tony’s sisters and immediate family. We had a huge feast before I got into some interviews with the family. It turned out that Gary had all these wonderful old hand‐written letters dating back to when he visited Tony in the Maldives. Reading the letters, you could picture yourself living over there, with no‐one in sight but the natives. These were epic tales of crazy surf and amazing adventures that made you yearn for a life of doing nothing but surfing un-chartered waters. I could feel my story was now picking up momentum. After many phone calls I got onto one of Tony’s good mates, Ken McNicol. He actually paddled into the ‘Honky’s’ when Tony named the waves after himself. I found myself flying over to New Zealand to interview Ken. He told me a few stories that I can’t repeat; without a doubt they would have added a whole new dimension to the film but I promised to keep quiet! Next I got a referral about a guy called Doug Spong, ex‐owner of Billabong and Cult Clothing. Doug was one of the many crew who’d frequented Pasta Point and he had become a great mate of Tony’s. Doug was a cool, old school dude with many stories to tell about Tony and how he used to live.

After filming as many people as I could find who had come into contact with Tony over the years, it was time to make the trek to Colombo and the Maldives; this time with a crew and actors to retrace and recreate Tony’s epic adventure. I found our main actor in a Port Melbourne coffee shop. I looked at this guy behind the coffee machine and thought, “Fuck me! He looks just like Tony in the early days. I wonder if he can act?”

As fate (or serendipity) would have it, this guy, Paul, was a legitimate actor and the coffee‐making was just a side gig! After hearing the story of Tony’s epic journey, Paul was inspired and more than happy to pack up shop and head overseas with Andy and me. Before we left we decided to pay a visit to the legend himself, Bob McTavish. We wanted Bob to make a replica of Tony’s board from the 70’s. Bob searched through his old templates and found the classic pin tail, single fin Blue Bird surfboard, which would have been Tony’s best friend. We now had the right gear for the job! The trip didn’t start off too well—our cameraman, Andrew Richards, had the runs and almost missed the plane! Fortunately he made it through, as he had an amazing eye and invaluable knowledge of the equipment. Colombo was amazing; driving through completely un-commercialized areas, bursting with rich colors and vibrant happy people, all smiling from ear to ear, was an eye‐opening experience. Going through mangroves and tiny towns, all the way to Gal Harbor, we retraced Tony’s steps to the point where Tony and Mark met Captain Bill. In the Maldives we did the same, taking time to enjoy the surf and to immerse ourselves in culture that had been such a big part of Tony’s life. Filming this documentary was almost as big an adventure as the story itself. There were so many people who helped to make this film what it is today, and many more people who missed out. To all of you interviewed, that aren’t mentioned here, I owe a big thank you. I hope you enjoy the finished product as much as I do.

2) Who have been some of your greatest creative (or other) influences over the years, and what motivates and inspires you to keep getting out there with your various projects and being entrepreneurial?

At a young age I worked for my father who owned his own business, so I saw and learnt how to run a company through him. I always liked the idea of working for myself and building my own empire, so I started up Black Lamb, which is a film business that has ventured into other products such as hair and beauty, clothing and apparel. I found a few of my lecturers very inspiring and interesting while I was at university along with all the people I worked with in feature films from the art department to the DOP’s and Directors. I think you learn most of your trade when you actually work on a film set rather than in school. I want to wake up every morning with a passion and be able to say I love what I do, you can dream about it or go out and make it happen. So I went out and made it happen.
I had this burning desire to inspire a generation into going out there and putting what you dream about into massive action. I’ve never been a “gunner man”. I consider myself a “doer”. You always get people saying “I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that”… Just get off your ass and make it happen.

It may take 6 years like it has with my first film Serendipity, or 10 years for Black Lamb but the reward is success and success smells good to me! I think what also helps is teaming up with like minded people who can help you make your dreams a reality. People that can mentor you in life and business. I’ve teamed up with Margie Clayton and Craig Delmo from Instant Rockstar and having them involved in my company helps me move forward creatively. I now have 3 brains working on my master plan! I’m loving bouncing creative ideas off them and seeing the results. Margie and Craig have been in the hair industry for 10 years now, so they know what they’re talking about. I’m blessed to have a great team now.

3) You’ve filmed some pretty crazy events for corporates over the years. What have been some of the most memorable gigs that you’ve done for clients?

Well, I’m a massive motivational reader. I read any books that can make me a better person so I would have to say Michelle Bridges is one of the most inspiring people I have worked with. She has such great energy and it rubs off on you. I’ve also filmed a lot of the Oakley product launch parties which are always great fun and I’m also a fan of all the surf pro’s that I get invited to, so I get to meet them as well. I was filming at the tennis one year and I got to film Nadal just after he won the Australian Open, so that was quite cool. I’ve hung out with Bono, Madonna and looked after Snoop Doggy Dog one night. That was a lot of fun! The list goes on. I film a lot of red carpet events so I’m sure that I’ve filmed half of the Australian celebs.

4) What would be your dream gig, or if you could work on any creative project without any limitations – what would this look like? / who would you most like to work with etc?

My plan is to keep making documentaries for now but the bigger dream is to write a book that I can then make into a feature film. I have some crazy stories to tell from my life, which I think could make a great read and an even better feature film. I want to call the book Memoirs Of A Black Lamb. The film will tell my story of hardship, drugs, sex and ultimately one individual’s success. The book will also talk about the rise of Black Lamb the brand!

5) What do you love most about your work? / What have been the biggest challenges for you in your career, if any?

What I love most about my work is the fact that I’m not actually working at all. This job I do is my passion, I love telling stories… I love interviewing crew and then making what I call art! I suppose the hardest thing about following a creative path is the fact that no one else is going to make your career except yourself, so you have to spend years doing work for free until you have enough of a portfolio to start charging clients. It’s the same with making a documentary – at least for your first one. I just can’t go up to an investor and say I want to make a doco, give me money. They’re just going to say what have you done before? So, the hardest part was getting people to believe in your dreams and get them on some sort of deferral payment so you can fund your own project. I’m sure now that I’ve done my first one the rest will be a lot easier.

6) Like most creative people – you have several projects on the go at the same time. Out of all of these projects, do you have any major loves amongst them, or are you equally excited and passionate about all of them?

I’m equally exited about all of the creative things I do, but one project which is close to the heart is another documentary I have in the vault called Muse …

Muse is a documentary about Peter Churcher – a realist painter who was appointed the Official War Artist to paint the War against Terrorism. He was situated in Melbourne before being given a grant by the Australian Government to paint in Barcelona, Spain. He now resides in Spain and has been there for the past 2 years.

During his time in Melbourne however, I worked with him and became both his muse and the subject matter of many of his paintings during that period. We worked together in this capacity for close to a decade.

We will see in-depth discussions on Peter’s development of a painting; giving the viewer a detailed educational look at an artist’s point of view. It will put the viewer right in the middle of the exhibitions, giving a detailed description of the paintings by Peter. It will touch on Peters being appointed the Official War Artist in the war against terror. It will show the beauty of Barcelona and the beauty of his work. It will appeal to a wide audience from art lovers to the normal Jo Blow who wants to know more about how painters paint and the relationship that they have with artist models. This film gives an interesting insight into the art world through the muse’s eyes. 


7) What do you do for fun in your down time when you’re not working?

I’m into all sorts of extreme sports… I like kite surfing, skate, surfing, and motorbike riding. Basically anything that goes hard and fast. I just recently made a pact to myself to get fit and healthy so I’m training in the gym most days after a two-year break… I look at some people my age and they’re fat and un-healthy. I could see myself heading that way so I now have the gym as my passion project outside of work.

8) What is your favorite film and or documentary?

I like all the old films like Scarface, Easy Rider, Blade Runner, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Prometheus just to name a few… Doco’s by Michael More are always a win. Oliver Stone films rock too.

9) What does success look like for you?

Success is measured in so many ways! Is it the money? Is it the achievements in your field of work? I would have to personally say it’s a combination of all of the above. My film has now been shown in every country around the world and is currently on Qantas. So, for me that’s success… I’ve made something out of nothing with my own bare hands! No one can take that away from me.

10) What’s next for you? Any other interesting projects on the horizon/collaborations or future goals you are yet to achieve?

It’s all about moving forward in your career, so feature films, books and my major love – Black Lamb the brand, which will be coming 2014. I’ve got another doco, which is in the can so to speak. Well it’s at least shot and it’s about Black empowerment in South Africa. Stay tuned.

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For anyone wishing to see the film later this month – there will be a special screening in Melbourne on November 28 at OneSixOne @ 161 High Street, Prahran at 6pm Sharp. Tickets are available for pre purchase from Oztix below or contact: info@onesixone.com.au

http://tickets.oztix.com.au/?Event=38746&utm_medium=Website&utm_source=OzTix&utm_content=GigGuide&utm_term=SERENDIPITY__

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