Last summer, a surf film going by the name Out of Place came across my desk. The tagline was “The Unlikely Story of Surfing in Cleveland, Ohio,” so I promptly put it aside. There’s no surf in Ohio. But then I had second thoughts. “Maybe there IS surf in Ohio, and no one knows about it, because they all just did what I did.” But I was right. There is no surf in Ohio. Sure, there are waves, and they do get decent on occasion, but it’s not comparable to other places. But Out of Place isn’t about waves – it’s about the people who ride them. It’s an artfully done film that focuses on one of the most interesting, weirdest underground surf communities in the world. I called Kurt Vincent, the editor and cinematographer of Out of Place, to find out more about this wildly different surf movie.
First off Kurt, congratulations on all the success on Out of Place.
Yeah, man, thank you!
Did you have any formal training with filmmaking before this?
Not really. I took some classes in college, but we all just kind of learned this as we went. We learned all the production stuff, editing stuff, and the film festival stuff as we did it. One of the guys did, though. Darrin (Mcdonald-Director), he was a producer for PBS, and he helped out a lot.
Was that a really big learning curve?
Yeah, it was huge. There’s so much technical stuff. We used the wrong hard drives, the wrong computers, shot on the wrong settings… it was insane. I’m working on a new movie now, and I’m using all that hard-earned knowledge and putting it to good use.
You guys worked on this movie for a long time. How come it took from 2001 to 2009 to make?
I think part of it is the nature of the documentary. It wasn’t a full time thing for Scott (Ditzenberger-Producer/Director) at first. He was a lawyer. Another thing is that it was independently funded. We didn’t seek outside funding, which is something that I’ll never do again. Eventually, both Scott and I had to quit our jobs and just do it.
Oh wow. You guys quit your jobs?
Oh yeah, definitely. It was stressful, but it was totally worth it. Making a film is a full time job. The results were definitely worth it.
Were you guys surprised when it got nominated for so many film festivals?
Yeah, absolutely! This was our first film. We liked it, but we never expected results like we had. We premiered in the NYC Film Festival in 2009, and we won the Viewer’s Choice, which was definitely a shock, because we finished the movie a week before. It was such a relief when people liked it. Then it went to Cleveland and Santa Barbara and elsewhere. It was a big surprise.
So why do you think the movie had such an effect on people? It’s definitely not a typical surf film.
Well, it definitely wasn’t because of the amazing surfing or scenery. It wasn’t any of the reasons why a lot of surf films are popular. I think it resonated with people because it focused on passion and energy – the passion you get from doing what you love. I think it taps into that universal thing that surfers all feel when they get in the water.
Is that passion what made you want to make the film?
Yeah, exactly. I always wanted to make a surf movie, which is weird, because I grew up in the middle of Ohio. But for some reason I was always drawn to it. I watched Seedling a million times when it came out. It made me realize that making a movie could be a really creative experience that can be done by one guy, or just a few. You don’t have to have a big Hollywood crew to make a movie.
So did you grow up surfing in Ohio? How did you get into it?
My family used to visit lake Eerie as a kid. I wanted to go surfing because we used to go to Florida and the Outer Banks when I was a kid. Back in the days of AOL and Yahoo, I found a forum called LakeSurf, and I posted a message saying that I was a fifteen year old kid that wanted to surf on the lake, and if anyone could help me, to give me a call. So I got a phone call from a lawyer living in Cleveland, Scott Ditzenberger. He told me “Hey man, we’re going surfing at Avon Lake today, and we’d be happy to help you.”