In 2020 young filmmaker Isaac Chadwick burst onto the surf scene in Otago with Bask. It was a gritty, insiders peek into the world of the surfing student in Otago. Nothing was sacred. He captured a vibrant youth culture thriving in the sub-culture of student life set to a background of incredible surf, new music and wild weather. It’s a cult classic that is perhaps yet to be fully appreciated by wider audiences. In 2021, he’s done it again with Bask: Volume II. But this is a sequel like no other.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY OSCAR HETHERINGTON
We caught up with Isaac not long after his launch party for Bask II shook Dunedin’s infamous Lakehouse.
NZSJ: Tell us how did the second volume come about and were you worried about the “dreaded sequel” curse?
Isaac Chadwick: After releasing the first edition of Bask last year, straight away we were all keen to try and make another one. It gave us a taste of what we could do if we really knuckled down and committed to filming for the whole of the year.
In terms of the “sequel curse” that was definitely somewhere in the back of my mind the whole year – right from the get-go essentially. It helped give me some extra motivation in a weird way. It forced me to really be conscious about what I was doing and to make sure I was meaningful with everything I did from the way I framed shots and the locations we went to, right through to the final stages of the editing process.
NZSJ: What is your process to put a film like this together?
Isaac Chadwick: Right from the get-go this year we knew we wanted to structure this year’s film differently from last year’s. For me and my filmmaking, simply repeating the same formula and doing the same thing twice holds absolutely no interest to me – it’s just boring. I feel like as a creative I should be constantly pushing onto the next thing and seeing what I can do with a different format.
This led to us deciding for everyone to have their own individual sections where their surfing could really shine, and then in between them I would sprinkle little sections such as the interviews or more visually based sections. However, to be completely honest, for the first half of the year I didn’t touch the footage at all except for the occasional Instagram post. After leaving it for four months I started to get a sense of what the film was going to look and feel like. Then around the start of August I began piecing together the opening section and then just kept working on it from there.
NZSJ: You are very good at capturing the lifestyle of the surf student in Otago – is that a conscious decision?
Isaac Chadwick: It’s very much a conscious decision. It’s really important to me because it’s very much a reflection of the unique environment that I’m surrounded by down here. It’s a harsh and cold but extremely fun atmosphere.
For me, I don’t want to shy away from the more gritty and less accessible parts of my life down here, I want people to have a raw insight into life as a student surfer at the bottom of New Zealand in Dunedin and beyond.
I want my work to be in some way a representation of where I’m at in my life. I want it to be something I can look back on in 20 years and remember how I felt and what life was like for me back then.
NZSJ: Music always seems to play a large role in your films – tell me about the moment you’re living through in Dunedin now with the surfing muso students there?
Isaac Chadwick: In my opinion the music of films in general helps to play a massive role in what the audience is experiencing. For where I am right now making surf films with my mates in Dunedin, I want the music to be quite in your face and loud. That was one of the main ideas for the pace of Bask, I want it to flow in and out with everyone’s parts and then the interludes for the first 20 minutes before the pace of it escalates for the last 10 minutes right up until the credits. I deliberately had everyone pick a slightly aggressive song for their sections to accelerate this sort of “flow”.
In between these loud and raw musical moments of surfing I wanted there to be one particular moment of calm before we reached this intense 10-minute sprint to the finish. That’s the section where we have the beautiful piano track, which was done by one of my mates, Fi Shultz. Sam Charlesworth then added a bit of spoken word onto the last little bit of it, and, paired with the scenery shot by me, it’s sort of a “calm before the storm” kind of moment. I wanted the audience to have calm before being thrust into the intense final parts of Bask.
Right now in Dunedin, especially in the student scene there’s become a bit of a resurgence in student bands, which is so sick to see. For Ollie Charlesworth’s part he was really keen to record a song that his band covered called “The Death of Johnny Plastic”. It’s become a bit of an anthem for the boys at the moment, so I thought it was the perfect way to introduce the first part of the film!
Me and Sam Charlesworth worked on the opening track together right at the start of the year. I had this idea that I wanted to have these big moody synths at the beginning before it transitioned into a more conventional rock song. We laid down the initial parts and then Sam was messing around with other effects and we came across this trumpet track, which we then distorted heaps and added in – you can here it at 1:01. It added this really epic quality which I wanted the opening sequence to have.
NZSJ: Were there times where you thought you might not have the full film done in time?
Isaac Chadwick: Absolutely. The month leading up to our planned release on the 16th of October was probably the most stressed and worried I’ve ever been. I was just in an almost constant state of worry, it was horrible. At one point I was probably spending most of everyday just locked inside editing for several hours straight. The whole weight and pressure of such a big project was just looming over me. I’m not sure anyone really realises how much work this was for just one person to do. To be honest most of the pressure was self-inflicted because I knew this film just had to be better than the one before it.
There were definitely a couple darker moments where I thought I was never going to finish it or that it just wouldn’t live up to my own expectations. I’m really grateful for how supportive my girlfriend Lizzie was and that she put up with the stress ball I was turning into at times [laughs].
I’m not really sure why I make such tight deadlines for myself. Maybe it’s to try and push myself as far as I can go. For whatever reason once it gets down to about a month before the film is due, I’m just not able to edit in a healthy way. I feel like once I come out the other end I’m always super grateful for the opportunities I’ve been presented with and the fact that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by so many amazingly supportive people.
NZSJ: Tell me about the feeling for you during and then after that PK Bay session was in the can.
Isaac Chadwick: Filming in the water at PK was definitely one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but it’s so rewarding at the same time. It’s just so raw and commandingly powerful. It’s a place where you definitely don’t want to be taking many risks.
A pretty memorable moment was towards to start of the year when a big wash through set came through and I got caught on the inside. I just remember looking up and seeing Ollie Charlesworth and William Van Der Beek right at the top of this thing looking back down at me like “oh shit” and then I got one of the worst beatings of my life [laughs]. Once I started to try to swim back up my left calf started to cramp up so I was basically trying to get the surface with one leg. Luckily, when I got up I managed to just get underneath the second wave so everything was all good but definitely a scary moment for sure.
The feeling of nailing a clip in the water at PK is just so incredibly rewarding. I’m pretty sure my mate Siena has a clip of me pumping my first for a solid minute in the water after I got a sick clip of Taylor O’Leary which ended up making it into the film. I feel so honoured to be able to feel all of that raw southern energy and to be able to capture the crazy waves and the excitement on the boys’ faces.
NZSJ: How do you make money from your Bask film to afford to keep your gear current and pay for editing equipment?
Isaac Chadwick: As of this interview I haven’t made any money off either Bask films. We were super lucky to have C-Skins hop on board halfway through and supply the boys with wetsuits and our mate’s skate brand Dol Col were a big help setting up the premiere, but in terms of money it has definitely been a big struggle this year. I made a switch from Nikon to Sony cameras at the very end of last year, but that was only because my mate Oscar Hetherington was able to sell me a water housing and a couple of lenses for pretty cheap. I’m shooting with a second hand four-year-old Sony A6300 that I bought off e-bay.
In terms of editing, I’m currently doing that off of a five-year-old PC that I bought off a good mate of mine for $500 a couple years ago and I’m using a pirated 2019 version of Premiere Pro, so safe to say I’m running things on an absolute shoestring of a budget. All of this is based in my cold Dunedin flat. There were a couple times where I had to wear fingerless gloves while editing – it was that cold. The whole film is self-funded so if there is anyone out there that would want to become a title sponsor for next year’s film definitely let me know, I would be extremely grateful for the support.
More recently I’ve picked up a couple of clients who I’m doing adverts for, which is super fun. It would be awesome if I could get some sort of funding for future endeavours.
NZSJ: How many hours do you think you put into Bask: Volume II all up including pre-production planning, filming and editing?
Isaac Chadwick: It is hard to quantify exactly how many hours everything took, but if I had to have a guess, I’d say just the filming aspect took well over 200 hours and then in terms of editing it would have to be creeping up somewhere around 50-80 hours all up.
NZSJ: What’s the next film you’re thinking about?
Isaac Chadwick: I don’t have any big projects planned for the rest of the year, I’m just taking it super chill and only filming when I really feel like it as I still feel a bit burnt out from how intensely I was filming all year. I’ve picked up a couple jobs filming adverts for brands such as C-Skins and the clothing company Morgosands, which is cool as it brings in a little bit of cash.
Over summer I’ll be a paid regional surf lifeguard up in Whangamata which is so fun, and it’ll give me a good break from the camera. Once I’m back in Dunedin at the start of next year it’ll be all systems go for Bask: Volume III hopefully!
NZSJ: Tell us about that epic launch party.
Isaac Chadwick: We were super stoked to be able to host the premier at our mates flat called “Lakehouse”. It’s a bit notorious for hosting some pretty big ones over the years, so it was pretty ideal for an event of this sort. We were super lucky to have our mates skate brand, Dol Col, come on board for the premier. They sussed a big skate ramp for the event, which was the catalyst for some pretty interesting antics on the night. Lakehouse has a big deck/balcony, which works pretty well for a stage so we decided to put the skate ramp right in front of each which created quite a unique set up.
We spent most of the Friday before the premiere cleaning up rubbish from a party the previous weekend and then putting together to skate ramp, which was lying in three disjointed pieces at the start. We were on the job from about 1pm all to way to about 9pm so it was a big day of mahi for the boys. It was super sick to see everyone coming together to help out.
NZSJ: Who played, who skated and what went down?
Isaac Chadwick: We had Hot Sauce Club and The Beatniks playing before we showed the film and then had Johnny Plastic play straight after with a couple of the boys on the decks afterwards to finish off the night.
Oscar Hetherington: The night of the launch party ended up resulting in the usual Dunedin antics. With a skate ramp in the flat’s car park, couches and people everywhere, and a band up on the deck, we were set for an above average Saturday night. By 4pm we had people rocking up with boxes of beer and sunburnt shoulders, a solid skating session underway and a few of the boys were mixing about 30 odd Monster energy drinks with two bottles of vodka into a bucket of the most potent green punch I’ve ever seen.
By the premiere of Bask: Volume II everyone was half a dozen beers’ deep. A few mates were bleeding and pretty grazed up from falling off the halfpipe onto the gravel and there was a solid crowd of around 200 students. I was taking photos of the skating and then next thing you know I heard a bang and a scream from above me, I turned around in time to see a mate who had been holding onto the chimney, sliding down the roof on his side and then falling about three metres off the roof and onto the stage where the band was playing. He’d literally landed on his side, in front of the lead singer. After a few gasps he stood up and carried on with his night, which got a huge round of applause from the crowd who were watching the live music and skating.
It was fair to say we were in for a big one and the vibe was high. Once the sun had set, all of us had crammed together squeezing onto as many couches or pillows as we could find. With many of us still standing, we watched the movie premiere on a bed sheet that was hung up from the balcony.
After the film, Isaac and the boys said a few words and there was a big round of applause, and we were back into action with more student bands playing, and a lot of alcohol being consumed. A band member even crowd surfed his way around the whole crowd. It was one of the best nights of the year with the mixture of a surf crowd, skate ramp, live music and an electric atmosphere, which made for a movie premiere like no other. Shoutout to Tommo for the snags.
Isaac Chadwick: The night was a perfect representation of what the film is: good times with everyone enjoying each other with a good dosage of chaos to boot.
NZSJ: Did you get a chance to take stock and admire your work on the night?
Isaac Chadwick: Not for most of the night, unfortunately. Up until we began playing the film, I was just running around like an absolute madman trying to sort everything out and make sure the event ran smoothly. I kinda wish I’d been able to enjoy the event a bit more and be able to sit back and watch everything unfold, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles I guess.
After the film was done, I actually ended up playing bass for Ollie’s band Johnny Plastic, which was super cool. About halfway through our set all the boys got their shirts off and I got handed a full vessel and, being the good role model that I am, I sculled it all in front of the crowd, which was nuts [laughs]. I remember at one point seeing this first year grom just absolutely frothing, ended up giving him a fist bump halfway through the song. After our set finished I grabbed my box and partied well into the early hours of the morning …
NZSJ: Thanks Isaac and Oscar.
Isaac Chadwick: Big thanks to everyone that’s shared and watched the film, it honestly means so much to see the support. Thanks heaps, Derek, for the interview!