Making of the Documentary
In June 1995 I wrote to Carlos Santana to use some of his music, for a possible future film. I was living at Sunset Beach, Hawaii at the time.
Most people never write back, and when I received a reply from Jorge Santana (Carlos' brother), dated 16th June 1995, I was absolutely ecstatic.
Even though I could not afford to use Santana's music, this one letter was the whole inspiration to the making of Inside Sunset documentary, and possibly one day a future feature film.
At the time I had a very successful business in Hawaii, selling high quality sarongs in the Aloha Stadium Marketplace. I was in the process of applying for a US green card.
The US "I.N.S" eventually caught up with me. The "I.N.S" told the Jackson's, who worked for me, they had more complaints about me than any Asian mobster. I was deported the same year as receiving Santana's letter. My goal in business was to crush all opposition. I hated competition.
Jean Van Dyke (Fred Van Dykes brother), also worked for me in the Flea market. He was an extremely funny man. We used to laugh ourselves silly at the stories we'd hear.
When I was deported, my many friends such as Jean lippy Hoffman, Owl Chapman, Peter Cole, Sum Knox and half the north shore surf scene, were gossiping about the deportation for a long time after. I'd made some great friends. I had surfed between Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach for 5 years straight. I was actually happy to return home to Sydney and live with my wonderful parents.
After being deported, I landed in Sydney with nothing. I attended taxi school in Paddington,, got the licence and started casual driving. David Jarvis, who previously worked with EMI attended the course with me. David was knowledgeable with media courses and advised me to join Metro Screen in Paddington. At the time I was living in my Holden Panel Van behind Bondi beach pavilion, not far from Paddington and the heart of the city of Sydney.
I tried to return to Hawaii over the next 3 years. The US Consulate in Sydney were finally favourable to me in 1998. When I saw the 3CCCD Panasonic NVDXIEN digital video camera review in a video buyers guide, I just had to have one. The design was brilliant. The camera was the first of its kind. Joe Marino from Paxton's Camera Store was helpful with advice. I bought a Manfrotto tripod with my cousin Cristopher Sim's advice. Chris Sim later came up with the brilliant Gymea Bay Sydney to Waimea Bay Hawaii documentary theme. Many consider him to be a somewhat genius.
I smuggled the video camera through Australian Customs with the help of a beautiful Japanese girl, Naomi Kitasea. As far as I know, I was one of the first people to own a "triple chip" digital video camera. This was in August 1997. There were no digital video cameras for sale in Australia at the time.
My mothers brother Roy Taunton, had a heart attack outside Cronulla "RSL" CLUB in Sydney. I loved Roy and was extremely depressed. He left me some money, so I bought this 3CCCD Panasonic NVDXIEN digital video camera, Manfrotto tripod, accessories and a Holden panel van with Roy's money. Without Roy's passing away the documentary would not have happened. Roy had previously visited me in Margaret River and Hawaii. He loved Sunset Beach.
I Moved into a bed sitter in 28 Sutherland Street, Paddington, Sydney, to be close to the taxi base and Metro Screen, where I milked them for advice. I started travelling up and down the coast "filming" the surf action. When the U.S. Consulate gave me a B1/B2 visas in January 1998, with, "filming a documentary" on the visa, I thanked almighty God over a few beers. The visa was granted at exactly the same time the swells started to pound Hawaii for months on end. I was indeed grateful, lucky and blessed. The timing was perfect.
I landed in Hawaii in the El-Nino year, February 6th, 1998. I stayed three months and "shot" thirty five hours of excellent footage and interviews. The truth is, that was the best most consistent waves, I had ever seen in my life. Margaret River takes second place. The "Biggest Wednesday", where tow in surfing awakened the sleeping surf world, happened January 28th, 1998. I arrived one week later to three months of swell after swell after swell. I travelled around Oahu for three months, in an old Valiant.
I arrived back in Sydney May 6th, and the same deal. Swell after swell after swell for the whole winter. I shot over the next five years another twenty five hours. Sixty hours altogether. The first editor at Metro Screen I hired, was Peter Olden. Peter and I, in this tiny dark room, started piecing it together. Peter was excellent. We got along well. Peter and the edit room were $ 106.00 per hour. The editing alone cost me approximately ten thousand dollars. We cut sixty hours down to three. I met with some Sony big wigs at Blacktown, Sydney, and they advised me to make two parts. Three hours was still too long and ambitious. Two ninety minute parts would be easier on my wallet. I designed the original DVD cover for a VHS video box. I had the photos of myself, this is not meant to be egotistical. I saved a lot of money by having these photos. Designing the DVD cover myself, and coming up with the title "Inside sunset", gave me real direction.
I returned to Hawaii, on two other visas, two more times, to collect more footage, converse with still photographers, such as the great Bernie Baker, to get my facts together for a correct story line. Some people I interviewed, such as Mike Diffender are no longer with us. This is very sad for me. He did not get to see the documentary. My own mother dying of Alzheimer, encouraged me to the max. Mum never saw the final DVD. My mum and dad did encourage me. My dad loves sport, particularly surfing, and was right behind me. David Opitz and Ingrid Rowell from Metro Screen supported me in total faith. Opitz stated, he never met anybody as persistent as myself. "Inside Sunset" did take seven long years from the day I bought the camera to the first DVD run off.
Dana Ireland, who I met at Padma Beach in Bali, visited me in Hawaii. Dana stayed in the Rocky Point House (on the DVD cover) that I rented for 5 years. Jim and Sandy Ingham, (her sister) slept in their kombi van outside the house. Dana was beautiful in every way, with looks and body to die for. I was the only man in her life and our future looked great. I was 32 years old at the time with three children already. Dana did not worry. I made Dana a bed on the floor of the living room. We had the whole house to ourselves and I begged her to stay with me. We did some serious talking before she went to sleep. Dana stated that the next man that kisses me I want to spend the rest of my life with?
The next morning "pipe" was ten to twelve feet and perfect. When I saw her in a black one piece swimsuit on the beach, I knew I was in love. Jim Ingham was an underground Pipe legend, like Bruce Hansel and others. Jim was out there that morning and the Ireland sisters were watching the Perfect Big Pipe spectacle. I had already seen Sunset. It was uncrowded and also perfect. Dana asked me if I was going out. She wanted to see me surf pipe. ( I had already, in Bali two years earlier, taken both the girls to "Ulu". Jim was on boat trip. That day, at "Ulu', was a wild ten to twelve feet. I was the only one out and did not catch a wave?) I told Dana I did not like the crowd at Pipe and headed down to a perfect uncrowded 10 to12 foot Sunset Beach. That was the last time I ever saw her.
One week, after she visited me, at just 23 years old, Dana was brutally run of the road (on the big island Hawaii) while riding her new bike, raped and left to die in a cane field. I loved Dana beyond compare. "Inside Sunset" is made in her innocent memory. Dana's spirit is with me everyday.
Marcus Hale, who I met through Sydney taxi driving, did the voiceover to the early Hoole/McCoy surf film, Storm Riders. My meeting with him was a beautiful coincidence. I believe he helped me more than any other person. His advice, his voiceover, his helpfulness. I feel I am in debt to him forever! For his age of sixty, I still haven't met a surfer, his age, as fit as Marcus. He loves big waves! He has a quiver of thrusters shaped by Chris Brock, Jim Banks and Richard Hebert. Marcus appears only twice visually in the documentary.
Richard Herbert died of cancer in 2006. "Herb" is featured at the beginning of Inside Sunset. His tube riding, his youthful spirit, his devotion to his wife, and children, his music and his craftsmanship in building surfboards, were his beautiful assets. Herb loved "Inside Sunset". As far as I know, I'm the only ozzie surfer to take a Richard Herbert thruster gun to Sunset Beach and get one of the deepest tubes of my life. I wrote the eulogy at Richard's funeral. When the hurst went past the "Elephant" Church of England, after a tour around Cronulla, the surfers still gathered outside the church, were cheering with joy as the coffin made its way to Sutherland cemetery.
After I had put together the best visual ninety minutes for part one and two, I wrote to John Heussenstamm in California for music. I had met "Johnny" in Margaret River in 1978. I had never heard a better acoustic guitarist. With the Bailey Brothers band, he played "Johnny be good" in the Cowaramup Hall, to a packed audience, on the Busselton Highway! I knew he was a specially gifted musician. He was an excellent surfer. The day we surfed North Point, Cowaramup Bay, at ten to twelve feet, was the very day he left for India. Truly, God was shining on us young boys. This is a story in itself. The tubes we got that day were out of this world. John, in India, mastered the Sitar. The CD's he sent me arrived on my birthday, 13/11/57. I am eternally grateful to him for his music. I feel like all the music tracks that I picked, were very appropriate to the documentary. Again, I thank Jorge Santana, for his original inspirational letter.
In the year 2000 I became a grandfather at just forty two years old. I was visiting my newly born grand daughter, Ayler Goddard, who was born in Byron Bay. I was walking around the Byron market when I discovered Tarshito's music. I also thank him graciously. He is also a brilliant "Muzo".
My father Eric Russell was the one who inspired me to listen to the Robinson's music. Mike and Tony Robinson were identical twins. They were friends of mine since kindergarten days. Their country style music and voices are sensational. Mike is no longer with us. I am deeply saddened by his death. I thank the "Robbos" for their contribution of music, as well as "Johnny" and Tarshito. Without their music "Inside Sunset" would not have the same feeling. Someone stated "it's different". Well, it had to be different. The market is full of garbage surf DVD's. Other's stated "you'll never finish it". I had no idea "Inside Sunset" would take so long, so much effort and cost so much money. I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to finish it after seven long years. When I look at it now, it's hard to believe the path I travelled.
The ‘still" photographers who helped me, I thank so much. Without those still photos, the history aspect of "Inside Sunset" would not be as good. Surfing, surf board design, the characters, there is so much history there. Sato, who took the cover photo from the water at Sunset Beach, stated to me, "Jungle, you should write a funny story". When he gave me the colour slides in Karen's Gallaghers, Sunset Beach surf shop, I did not know him. I did not know of his catalogue of photos that featured Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton etc., etc. Sato now lives on Maui. He is a genius photographer of surfing and waves. I swapped him two sarongs for two coloured slides of myself at Sunset. I had no idea that years later, the photo would be a DVD cover, and poster. "Inside Sunset", for those who do not know, is the last section of the tubing bowl at Sunset Beach on a big swell. Even today, the inside sunset bowl is the thickest, roundest, safest bowling tube I have ever surfed. I say safest, because the other tubes that are comparable, Shark Island, North Point, the Box etc.,etc., are breaking in shallow water and are extremely dangerous. The "Inside Sunset" bowl, on the right condition, is always breaking in deep water. Very few surfers have ever hit the bottom. You can honestly surf it without a leash. If you do lose your board, "she" goes into deep water, and the swim is not far. In actual fact, I body surfed "the bowl", with no fins once only and got insane tubes. I heard Tom Curren did the same. (That was when I was younger, fit and not fat).
I am extremely grateful to the US Consulate in Sydney for granting me the three vivas to make this documentary. Even though I was deported for having the sarong business, even though I had a criminal record for growing marijuana as a youth, the consulate was very decent to me. Possibly the best thing I did in Hawaii, was get a US Social Security number.
I cannot thank Chris Sim enough for coming up with Gymea to Waimea theme. My own brother, Andrew Russell, for making me realise, where we grew up is such a beautiful village. From the Gymea Bowling Club balcony, one can see the Sydney airport, Captain Cook Bridge, Botany Bay and the whole city of Sydney. To steal some words from Jim Morrison, "the city of lights" is a beautiful site.
"Marion" at Cronulla secretarial service was a huge help in her typing. Albert Falzon stated, if every person in the credits bought a DVD, I would be a millionaire'. The truth is, I did exaggerate the people in the credits. In some way or another, I had met those people, or they had inspired me in some way, along the footpath of life.
To the editors that Metro Screen introduced me to, I am in awe of their trade. Nick Deacon, particularly, who mixed the voiceover with the music tracks in the final edit room.
If I could change anything, I would have the credits running through the sun going down at the end of the documentary. Yet other viewers may disagree.
Critics may argue that the passers by on the Sunset Beach walkway/footpath, that flash in front of the camera, reeks signs of amateurism. Here I disagree. This is the true Sunset Beach in surf season. People, surfers, skaters, bike riders, all sharing the footpath of life. George Greenough stated, ‘It's too long'. Every person will come away with a different feeling. Another person told me they laughed their head off for 90 minutes. Maybe they were high on acid. If you have a sense of humour, a little intelligence, and do not suffer from attention deficit disorder, you will find some laughs.
Greg Funnel, a teacher at Cronulla High School, has a great sense of humour. Greg helped over many hours of play/pause, (the original VHS tape) to write the script. We laughed ourselves silly, as do other people, in the comic parts of "Inside Sunset".
The truth is, I drove a taxi around for two years with the visual in my mind. I wrote the script, in the taxi, when sitting on Bondi Junction rank, vacant, waiting for a fare.
After two years, I had written the script to the visual/ I did a deal with Marcus Hale, who had just bought the latest 3CCCD Cannon digital camera. We used his camera microphone for the voice over. Marcus made a few errors with the Hawaiian pronunciations. I could have corrected them, but, I didn't. I have to say, in the mixing room, the voice over and music, came together extremely well.
Davis Jarvis, a strong critic, was the one who advised me on Journey of Doctor Singh, a John Heussenstamm track I had overlooked.
Dave ("DJ") had previously worked for EMI. This track at the beginning of "Inside Sunset", worked fantastic. I thank "DJ" for his input.