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Film explores Germany's river waves, culture

Eisbach river wave © Finian Pye Vogel



Film Updates

Film documents thriving subculture around the Eisbach, elsewhere

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 11 November, 2013 - Munich, Germany - Finian Pye Vogel is an Anglo-German filmaker based in the southwest of England. His short, not-for-profit film documents the rising scene of river surfing in his hometown of Munich. The river wave has created a slightly alternate version to the standard sport of surfing everyone is familiar with.

Munich has a few river waves in it and has been cited as the capital of the river surfing world. In summer man made The fast flowing Eisbach (Ice Brook) wave is the most advanced wave in the city and and has seen numerous injuries and further non surfing related fatalities from people entering the 2km long river in the nearby Englischer Garten park.

There is a strong subculture based around the Eisbach, but it is a far cry from the promenades full of shops oozing surf fashion and culture in your typical surf hotspots. Granted there are shops but in this city there is a fraction of what you will find in a village in say Cornwall, UK. Faces become familiar to each other and many of those I spoke to had, after time on the Munich waves had eventually ventured to the far off waves of the Atlantic to see what sea surfing was like.

German surf tourism is stronger then ever at the moment and when I am down in Cornwall with my cornish girlfriend Sarah we see many surf tourists that have come from all over Germany and Austria.

Surfing on the Eisbach was deemed illegal by the authorities until they finally keeled to the unrelenting pressure that the open movement persisted with. Now it is endorsed by the city of Munich and has been surfed by the likes of world class surfers Rob Machado and Garrett McNamara. The Eisbach is visited by a plethora of Surf tourists in the summer and Munich opens itself in friendliness to all tourists with a hearty Bavarian warmth.

A problem that the increase of numbers poses due to the inevitable exposure of this unique surf spot is that only one person can surf at one time. The more that flock there, the longer the queues will be. However those who have glanced a keen eye at the wave need to remember it is not for groms!


Interview with Finian

Q: Tell me about the process of filming The Endless Wave. What equipment did you use and what filming techniques did you employ?

I used a Panasonic SD900 to film "The Endless Wave". What was important was to get shots of all sides of the Wave to create a bubble of the environment for the viewer to get a sense of the environment this special place was being filmed in. For me the slow mo shot was a giver as it is for the surf film, genre defying and in this case you you really get a feel of the strength of this river which I believe flows at 30 cubic metres per second. Most of the film was shot hand held, although I did use my tripod for a few shots.

Editing on Premier Pro took me about 5 weeks, I am known for working long long hours on my films, in this case I would work on it for a day or two and then leave it for three or so days so that when I came back to editing a could have a step back from my work so I could see what needed to be improved. I personally think sound is very important to the film. You can have bad shots but well recorded sound and still have a pleasant result. I found the sound the hardest to edit as in various shots you have the sound of the wave at noticeably different levels, and these needed to match to make the film flow throughout.

The end result exceeded my expectations. I then sent the film to some old teachers and friends to critique and then worked on what I could before officially releasing it on the 14th of October. It was a great little project to work on and the reception and kind words I have recieved has far exceeded my expectations.

Q: How did you get to know Munich´s fantastic urban wave and what do you had in mind when shooting the flick?

My mother is from Munich, I am fluent in German and go to the city two or three times a year, and see the city as my second home. The Eisbach is near the famous Haus of Kunst (House of Art) and the first time I saw was about 8 years ago. I was amazed, I didn't know river surfing existed in Munich, which is far away from the nearest beach!

I was with my photo-keen Mum at the time and that was the time she took the photos you see in the film. Since then whenever I have been about I have spent a fair amount of time sitting by the side and watching the surfers. Its incredible what they do on that Wave, as the surfers have adapted to their environment. What struck me is how small a space they have to use whereas the sea gives you an enormity of space to manoeuvre.

I had wanted to make a wee film on the Eisbach for at least a year before I actually filmed it.I knew what kind of shots I wanted and what questions I wanted to ask the surfers but didn't plan it beyond that. I just rocked up with the ideas in my head, hoping that there would be some people surfing there. I told people I was making a short film, though a fair few didn't want to be interviewed or didn't feel it was appropriate as they were not actually from Munich.

Had there not been any surfers I would have come back the next day, but as it was late August I was sure that there would be. I didn't know any surfers there so couldn't pre arrange anything which was unlike every other film I have made! It was actually quite refreshing taking this approach as it was a step into the unknown, though could have been a failure!

Q: How did you get started in directing?

I had always been into films and its processes. I did film studies in sixth form and my first films where "film noir" trailers we made. At the University of the West of England I then studied joint history and media and cultural studies, specialising in film.

Outside of uni I was practising my art of filming using my 6 megapixel samsung camera then editing on windows movie make. Initially I made music videos performed by me and my friends. I was never shy to show them and I learnt my basis of practise and directing my own films. This helped me prepare for the enormity that was really my final year uni project, an anthropological film on students which took my filming to a new level.

I have always been keen for extreme sports especially surfing so I guess directing a surf film was the next step for me and a path I will continue pursue, for now as a hobby, maybe one day as a profession but either way I will be a happy man.

Q: What are your favourite surf movies?

The inspriation for my film was from watching Bjorn Richie Lobs (2009) film "Keep Surfing", for me that was quite an amazing cinematic experience as it combined my favourite city with my favourite sport! Really worth a watch as Munich has a unique surf culture unlike the most famous surf spots and towns. I showed many to many of my mates, but very few understood the German it is mainly filmed so I thought making a short English language film would be a cool project.

As you may have guessed from my film title The Endless Summer (1966) is one of my favourites. Bruce Brown's commentary throughout instills a warmth that only David Attenborough has been able to create for me so far, and depicts the sport in its rawest form, before all the sponsorship hype. I also love the intensity of the colour in which the film was produced back then. Bruce Brown has already created an inspiring moment for my next film project.

Q: Do you have already a project for a future movie? If so, tell us about it.

In the new year I will be commencing my new film in West Cornwall. My brother lives down in Penwith and he and a few mates are going to come down with me and shoot. Planning is already underway and we will have more cameras, go pro cameras and I'm looking forward to getting in the water, in with the action,to film this time. Surf conditions should be good that time of year and I am taking in all the feedback from The Endless Wave to put all my creative energy make this next one as engaging as can be.

Q: What makes in your opinion a great surf movie?

I think what is important is to give the viewer a sensation of where they are. Whether it is the small spot like the Eisbach or a vast sprawling coastline in western Australia you need to give the viewer a chance to see their surroundings. Chances are that the viewer will never actually see the place you have filmed. I always like to see interview footage with those who surf or habitat the location as their words can mean as much as the images to convey the film.

Q: What kind of advice do you have for someone who wants to start directing a surfing movie?

I guess a an individual passion to make the film as good as you can, and to get some friends who are keen to be aboard your project. Be inspired and above all have fun! Make it for the love of filming and surfing rather then for profitable gains.

Munich, Germany, River Wave, Eisbach
The Editors

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