Albee Layer Discusses His Not-So-Budding Acting Career And The Upcoming Film “Sweet Adventure”
“Matt and Nora were tripping a little harder than I was just because they weren’t as ready for [the acting] stuff.”
“God, this fucking fish, man,” says Albee Layer. “I’m butchering it. Butchering it hard right now.”
Yesterday, Albee speared a 30-pound ulua, which he (at the time of this interview) is preparing to cook and feed to some friends. But we didn’t call to talk about that. We called to talk about his experience co-starring in Peter Hamblin’s new film, Sweet Adventure.
First, a little background on Pete’s work and Sweet Adventure. Pete is a South African director who runs a production company in London and occasionally makes films with surfers. Not quite blockbusters, not quite surf flicks, his films occupy that Goldilocks center — great surf action, but with Hollywood-quality production, narrative arcs and — the best part — require the surfers to act. You may recognize his work from Let’s Be Frank starring Frank Solomon and RISS starring Carissa Moore.
Sweet Adventure is a bit different than his previous projects. El Salvador’s Surf City program — the same one that brought the CT to El Salvador and is wisely investing $170 million into surf tourism right now — recruited Pete to make a surf film in their country. An easy decision, since the country is littered with a variety of right hand pointbreaks, and the direct flight that essentially drops you at the beach makes logistics a breeze.
The film itself is a quirky, surf-centric adventure story born out of COVID lockdowns. It’s narrated and M.C’d by Selema Masekela; features Pat O’Connell, Robert “Wingnut” Weaver and Dana Brown (as an ode to the film’s inspiration: Endless Summer II); and stars Albee Layer, Matt Meola, Nora Vasconcellos, Marcello Castellanos, Bryan Perez, El Salvador (in general) and more.
When we spoke with Pete about the making of Sweet Adventure and working with Albee, he had this to say, “Albee said that he hates and loves making films with me because the surf will be firing and he can’t surf, but he understands that at the end of the day, there’s going to be something cool that comes out of it.”
So, we buzzed Albee to get his take on his first leading actor role in a “surf” film.
Stab: Sweet Adventure was a really good watch, man.
Yeah. I was stoked on how it came out. I mean, that’s what I expected because Pete knows his shit. He’s super creative and his work is a refreshing break from the monotony of other stuff.
How’d you get involved in this one?
I’ve known Pete since his Let’s Be Frank film because I’m good friends with Frank [Solomon]. We became friends during that and I told him that I’d love to work with him. He hit me up and had it all set up with Surf City. I think I was his third choice to call after a couple people backed out [laughs].
And you got Matt and Nora on board?
Yeah, Matt was really reluctant because he was unfamiliar with Pete’s work, and he is just hard to get to do anything he doesn’t want to do. Well, I mean, right pointbreaks are pretty out of Matt’s wheelhouse. He’s very specific in the waves he loves, and they’re left air sections. He took a little more convincing, but he was stoked on it eventually.
Was that your first time in El Salvador? Thoughts on it?
It was. I mean, like Matt, right pointbreaks are probably my least favorite type of wave in the world too, which is funny for us to be the crew [laughs]. The waves were actually the best for Nora. But I thought it was really cool. I had heard mixed reviews from people who’d been there, and it exceeded my expectations for sure — especially because we were hooked up with Marcello [Castellanos], who’s just the freaking coolest guy ever. He’s one of those people you meet in surfing and you’re just really stoked like, “Ah, that’s awesome I got to meet that person.”
How was having to act and do scenes?
I knew that was coming just because I’m so familiar with Pete’s work from watching RISS and Let’s Be Frank and stuff. So I was pretty fine with it. Matt and Nora were tripping a little harder than I was just because they weren’t, I think, as ready for that kind of stuff as I was or as aware of how much that was going to happen.
What was your favorite scene to film?
The stuff we filmed around Maui was super fun just because it was easy for us. And having the crew in Maui was pretty funny, we got to add our friends into a couple scenes. Like when Matt was hunting we got to dress all our friends up as tourists.
What about in El Salvador?
The bar scene was a trip and that was a long one, but there were definitely some freaking hilarious moments with the old guy dancing and the old regulars in there. There were just these older El Salvadorian uncles that were pretty classic to hang out with — just smoking cigarettes, drinking rum and dancing with us. It was pretty funny.
Out of the three of you, who would you say is the best actor?
I think Nora did the best job. Matt did a good job too, once he gets excited about something he gets into it. He is just a little harder to get excited. But yeah, I think Nora killed it. She’s more of a performer. She thrives on that kind of stuff.
Any days where the waves were pumping and you were stuck shooting a scene?
Not pumping, the pumping days we were down in Las Flores and we were surfing. But we definitely missed a few better days, which was annoying, but not a huge deal.
How much different was being a part of Sweet Adventure to your and Dan’s [Norkunas] Take Shelter films?
The first thing that was a trip was I wasn’t in charge of anything, which was great. I mean, I like the creativity of being in charge when we direct and stuff and I share that with my partner, Dan. But when it’s our project, there’s a lot of pressure. None of our projects have been sponsored beforehand, usually we are able to sell the film after but it’s always a pretty big risk, which definitely changes the vibe. With this one, I was just no hands on the wheel and along for the ride, which was super fun.
I got to enjoy it as a trip.
You filmed it pretty quick too, right?
Yeah, it was about 12 days in El Salvador.
Did that window seem rushed?
It was cool. The one thing I’ve always had a hard time with our surf films is where the finish line is. There’s always, “Oh, there’s one more swell to go. Oh, we could get that one more clip, blah, blah.” It adds a whole nother level of stress that kind of gets to you. Whereas this, there was a clear finish line, like, “Okay, we need to do all this by then.” It made it easier in a way, but definitely busier.
I’ve always thought deadlines force more creativity and better results. When you have all the time in the world to do something, the odds of you doing it get smaller.
It looks like you got a lot of surfing done in those 12 days.
I knew Pete was going to do a good job, but the one criticism I have of his films is they’re not as focused on surfing as I would want, but that’s just my personal taste. So we really focused on getting as many good clips as we could in the short time. We probably surfed a lot more average waves than we would on a normal surf trip.
Yeah, compared to his last films this one feels like it has a really good surfing to narrative balance.
I mean, I definitely forced his hand a bit on that [laughs]. I made him give me all the action parts and I tried to re-edit them. Still, there were some changes, little cuts he’d sometimes do that just irked me as an editor, like there’s some cutting in the middle of an air or something, some things that he just does that a surf editor wouldn’t do.
How was working with Pete in a two-weeks-to-film setting?
It’s good. He’s got his shit together. Everyone knows their job. That’s what’s always so trippy compared to what we do … it’s such a scatter-fucking-brain operation that only depends on waves. But Pete knows all the shots he needs and then he knows what we need to do. It’s kind of nice to have that structure. But at the same time, when you have a set time, you sometimes miss good waves.
Would you head back down to El Salvador again?
Absolutely, it’s such a special place. Unlimited waves.
Oh, and we didn’t even talk about how amazing Bryan Perez is! That fucker rips, dude. He is the nicest guy ever. I became a huge fan on that trip. I was so bummed to see he didn’t do good in the CT [event], because he’s a CT level surfer for sure, no questions about it.
He went off. He’s so good at turns, can do airs. He can do it all. I figured, “Oh yeah, he is going to be good at right pointbreaks. It’s his home.” But we surfed a couple little beachbreak style lefts, and he out aired me and Matt pretty much every single time.
That’s killer. Anything else about the trip or film worth sharing?
The big thing that stood out from the trip was just how good the people we hung out with in El Salvador were. That’s what stays with you.
Right on, thanks Albee. Hope that fish is nice and filleted at this point.
It’s all done. Now I gotta dig a whole and bury it.
If you’re in the Cape Town area and want to see Sweet Adventure on the big screen, you can do so on August 26 at the Labia Theatre. Click here for tix. Don’t live in the Rainbow Nation? Fret not! Sweet Adventure will go live exclusively on Stab Premium in late October, early November.
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