Watch: Vissla’s New Film, Rolling Review
Starring a talented cast of characters you won’t see on the WSL webcast!
Vissla has one of the most diverse and talented teams in the world of surfing, but you won’t find a single one of their riders on the WSL World Tour.
While the brand is not averse to competitive surfers (see: Cam Richards, Cole Houshman, Noa Mizuno, etc.), Vissla does have a particular appreciation for freethinking and versatile individuals. Take, for instance, Eric Geiselman, who at one point in his life was a competitive renegade, but who has since channeled his talents toward less formal pursuits, like the perfection of flips, a mastery of the guitar, and his newfound love of nonconventional headwear.
There’s also Bryce Young, son of former World Champion and Australian surfing legend Nat Young (the OG one), whose abilities on a board eclipse those of many CT surfers, but who’d rather ride a 7’0 assym than a conventional thruster.
And, there’s Derrick Disney, another former comp-rat who found his soul on a road trip from Cali to Nicaragua, returning home to completely reshape his surfboards and his life.
It’s this diverse cast of characters that Edgar Obrand, a 32-year-old filmmaker originally from Laguna Beach, now living in LA, was tasked with capturing in the latest Vissla film, Rolling Review (which you can watch above). In fairness, Obrand has created Vissla’s last handful of films, so he’s already well-enough acclimated with the crew, which comes through clearly in the finished product.
Unlike his previous movies with Vissla, which were essentially “cover films” (Edgar’s words) of other surf and non-surf flicks, Obrand claims Rolling Review is a truly unique creation, with inspiration being drawn from a number of non-cinematic sources but none of which direct the true narrative of the piece.
We sat down with Edgar for a chat about Rolling Review. You can read it below.
Welcome to the Rolling Review, may we offer you a beret?
Stab: Hey Edgar, tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you and where are you from originally?
I’m 32. I was born in Laguna Beach, California. But I’ve kind of lived all over. I lived in Colorado for like 10 years, and New York and San Francisco, and settled in Los Angeles about seven years ago.
Are you a surfer who fell into film, or a filmer who fell into surf?
I am a surfer who fell into film, for sure. But I didn’t fall into film via surfing. It was just, I’m a surfer who was just stoked on movies. When I was younger, some older kids turned me on to some kind of weirder, I guess avant-garde films that kind of opened me up in a different way. I was like “whoa, I didn’t know movies could be like this.”
Did you go the whole film school route, or are you more self-taught?
A little bit of both. I did film school for a year and that summer after film school I started working and getting job offers. Eventually, I got a job with The Growlers, and just figured this is exactly what I want to be doing and never went back to school.
Don’t look back.
What number film is this that you’ve done with Vissla?
This is my third or fourth, I think? This one’s pretty different, I feel like, from the other ones. The first couple almost felt like cover songs in a way. You know when a band is young and they kind of start off doing covers, like Rolling Stones started off doing Muddy Waters covers and things like that? The first films were kind of more like Bruce Brown, Endless Summer. And then the last one was kind of like Jungle Book, Never Ending Story.
And this one felt like it was made more from scratch. Like when you’re cooking and you start to get comfortable enough where you’re like, “You know what? Fuck it. I don’t need the recipe. I’m just going to build it from scratch.”
What would you say is the ethos of this film?
I’ve always been inspired by Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael and the people with the Black Panther party, so that’s where the berets came in. It was kind of like Black Panther activism and then just tried to fit it into a surf film. And then it’s almost like Anthony Bourdain’s show, where you’re just learning about the scene and the travel. But ultimately, I like to think it’s its own unique thing.
Speaking of which, the film jumps constantly between geographic locations. Was that purposeful, just to keep the viewer guessing?
Yeah, it was for a number of reasons. I’m sure you know that, as a surfer, you want to respect local spots, so I didn’t want to try to give it away too much. A savvy surfer would still be able to be like, “Oh, I know where that is, this is,” but hopefully we were able to keep some of the spots under wraps.
Secret French beachie, or an Indonesian atoll? Maybe Texas?
Who are your surf and non-surf filmmaker inspirations? I saw a few things in Rolling Review that made me think of both Kai Neville and Joe G…
Yeah. I mean, those are peers that I respect. Like, I think Kai is super gnarly. I think everything he’s done has been amazing. Joe’s obviously incredible as well. But when I’m making a surf film, I try to watch more narrative films rather than surf stuff. I’d rather be influenced by people outside of the surfing world, if that makes sense.
But as far as surf filmmakers go, by far my favorites are the Malloy brothers and Richard Woolcott and Troy Eckert. To me, their films are leagues above anybody else’s in the surfing genre.
But I want to reiterate, I’ve got a lot of respect for both Joe and Kai. I think Kai’s insane. Everything he does is just incredible. Like, I watch it, and it’s just like, fuck. It’s just seamless. It’s perfect. It’s beautiful.
Do you feel like you’ve started to reach that level with your own films? Where they’re “seamless” and “perfect”?
No, I don’t think so. I think that’s just like, who knows if he even feels that way, you know what I mean? It’s something you’re just always striving towards. It’s a never-ending kind of thing. Like a treadmill.
Yeah. It seems that most creative people are their own biggest critics. And I think that’s probably for the best.
Let’s talk about the surfers a little bit. Based on screen time, it seemed like Derrick Disney was the star of this film. Would you agree with that?
Yeah, he’s kind of been the star of all our films actually. It’s never been something that has been in the pitch decks that I present to Vissla or anything like that, but I think Vissla kind of gravitates towards Derrick a lot. He’s interesting looking, he’s a great surfer, and he’s got hobbies and a perspective that make him really well-rounded.
Also, he’s always been one of the easiest guys to work with. Derrick is down to do whatever—whether it’s shooting some shot completely unrelated to surfing or going to some weird place where we’ll maybe find waves. I think that came from his own curiosity, like, “Whoa, what’s a dolly shot? How are you going to do that?”
Derrick, the filmmaker’s dream.
Kids, take note!
Yeah, totally. I mean, I remember one of my first films with him, and he was one of the few that would offer to carry my tripod after a surf session and always thank me for filming. It makes a difference.
And then from a pure surfing performance standpoint, I just feel like Bryce Young is one of the best surfers in the world. Like, if he had gone down a different path, he could probably be top five in the world. He’s so talented.
Oh dude, he’s so gnarly. He’s like an avatar man, he’s like six… five or something? I could be way off there, he’s probably between six-three and six-five, super athletic. He kills it at everything he does. He’s an incredible guitar player, he’s an incredible skateboarder, an incredible snowboarder, a beautiful surfer. He’s gotten good at singing. He’s just one of those guys who when they pick up something, they just nail it right away.
But mainly, it’s just a pleasure to watch Bryce surf. He’s so graceful, and I’m stoked there’s someone out there currently occupying that space. Because I’d much rather watch someone do a really beautiful layback or cutback than some nuts blowtail or something that doesn’t look as cool.
Seriously, give Bryce a go at J-Bay and see who walks away limping.
I feel like a lot of what you’re saying also describes Eric Geiselman.
Yeah, Eric is another dude who… he’s just crazy, man. He’s another one of those guys that, whatever he does, he does it really well, and makes it look cool. When I try to do that kind of stuff, I’m just too goofy and can’t pull it off. It takes me some time to get to that level of grace and style, but he’s just one of those guys who gets on a skateboard and can shred, and picks up a guitar and can shred, and obviously, he’s an incredible surfer and ladies’ man. He’s a funny dude.
I liked that you created a real team aspect with the film, and made it feel like these guys were all genuinely good friends. Whether or not that’s actually the case, what would you say is the thread that ties all these different Vissla surfers together?
Honestly, I think it might be their love of surfboards. I don’t watch the WSL, I don’t really keep up with who’s who right now or anything like that, so this might be totally normal, but they just seemed to geek out on boards—all of them. Most of them shape their own boards, or they grew up with their dads shaping their boards, or they’re just super curious about it, and I think that’s cool.
It reminds me of hanging out with my filmmaker buddies and we start talking about lenses or film stocks or something.
Surfboards make the world go ’round.
What can you tell us about the name of the film? Rolling Review.
I’m a really big music fan. I grew up in a music household. My mom used to run a radio station during that bygone era of rock and roll, like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Stones, and all that was a major part of my childhood.
So I’m a huge Dylan fan, and there was a famous tour in 1975 called the Rolling Thunder Revue. It was a really big deal because in 1965, Bob Dylan went electric after being a folk singer for all those years, and a bunch of his fans turned on him. So after ’66, Dylan didn’t tour for like ten years, and then in ’75 he toured for the first time, and it was like a traveling circus act called the Rolling Thunder Revue.
I spelled our film as “Review”, because the whole impetus of the film was like, all right, what are we doing? We’re going to these different places, we’re surveying the land, reviewing the waves and the culture, and we’re just kind of rolling along, and so it seemed like a fitting title that was also a nod to Dylan.
Hit the triangle above, pour a drink and watch the film.
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