That Dirty Old Wedge
The finer details of So Cal’s most notorious mutant!
The Dirty Old Wedge… a fitting title for the film about Newport’s premier manmade mutant. The Wedge has a rich history from the jetty’s construction in 1936, to the bodysurfing movement, to many a-madmen charging the break on differing vessels. In 2013 a few men, inspired by Mark Cunningham and Keith Malloy set out to make a film documenting how The Wedge became the overly publicised monster it is today. The film will be premiering at Newport Film Festival, April 22, 24th and 25th. The first two screenings have sold out but Monday’s showing still has some tickets left. The boys are considering a fourth showing by popular demand but that’s TBD. You can get tickets here. Stab caught up with Director Tim Burnham, Producer/Cinematographer/Editor duo Jack Murgatroyd and Edwin Eversole from Hunt House Pictures to get a snapshot of the rich history of Southern California’s most notorious wave.
The exact definition of a hotdog in a hallway.
Stab: How long has this film been in the making?
Tim: Four years ago Come Hell or High Water came out, the one Keith Malloy and Mark Cunningham did. They did a section on The Wedge that I helped them with. Mark and Keith were talking about the history of The Wedge and how there needs to be a movie done about it. Through Mel Thoman we had access to a lot of old footage, so I got the ball rolling with a couple guys I knew that did film. I met Jack and Edwin a year after that, they’d just gotten out of film school. We jumped on it and started going, we didn’t really have an idea of where we were going so we just went for it.
Sometimes one must ostrich.
When does the story kick off?
Tim: It’s starts in the 50’s and 60’s. Ron Romanosky’s the narrator, he’s the all time Wedge legend and we were honoured that he signed on to be our narrator. His infinite knowledge of the place was instrumental to constructing our story. We start off with the history of the Jetty then we jump forward to the 50’s and 60’s when bodysurfing started to establish itself.
Jack: The story really starts going in the 70’s, that’s when the Wedge crew was came about. We talk a bit about the stuff before them but the Wedge crew are the central figures throughout the film. Some of the key individuals are, Fred Simpson from Viper Fins, Mel Thoman, Terry Wade, Danny Kwock, Tom Kennedy, it’s a big group. Mel had more 8mm footage from the Wedge than we knew what to do with. There’s no way our film could have been made with out it. They’d have these epic beach days, then at night go and rage and document all of it. The cops knew if there was a Wedge crew party going on, it was gonna be nuts.
Tim: The thing about the crew is it’s not about the individuals it’s more about the group. It’s unique to the world of surfing, where this group of bodysurfers run a spot and put it on the map.
The Wedge Crew was riding pools toys in heavy surf long before Jamie O’Brien.
How did the invention of the bodyboard impact the culture at the wedge?
Tim: Bodysurfers got along really well, it wasn’t until the bodyboard that the spot started to get over run. The bodyboard magazines started pitching the Wedge as a bodyboard spot and it got hectic. It began in the mid 80’s and by the early 90’s it was unbearable for the crew. They tried to keep a grasp on it, they’d get in fights and stuff. But if you met these guys it’s not what they’re about, they’re not fighters they’re wave riders. They weren’t like hey this is our wave, they wanted to share it. But it just got out of hand with the young kids on bodyboards trying to get a spotlight shot for the magazines. They didn’t care about the Wedge crew, a bunch of older dudes wearing speedos. We aren’t hating on bodyboarders by any means, that’s just the way it was in the 80’s and 90’s. Then we get into the blackball fight that came around in ’93. It saved bodysurfing at The Wedge in a way. Now from 10am to 5pm, May 31st to October 31st, there’s nothing but bodysurfing allowed at there.
Dick draggers, speed bumps, spongers, whatever you want to call them, they tend to get in the way. And sometimes tend to blow your mind.
What were some of the biggest hurdles you came across in the making?
Edwin: Money, we raised 25K through Kickstarter. After everything we had to give away, we had about 18K to play around with and by the time Hurricane Marie came around we had spent all of it. Pre-production is expensive, we had all this old footage that had to be digitised which adds up quick. We ended up having to take out a loan to finish the film and we’re still owing money. It’s purely a passion project, we didn’t want to make money we just wanted to make a film. When Jack and I took on the project in 2013, we didn’t even know we were going to make a feature, we thought we were going to make a short piece and it took off into its own thing. When we realised we had the story we went the narrative route. It took a year longer than we projected.
Jack: Edwin and I run a production company called Hunt House Pictures. We do music videos and commercials. We got really busy with it by the time the film was in high gear. One of the most difficult things was trying to balance it all and finding time to do both.
Tim: I work in construction management. We all had to make money in the meantime. I’d get off at four then we’d have to meet up for interview after work. One of the biggest things is you can’t plan when a swell is going to hit.
What’d you say? Yeah, I’m wearing a thong!
What are some of the film’s finer moments?
Tim: We set out to make a movie about The Wedge but it really becomes a story about people. The story progresses from just being about the wave and its history to focusing on the people that make up the community and how that community continues to change and evolve from generation to generation. The film ends with Hurricane Marie, which just happened to hit at the time we were finishing up filming.
“Wedge Whompers” – that’s all you need to know…
Additionally we’d like to thank these wonderful people who without, the film would not have been possible:
Brecht Vant’Hof– He shot most of the water footage from our film as well as some amazing footage from the beach. He was a huge help when we first got started by donating some epic footage he had from Wedge which we were able to use for our Kickstarter trailer.
Ben Messelbeck– He did our entire score and managed an insane deadline that we had to meet. He knocked it out of the park and then some.
Mark Cunningham and Keith Malloy– They were a huge help with support and connections along the way. Through them we got linked up with Kizzy O’Neil and Brushfire Records who we were able to license a couple tracks from artists like Matt Costa and Bahamas. We couldn’t be more stoked to get some well known artists in the film.
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