Photo by Jim Pidgeon
Step Into Liquid, the joyful and poignant first solo outing by Dana Brown, the scion of surf filmdom’s first family, opens at the Nuart on August 8. It’s easily one of the summer’s best movies. Here, Brown, who co-wrote and co-edited The Endless Summer II, talks about what it’s like to follow in his father’s footsteps and what he was looking for when he spent two and a half years shooting this film. Wingnut pipes in.
L.A. WEEKLY: Why did you decide to make Step Into Liquid?
DANA BROWN: Step Into Liquid came out of people chasing me around to do Endless Summer III. We thought the spirit and fun and joy of Endless Summer was timeless, but the concept — two people searching for the perfect wave — had become clichéd. The thought was that if we were going to do one, it had to be different and good. If you’re Mickey Mantle Jr., playing for the Yankees is daunting. It’s like Citizen Kane II; it’s not a good idea. So, it became less about the places and more about the people.
The people in the film give it a poignancy you wouldn’t expect to find in a surfing movie. Especially with Jesse Billauer [a paralyzed surfer], and the vignettes in Vietnam and Ireland. Were you consciously seeking that?
It would happen. We never went in trying to start anything. But filming Jesse, we hoped people would be stoked and inspired. When Jesse said on film how he broke his neck, that was the first time I heard how it happened. We were very aware of the human element, but we would never have sought out someone with a physical disability. That would be too cynical. We knew if we had big waves here, we wanted something else there.
WINGNUT: I basically don’t like surf films. I don’t watch them, but I’m really, really proud that the stories told in this one were told.
What about big waves?
It’s glamorous and it’s sure pretty, but it’s really specialized. It’s so rare and so complicated . . . Everybody wants “big wave, big wave,” and cool, cool, but it’s like a porno movie, too much and it wears off real soon.
What do you hope happens with this movie?
I hope we get out of Iraq and I get to go to the Kennedy Center [laughs]. I hope the movie does well. That’s what you hope for. I want people to see it. I hope that not just average people see surfing in a different way, but surfers do also, especially in Southern California where you see these guys with their false localism. I wish it would give them perspective. I wish less people would get smacked in the lineup.
What do you make of Wingnut?
He’s like Wink Martindale all the time. I always feel like I’m going to the bonus round.