Eric Schnitzler is a videographer who hails from the Big Island and now resides in Tahiti. We enjoyed his first flick The Drift but didn’t hear much from the quiet 31 year old for a while after. Now we know why. The Within trailer went viral a few months back, showcasing some of the most cutting edge riding to date in the contrasting extremes of the South Pacific and the North Atlantic, raising quite a stir. We were able to ask Eric a few questions about his latest production, his rather envious lifestyle, and the state of video today as the DVDs were in duplication.
We enjoyed your first movie, The Drift, for not only its waves but also its focus on the more underground riders with an emphasis on the local culture of the locations documented in the film. Does Within follow a similar flow or does it mirror the more conventional, big name driven video?
Thanks, I’m glad you liked The Drift. I think I just wanted to show bodyboarding in what I perceive to be its purest form. You know, traveling with your friends, chasing waves, and exploring the best of all that the world has to offer, with few expectations beyond a little adventure.
I think Within is sort of a natural progression from The Drift. While Within does feature much more pros than the previous film, it presents several underground guys whom I think will blow minds as well. Within focuses in on two locations with some of the most under-appreciated riders in the world: Tahiti, and the Canary Islands. It is not uncommon to see a 15 year-old kid in either place charging a 10-foot slab, or launching huge moves over dry reef, and I’m hoping to shed a little light on the incredible talent in both places.
Within includes a geographical ambiance component much like The Drift to allow viewers to kind of vicariously experience each location, but this time around I have separated the lifestyle from the riding into different skip-able segments. This way, if the viewer is just looking for an amping quick-fix of bodyboarding, he or she can skip over the dialogue and lifestyle.
Where did you travel to film Within and what was the single best session that went down during filming?
Within homes in on Tahiti and the Canary Islands. The focus is split 50/50 on each place. This way, if the viewer gets tired of clear blue water Pacific perfection, they can refresh themselves with some dark and ominous Atlantic slabs. The opposite extremes keep it interesting, I think.
The best session I had while filming Within, and probably in my life for that matter, was in July of 2009 at Teahupoo. It was by far the best I had ever seen it. The conditions were perfect; sunny, glassy, not even a breeze of wind, and the only people out were a Hawaiian bodyboarder, a California surfer, and a couple Tahitian kids not much older than 18. The swell direction was super west, and 12-15 ft bombs were violently exploding on the reef. It was pretty consequential, possible death was a looming factor for sure, but these guys were charging! That session will go down in history, and the best thing is…no one else was filming, so the footage I got is 100% exclusive.
Not only did the riding look insane in your trailor, but the quality of the video appeared top notch. What camera setup did you use for filming and how long have you been shooting for?
Thanks. Within was mostly shot on a Sony FX-7, but I also used a Sony HC-7 for all the fisheye and POV angles on a setup designed by Chad Stickney. I’d say most of the footage in Within was shot over the past two years. Coincidentally, many have said that these were the best seasons in over 10 years for both locations. It includes footage of Fronton paddled into bigger than ever, and also in Tahiti with guys pushing the limits, many of which are unsponsored locals doing it for the love.
We have heard that your home base is split between time in Tahiti and time in Hawaii. Not too shabby! What are the benefits of each and how do you stay motivated to continue to travel when you can call such exotic locations ‘home’?
Laughs. I can’t complain, I guess. I mean, Hawaii is cool, it’s where I’m from, where my family resides, and I love my home, but there’s something truly refreshing about Tahiti. The waves, culture, and the people are unmatched. Of course, there’s good and bad everywhere, but I like the general humility of the people down here. They don’t seem to be as caught up in status issues. They’re just very genuine, and really stoked on the simple things. It creates good vibes. I mean, where else on earth do you paddle out and see locals at their own spots paddle up and welcome visiting wave riders with a handshake? That’s the kind of vibe I want to be surrounded by. I think some other people around the globe could learn a few things from Tahitian hospitality.
In today’s world we can watch yesterday’s session from Australia spliced up in high def from our computers in California the following morning. With all the free internet videos that have flooded the net via vimeo and youtube, how do you stay amped to continue filming? Do you have a second job to support your travels?
Yeah, internet’s killing the video star, for sure. I’d probably include Facebook in that mix as well; it has become such a race to get your footage out to viewers. There are positives to it, but it makes some decisions more difficult. I actually thought about just releasing Within online, but I decided I’d take a chance this time around in believing that internet viewing still doesn’t compare to sitting down and enjoying a bodyboard movie on a high definition big screen TV with your friends. I am also hoping that by creating the first bodyboarding film not only filmed in, but released in full high definition on Blu Ray disc, it will re-spark some interest in watching bodyboard films on real TV screens.
As for work, the last regular work schedule I had was 3 years ago, doing valet parking at a hotel in Hawaii. Currently, I live with my Tahitian girlfriend, Mel Itaia. She’s been super supportive, she’s pretty much the reason I’m still able to make these films. I mean, it’s no secret that making bodyboarding films do not provide the most lucrative income, there is definitely a lot of scratching by. Tahiti is super expensive too, it makes Hawaii look like Indonesia as far as prices go (“Yes, yes, transport?”), but I love making films, so I’m lucky that Mel is down with the cause.
Lastly, when should dvds hit the US? Any plans for a California premiere?
Within is being duplicated at the moment in an all in one BLU-RAY/DVD combo package and will be on the shelves by the end of this month. I’m not sure about premieres in California. I’ve already setup premieres in Tahiti and the Canary Islands in November. I will keep you guys posted though.
Any last words?
I just want to say to the kids, stay amped on bodyboarding! It will be what we make of it. Also, much love and appreciation to those who contribute to our sport and keep it alive by working together and helping one another. Aloha!