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October 22, 2021

Playing with Bunyip & Iguana

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The upcoming Byron Bay Surf Festival presents a unique presentation of cinematographer Jack McCoy’s iconic surf films Bunyip Dreaming and The Green Iguana, with festival musicians featured at the Saturday Slide live-scoring segments of the film by playing chosen tracks.

But before we reveal too much more about what’s in store, let’s catch up a little with Jack, and the mindset behind the man swimming out deep with the camera.

‘I grew up in Hawaii, on the beach, and you know it doesn’t take much to fall in love with rolling around in the water,’ says Jack.

‘At an early age I saw some things that really inspired me. One was actually letting a wave come over me and not closing my eyes and seeing what is inside. It was blue and green, the most amazing thing I had ever seen; I had never thought about it before, this thing. I tried to tell my mum and she didn’t get it, and I remember thinking if I could just take a picture of this then I wouldn’t have to explain it! At around 12 or 13 I went to my first surf movie, Bruce Brown came to my school; it was such an amazing experience back then. He made it, sold the tickets, changed the roll, narrated, and I remember coming home and I thinking that guy lives a cool life, and the more surf movies I saw, the more I thought I might like to do that!’

‘There is something very different about the quality of Bunyip and Blue Iguana. It’s film – 16mm – rather than digital. Somehow it just adds to the poetry of the image, knowing just how much work it took to get a shot.

‘You have to remember we started back in the day of film. You had to load the camera; you didn’t have an auto focus; you had to read the light; you had to focus the camera – the longer the lens the more critical the focus – and then for the water we put simple cameras in warehousing and shot three minutes of film and then swam back to the beach and changed the film and did it all over again!’

McCoy is not a huge fan of digital. ‘I hated the look of digital. I shot everything on film until 2004. But my sponsor Panasonic showed me how to use digital to get the same affect.

‘It’s quite simple; film is taking individual pictures and putting them together. Video takes two fields of vision for each frame and marries them together, thus you get an extremely hard-edged shot; film is softer, because it has an individual picture – it has a shutter. With film you can’t see it but there is actually a shutter that goes past every frame. It’s subliminal; it’s like blinking. Now with video cameras you can add shutter and that’s what I do – I shot my last film on high definition on the lowest resolution I could and I put shutter in there so that it has its own unique look. It’s how I like films to look. Kind of dreamy.’

But it’s not just the filming. According to McCoy, ‘The music is 50 per cent of the movie experience, in my humble explanation. I pick all the songs in my movies.’

And that’s what makes Saturday Slide just so special.

‘It’s going to be interesting if nothing else; the musicians will play the same song as what’s in the films, because I use the music and the lyrics for the storytelling. Rastaovich is going to do the Concrete Blonde song Over Your Shoulder. But I don’t know how he’ll do it. He may decide to do instead of 120bpm may be 60 bpm. I like that. I hope they don’t try to mimic the track!’

To create this show the musicians were sent the two movies and were asked to pick which track they wanted to play.

‘The first one is Yothu Yindi’s Treaty and Terepai Richmond will do that; the next one is Bunyip Dreaming.

‘The next one is Dave Rastovich with the song Over Your Shoulder, and the next song is performed by Australia’s Got Talent’s youngest winner Fletcher Pilon, the INXS song Disappear. The other songs are Tim Baker and his son doing Heaven Sent by INXS. Andrew Kidman is going to do Real Wild Life by Ed Keupper and the Fingal Head Slabb Brothers are going to do Sunset Dreaming, which is another Yothu Yindi song.

‘There are three songs from Bunyip and three from Iguana,’ says McCoy, ‘and I’ll come up and do a little song and dance, and then intro the first musician; then I’ll tell a little about each sequence as the next person plugs in!’

This is sure to be a very special collaborative event; don’t miss it!

Byron Beach Hotel, Saturday 25 February.

Tickets and program info at byronbaysurffestival.com.au.

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