Interview with Ishka Folkwell, Torren Martyn videographer

Music is an essential aspect of all your films. How do you work on it?

if- From the very beginning, we have always preferred instrumental music. I think it pulls you deeper into the movie and doesn’t distract you from what’s on the screen. We are fortunate to work with such amazing indie musicians as Murray Patterson, Headland, Nick Bampton and Manyoung. We’re all friends, so I get a chance to chat with them, show them a rough cut, and then have them compose the music for the movies. I’m always amazed at their ability to write music that fits the story and the surf.

You and Turin have been able to have great adventures by spending little and living modestly. How did you try it yourself?

if- In fact, before I started making films, I loved to travel, without a lot of money and make arrangements. I find it often puts you in situations you would never have if you were at the end of the road in a hotel. Doing these movies while sleeping in tents and vans and boats wouldn’t have worked if I had tried to do it with someone I didn’t get along well with, it would have been a different story. Turin and I have never argued and we understand each other without having to argue too much. We’ve been on these trips together for so long now that we each know what the other is thinking and wanting. Even when morale is low and the factors are hurting us, we still get through it pretty quickly.

As a filmmaker, you endure extreme elements to get these images…

if- I love being in extreme scenarios, it makes things exciting and challenging. In a place like Iceland for example, the hardest aspect is the wind, even more so than the cold, and when the two come together, it’s absolutely brutal! Guys in the water are warm in proper wetsuits, but hiking and settling in the snow and trying to keep your camera steady…it can be intense. Because you have to jump to warm up and try not to miss a wave at the same time. Working on this final sailboat movie was perhaps the hardest. In other situations, even when it was really cold, I was on the floor with my equipment on. But with this trip, I found the hardest part was getting there! These are remote islands so you sometimes have to paddleboard across the impact area with a tripod and all my camera gear on my back in a dry bag. I think one day, when the waves were really strong, I shot for 12 hours straight. Ryan would bring food and water to Turin and Drew who would bring them back to me.

Tell us about an ordinary day.

if- This last trip, we didn’t have good waves for about 5 weeks, so when the bulge finally came, everyone freaked out. In the dark, Ryan or Turin is the captain of the boat, someone makes coffee, someone cooks breakfast for everyone, it’s all set. For me, my job is to make sure I have everything in the dry bag, ready to go. At first light, Turin and everyone jumped into the canoe and went to look at the waves. If it goes too long, it’s never a good sign, but when it’s ready to cook, it comes back really quickly! Basically, I just take food and water with me and Turin literally surfs all day – until it gets dark or the waves clear. It’s very hot in the tropics, and the sun is chasing you, but if the waves are good, you’re just a happy shoot and don’t care. At the end of the day we come back to the boat for a beer, unload the photos and make sure they are stored away. In general, we do not spend the night at anchor near the waves, as they are very exposed. I take advantage of this commute time to offload, save, and convert images while we’re on the road and the engine is running so everything gets loaded. The power supply is always insufficient in a 35-foot sailboat. Then you have to do your part as part of the crew, perhaps cooking dinner or preparing dishes – everyone does their part.

What is the hardest?

if- One of the hardest things happened on a trip to Iceland. We snowshoeed this fjord in deep snow to check for waves. Walking back we saw the fire trucks go by with bright lights and we thought “Oh no, someone was having a hard day”… Then, we went back to the little village we were staying in, and we saw the lights again. NotWe got to our street and it was all quiet as we saw the firefighters come out the top window of the place we were staying…we still don’t know how it started, but the fire blew out all the windows due to lack of oxygen. Passports, laptops, cameras and hard drives melted to the ground. All footage shot up to that point was on melted hard disks, and anything that didn’t burn was covered in black soot and smelled awful. Miraculously, the footage was recovered and we were able to save the trip, but it was one of the most difficult times to deal with.

Photography is never easy!

if- During my Lost Track NZ trip, coming down this mountain on a motorcycle was the most terrifying moment of my life. It was quite windy going up the hill but we were a bit sheltered. What we didn’t realize was what the wind was like at the top and on the other side. With all the gear I had, no matter how much I leaned into the wind, I was thrown backwards. One car in particular got so close that I really freaked out. We were so happy to leave this mountain. On our recent trip to India we also had heavy storms with winds over 50 knots at sea, I am still learning to sail and not very knowledgeable about boats in general. Although I enjoy the experience, this time it was so heavy I could only count on Torin and Ryan to get us out of there.

Did you know that you definitely encourage other surfers to travel?

if- We never intended to inspire other surfers, but it’s really great to get feedback telling us that others are doing similar trips. Keeping things very simple, I think the movies remain accessible to anyone who loves to travel and surf. But we always realize that, as surfers and surfers, we should try to be as careful as possible about the waves and the places we visit. Wherever we are, we try to talk to the locals and respect the waves they don’t want us to photograph. We spend time there getting to know people and respecting their home, rather than flying around and blowing up our lineup. There is a fine line between wanting to describe the place we are in and acknowledging the beauty of the place, without revealing the location of the spot, and offending people. Our goal is to preserve the natural beauty of the place and we hope to help people appreciate the natural world more.

How do you reconcile your role as an “adventure film director” with that of a father?

if- Haha – this is the most complicated balancing act! So far it worked fine. Turin has been on the boat for about a year and I go there for periods of two to six weeks and then come home to do the editing, which works fine for me. There’s nothing I love more than shooting movies and in the process I get to travel a little bit but then it’s great to be home doing editing with family and catching up on the rest of the work involved in my full time role at Necessities.

What work do you do in preparation?

if- The final film we’re working on tells of a year-long cruise in the Indian Ocean. We’re not yet sure how we’re going to tell the story, but Turin kept a diary, call log and notes, and I’ve collected plenty of footage from the trip so far myself. It’s going to be another feature film and we hope people like some aspects of the movie and enjoy watching it as much as we were making it.

>> Original interview by him Chris McDonald And the first broadcast by needs through their newsletters.

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