Oct 09 2009

breathe. surf. repeat. the cystic fibrosis surf camp experience

The amazingly rich story of Kurtis Glade and his family landing in my lap with a few quick Twitter and email messages from Erik Proulx, ”Any chance you can be in Santa Monica at Sunrise tomorrow? Kurtis Glade (our subject) is going to be there with the film DP to get some great light. Weather calls for Fog, so that could be stunning as well.” (See previous post on how Twitter led me to Lemonade.)

The moody morning light was the perfect palette to paint the story of Kurtis Glade. After a long run as a leading advertising copywriter and creative director, Kurtis was laid-off from his big-agency job. The changing ad-world and slowing economy left him searching for other outlets for his creativity.

The short preparation allowed me to exercise my skills at finding a story instead of illustrating one that that others have shaped already. The “June Gloom” fog set the scene of quiet contemplation that was the perfect opening.

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Kurtis Glade faces the hope and the challenges of a new dawn

In the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Monica there is also hope for his youngest daughter Malin and others with cystic fibrosis. Medical researchers have established that surfing is a natural therapy. The saline in the air and water acts as a lubricant to help to break down the congestion in the lungs of people with CF.

Kurtis decided to use his story-telling skills and extra time to make a movie about the Surf Experience Days sponsored by the Mauli Ola Foundation. He explains, “I can’t invent drug to cure cystic fibrosis, but I can make a movie.”

He’s made a PSA for the foundation that gives you a pretty good flavor for the film he plans to produce. He is currently looking for help in obtaining funding for the ongoing project.

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The joy of Malin Glade learning how to surf

Many of you may recognized Kurtis from the opening shot in the trailer of the Lemonade movie. The quick email message from Erik Proulx was my background brief on the project outside of a few messages about the possibility of shooting both stills and video for his movie.

I knew that Kurtis had multiple cameras working on the surfing angle of the day’s event and that allowed me to concentrate on the story of Kurtis and his family. I felt that I could also go for the high art shots. Whatever I captured wold be woven into the tapestry of the larger movie and intercut with Kurtis’ interview.

When this was shot, I still thought of myself as a still guy that happened to own this new camera that has this odd button that activated a video capture. But I had studied cinematography with renowned DP, Allen Daviau and at UCLA and learned that the most important skills were always composition, use of light and knowing how to tell a story. I played with the camera’s unique shallow depth of field look that you can see in the opening scene of the video below.

A wider selection of the stills from the day tells the fuller story about both the joy and the challenges that Kurtis and his family face. We see older daughter Ellie (who is CF free) enjoy surfing for the simple pleasure of riding the waves. While her mother, Britta one moment serves as cheerleader and then as comforter and pill dispenser to the chilled Malin .

Mauli Ola surf camp for people with cystic fibrosis slideshow from Mark Harmel on Vimeo.

I’m honored that my work will be featured in the Please Feed the Animals documentary Lemonade as well as supporting the Mauli Ola Foundation. I hope it plays a part in  inspiring ad people to either find a life back in advertising, or succeed in new ventures – like documentary filmaking. And may many people with CF learn to surf and breathe a good and long life.

Many thanks to editor Connor McDonald at Beast/SF, (with color adjustments by John Jenkins-Stark), for their work on the video segment.

Erik Proulx @eproulx, , Kurtis Glade @kurtisglade, Connor McDonald @connortmcdonald

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

@MarkHarmel

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