A genre-bending, generation-defining master of surf cinematography, Proximity’s director Taylor Steele wanted to do something more than just tell another surfing story for his latest feature. Proximity not only explores incredible locations and the unique surfing they each provide, but delves deep into the new relationships the eight athletes forge with one another while pushing their limits at each of these locales.
Steele took a few years’ hiatus from making surfing features, but has not lost the drive and creative genius that was behind era-defining classics like Momentum, Sipping Jetstreams, and Castles in the Sky. These were the films that put surfers like Kelly Slater, Dave Rastovich, and Rob Machado on the map, inspiring both surfers and non-surfers alike to get out, explore the world, and life live the way they dreamed of.
Surfers are complex creatures, and throughout his career Steele has always put characters at the forefront of his films: think Rob Machado in The Drifter or Mick Fanning in Missing. This time around, he took the living legends of the surf community and paired them with this generation’s best, just to see what would happen. Well, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know the results were incredible.
I caught up with Steele for a quick Q&A about his creative process and thoughts on his newest film in time for the digital release of Proximity. Here’s what he had to say.
What sparked the idea for the movie in the first place?
I just had the desire to make a surf movie again. For me, making surf movies brings me back to when I started filming surfing with my friends at age 12. It’s a pure place where I feel comfortable and confident. It’s sort of a reset for the next chapters in filmmaking. I am stoked TGR and Garage Productions had the confidence in me to make this movie.
What made you choose the specific athlete pairings?
I wanted the pairing to be with surfers who are still relevant and at the top of their game but represent different sides of surfing. Think: fear, style, competition and flow.
Todd Glaser photo
In the movie we see some incredible camaraderie between the athletes- who was your favorite duo to work with?
Steph and Dave were my favorite, especially with the conversations we would get in the car. I felt like I was in a master class on how to be a better person at the end of each car ride.
Promixity: what’s in the name?
It means closeness in space, time and relationship, which to me fit all the themes of the movie.
Todd Glaser photo
Of course each location matches the surfers styles, but why these specifically, and which resonated the most with riders?
I picked locations that would highlight the surfing of both surfers in the pairings. Each location and wave was really diverse from the other locations in the movie. There was everything from desert, tropics, snow, and grassy rocks.
What can we expect to see in the future?
I want to tell stories. There are thousands of amazing true stories to be told from surfing. I want to tell ones that resonate with me.
Kai Lenny has a message for us all: “hydrofoiling is not a crime, we’re saying loyal to the foil.” Oh yeah, and then he proceeds to lap the urban lagoon at the Long Beach Convention Center. Stay rad, Kai.
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