Poor Specimen’s Hollywood Campaign

Poor Specimen’s premier for its latest effort, Campaign, had what most video premiers wish they had. First, there were the neon-clad bikini dancers at the afterparty. Amazing. Then they had Tricky spinning records after the movie, also cool. Not to mention the swanky location at one of those Hollywood clubs with no sign, just a small, thin black address barely visible on the wall outside. And to continue the “surfing sells theme from the movie, as the surf pros piled out their stretch limos they were ushered onto a blue carpet runway where they did tongue-in-cheek interviews with some of Steele’s filmers. Also on hand were Fox Sports 54321 and the new 24/7 action-sports cable network Fuel to complete the Hollywood vibe. All very well done. But what about the movie, you ask?

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A good barometer for how a movie goes over can be obtained by measuring its bar-to-view ratio. It’s a simple equation that goes like this: While the movie is playing, see how crowded the bar is compared to a decent spot to watch the movie from. If the bar’s packed, the movie is probably lacking. But if the bar’s empty and people are actually denying themselves alcoholic beverages in order to watch the flick, it’s surely a fine film. As Campaign started, people jockeyed like berserk rugby players for a decent view, leaving the bar empty. A good sign.

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There was an almost palpable sense of anticipation in the room as the movie started. People expect great things from a Poor Specimen film. It’s not good enough to coast along with average footage and passable music. People expect Steele and crew to produce. So, does Campaign produce? Definitely—and especially for viewers with a keen eye for high-level performance surfing.

In particular Mick Fanning, Taj Burrow, Parko, and the Irons brothers do the most towards raising the bar of high-tech surfing. And maybe the bar hasn’t been raised from last week, but certainly from a year or two ago. These guys cut the tightest of arcs so incredibly fast and without the slightest bit of hesitation. They are planning maneuvers further in advance and compressing a ton of them in per wave like well-honed contest machines. However, the turns are fully committed and precise, not superficial contest flicks that you might expect from such a dense aquatic assault.

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But here’s the difference between these guys—they never pause for a second to regroup, or be amazed that they’ve pulled of these crazed maneuvers at light-speed. Their body language is so relaxed and aloof, but at the same time it’s screaming, “Of course I just pulled that! No laying back and leisurely watching their own fan fall onto the shoulder, there’s simply no time for that. It’s straight onto the next light-speed arc.

While Campaign doesn’t break ground like Steele’s earlier efforts, it captures the state of the art of the sport. Indeed, beyond Taj, the Coolie crew and team Irons, lots of the other surfers segments were solid as well, including Kalani’s, Benji Weatherley’s, and Slater’s. And Dane Reynolds’ surfing has made a quantum leap. He’s turned into an amazingly stylish and powerful surfer who definitely has great things ahead of him.

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The surfing was great, the soundtrack was amazing, the whole event was cool. And while just about every surf movie can roust a crowd for the opening segments, the true test is what the crowd looks like at the end. How did Campaign fare? Well, let’s just say when the end credits were rolling, the bar was virtually vacant.

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Photos by O’Brien, Spilberg, Baldy, and Ferguson