Surf titans on saving the sea
Photographer Ari Marcopoulos’s portraits have added the visual dimension to many a W feature—he’s shot James McAvoy, Robert Downey, Jr. and John Travolta, among others for us—so we were intrigued to learn about his latest project, a nine-minute film for the Natural Resources Defense Counsel about saving the world’s oceans, featuring legendary big wave surfers such as Twiggy Baker, Brian Conley and Greg Long.
We caught up with Marcopoulos (above), a dedicated surfer himself who makes his home in Sonoma, CA, to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on his film, Seventy-One Percent of Earth.
That dramatic voiceover sounded awfully familiar. How did you get Peter Coyote to narrate the film?
Peter is a friend of a friend; when he heard about the film he said that he’d do it right away. We sent the narration to the studio and he just read it straight for the first time ever and then he left it like that. It’s unbelievable. Apparently he does that with every narration, even if the script is much longer. It’s really something.
What are your favorite moments in the film?
I love the aerial shots. We used a remote-controlled air balloon and made a contraption so that the camera could hang from it. I’m pretty proud of those shots.
As a surfer yourself, have you noticed environmental changes in the ocean?
When it rains, you can’t get into the water because of the runoff from pesticides- the water is pretty toxic. The tricky part with the ocean is that sometimes it’s hard to notice that there’s anything wrong because it’s such a large body of water. The surfers notice it. They see the changes.
After you shot Liev Schreiber for W last year, you two went surfing together near his place in Montauk. Was he a good surfer?
I don’t know, I can’t say that I was really was paying attention—I was struggling too much myself!
Photographer David Sims also surfs—do you see any connection between surfing and photography?
I don’t know David Sims, but I know a lot of artists who surf. Surfing is a creative, improvisational endeavor, which I think art is too.
See the film below: