You Are Here: Morgan Rae Berk, NYSFF Founder

posted by / Blogs / October 5, 2012

NYSFF founder Morgan Rae Berk in a This Time Tomorrow sandwich.

NYSFF founder Morgan Rae Berk in a This Time Tomorrow sandwich.

Cinemas of the world, take note: This is how your ticket counter should look. Please adjust according to these specs. (Morgan and beau and various sponsors approve this message.)

Cinemas of the world, take note: This is how your ticket counter should look. Please adjust according to these specs. (Morgan and beau and various sponsors approve this message.)

Cinemas of the world: same goes for your screen. It should be pumping at all times up there.

Cinemas of the world: same goes for your screen. It should be pumping at all times up there.

2010’s winning Dark Fall director Alex DePhillipo (r) with Kook Paradise director Danny Dimauro. DiPhillipo directed the year’s best (and only) animated short Bernie & Gus, which caused a bit of a stir.

2010’s winning Dark Fall director Alex DePhillipo (r) with Kook Paradise director Danny Dimauro. DiPhillipo directed the year’s best (and only) animated short Bernie & Gus, which caused a bit of a stir.

Filmmaker Q&A for Bernie & Gus…(sigh), you had to be there. Strange stuff.  Big Mike (far left) did initial v/o and would CRUSH your hand if you shook it.

Filmmaker Q&A for Bernie & Gus…(sigh), you had to be there. Strange stuff. Big Mike (far left) did initial v/o and would CRUSH your hand if you shook it.

…or your nipple.

…or your nipple.

Outside the theater was always abuzz with titillating conversation about the films.

Outside the theater was always abuzz with titillating conversation about the films.

Finalists for the 2012 Best Shoes awards. Or something. (How did this photo get in there?)

Finalists for the 2012 Best Shoes awards. Or something. (How did this photo get in there?)

Q&A with Kook Paradise director Danny Dimauro (l) took “Viewer’s Choice” for short film with his scathing “dose of reality” and the anti-dote any to lingering Dear Surburbia shred-itus.

Q&A with Kook Paradise director Danny Dimauro (l) took “Viewer’s Choice” for short film with his scathing “dose of reality” and the anti-dote any to lingering Dear Surburbia shred-itus.

NYSFF official intern kept the filmmakers in line. With her boots.

NYSFF official intern kept the filmmakers in line. With her boots.

Dave Rastovich was on hand to help Taylor Steele describe the grueling circumstances of surfing a single swell across the Pacific (Tahiti to Mexico to California to Alaska). The movie is exhausting (and rad). The Q&A was not. These guys are pros.

Dave Rastovich was on hand to help Taylor Steele describe the grueling circumstances of surfing a single swell across the Pacific (Tahiti to Mexico to California to Alaska). The movie is exhausting (and rad). The Q&A was not. These guys are pros.

Jersey people. Do not fuck with them.

Jersey people. Do not fuck with them.

Final awards were determined via the Ping Pong Method.

Final awards were determined via the Ping Pong Method.


 

You Are Here, Nathan Myers

By Nathan Myers

Photos by Andrea Waters / Kai and Gipsy Photography

The neighbors complained. That was Morgan Rae Berk’s favorite part of the festival. After the first night’s screenings at the New York Surf Film Festival, there was so much buzz and enthusiasm outside the NiteHawk Cinema the neighbors dropped by to see what the commontion was about. And to ask if they could come too.

That’s New York for you. And that’s why the NYSFF is such a success. The city is exciting. It’s electric. Like a cattle prod into the ass of everything.

“Filmmakers coming to NYC for the first time are so freaking adorable,” says festival founder Morgan. “This year’s pre-party was right outside the Empire State Building and when the keg finally kicked and everyone stepped outside, all the filmmakers were standing in the street with awestruck eyes, Instagramming as fast as they could.”

Screening a surf film on the big screen is a celebration of completing the project. It’s not easy making movies on no budget, and then to have it come out as a limited DVD or free internet download is nearly a slap in the face to all the work and effort that went into it. You just can’t beat the experience of the big screen.

After five years running, this year’s festival was the biggest yet, with the world premiere of Taylor Steele’s This Time Tomorrow, Kai Neville’s Dear Suburbia and the Innersection Films multi-filmmaker collab Here & Now headlining the three-night festival. There were two theaters running features and shorts, filmmaker Q&As, food and beer service in Nitehawk Cinema and a wild a three-stage afterparty criss-crossing the craziest city in the world with ping pong ball martinis, five-man cross-traffic bicycle rides and other fine madness… perfect way to cap off a week of all-nighter edits.
 

But Morgan doesn’t make surf movies. She just likes to watch ‘em. So, why go to all the trouble of setting this up?
 

SURFING: Why do you put this festival on?

MORGAN: So that surf journalists such as yourself can grovel on my doorstep to borrow a surfboard, because you thought you’d only be watching surf films in NYC, not actually surfing once you got here. Happens every year.

SURFING: Yeah, thanks for that, by the way. Really didn’t expect such fun waves here.

MORGAN: Now you know.

SURFING: What’s the hardest part of putting something like this on?

MORGAN: Maybe just getting the films. I envision 8 government employees in HAZMAT suits gathered around a table for four weeks in a bunker with a lone package from South Africa addressed to the NYSFF.  They are all scared to open it because it could unleash pure bio terror on the country. There couldn’t possibly be a surf DVD in the package headed to NYC to screen in a surf film fest like the customs declaration says.

SURFING: This is the NYSFF’s fifth year now. Would you say the state of surf filmmaking is getting better or worse?

MORGAN: Worse. Mainly because everyone is on this “gotta give it away for free online” bandwagon. I wish Taylor Steele would make some formal announcement to young filmmakers telling them to stop screwing themselves over. They spend so much time, energy, money making these beautiful films — but no one is going to buy them (network television, indie theaters for small runs, etc.) if its been online first.

And if you are going to put it online — at least serve some ads against it. You are not selling out — that is the business model for content online. Let a 30 sec pre-roll run on it and you’d be surprised the coins that will fall in the bank account.

I’m going to compare surf filmmakers to doctors. They get the skillsets and training, but no one ever sits them down and says here is how to run a business. Maybe we should make a webinar to teach surf filmmakers how to make a buck.

SURFING: That’s good advice. Having gotten to know so many filmmakers through this process, what would you say they have in common?

MORGAN: They are passionate, creative, intense, thrill seeking…. bah.  That’s all bullshit. The one thing they have in common? THEY ALL HAVE DAY JOBS (and underserved girlfriends because they are siting in an edit room at night instead of in bed). They aren’t doing this for a living. It’s a hobby. A good one.
 

And now, for the winners of the 2012 New York Surf Film Festival…

 
BEST FEATURE FILM 2012:
Here & Now
 

BEST SHORT 2012:
Kook Paradise
 

BEST WAVE SEGMENT:
Dane Reynolds, Dear Suburbia
 

BEST SOUNDTRACK:
Dear Suburbia
 

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Raw: The Movie
 

VIEWER’S CHOICE SHORT:
Kook Paradise
 

VIEWER’S CHOICE FEATURE:
Dear Suburbia
 

Congratulations to everyone who participated in this event.

See you next year at:
newyorksurffilmfestival.com/

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11 Responses to “You Are Here: Morgan Rae Berk, NYSFF Founder”

  1. Surfer Bro says:

    Did she take over the surf film festival? I’ve been going since the beginning and the vibe seems a bit different. Not as good as the first couple years. When I heard her speak in beginning of one of the films and she said “this is my film festival, I’ll do what I want” kind of rubbed a few people the wrong way.

  2. Ben Short says:

    Morgan’s done a great job with this festival — probably the best out there these days that I know of. I think she had a partner in the beginning and they had some differences (maybe that’s “Surfer Bro” above) which could have easily led to the demise of the festival. Simply surviving five years is a victory. Congratulations on another great year.

  3. brandtastic says:

    SurferBro, you got it!
    She litigated the filmfest out of the hands of the originators using some kinky legal loopholes. But fact is, unless your dad’s a lawyer, you can’t afford to fight cases like this. Broke the hearts of the passionate folks that came up with the idea and started the fest several years ago.Now she’s the queen of the scene and its kinda … pukey.

  4. Teal Ergang says:

    “like a cattle prod to the ass of everything”

    enjoyed this line. Profile the people of SDFF?

  5. Jake says:

    she looks like another surf groupie trying to make the talent have to bang her instead of the other way around

  6. The Ass of Everythign says:

    Settle down, people. It’s all about the films.

  7. Surfer Bro says:

    Surfer Bro has had no tie with this festival at all. I was just bringing up my observation of the last two years.

  8. Brosef says:

    When the heck is Here & Now going to show up on itunes?

  9. NM says:

    Brosef: October 15th. This coming Monday.

  10. Andy says:

    As a transplant from out west I do have to say that the NYSFF was pretty slick, even by West Coast standards. Sure, it may not be perfect, but what is? I’ve met Morgan a couple times and she’s rad. Hats off to her for going for it. Im just stoked to have some great films to check out and some sweet people to meet.

  11. Cynthia says:

    Amazing! Have you seen this new trailer about Ireland’s champion surfer, Easkey Britton? The one-hour documentary will be airing in France later this month. Easkey just became the first woman to surf waves in Iran. Here’s our q+a with her… http://www.womenyoushouldknow.net/women-talk-10-questions-with-easkey-britton-making-waves-of-change/

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