Ambition on the Big Island is about as plentiful as snow. But like snow, it does exist in a few select areas. Perhaps it’s the sub-tropical climate or the frequency of world-class waves that keep a lot of Hawaiian talent grounded in the islands. But once in a while there is a kama`aina (child of the land) who transcends paradise and goes on to bigger, worldlier things. Kona’s Chad Kamaukala Campbell is one such individual. Campbell, whose middle name means “everlasting and faithful friend”, has been traversing the globe and making surf videos since 2000. Under his company, Folklore Films, Chad has already released two surf video classics, 5th Symphony Document and Blueprint.
Furthermore, the 27 year-old regularfoot is showing signs of a modern Renaissance man, having recently released a hip hop album with Arena Productions. The crew is a collaboration of Campbell and four of his child hood homeboys, and their rhymes reflect their island upbringing. Under Pepper’s label, Law Records, Arena Productions has been featured in surf vids Snapt 2, Common Thread and 5th Symphony Document.SURFING MAGAZINE caught up with the Banyans local at La Paloma Theater for the premiere of his latest film, Searching For the Haj, to talk story about film making, rapping, rats and his upcoming film, Seasons.
SURFING: Bruddah Chad, how are you paying the bills these days?
CHAD CAMPBELL: Right now I’m lucky enough to make surf movies and I’m trying to get into other movie making. It pays the bills, but I don’t have any extra money, but I get to do what I like. I pay my rent, so it’s cool. I love it.
SURFING: How did you get into filmmaking?
CHAD CAMPBELL: Basically, I graduated from high school and I just wanted to surf everyday, all day, but I didn’t have any career plans. Making a surf movie was one of those things that I always wanted to do, so I just charged it. The small-scale movie I started to make snowballed into 5th Symphony Document.
SURFING: What kind of honors did it receive?
CHAD CAMPBELL: I think [5th Symphony Document] got lucky. It won Surfer Magazine Video of the Year in 2001 and was nominated for best cinematography. I’m still super proud of that movie.
SURFING: So, what is your favorite part about filmmaking?
CHAD CAMPBELL: I actually hate filming surf movies because I want to surf, so I kind of trip out because I feel like a spectator of what I want to be doing. I have a gnarly disdain for it. But, I really love the editing process. I love coming home with twenty tapes to look through and turning on the music. Looking at the footage until you get twenty hours of footage boiled down to two hours and then you have a bunch of ideas of how the music should work out.
SURFING: Since obviously have made great surf videos, like 5th Symphony Document and Blueprint, in your opinion, what separates a good surf video from a great surf video?
CHAD CAMPBELL: For me a great surf film involves original ideas, as far as how it looks, the content, what’s involved whether it’s a person or place, and lastly good surfing. You always want to watch good surfing, but all that other stuff can make up for mediocre surfing.
SURFING: Let’s talk story about the movie that we’re about to watch Searching For the Haj. What’s the scoop Brah?
CHAD CAMPBELL: It’s not a surf film at all. I went on tour with the Pepper for a month, we went from San Diego, CA all the way up to Seattle, WA over to Idaho back down through Arizona and Nevada and back to California filming live footage and who they are. And through that process I realized that we could make a funny, fictional story to tell why Pepper is on tour. The Haj is a real word; it’s a term for Muslims who go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. And, it has a vague reference in the movie.
SURFING: Since were already talking about Pepper and music, how are you involved with Arena Productions?
CHAD CAMPBELL: Oh shit! (Laughs) Well, I guess I’m an MC. I’m not really ready to call myself that cause I still feel like I have a lot to learn still. But, Arena Productions is a hip hop group that we started just for fun. Pepper put us on Law Records and we made an album and it dropped a year ago. I’m psyched cause I love hip hop. There’s a lot of Hawaii references, but I view this first album as a huge learning process.