Featured Filmmaker: Tim Bonython, Director of “Encoded” and “Wild Australia”

Returning to the Maui Film Festival for the second time in three years, award-winning surf film director and cinematographer Tim Bonython is no stranger to making big waves with his filmmaking. He’s been shooting surf footage for 38 years, and to honor him for his incredible body of work, festival director Barry Rivers presented him with the Beacon Award at the 2012 festival. His film BIGGEST WEDNESDAY has come to be known as one of the most respected surf documentaries ever made.

This year, he comes to Maui to present not one, but TWO of his most recent films, ENCODED and WILD AUSTRALIA.

We were able to catch up with him before he makes his trek to the islands, to learn more about what went into making ENCODED, his film about the legendary wave Teahupoo.

Tim Bonython Surf Film Director and Cinematographer Maui Film Festival

Q: How did your film ENCODED come to be? 

A: ENCODED is the third installment of my continuing story of the worlds most feared wave called Teahupoo. When Teahupoo roars the world knows about it. Every time this place lights up on the surf radar I head across to document the stories that become history at this amazing surfing location. I have shot surfing all my life, some 38 years and there is no other wave that is so captivating than Teahupoo. This place draws me in like no other. Every year I look for a new story to be included in my Australian Surf Movie Festival. Last year, Teahupoo delivered two incredible swells within 3 weeks. It was just natural for me to continue my story on this place. It started with BLACKWATER back in 2003, then MAY DAYZ in 2006/7 and now ENCODED.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about making this film?

A:  The most challenging thing about making ENCODED is you are at the mercy of the ocean. You never know when its going to roar. And when it does you have to be in the right place at the right time. Especially when the wave of the swell comes thru. You need to be in the perfect place at the exact time as history does NOT repeat itself.

Q: What type of experience do you hope the film will bring to viewers?

A:  Most of my films are about the ocean and what it offers. Over all my years of documenting the ocean there’s nothing more exciting than the drama of surfers riding monsters. The audience seem to become engrossed in the energy that puts them on the edge of almost becoming the experience themselves where they feel that its them actually them in the drivers seat about have the wave or wipeout of there lives.

Q: What do you think our Maui audience – not strangers to surf films – will appreciate about ENCODED?

A: Maui has been the home of one of the worlds greatest big wave surf spots Peahi Jaws. The other spot on the world big wave map is this place called Teahupoo. Its on the same level. It takes a special person, a special athlete to master a wave on this magnitude. Maui is home to some of the most respected big wave surfers. Shane Dorian, Ian Walsh are just a couple of the worlds best big wave surfers that travel to Teahupoo when its on.

Maui audiences know that big wave surfing is part of the ocean culture as it is Tahiti. They will feel the connection more than most other location surfing locations around the world as one of the great homes of big wave surfing.

Q: What is your connection to Maui?

A: My connection to Maui is HAWAII. Hawaii has been my second home since travelling there for the first time back in 1978. It has always been the home from the beginning of big wave surfing. In 1998 i created my biggest selling surf video made in Maui. BIGGEST WEDNESDAY was a milestone film of one of the greatest days in big wave surfing. I had never really heard of JAWS – Peahi until legendary surf photographer Dan Merkle sold me a 16 mm high speed film camera called a Milliken. On that day he told me that i needed to take notice that when the next big swell comes to Hawaii that i was to consider going to Maui and shoot this new spot called JAWS and not stay and shoot Wiamea.

Thanks to Dan the rest is history. My first trip there was as important to my career as my first trip to BELLS BEACH in Easter 1981. The year that modern surfing was introduced with Simon Anderson riding the three finned board on some of the biggest waves ever surfed in Australia at the Rip Curl Surf Classic. Hopefully I will still be doing what I love, chasing monsters for years to come. I love my job and hopefully they will see that when I screen my latest story ENCODED.

ENCODED and WILD AUSTRALIA screen together in the Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sunday, June 8th at 7:30pm. Tickets and passes are available through our Box Office locations.

The Featured Filmmaker series is coordinated and written by the Maui Film Festival’s Filmmaker Liaison and Social Media Director Sara TekulaClick here to see all of the Featured FIlmmaker posts and be sure follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get live updates from the festival.