If you’ve ever found yourself bored by the endless barrage of palm trees and azure blue water populating just about every surf film ever made, you’re in luck: Mike Bromley and Ryan Meichtry’s new movie Perilous Sea was filmed entirely in the frigid North Atlantic. After three years, a handful of grueling trips around Nova Scotia, Iceland, and Ireland, and thousands of hours braving hypothermia and the sting of icy winds, the final product stands as one of the most unique pieces of surf cinema ever produced, with a wizened old man as a narrator, surfers like Sam Hammer, Will Skudin, Logan Landry, Noah Wegrich, and Heidar Eliasson as stars, and an original soundtrack produced by Andrew Shier, Andrew Wiseman, and Matt Mays.
“We wanted a crisp, clean, cinematic look,” Bromley tells ESM. “Our major influences were the more recent films of Taylor Steele and Joe G, who’ve both done such an incredible job of combining the surf movie with that Hollywood feel and a taste of fiction.” After watching Perilous Sea, with its rugged, mysterious maritime feel, it’s hard to not imagine Bromley and Meichtry’s painstaking creation wowing film festival audiences and building a rare bridge between surfing’s hardcore viewership and a broader audience hungry for tales of adventure, which Perilous Sea has in spades. We chatted more with Bromley about the creation of the film and its journey still ahead.
ESM: What motivated you to start Perilous Sea?
Mike Bromley: I really was motivated to do something different. Ryan Meichtry and I had seen pretty much every surf movie ever, and we were getting sick of the blue water and palm trees. Being from Nova Scotia, I really knew how good the North Atlantic can get, and we wanted to showcase that. As for the actual process, we kind of just came up with the idea of our narrator being someone who has been on the sea longer and even more often than surfers. So we chose an old fisherman to tell the story. We had ideas along the way but kind of flew by the seat of our pants with the story depending on which locations we decided to go to.
ESM: How did you and Ryan Meichtry originally connect, and what part did he play in Perilous Sea?
Mike Bromley: I connected with Ryan in Los Angeles while I was there studying film when I was 19 or 20. Ryan wasn’t even in the film industry at the time — I met him through a friend of a friend surfing. We became good friends over the years and I found out Ryan was secretly a camera whiz, he just didn’t tell anybody. Originally I was director and Ryan was to be director of photography, but by the time we were a few months into the project our roles just blended together and we took on everything together. I must say I think Ryan has taught me more than film school did, that’s for sure.
ESM: When you started the film, did you have a set outline of places you wanted to travel and surfers you wanted to include?
Mike Bromley: To be honest, our original idea was to include strictly coldwater surfers and make a movie based strictly in Iceland over the course of a few weeks. We got so skunked in Iceland almost four years ago, though, that we realized we needed to open it up and go to another location to add to our film. By the time we got skunked in our second location as well, we just said screw it, let’s make a longer movie in even more locations to have more footage to play with. We didn’t really have a choice at that point [laughs] — we had to keep doing trips.
ESM: As development of Perilous Sea moved forward, how did those plans change?
Mike Bromley: We really kept with the original idea of our “old man of the sea” telling the story of the boys traveling around cold locations. We just had to get a little more creative with the storyline when we realized we went to a few more locations than we originally thought.
ESM: Technically speaking, did you set out to achieve anything specific with Perilous Sea? Any inspirations in particular that went into its creation?
Mike Bromley: It was our goal from the very beginning stages to make sure we made a nice-looking film. We didn’t want this to be the classic rock ‘n’ roll surf movie experience. We wanted a crisp, clean, cinematic look. I think our major influences for the movie were the more recent films by Taylor Steele and Joe G. — movies like Sipping Jetstreams, Castles in the Sky, Year Zero, and Strange Rumblings. They both have done such an incredible job of combining the surf movie with that “Hollywood movie” feel while also adding in that taste of fiction. But keeping it real and making sure the surf action is relevant and appropriate.
ESM: What were the biggest challenges that presented themselves in the course of shooting the movie and then in post-production?
Mike Bromley: The biggest challenge by far was the weather and the inconsistency of waves in the North Atlantic. Unlike almost anywhere else, conditions here change at the drop of a hat. The forecast says one thing and you can be looking at something totally different on the shoreline. Nova Scotia gets as cold as it gets, so sitting outside for hours on end is always a challenge. Iceland had weather systems unlike anywhere else. It would be snowing, raining, and sunny all within a few hours. And Ireland of course was very rainy the whole time — we actually shot the whole film without a proper rain cover for our camera [laughs]. We always had boxes of garbage bags and rolls of duct tape handy. Post-production was a whole ‘nother beast, as it always is. We didn’t want to deal with licensing music for the film, and I’m lucky enough to have some pretty talented musician friends that were nice enough to work on the soundtrack. With that comes all the challenges of making sure the music is not only well done but also makes sense and fits the section it’s being used for.
ESM: Tell us more about the narrator — especially how you found someone with such a great voice.
Mike Bromley: Growing up in the Maritimes, I was surrounded by those old novels about adventure on the sea. It always intrigued me how men would head out, try to battle such a beast, and come home over the moon or not come home at all. Spoiler alert, though: the man you see in the film and the voice aren’t coming from the same person. A very good friend of mine is a successful voice actor in Vancouver, so he took on the roll of “The Fisherman” and absolutely nailed it.
ESM: Do you think the North Atlantic creates more of a unifying bond than say the East Coast or the West Coast?
Mike Bromley: Maybe? People in all of those places have a good bond and I think will be interested in our film, but having said that, the East Coast/West Coast bonds and rivalries are pretty special.
ESM: How did the first premieres of Perilous Sea go last month, and what is the plan for upcoming premieres and releases?
Mike Bromley: The premieres went great! It really was surreal to sit in a room full of people watching the film and hearing their reactions to everything. We played to a sold-out crowd in Halifax where the beers were flowing quite nicely [laughs] — everyone had a really good time. On the same night, we played to a pretty large crowd at a cool outdoor venue in Quebec City opening for Taylor Steele’s Proximity. We are going to continue to have a few more premieres around North America and Europe hopefully; we’ll be backing up my good friend Ben Gulliver’s new film The Seawolf (which is going to be awesome, by the way) on a few dates throughout Canada and the U.S. Then we’re heading out on the film festival circuit for a few dates, then the film will be released on iTunes and Vimeo on Demand after that.
ESM: Any final reflections on the project now that it’s finished?
Mike Bromley: I think If we had to do it again, we would go to a few more favorable locations surf-wise. We picked some pretty fickle spots. I’m glad we did what we set out to do, but it was a grind. I for sure will do something like this again, though. It was too much fun and a lot of work, but seeing the final result was pretty special.