Vissla Surf Filmer Brian Elliott Polaroid

Local Motion 001: Brian Elliott

Brian Elliott is the Staff Videographer for Vissla and all around lensman extraordinaire. This is the first installment of the Local Motion interview series. It has slipped my mind exactly how I became aware of Brian Elliott and his body of work. A revolving account on social media, producing and spontaneously retracting images that range from candid portraits, stoic landscapes and the occasional surf / skate photo. I knew that Brian is an exceptional guy, worked with Vissla producing video and that he would be a perfect fit to inaugurate this interview series.   What’s your name? Brian Christopher Elliott.   How old are you? 25   So, you work with the surf company Vissla. How do you pronounce the name? Viss-la. I heard some dude call it Viz-sla but, I think it’s Viss-la.   When did Vissla start and where are they based? I think two years ago and they’re in Mission Viejo.   What’s your title and what do you do for Vissla? I’m not sure of my exact title, right now. So, I think it would just be Staff Videographer and I do edit for them too, on the side. Pretty much everything but seasonal things, I’ll edit.   Nice. Are they coming out with a full length? Not yet. There are a couple projects, little side things. Maybe going to the east coast, one of the guys is from South Carolina (Cam Richards). We may do a piece on him.   Is the surf good there? Occasionally. It’s really fickle, I think. A couple times of year.   Is it really special then, because it has a different backdrop than west coast or Hawaii footage? It’s a totally different vibe.   What’s the best or coolest place you’ve been with Vissla on a project? The coolest waves were in Indo’. We just got back a couple of weeks ago. It was really mechanical and perfect, just dreamlike. It was kindof weird though, because the island we were on was heavily religious, so it was really a culture-shock for me.   People within surfing likely give you an idea of the aesthetic you’re going for while filming, but is there stuff from outside of surfing that you bring to your work that you feel is important to it? I just try to shoot it differently than a straight surf-dog with really long lens. It’s crazy how many people are doing it and doing it good. So, it can be hard to differentiate and make something new.   You don’t want to give away the secret to your technique! It’s a lot of hand-held stuff and I try to mix it up.   A lot of surf footage that you see seems somewhat static, like you couldn’t tell whose it is. For instance if Greg Hunt (Vans / Alien Workshop videographer) films something, you can be pretty sure that it is him. Or William Strobeck, (Supreme’s Cherry videographer) it’s evident, that’s their style for sure. Surfing footage, sometimes, seems like there’s a person on the beach making it happen and recording it really well, but there isn’t a signature that stands out. Yeah. Like there is not as much flavor, maybe? I do like to shoot really, really tight. Super tight, as I can. Just half of a leg, or something with a little slower shutter speed so it looks natural.   Of course. You shoot some skating, as well. Have you done anything formally, or has it all been for friends and fun? I just finished the X-Games Real Street, with Dolan Stearns.     I got online and voted as much as I could! {Laughs} Thanks! (Dolan did not win X-Games Real Street. The contest was judged by the public via an online poll.)   Dolan’s part was so cool and different. He had to be stoked at the way it turned out. Yeah, I haven’t really talked much with him since it came out. It was a lot of talking, up to it and then we finally got done and that was it. He’s living in Lake Elsinore now, so I haven’t really hung out with him since he moved from San Diego.   Outside of skating, Dolan is an artist as well. He did some work for (RVCA ANP member) Kelsey Brookes. You worked with him too? Yeah, I was painting before working with Vissla.   What was it exactly that you were doing and how did he bring you in to do work for him? I got really lucky. I hadn’t touched a paint brush since Kindergarten, but two of my friends were working there and one of the dudes was Dolan and he was leaving. Kelsey asked if he knew anyone you could sit in a room with for eight hours and I got the call and started doing that.   So, what’s the vibe with Kelsey’s work? It’s molecular breakdowns? Yeah, they’re molecular structures. I think that it’s wherever the atoms are, that’s where he’ll start making little marks and they all grow into each other eventually. tumblr_nlq61qgWgW1qdeqvho1_1280 Those are the points that you see that are like the epicenter? Yeah. So if you lay down the molecular form over the piece, you can see how it comes together.   That is very cool. He was paying you to work hourly? It seems pretty painstaking to do the detail work. Oh, yeah. Some of them, they’d take over three weeks. Some over a month.   I think that I saw one of his works in La Jolla, in the village. The big mural, that was painted on site? No, I think that is actually just a print, on a banner, or something.       That would be the most painstaking thing you could artistically do, with how detailed it is and having the paint dry in direct sunlight. It would have been so bad. Maybe he could have projected it, but all of those little curves are brush strokes.   Did he teach you the technique, or did you just take to it? It’s both. He’ll teach me, but it’s really hard to picture what he wants in his head and try to do it. So, I just try to pay attention to as much of his work, some of the lines that he did, and try to copy them as much as possible. Because they all grow differently, so each stroke will make the next stroke different, and so on. When I first started, they would be kindof fat and not have much detail. It’s funny, Kelsey tried to describe it as a high-line, like while you’re surfing. Just going up and hanging up, really quick and then coming back down.   That’s interesting. It’s cool that you can relate it to that. I didn’t really get it, but…{Laughs} Just try not to be shaky.   Did you work on any pieces that are a really big deal, or didn’t know would be a big deal and then discovered after the fact? All of them go to pretty crazy shows. Like, the last one we did was in the Hamptons.   That’s major. It’s pretty crazy to have art, over there. Other than that, one of the other guys who did one… So it’s the majority Kelsey. He does the outline and then we fill it in. The one that Chase was working on, Alicia Keys was looking at it. She has an art collection called “The Key Collection” in a gallery based in Detroit. That was definitely talked about.   Did Kelsey do the Red Hot Chili Peppers record cover? Yeah, he did.   I remember seeing it a while back, a couple of years ago now. I don’t know where I’d seen his work previously but thought, “Is this his work? If it’s not, then someone needs to let him know!” His pieces are pretty distinct. I don’t know how he got that one. I know that he’s friends with one of the Flaming Lips dudes, he may have done something for them too.   Maybe the musical network made that happen. I think that his work is really unique, like I said. If someone sees it, he’s the guy to go to for it. It’s not like a still-life where you could commission a hundred guys to do it and do a great job, he has his own very specific look. Yeah, even if I were to go, knowing what I know now, trying to make something like it, it won’t be the same.   Because you’re not under his guidance? Yes, and because of his touch. I don’t think that I could do it, morally also, of course.   Naturally. His direction must be invaluable. That must have been an interesting way to spend your work day. Very. Just painting. P1020144.big copy   Working with Vissla, what is your dream assignment? All of the team guys are really cool, so I would say Portugal or somewhere in Europe. France would be nice. It would be nice to see a different part of the world I haven’t before, with a lot of history and culture.     Is there a unique scene there that separates itself from the states? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. It’s probably pretty similar. But, I know guys in Spain are really territorial, like spray painting their surf crew on old churches and stuff.   Really guerilla about it all? Yeah, they’re really serious.   What are you most excited about right now, creatively? We’ve been talking about doing a video outside of the company. I’ve been thinking about doing one with all San Diego guys, with just instrumental music and just, lower performance. Not doing airs, just more interesting surf boards and more personality. Just fun stuff, logs, single fins and fishes.   Totally. Very cool. What is your favorite camera to use, on the job? This Bolex is pretty fun. It’s crazy, like {Brian lets the camera roll for a few frames, putting out a mechanical sequencing sound} It’s so crazy, just feeling it working. I would have to say that one is my favorite. It’s a money pit, though.   I’d bet. Does Vissla finance film for it? Is that part of your budget? Sometimes. If they’re willing to do it for more of the bigger seasonal videos. But, they also work with another guy who only does Super-Eight surf stuff, so it’s kindof hard for me to say, “Let me get in there.”   So, what do they have you using typically? I have a Black Magic 4K, a production one.   Is that a nightmare to take out on the beach, like you have a baby in your arms? Kindof. It takes a while to set up, that’s the only downside of it. Files are also extremely big.   You’ve got to have a serious editing bay to manage that stuff, otherwise you’re waiting for days on the render. It’s crazy. I just got a new computer and have caught up to my camera. My last one was six years old and I couldn’t even watch the footage.     What are you listening to, right now? Do you have some tracks you can share? Yeah, there’s this seventies French jazz band I’ve been listening to called Cortex. I don’t even know how to describe it, it’s some sort of classical French jazz.   Some derivative Acid Jazz? Kindof funky, not too crazy. Just a lot of electric piano.   Is there anything that we should keep our eye out for, from Vissla or from you personally that’s nearby? Where can people check out your work? I do a little bit for tumblr, but have been slacking super hard. Just doing video stuff.   Is there a reel on the site that is all your work? All of the Vissla seasonal stuff. Pretty much all of the videos. If you haven’t seen it, there’s one we did in Hawaii called Palmera Express. That’s a full length one. Palmera Express from Vissla on Vimeo. Thanks to Brian Elliott for sharing stories and chatting. See more of Brian's work on all of his channels and keep up with Vissla at Sun Diego online. Instagram: @brianelliott Tumblr Vissla Blog