This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken to Morgan Maassen about his work as a surf photographer and filmmaker. The driven Santa Barbara, California native recently released his newest film, “Jungle,” and I decided it was a good time to catch up with the ever-moving 27-year old.
The film is seemingly a scrapbook in motion, documenting his downtime in his hectic schedule. The line separating work from play for Maassen is difficult to judge, which is truly the beauty of it all. All of us agreed that “Jungle” captured our attention for its ability to make us see surfing from a more artistic eye, but also for its shots of familiar places we call home for both ourselves as well as for our surf trips.
For starters, why is the film called, “Jungle”?
Great question! And, to be honest, I don’t know. I think it stuck as it represents the chaotic nature of the amount of travel, movement, heat, ocean, and wildlife I battle to get to where I am going… and of course the time spent machete-ing through jungles, which I secretly love doing.
I wanted to ask about the specific locations of Nicaragua and Bali since we have locations there as well – How would you describe the surfing in each of these locations? What were the exact locations of the shots?
When we visited Nicaragua, we were at a wave called Cylinders, which is a crazy wave that breaks on a slab of reef. We posted up for a week, everyday surfing the heavy barrels it would provide, battling the sea lice and crazy heat waves. Later, in Bali, we were staying in town, but surfed the world-famous Keramas, which provided us with beautiful waves in the off-season, despite the rainy weather.
Who would you recommend to go to these specific locations?
Both Nicaragua and Bali have incredible cultures, climates, and – most importantly – surf! Nicaragua has amazing jungle and food.
How long have you been taking surf photos and making surf films?
I’ve been making surf films casually since the age of 13, while I started shooting surf photos around the age of 19. I am now 27 years old, and as of the last 4 years have been doing both professionally, and full-time.
What is your biggest challenge as a surf photographer + filmmaker?
Without question, trying to decide if I film or photograph something. If I had my way, I would be able to do both at the same time. It is so hard to choose between the two, as photographs are so much fun to make, while films are so gratifying over the long term!
How were you given the opportunity to shoot some of these particular surfers? Was it coincidence? Are some friends? Hired for work?
Everything in “Jungle” is a sum total of personal trips, commercial jobs, work trips, and helping other friends/professional surfers with their own projects. I am always open to taking on any trip, whether its hanging out in Australia for a week or filming for Quiksilver for a month, so Jungle refined a lot of those random trips and moments that never found a home.
What is your process of choosing music for your films? I notice it has a large variety – is there a calculated method to choosing a song, or is it as simple as being some of your favorite music?
To be honest, it comes by feeling. I listen to every genre of music, and have an appreciation for it all. When it comes time to lay out a film, I perceive the overall vibe and pace, and take it from there. I rake my brain for songs that both compliment the footage and mesh well with one another, which narrows it down so quickly. Before I know it, I have 10 songs that I need to narrow down to 5, and that becomes a matter of timing and the amount of video footage I have to compliment the timeframe.
Rostam Batmanglij – “Doc’s Song”
Broadcast – “Lunch Hour Pops”
Los Monstruos – “Hey Monstruo”
DJ Shadow – “Six Days” instrumental
East Village Radio – Mystery Song
Domenique Dumont – “La Bass et Les Shakers”)