Editor’s Note: Click here to read more about the Greenpoint Film Festival
“Surfing in the Great Lakes is not easy,” says Ryan Gerard at the top of Surfing the Rust Belt. For viewers unfamiliar with why surfing in Lake Michigan would be so challenging, Gerard’s narration is matched with a montage of Lake Michigan’s icy waters, snowfall, and the industrial backdrop of a steel mill. While these images are in stark contrast with the sunny, palm tree-filled “Aloha” vibe many associate with surfing, Surfing the Rust Belt illustrates that where there’s a will there’s a way — and when it comes to the passion many have for surfing, there’s certainly a way, even in the midwest.
This Greenpoint Film Festival Short Takes Viewers Into the Frigid Waters of the Great Lakes Region
“Honestly, we get better waves in the winter,” Mike Killion, a Chicago-based photographer and Great Lakes surfer, admits amidst clips of surfers bobbing in the icy waters of Lake Michigan, fog rolling along the surface of the waves. Throughout Surfing the Rust Belt, the cinematography matches the brutal conditions of a midwest winter. Whether showing surfers on the shores in St. Joseph, Michigan, or Whiting, Indiana, the scene is similar: steely grey waters, a cold overcast sky, and rocky beaches instead of sand. Even though you aren’t in the water, Surfing the Rust Belt’s cinematography may make you feel a chill as you get up close and personal with various surfers riding the waves of Lake Michigan.
Surfing the Rust Belt Illustrates the Power in Changing Your Perspective
“Waves are waves,” Gerard mentions near the close of Surfing the Rust Belt. “The waves are made the same way here as in Santa Cruz or anywhere else in the world.” That statement illustrates a lesson that this viewer took away from watching the short film: the power of changing your perspective and recognizing what’s universal about a wide range of hobbies, sports, and pastimes. After all, is there really any reason why you couldn’t surf in the Great Lakes region? As Gerard, Killian, and others show, there’s clear power in changing your perspective, a message that feels especially prescient during a time of global quarantining as industries and individuals are rethinking how life should look in the present and moving forward.
As Killian states, “If I can survive in negative 20 right now and have fun and have a smile on my face that I’m out here right now surfing, then I can do anything.”
Anyone interested in gaining new insights about the midwest or learning something new will likely find something to enjoy in Surfing the Rust Belt, especially if you have an underlying interest in surfing or any of the Great Lakes. That being said, clocking in at just under seven minutes (and with a simple, but impactful, message of positivity and the power of perspective), broader audiences could find something to enjoy in this short film as well.
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Creative Team: Max Harris-D’Amato, Anji Paul, and Tim Brutsman
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Images courtesy of Greenpoint Film Festival
About the Author: Brent Ervin-Eickhoff
Brent fell in love with storytelling as a 2nd grader, making a movie about wizards in his backyard with his mother's borrowed camcorder. Since then, he has worked on countless creative projects as a filmmaker, writer, and stage director. In all of his work, Brent's goal is to foster creative experiences that offer others a deeper understanding of the impact their choices have on the world around them.
When he isn't working on a creative project, Brent enjoys trying out new recipes, attending live concerts, and playing Ultimate Frisbee. While he wouldn't claim to be particularly athletic, competing in pick-up games where "spirit of the game" is just as important as skill is right up his alley.
Read more about him and other Picture this Post writers on the Picture this Post Masthead.
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