Surf film legend’s unseen film fragments

Unseen Film Fragments is nostalgic video project by Josh Bystrom, a Gold Coast based photographer and son of renowned surf filmmaker Chris Bystrom.

Josh recently applied to HOTA’s Rage Against the V(irus) fund to present historical footage shot by his late father, much of which has been sitting in his garage for decades. Some of the original 16mm films have unfortunately gone mouldy over the years, he tells us when we catch up.

“The way they manufactured they were kind of susceptible to getting mouldy. But [Chris] also shot in a different format in Super 8. So those ones are fractionally newer and they’re a lot easier to work with and lot less mould on them so we’ve been going with those.”

And it’s not like Josh isn’t spoilt for choice. During Chris’ career, he produced three feature-length 16mm surfing documentaries and 27 surfing films, in fact, he holds the standing record for the most surfing films released by any single individual.

Included in that list are such shortboard classics as ‘Blazing Boards’, ‘Beyond Blazing Boards’, ‘Cyclone Fever’, ‘Gravity Sucks’ and ‘Primal Urge’. Chris is also credited with helping resurrect the longboarding scene by producing films such as ‘Blazing Longboards’, ‘Full Cycle’ and ‘Soul Patrol’, films that influenced generations and ensured his place in surfing’s history books. This is a legacy that Josh is keen to keep alive via this current project.

“I would love for these clips to inspire people to get in the water! Whether viewers are into surfing and remember going to local contests or even just visiting the ocean to watch large waves roll in during a cyclone event,” he says.

With his dad being who he was, and his mother a high school photography teacher and his very first influence, Josh was almost certain to pick up a camera at some stage. He thinks his first shoots might have been underwater with a “little disposable” on holidays.

“Just growing up there was always cameras and lenses laying around the house, and photoshop and editing programs up on the home computer, so it kind of pushed me in that direction,” he says.

“Dad’s work has had a huge influence on me, he was always travelling, shooting the best surfers in world renowned locations. He has left behind such an extensive body of work and his drive and passion is what inspires me to be the best photographer I can,” he continues.

“My dad was renowned for getting unique camera angles, especially around Kirra, and pipelines, where hundreds and thousands of people have taken images.”

Although at the time of writing Josh “isn’t even close” to making it through the piles of footage in his garage, he is busy categorising it and cataloguing it for future use, and taking out the classic Kirra and Burleigh footage for the Unseen Film Fragments project.

“Over the course of the next ten days I’ve got the clips and I’m finding a good soundtrack and going from there. Surfing Life Magazine is on board, they’re going to release it through their media channels, website, Instagram, and Facebook.

“It should be pretty nostalgic for some people, especially those who were at the events and went down and watched the big waves during a lot of the cyclones. And there’s a lot of great contest footage from the 80s and 90s too.”

Excitingly, we should all keep our ears on high alert for some Gold Coast music on the soundtrack as well.

As for the rest of the footage in the garage?

“In the future I aim to release a best of Chris Bystrom film capturing his best film moments,” says Josh. Watch this space.

Unseen Film Fragments has been supported by HOTA, Home of Arts through HOTA’s Artist Fund: Rage against the V(irus). You can check it out at hota.com.au/unseen-film-fragments.

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