August 4th 2022
Fielder Productions offices
After a quick bike ride down the coast highway I reached the most southern intersection of town pulling over to an industrial building that houses a new restaurant. I am scheduled to meet with Ben Weiland just before he heads out on tour for the release of his latest movie project "Island X". I've known Ben for many years now and his love for arctic travel and surfing is incredibly unique. This trip has to be at the top of the list for his cold quests. 7 years in the making with many hurdles to overcome making it all happen. Ben worked with good friend Brian Davis (the two of them are the co-founders of Fielder Productions) to see this masterpiece of "Island X" come to life. We had a quick chat and a Topo Chico in their incredible office space as they ran me through some of the fun moments of making the project and working together at Fielder Productions. Hope you enjoy!
TANNER: Yeah boys! Thanks for having me here at your offices, how long has it been for you guys working at Fielder now?
BEN-Ahh man, I mean Brian and I have been friends for probably 7 years, or 8 years now. We’ve worked together sporadically over those years, But with fielder, I mean Fielder has been around 3 years? Is that right?
Bobcat- Yeah I think the concept of it became an idea about 3 years ago but its really been in the last year that we have got off the ground running with it and have been really working hard on the brand side of it.
Ben- I guess for us too we started working pretty organically just out of my garage so its kinda hard to say exactly when it all started. It was just kinda us working on various projects together and thinking wow this is crazy here we are both working pretty much full time on these projects what if we just started to coalesce this more or less under one brand name. So that’s where Fielder came about, then we just started riffing on all the names and that was the fun stuff. We just felt like it would be good to create an identity around what we were doing together and then just started dreaming for all sorts of stuff for the future.
I remember it feeling so natural.
I really felt that all of our best stuff came when we were working on these projects together or just helping each other out with different projects. So that energy has always been there.
TANNER: I would imagine starting a production company, or any kind of company with a friend is the dream. Whats the reality look like?
BOBCAT- Yea I mean I think Ben and I quickly learned it takes a lot of pressure off when you have two people. We work super well together, we’ve always been so close as friends and just have a lot of similar interests but there can be a lot of pressure when you’re just a solo free lancer. I think we learned pretty quickly we have similar approaches to projects and similar skill sets but different in ways that they kinda play off of each other. I would say Im kinda more of an editor, and Ben kinda works more as a director or an overseer on these projects. And just the natural progression of that relationship has instilled more confidence in myself as a creative person. It kinda took off some of the pressure of trying to figure it all out on my own you know? Theres no egos in the room you know? We are just kinda trying to figure it all out together.
BEN- Yeah I agree, I think for me it was pretty lonely to be this solo freelancer working on these projects and more than anything I wanted to have a friend to share these experiences with and bounce ideas off of. More than anything thats what got me so excited initially about working together.
TANNER: I love that! Team work making the dream work. Where does Island X fit within the projects for Fielder Productions?
BEN- (laughs) I don’t know because my first conversations around that were almost seven years ago with this scientist, just us chatting about this island in the Bering Sea. It was just Dm’s going back and forth with him trying to lure me out there to come and check it out. I actually went out on an initial scout trip with our original crew and we got pretty decent waves.
But we came back and something happened where I remember thinking we didn’t have enough footage to make a full film with it, kinda like something is seriously missing here and then for me it kinda lost steam. (Laughs) Then I remember Brian picking up the footage and saying, “I think i’m gonna try and edit a little teaser off of this footage and see what we can come up with.
Correct me if I’m wrong (points to Brian) but I think thats how it happened. And then Brian cut this trailer and it completely changed my perspective of what that trip was cause I kinda had felt like maybe it was more of a failure, like there was nothing there in terms of footage, and then I saw it in this completely new light. That was definitely the spark that lit the fuse for this project creating that last big push to get out there and finish this project.
TANNER: Wow, thats actually insane. Brian what was it that you saw in the footage?
BOBCAT - (CHUCKLES) yeah I mean I don’t know in a similar way Im so drawn to these really obscure places just like Ben, but I don’t know there was something that kinda just drew me into it and our friend Mark was shooting photos.
He was living in Venice beach at that time and we had gone up to do a little interview with him just like this and that really sparked some new interest in the project. I don’t know, the surfing was decent but it was more that there was something alluring about this island. I just kinda believed in the project and I know Ben had been really close to it and almost just defeated by it, with just how much effort it takes to even get there and kinda like wow what is this thing? I can’t speak to exactly what I did within that edit but I think maybe there was something in the music or something.
BEN- I think Brian like you’re saying there is something great about being able to play off different perspectives. Cause when you’re on the shoot and shooting it and also trying to produce it you can get so lost in the details of actually making it happen. Then you become too close to it and lose a little bit of that outside perspective with the magic of it you know?
BOBCAT- Yeah I remember the stories from the first time you went up there, I mean I specifically remember almost like three years ago that I started touching the footage actually, so its been a long time right? But I think sometimes thats what it takes. It just takes the persistence to follow it through you know? I think it is true that when you are shooting something you have this idea of what it is or what its gonna be and then sometimes if you’re vulnerable enough which like Ben was with this project, he literally handed me a hard drive and was like, “I have no idea what this is even, good luck”
BOBCAT- He was like, here is the story but just see if you can play off it. Thats where the original teaser came from. I think from that teaser we were thinking let’s see if there is any interest in this. We kinda nonchalantly put it in front of some friends like a piece of cheese haha, Pretty instantly we got some great interest from different crews on it. That really re inspired us to finish the project but it’s so interesting how it all came to be really. It really turned into this whole creative process around developing the film more from there.
Tanner: I remember from seeing the project for the first time you guys did such a great job of engaging the attention of the viewer for the entire movie. Its a longer piece and I remember feeling that it blew right by! It wasn’t just that the trip was some far off destination, really it was about learning through the whole movie, whether it was the location, the people there or traveling there or the experience being had, I feel like you guys crushed it haha
BEN- Thanks! I mean I feel like part of this process was even figuring out who we are as filmmakers and the stories we like to tell. The Differences between both of our perspectives and how can we bring that into this story. Instead of making it fit into the mold of what other people do we were trying to embrace that quirkiness and weirdness of what we love. We’ve had so many conversations about this film thinking like, “is this too weird? Or should we not do this?” Things like is it going to appeal to surfers or will it appeal to people who don’t surf, and do we even care about that, coming back to what do we love. Anchoring it on what we get excited about and just focusing on doing exactly that. I feel like thats been really refreshing because we are still discovering what that is for us so just feeling that freedom to do exactly what we want to do.
There are so many different groups of people that have different interests within the surf community, it’s hard to please everybody and sometimes in a film like this you are trying to address every persons interest and its kinda impossible. We kinda just started thinking lets do exactly what we love instead.
BOBCAT- Yeah and unfortunately our dear friend Mark lost his house in the process of the film to a freak natural disaster in Oregon. Ben and I were both like, Whoa this is it. Because he was on that original trip with Ben and he lost all of those original photos in that fire and we were just like, ok this thing might just be dead in the water you know? But then In that same spirit we decided to embrace what happened to Mark if he is willing and we would be remissed to not tell that side of the story. So that kinda turned it into this bigger longer form story. Also with this more emotional pull at that point, rather than it just being a surf edit. It has a deeper story point with who can now relate to this film. Ben and I chatted for months, in how to tell this story in a tasteful way that is respectful to Mark also sharing what happened, I really do think that was a big turning point in the film.
Tanner- Now that its finished, you guys proud of it?
Ben- Yeah super stoked on it, Its crazy how many times we have actually seen this film and every time I see it I am so stoked to see it. It’s just so crazy to see all of it come together because it was such a long process. I would have never imagined it coming together like it has when I look back on starting it. It was so organic always evolving and I think I am surprised with where it ended up. Now to tour it in front of a live audience, Im so excited
BOBCAT- I definitely will say there is a point in which you get so close to something its almost like man I’ve been working on this thing for so damn long you know? (Laughs) Is there an end in sight? Did we overthink it? But I will say at the end of the day this is one of the most proud pieces of art that I’ve created in my career as a filmmaker just in terms of the complexity. Its one thing to make something 15-20 minutes long but to make something thats almost an hour long, and like you said yourself it engages your attention and it kinda wakes you up in new ways through out the film with these little surprises with things that happen along the way. All that stuff took time to think about and it was done in a way that we put a lot of thought into and yeah Im super proud of it and can’t wait to share it with people now.
Tanner- Whats the best way for someone to come watch it?
BEN- We are going on tour middle of August. We are doing a west coast tour starting in Portland and coming down the coast all the way down to San Diego. Then the film is going to be released digitally online on September 6th.
Tanner- perfect! One last question, sorry Im just so excited I keep thinking of things, but what would the long vision of Fielder be for both of you guys individually now that this big project is slated to release, are you guys looking into future projects already?
BEN- Yeah I would say that I really loved the entire process of making this film and the dream is to do one or two of these a year, that are completely original stories, of this length that you can physically show to audiences and be there watching together. That would be the dream to only do that.
BOBCAT- Yeah I hope Island X really just opens the door for us in terms of how to use our creativity and how we work together. This movie really challenged us in a lot of really cool ways and I feel like we learned so much from making this film it just gets me excited about making the next one which I don’t really know what that fully is yet but hopefully just something in this same vein in being an original story that we come up with.
TANNER- You guys are the Wes Anderson of surfing with all these original unique stories! Thank you guys for taking the time, I know you’re off on tour so soon, I really appreciate it!
BEN- Heck yeah! Thanks for stopping by
BOBCAT- Yeah man anytime this was great