Lauren Davies is a talented UK writer and filmmaker on a mission to bring the lifestory of one of our true surfing legends to the big screen. Financial backing is currently up for grabs through an online vote run by Talenthouse, so please click HERE and give this amazing film your support. We caught up with her to find out more about how she got started in filmmaking and why she wanted to bring the story of Nigel Veitch to a wider audience.
You have a strong background in filmmaking – how did you get started and what has been the highlight?
I was a published novelist and was asked by a friend if I would help him write the pitch documents for a feature documentary. We worked together on it and I found I loved working within a team. Film is collaborative whereas books are a solitary pursuit. I then wrote the script and that grew into the film WAVERIDERS. The release of this film was a highlight as it was so successful, won several awards and spoke to a mainstream audience, which made me realise surf films could reach further than we had imagined. Founding my own film company Lola Cove Films in 2011 to develop my own projects was also a big moment for me and has pushed my career to new heights.
Nigel’s influence on British surfing was huge, but his story is probably little known outside the northeast – what made you want to tell his story?
Gabe and I have wanted to tell Veitch’s story for many years. He was such an inspiring character who was determined to step outside the norm by becoming a professional surfer from Newcastle. He achieved his goal, he joined the world tour, was sponsored by Newcastle Breweries and made his mark. He was also complex and ultimately died in tragic circumstances, so the story has all the elements of a very unique, moving film. I think he deserves to be recognised for his achievements and for his contribution to British surfing history. I started to write the script for the feature film version of his story, THE UNDERTOW, a little over 3 years ago after a personal tragedy. I think I had just arrived at the point in my life where I could find the depths required to do the story justice. Working on both the feature and now the idea for the documentary kept me going through some difficult times and inspired me to set up our film company and to aim high.
With Gabe and Jesse being so influenced by Veitch, do you guys feel a pressure to do his story justice?
Huge pressure! Veitch means so much to so many people especially in the North East. He was Gabe’s mentor, so Gabe would not have dreamed of being a pro surfer had Veitch not pioneered that path. Many of our friends surfed with him and hold him close to their hearts, so we are very aware of being delicate with his story. THE UNDERTOW tells the story from the point of view of the next generation as I don’t feel justified in telling the story from Veitch’s point of view when he is sadly no longer with us. The documentary version, VEITCH, will focus on Veitch’s life and influence, so we will involve the people who knew him and let them tell the story. Throughout the two projects, I have been in touch with Veitch’s mum, Sheila, who has really been behind us and would like her son’s story to be told. I want her to be happy with what ends up on screen. We just feel it is a story that needs to be in the world.
Is it hard to convey the significance of what Nigel achieved in an era long before Russel Winter was on the elite tour and a generation before many people even acknowledged surfing existed outside Cornwall?
I don’t think it’s too hard. People who know of Veitch are aware of his significance. Without him, the North East surfing scene would not be what it is today. He came in and shook up the British surfing community. He also showed Geordies what was on their doorstep. Those who don’t know about Veitch will hopefully learn of his significance through watching the films once they are made. We just need to attract the right funding and team to make both projects happen in order for Veitch’s name to become widely known. We won’t stop until we get there!
What do you think are the ingredients of a good documentary surf film and what is your favourite?
Story is always key for me. I think a good documentary is one that can draw you in whether or not you have any interest in the central subject matter. I am not a fan of motor racing but found ‘Senna’ incredibly moving and fascinating. I aim to write films about surfing that speak to and champion the surfing community but that also reach beyond it, to a wider audience without bowing to stereotypes. If you combine a great story with stunning visuals, you are on to a winner! My favourite surf documentary is probably ‘Riding Giants’ as this had both story and visual impact with great characters. Greg Noll talking about Waimea is a brilliant moment. I also like the style of the Malloy brothers’ films. They always have a narrative, an atmosphere and a good soundtrack.
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