Newport Beach Film Festival Returns w/Documentary on Local Surfing Legend

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NEWPORT BEACH (CNS) - There have been two sequels to the iconic “The Endless Summer'' movie, which helped vault the modern era of surfing in the mid-1960s, but the director of the most recent film inspired by it believes there's another Orange County figure who will finally get his due for his part in popularizing the sport.

“Birth of the Endless Summer: Discovery of Cape St. Francis,'' which focuses on Dick Metz, the founder of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, premieres Thursday at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

The film festival is making its return to the spotlight following the cancellation of the 2020 festival because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Director Richard Yelland told City News Service that most of the shooting for the film was completed before last year's shutdown and the pandemic delayed the completion of “Birth of the Endless Summer,'' but it ended up adding to the film.

“We would have made it a two and a half-year, three-year project, but now it's a four-year project,'' Yelland said. “But I believe the film is a better version of itself because we were able to spend more time on it.''

Although so much of the filming was completed before the shutdown, it was during the post-production that the filmmakers decided to complete shooting at Metz's museum, which Yelland said is surfing's equivalent of baseball's or pro football's Halls of Fame.

“That's the anchor,'' Yelland said of the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center. “That's why we ended up going back to the museum for the opening of the movie. That was one of the last things we shot. It was him going through all the archives of the museum.''

After going through all the footage, the editors decided, “That's where it all started and where it comes back to -- he started that collection and everything in there he has a story for and (the surfing legends) are all his friends.''

Metz is credited with starting the surf shop industry and inspiring Bruce Brown's “Endless Summer.'' But his place in the popularization and revolutionizing of the sport has been lost, Yelland said.

“He's a guy who is still being discovered,'' Yelland said.

During filming of another surfing documentary, “we found that he had a much more significant contribution than we really knew about and that was what was exciting,'' Yelland said.

The documentary features Metz returning to South Africa, the scene of the original “Endless Summer,'' and it recalls his friendship with South African surfing pioneer John Whitmore.

“His connection and meeting with Whitmore created the pipeline of media culture, surfboards and materials to Whitmore and San Africa,'' Yelland said.

“It was just Dick being there and who he is that connected those dots. He's someone who could come in and he could be family with everyone.''

Yelland said it's difficult to explain the impact Metz has had on the modern era of surfing.

“You can't quite put your finger on it,'' Yelland said. “It's a type of person that doesn't exist today. He's one of the last of those original Californians. Folkloric characters who lived on the beach and lived off the ocean and told stories.''

Surfboard shaper Hobie Alter, Bruce Brown and Dick Metz “represent the three pillars of the foundation of the modern sport,'' Yelland said.

Yelland also wanted to give surfing a deeper context.

“I made this movie in a way to connect, to give the history of surfing a broader audience,'' Yelland said. “It's a piece of history for pop culture, not just about surfing.''

Yelland's film is not the only film in the festival with a local angle.

The festival's opening film is “Never Catch Pigeons: And Eleven More Hard Lessons from Mr. Paul Van Doren,'' which tells the tale of the founder of Orange County-based Vans brand.

Others include:

--”Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres,'' features the story of Rolling Stone writer Ben Fong-Torres, who was most prominently portrayed in “Almost Famous.''

--”Doc vs. Parkinson's,'' is a documentary about Laguna Beach Dr. George Lopez's battle against Parkinson's Disease.

--”Set!'' is a documentary about a table-setting competition at the Orange County Fair.

--”Songs of Little Saigon,'' is a documentary filmed in Orange County that features Little Saigon residents who fled war-torn Vietnam and went on to become musicians.

--”War on the Diamond,''  from Newport Beach filmmaker Pam Sullivan is based on the Mike Sowell book, “The Pitch that Killed,'' which tells the story of Ray Chapman, the only Major League Baseball player killed by a pitch.

--”A Hard Problem,'' a science fiction film directed by Kyle Hasday and Matt Stewart, who began their collaborating while attending Chapman University in Orange.''

The festival concludes Oct. 28.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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