Andrew Kaineder. An Australian native and creator of arresting and engaging film pieces. We’ve spent hours stuffed shoulder to shoulder in the front of a smelly van. He’s one of the deeper thinking people I've come across in a life lived largely submerged in a superficial surf culture. Honest and open. Always slow before 9am. Always questioning, subversive and dissentious. After last watching him being swallowed by a Berlin underground crowd I gave Andrew a call to see how his new coffee haunt was treating him and to find more about his life and craft.
NL: What have you been up to today?
AK: Today? Just been sitting on my computer. All fucking day. Went out and got coffee at the local brewhouse as I try and settle back into Sydney. I do that pretty much every morning because my desk is in my bedroom at the moment and if I don't get out then I get anxious and claustrophobic.
NL: So firstly you make films, you're a director? How did you get into filming, what's you background, how did it all start?
AK: Some would say videographer still. I don't know what distinguishes you from videographer to director. I've always been kinda harsh I guess. Maybe not harsh but straight up with myself . Some would say pessimistic, I’d say realistic. I sucked at bodyboarding and surfing and I knew it. My mates were good though, so I thought, "I may as well start taking photos of them."
NL: So you picked up the camera then?
AK: Well, in my early teens at some point yes. I started working at 12 and bought my first camera not long after. I was a serious saver back then. Mapping out my weeks earning and projecting them to know how much I’d have in a few months or years. The first camera I got was the OG Go Pro. The disposable one you strap on your wrist. I've still got some shots somewhere from this wave called Arseholes. We used to bodyboard there and it's actually a psycho little wave that breaks on barnacles. Now heaps of people go there to shoot wave-art.
Mum was a single parent, so finances were scarce, but she got me a video camera for christmas when I was about 14. It was a lot of money back then for her, and within 6 months I’d lost it. We used to set the videocamera up on the rocks sometimes so I could get in the water and surf as well. One day I did it and a wave came and just washed it off into the ocean. I was so upset, crying and shit. Mum couldn’t afford to buy me a new one, so I had to wait until I saved enough money from working. It was a while before I got another one.
Just after my 16th birthday, I left school. I used to do really well in school but in year 11, I was getting shit marks and barely passing. I just stopped putting effort in and I thought, "Why am I here?” So I left and became a chef. Filming took a hiatus for a few years so I could chase the dream. The chef dream; if you could call it that. I worked at a couple of really good restaurants, both in Mollymook and Sydney. After finishing my apprenticeship I moved home, got a new camera delivered to the kitchen I was working in and went on a surf trip across Australia with two mates. That pretty much dictated the path I wanted to go, or try anyway. After that trip I was thinking "Theres so much life out here, I’m not going back to the kitchen." I pretty much tried to be a film maker after that. That was when I was 21.
NL: You didn't go straight into surf films though right?
AK: I kind of just dabbled in everything- surfing, corporate, fashion. I really liked fashion, well fashion design not the industry.
NL: From a video perspective?
AK: From a creative perspective. Both fashion photography and high end designing; but it’s like a lot of jobs, the best things don't always have the money. The money generally lies in the average stuff, lacking depth or authenticity. I was chasing success early on; the bigger the client, the more successful I was. Which is a load of bullshit. It’s funny looking back and knowing that due to society’s influence that’s what I considered to be success.
I had a studio in Sydney with a friend who was a designer. I worked for some big names I guess, Vogue, E-Bay and so on; I mean my work was never that good but I was stuck in a rut where I was getting good money at 23 and it was hard to say no. It’s really hard to get out of that cycle. Bigger jobs, more equipment, and I wasn't focused on the craft, just focused on the client name and the money. The only way I was going to be able to focus and figure out where I wanted to go in film making and life was to leave, remove myself from the option of getting those jobs, because I wasn’t good at saying no. So that's when I moved to Berlin. Berlin allowed me to live a frugal lifestyle and allowed me to explore what I wanted to do. That was in 2014. Around that time I went to Scotland to film Far North with Ben Player, Ed, Todd and Jack.
NL: And that's when you met Chris (McClean), Matt (Smith) and myself huh? That leads into my next question about your latest film with Easkey. How was that? How did you guys come up with the idea?
AK: I remember you guys doing roadside yoga in the snow. Well Matt and Easkey came up with the basis of the idea and the concept around the moon phases and cycles. What felt true to Easkey, I just hoped to represent that visually and guide and simplify things to be able to make it into a film.
NL: How long did that take?
AK: It took a long time. It took probably 5 months start to finish. Obviously not working on it all the time but it started in November and thats when I started shooting. But it went flat pretty much the whole time I was there. We got one session that I shot in the water which made up pretty much all of the water footage in the film. You start with the hardest parts to get, like the surfing, because you're dealing with the elements but because it was flat it was hard to stay motivated even to shoot the other stuff at that time. I left for a month and when I came back we still had a lot to do. It was actually kind of great that it was flat though because we were able to get some of the shots like the sea stack which would’ve normally been impossible at that time of year. There's one shot at Grianan of Aileach which took us about 5 hours. The sea stack took us a whole day for 2 shots.
NL: And what about the music and using sound to compliment your films?
AK: I don't play an instrument and didn't grow up in a musical household so I struggle to describe sounds or instruments I want to use. I find it easier to describe feelings or emotions.
NL: Do you do that visually?
AK: Initially I try to translate what Ive got in my head in words and then show them a visual cut before I have any music. With Easkey's film for example, I'd already cut the whole film with no music. I split that particular film into 4 sections and described how I wanted each to sound. There was something Tarantino said in an interview about hiring the right people. That’s pretty much how I go about it, hire the right guy for the job and trust his vision to go with yours. I know what I'm going to get when working with Joe (Franklin). His sound is super unique and a bit more eccentric than say Dave (Beckingham) who I used for Russ’ movie. Both really great, and really different in their approach.
NL: So it's all original music, you're creating something that helps portray your message?
AK: When I first did Derek (Hynd's) piece a few years ago, that was the first film where I wanted to create the music specific to the film and not many people at that time were doing that. There are two elements- visual and audio and they can be broken down into multiple layers but essentially if you simplify it into two things - it needs to look good and it needs to sound good.
NL: Thats the winning formula.
AK: I’m still yet to walk away from a project completely happy. Thats essentially all it is. Originally all my previous films were to go online so I was thinking in a flooded landscape, one of the biggest things that could help elevate the films while I'm still learning and without employing someone to shoot the character, was to create authentic and original compositions. No one ever budgets music into an edit. So I just stopped doing those jobs. I became strong in my vision that when I create something I create the audio as well, to match what I was trying to do.
NL: Do you think that's important, even generally, that you stick to your vision?
AK: Yeah but it’s taken a while for me to learn that and to be confident in my ability and myself. There are always anomalies like Mickey Smith who are just plain genius, so there’s that problem of comparing yourself. But you've got to realise that not everyone is a genius and some people just have to work at it.
NL: I guess that's a positive and a negative of how connected we are these days, you can see and use that stuff as an inspiration or alternatively it can be deflating.
AK: That is the exact problem with social media. It's not a competition. It’s not about being better than that other film maker or trying to climb to the top of some invisible ladder. It's about doing what you want to do. Growing up in this social era it's easy to lose sight of that; of why you do things.
NL: And what about your environmental stance?
AK: To be honest I hate the way we use the word environment to describe the world. It's not a thing, it shouldn't be a thing.
NL: You mean because that's suggesting that we're separate to the environment?
AK: We're a part of the environment still, whether we build these massive concrete buildings or create some other environment within the environment. We're still part of the one unit. I'm aware of the impact the human race is having on natural systems that were here before we got here. My house mate Arielle showed me Carl Sagan’s cosmic calendar recently that basically outlines "If the lifetime of the universe was compressed into one calendar year, then humans didn’t arrive until the last day and modern civilisation makes up for the last 14seconds of the year. It’s mind boggling.
NL: And do you think that there's a shift from bringing our environmental impact into the general consciousness to actual action?
AK: It's hard because I could live in my Marrickville bubble and go to the markets where everyone's conscious about plastics and everyone's environmentally conscious in some way but then you go out on Friday night and everyone's drinking out of plastic cups because bars don't serve glass and people don't give a fuck. So much basic stuff can be done for a huge impact and it's disheartening in that respect but I think there's definitely an overwhelming shift in the way people perceive the impact we are having on the world. I'm kind of a pessimist in that I think it's a typical human response that we don't do anything until its gone too far. Look at the plastic problem for example. We’ve known about the harm these products can cause for a long time, and only now it’s gone so far as to end up in our food chain and pollute every corner of the world do we finally slowly start to do something. It’s a joke.
That's why I've tried not to go into blatant advertising, even though I still do advertising in some way. Its really difficult to be completely removed from the system without giving up everything. I feel like if I'm trying to create for a positive message and can somehow even have a small voice for change, then that's worth the hard work more than me going to live on a property and trying to live waste free. Although one person's actions do make a difference in some way, shape or form, I feel like I have some kind of ability to tell a story and I feel if you have the opportunity to potentially result more positive change than just yourself, then you should take that opportunity.
Catch AK's new film with Easkey later this year as it tours the surf film festivals. Stay tuned in here for more information.
Photography by Finisterre Ambassador, Noah Lane.