The Cinematography Podcast Episode 186: Mike Prickett

The six part HBO documentary 100 Foot Wave is the story of big wave surfer Garrett McNamara, as he learns about the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Then, with help from the town of Nazaré, he and his team set up a safety and support system and invite surfers to come from all over the world to surf. The series captures the amazing power of the ocean, and the passion of surfers chasing big waves and putting themselves at risk of serious injury and death.

Surf and ocean cinematographer Mike Prickett was the perfect DP for 100 Foot Wave. Mike has decades of experience shooting in the water, following Garrett and many other big wave surfers around the world. He’s shot documentaries Riding Giants, Step Into Liquid and the biopic Chasing Mavericks. As a kid growing up on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Mike took advantage of living in a tourist spot. He had his own camera, took pictures of the tourists, developed and printed the pictures while they did glass bottom boat tours, and then sold the photos to them when they returned. He soon figured out how to take photos underwater with his camera in a water housing, then got a 16mm Bolex camera and started shooting movies. Mike learned how to surf and began filming the top surfers around the world, developing new and better camera systems as the technology progressed.

On a shoot in Tahiti in 2012, Mike saved a diver who got caught in a current that pushed him down at least 220 feet underwater. As Mike swam back up with the diver, they began to run out of air and had to surface quickly. Mike got the bends, which has left his legs partially paralyzed. But he’s kept right on shooting, developing different and exciting ways to further the technology of water cinematography. Mike says that even if you can’t use your legs very well, it doesn’t matter when you’re out there. He’s able to shoot from the cliffs, use remote controlled jet skis and drones, and fly in helicopters, ride jet skis or boats on the ocean.

For 100 Foot Wave, Nazaré, Portugal presented some unique challenges as a location, because the waves are so big and the area gets so foggy. The surfers and the camera crew wait all year for the big waves to come to Nazaré by November and December, and they must be ready to go and shoot at a moment’s notice. Shooting is a massive undertaking, with at least 15 camera people on the waves to catch the action. The crew caught the action with long lenses from the cliffs, the beach, and with waterproof drones, but when it was foggy, they needed to have people in the water. Mike and the team built a special remote controlled electric jet ski with a gimbal system that could be controlled by an operator from the cliffs- basically inventing a way to do smooth dolly shots on the water.

Mike Prickett just won a Creative Arts Emmy for episode four of 100 Foot Wave.

100 Foot Wave is streaming on HBOMax.

Find Mike Prickett Instagram: @mikeprickett_

Close Focus: The Emerging Cinematographer awards were presented by the International Cinematographers Guild and DP Lawrence Sher was given an award for Distinguished Filmmaker.

Ben’s short end: Ben’s new Audible project, Catchers, is finally coming out October 27! Catchers is a six part horror radio drama you can find only on Audible, directed and written by Ben and co-writer Bob DeRosa. You can also hear Ben on The Movie Crypt podcast talking about Catchers.

Illya’s short end: Eat The Rich: The Gamestop Saga is a great documentary on Netflix.

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Instagram: @thecinepod

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Podcast Credits:

Producer: Alana Kode

All web and social media content written by Alana Kode

Host and editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman

Instagram: @illyafriedman @hotrodcameras

Host: Ben Rock

Twitter: @neptunesalad

Instagram: @bejamin_rock

Editor: Ben Katz

Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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