Once in a while, a special film comes along that has the ability to transport you — mind, body and soul — from the time the lights dim to the time the credits roll. You can’t quite figure out how you’ve changed but when you leave the theater, you feel somehow different. Transformed. Time Well Spent, the award-winning documentary that showed at the 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival, is an example of this transformative genre.
The 83-minute movie is the brainchild of James Fazio, a surfer and filmmaker who took four boys with deeply moving life stories, (of loss, homelessness, poverty and pain) and gifted each with an incredible trip to surf in Panama and give back to the ailing communities in that country. Growing up, the boys all found calming refuge in the ocean, and Fazio sought to give them a surf experience they’d never forget.
Three of the boys (Kross Brodersen of Hawaii; Declan Bradley of Ocean Grove, Australia; and Yeferson Bellido of San Bartolo, Peru) were able to travel to Panama and the fourth boy, Henry McAlvany, (from Bali, Indonesia) was unable to make it due to passport complications. Still, the filmmakers put together a surf trip in Henry’s home country, complete with charitable endeavors and incredible breaks.
The optimistic, take-whatever-challenges-may-come attitude of the filmmakers translates onscreen, as we watch the boys grapple with the inner demons of their lives and turn intense hardships into happiness. James Fazio, who is credited as director, producer, editor, screenwriter and cinematographer for the film, digs deeper into what it meant for him to experience Time Well Spent.
WEST OCEANFRONT: Your film, Time Well Spent, recently won the audience award for best Action Sports documentary at the Newport Beach Film Festival. (That’s huge by the way, congrats!) Why do you think the Newport Beach audience connected so deeply with your movie and the story it told?
JAMES FAZIO: Yes we were shocked and thrilled to win the audience award for best Action Sports! A huge honor for us, especially at Newport [Beach Film Festival]. I think people of all social status and cultures can relate somewhat to this story, whether you surf or do not surf. It is about living through difficulties, feeling hopeless and alone but then finding that you are not alone, that there is hope and that you are worth something. The film is about how no matter what you’ve endured, you can make a difference in this world and in others’ lives as well. Also, I think in a time of viewing so many superficial content on TV, Time Well Spent has an authenticity to it that is refreshing. [I’m] not bragging on anything I have done but it’s evident in the courage that the boys in the film have shown. The choice to be transparent and authentic in front of the camera in hopes that it will give hope to someone else in the future, I think that is a huge reason people can connect to the film. The boys come through the movie and connect with you at your level and where you are at in life.
Time Well Spent featured some seriously awesome music, especially during the high-intensity surf scenes. How did you select what tracks to play? And did you have a favorite tune?
There must have been plenty of logistics and planning involved in the trips you document but was there anything — beside Henry not being able to join the boys — that surprised you during the course of filming?
The cinematography and camera angles are absolutely stunning. How do you look at a scene and decide how best to film it? Is there a special trick to filming waves so you capture them at their most poetic and beautiful?
Four boys. Multiple locations. Countless surf breaks. (Unfortunately) two separate trips. When storytelling with such rich narratives, challenges and complexities, is there any method you use to figure out exactly what shouldn’t make it into the final cut?
As Kross finished constructing the house in Panama, after experiencing homelessness himself, it was clearly an emotional, almost epiphanic moment in the film. What was it like being there as he addressed the people whose home he just built?
Some of the spots where your crew took the boys to surf were insanely remote, tucked-away hiding places in the (seemingly) middle of nowhere. How did you find the best breaks? Did you have conversations with locals or knew someone with knowledge of the ideal locations?
The night your film debuted at the Newport Beach Film Festival and the final credits rolled, the crowd burst into applause. After all the hard work, grind and passion you put into this movie, as you sat in the theater and filmgoers cheered, what were you thinking?
During the live Q&A at the Newport Beach Film Festival, you mentioned that you would eventually like to do a full-length documentary on Yeferson. Is that still in the works and if so, how far along are you in the process?
You also mentioned you got into filmmaking at age 19. What’s your best advice for an aspiring filmmaker? And for the surfers reading this, any knowledge to drop about filming a movie focused on the ocean and time (well spent) among the waves?
// All images via TimeWellSpentDoc.org.