The film phenomenon “Small and Pretty” unveils the surf film gamble that has cost superstar directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg millions! – Beach Grit | Episode Movies

John Milius trades Hollywood surf-movie stinker Big Wednesday for Close Encounters of the First Kind and Star Wars!

Greg MacGillivray was 14 in 1960, the son of a lifeguard from Corona Beach, short and handsome (his older sister was Miss Newport Beach) and absolutely adamant about everything that came to his mind: paper trail, math class, Boy Scouts – or so on 8th grade, make a surf film.

Nobody saw Greg coming. He looked like a kid dressed up as a surf filmmaker for Halloween. He was almost invisible.

MacGillivray’s other superpower was that he could not be rushed.

Miss the deadline if you have to, but do the job right.

Greg later said he spent all his money (and borrowed from dad too) and 90% of his free time on it A cool wave of colour, his debut film, which took five years to make. He did the poster art. He carefully created small stop-motion animated graphics that flash on screen in just a few seconds but really make the film shine.

Cool Wave debuted in the middle of MacGillivray’s freshman year at UC Santa Barbara. It’s been shown a few times at various local Elks Lodges and high school auditoriums, and that was enough to earn a mostly good review in SURFER.

“Cool Wave of Color shows blessed signs of creativity, [and] a musical score befitting Californian waves.” (The criticism came towards the end of the review and was a small but literal kick in the nuts: “Greg is a young man and has a high-pitched voice.”)

I learned most of this from MacGillivray’s new book, Five Hundred Summer Stories – the title is a reference to Five Summer Stories, Greg’s most famous surf film, which was filmed with his partner Jim Freeman.

Two other parts of the book caught my attention.

First, MacGillivray gassed his new white-on-white Ford Econoline van in the fall of 1964 – and again the ambition and drive cannot be overstated; Greg’s work ethic is two-part inspirational and one-part grotesque, and while I’ve never met MacGillivray face-to-face, he’s five from the start in my Spirit Animal – and embarks on a 6,300-mile coast-to-coast journey Cool wave tour where the film was played in three locations.

Three.

Two shows at the North Hollywood Women’s Club, another in Daytona Beach, another in Virginia Beach. Going cross country and back for four shows seems crazy.

But no, quite the opposite. As Greg well knew, it wasn’t about making a profit, it was about getting out there and being seen, building momentum, gaining experience – and the experiences came one after the other, big and small, high and low.

Driving through Alabama just weeks after more than 30 black men, women and children were hospitalized after being beaten and gassed during a peaceful march in Tuscaloosa, Greg snagged a KKK rally poster from one as a souvenir telephone pole and was escorted out of town by a group of locals in an armed pickup truck. Later, on a trip to Manhattan, he visited MoMA and treated himself to a carriage ride in Central Park for his wife-to-be. MacGillivray loved surfing but also loved new experiences of any kind.

He never stopped learning, always pushed forward.

The other thing: Greg directed the second session of the Big Wednesday shoot, and his description of that episode in Five Hundred Summer Stories once again reminded me of that film’s humiliating public debut and otherworldly rehabilitation.

Sharpen your knives, folks.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know that time and tide have not softened my view of Big Wednesday, directed by John Milius and published by Warner Brothers in 1978.

I hit it with spaghetti first hereand did it again here. I make an exception for Gary Busey who singlehandedly carries the first role of Big Wednesday and I have a soft spot for that too Wearthe fallen shaper, whose “lemon next to the cake” quote is sad and poignant while at the same time, and unintentionally, being the film’s comic climax.

But I stand by the idea that the big Wednesday dog ​​mountain with bad reviews – read the Times Takedown here and the Surfing magazine review here— was absolutely deserved, and the fact that Big Wednesday was unceremoniously ripped out of theaters after a week or two was a mercy for all involved.

And do you know who, according to MacGillivray’s book, agrees with those dogpiling reviewers? John Milius himself, who called Greg personally to apologize about the film and say that it “let everyone down”.

Only, of course, Milius had the last laugh – lots of laughs, indeed.

Big Wednesday revived as a video rental favorite in the 1980s, then found a place in the baby boomer treasury of once despised, now sacred cultural assets alongside the Monkees and Ronald Reagan.

But before that happened, there was a second, and perhaps more amazing, Big Wednesday consolation prize that I believe is unique in Hollywood history. MacGillivray tells the story:

I started making day trips to Milius’ office at Warner Bros. Steven Spielberg sat in the adjoining office [who was] Collaborated with Milius, writing and preparing the comedy feature “1941”. Unions still had incredible control over Hollywood, but Spielberg, Milius and their friend George Lucas challenged the status quo with hugely profitable films. One day the three of them were in John’s office and we were all joking about filmmaking. I later learned that they had agreed to share a portion of the profits from the three personal projects they each had in production. Incredibly, Lucas’ film was Star Wars and Spielberg’s film was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. John’s film was Big Wednesday. [Each filmmaker] each gave two points from the net gains they possessed in their own creations [to the other two filmmakers]. In doing so, they showed the old studio bosses that a new era of youthful, creative collaboration had dawned.

“The deal worked out better for some than others,” Spielberg later told MacGillivray, laughing at the millions of dollars lost. “We did not repeat the practice.”

Here’s my favorite scene from Big Wednesday. Gary Busey is of course the star but I look at the little kid defusing the situation by lending Matt Johnson his board and I imagine the actor is actually Greg MacGillivray aged 31 directing the scene plays and controls while still looking the Cool Wave middle school student he was in 1960. The man is small and smart and very good at what he does.

(Like this? Matt Warshaw delivers a surf essay every Sunday, PST. All are a pleasure to read. Maybe it’s time to subscribe to Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of surfing, yes? Three dollars a month.)

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