Given: the touching film of the Goodwin family

Given is waiting, it's saying a lot! 5 years after the release of the trailer will finally release on March 4 the documentary about the adventures of the Goodwin family through the eyes of young Given, 6 years old. We follow in his footsteps, those of his sister True and her parents, the legendary surfers Aamion and Daize Goodwin. We also follow in the footsteps of their vision of the world that they explore during their travels and surfing sessions, a vision they ultimately bequeath to their children. For the candor, purity and humanism of the work, OuiSurf spoke with director Jess Bianchi. 

When you search for "The Goodwin Project" on Google, one of the first suggestions is "what happened to The Goodwin Project". It took 5 years between the trailer and the launch of the film. What took so long?

The trailer for The Goodwin Project was a teaser. When we launched it, we had not started filming the film yet. It was a creative concept that consisted in presenting the Goodwin family and the project. The Goodwin Project was a working title for the film Given and there was never any question of keeping this name for the final film. When I talk about this one, I usually say that The Goodwin Project created a film called Given. We were 10 sometimes 10 to leave our lives aside to create this artistic project without knowing where we would come back. I sometimes think of making another film called The Goodwin Project with all the unused stuff that would cover the stories and perspectives of everyone who was part of the Goodwin Project.

Aamion and you are friends for a long time. How were you involved in the project and how was the concept born?

I grew up with Aamion during our formative years but I left Hawaii at 17. I did not return until 15 years later and that's when I reconnected with Aamion and his family. It was as if we had seen the previous day. We went back to where we had been, the difference being that Aamion became a surfer and a father of a family. For my part, I became a film editor / cinematographer in San Francisco with the dream of making a film. I told him that if he was interested, we could realize a project together one of these days. A few days later, while I was back in San Francisco, he called me with the idea of ​​traveling with his family, just as he had done with his father when he was young. Three months later, it was gone!

You can read in  The Surfer's Journal  that Given is not a surf film. That despite the few bars, it is mainly a study on humanity and a personal manifesto. Was that your intention to leave?

Yes. I never wanted to make a surf movie. As much as I love them and surf myself, I wanted to tell a human story. I definitely wanted surfing to be part of the film, because that is a big part of my life and that of the Goodwins. I felt that there was so much more. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could do more than just show a family's journey to epic surf destinations.

In an interview , you said that the film "carries a powerful message with few words, no agenda". Does this mean that nothing was planned or scripted?

Exactly. I knew that if we were to script the film, we would have produced the same licked story that we find in most films. I wanted the film to create itself, which ironically became the most difficult part of the project.

It is the voice of Aamion that narrates the trailer of 5 years ago, while that of his child, Given, is the subject of the second (as the rest of the film). Was it planned or did you change your mind along the way?

The film evolved from the moment when we filmed and the time it was assembled. At first we used the voice of Aamion but something was wrong. I tried to record that of all the people involved in the film but something was missing. Then the day when Given's voice was recorded in the microphone, everything clicked. We all wanted something bigger than us, and it was the opportunity for a life to get off the beaten track.

The film took 14 months of shooting in 15 countries, 42 suitcases and 13 surfboards! How did the locals usually react?

That's right! It was quite ambitious. Everywhere we went, people looked at us like a circus band! But surprisingly, all were very nice and we never really had any problems.

You have already mentioned that this project is the hardest thing you have ever done in your life and that you have nearly let go of it a million times. But what happened !?

I do not even know where to start. I was really naive to think that it was possible to create something of this magnitude without script. Although the trips were fun and opened my mind, all the time spent on the road exhausted us. We filmed the sunrise every day, people became sick and we were all challenged by our physical and psychological limits. I was exhausted when I returned home when I had to put everything together. I had to take several breaks after realizing that I was going in the wrong direction and this several times.

The film Given was funded independently and was shot and completed with $ 4,000, which is nothing! You've already mentioned that "shit got real" in Ireland from a financial point of view. What happened?

In Ireland we had not yet adjusted our system of life, our production and everything in general. We had difficult times but it was there that we realized that we really had to start organizing. We could no longer be the documentary vagabond surfers that we intended to be at the beginning. We had to structure ourselves, which was contrary to the original spirit of the film.

You traveled a lot when you were young, from California to Hawaii and then to Italy. How did it affect your cinematographic direction?

I have never lived in a place more than four years. I think that because I was exposed to so many environments growing up, it allowed me to appreciate more the different cultures. It gave me the taste of the world that I wanted to share with a similar experience. When traveling, you are in contact with so many smells, textures and different things outside of your daily life. It can be so invigorating as a lesson in humility. I wanted to put forward all these elements in the hope that it inspires someone to travel outside of his normal life.

You were brought up very differently from Aamion and his family; Your father is an affluent businessman unlike Aamion who was raised just as he raises Given. You have already mentioned that you are the opposite of Aamion. How did this contrast between your childhoods affect your vision and work behind the camera?

It is not as simple as saying that I am the son of an affluent businessman. My father comes from a difficult environment and has consequently devoted his life to making money. Life is based on actions and their reactions. My father and I wanted to spend more time together, but life being what it is, I only saw it two weeks a year. As a result of his absence, I made many bad choices in my youth. I think the message that comes out of the film is that we all need to be guided at every step of the way. You do not push your child down a hill by bike without the wheels! You help him until he has confidence that he can  ride on his own. The film focuses on the role of parents as guides for their children in a tightly woven family. I wanted to show the importance of this presence at every stage of life.

The Goodwins are definitely inspiring ... but they seem to be a myth, an unattainable ideal. Can that be true? Can families really live this way these days?

No family is perfect, including the Goodwins. They live several difficulties that are not seen on the screen. Can families live this way? Absolutely! If you leave the cities, you risk finding a way of life simpler and more satisfying. One of the most important messages of the film is to slow down and see how your vision changes. ( Hence the #SlowYourselfDown on each of their Instagrampublications ) It is also about the notion of transmitting knowledge as an inheritance. The Goodwins are pretty similar to you and me but if the system collapsed, you'd probably want to be near them!

While Given draws lessons from life as he travels, what have you got for your part of this experience?

I learned the importance of perseverance and how solid I can be. I will never be the same vs. the one I was before the movie. That's part of who I am today. I feel that I can do everything from now on.

After this first film that will surely be a success, do you have other projects for the year to come?

I have some ideas that I would like to expand now that I have time. I would like to make a film with a script haha! Since this project took 5 years of my life, I will be very attentive to what the next one implies. I would like to share my values ​​and translate them into a positive message. I want to tell inspiring stories. In a time when cinema is so black and violent, I would like to be part of the minority that brings hope to those who do not. Some movies have changed my life. I would like to do the same thing.

~ Oui Surf Magazine: Sophie Lachance, Dec 21st 2016