The surf community on the West Coast of British Columbia is home to group of guys who work hard and play harder. Some live in the big city but most have moved to smaller coastal communities in favour of a slower pace and greater opportunity to get into some waves. Enter Jamie Tanner, a film-maker, surfer, adventurist and do-gooder who works remotely because his dream job happens to be one that favours morning surf sessions and mid-week escapes to the mountains.
It turns out, work can be play and play can be work. Jamie is diligent and ensures each season has a purpose: The winters are packed full of trips to shoot pro skiers like Mike Henitiuk, Joe Schuster and Matt Margetts, and the moments outside of snowfall are for down time. Jamie knows the chase is his ultimate and he edits footage, tends to his burgeoning veggie garden, surfs, cooks, and hangs with pals all in the place he appreciates most.
When the dust settles and the films are shot and edited, Jamie needs a sanctuary to call home. Using space-saving techniques, Jamie has created a surf shack on Vancouver Island so he can edit and produce his cinematography work all from the comforts of his bedroom. When the swell hits or the snow starts to fall, he’ll be ready.
Story and photos by Henry Slaughter.
Who are you, what do you do, and who are some of the brands you shoot for?
I’m Jamie and I film adventure sports. It’s kind of crazy calling these guys clients, but I’ve been very lucky with opportunities getting to work with Jeep, MEC, Patagonia, The North Face and Sherpa Cinema to name some of the highlights to date.
When did you know that freelance/independant cinematography was the kind of life you were interested in leading?
I’ve honestly tried to quit many times, because I feel like it’s not working, but even when I’m basically checked out, a friend or crazy opportunity will bring me back in. Now I feel like I’m just getting used to the feast to famine work cycle and really enjoying it.
Was your goal always to be a filmmaker or was there a turning point in your career when you realized it was an actual possibility?
I’m still not sure if it’s possible, but lately I really try and appreciate every day I get to do it. Sometimes when I’m between film jobs, I go cut fire wood in Nanaimo with my old buddy Davis to bring in extra cash. I like that too, because it constantly reminds me how lucky I am when I get to make films for work.
What are your favourite parts about filmmaking?
Seeing the world in light. As a filmmaker, you become very aware of light, and further appreciate the advantages of being able to recognize it and utilize it. I also love the opportunities to meet amazing people. Together we get way the fuck out there and collectively accomplish a delicate objective that requires focus and determination.
How do you stay motivated/driven when you are working solo?
I used to work alone, but I’d burn out. Now I really reach for people to be involved and that makes a huge difference. Any opportunity to get out of my own head is a welcomed vacation, and I think projects generally benefit from the collaboration.
What has been your career highlight so far?
My projects with the ski lm crew ‘Seeking Nirvana’ all over BC and the Latitude Project in Nicaragua are very special to me. Money is rarely involved, passion takes over and I am trusted to create without limitation. That feeling of empowerment as a creative is a special thing.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Have fun! Do your best to enjoy the shit out of what you are doing. We all fuck up, and you will fuck up, but don’t let the fear of mistakes stress you out. Go out there, do your best, trust in your skill and enjoy the minutes.
What is one thing no one asks you about your practice that you wish they would?
In a culture that is becoming increasingly work-obsessed, I wish I was asked more about my life outside of work. I dream of a world where we focus on people first and occupation second. I think we all need to take our work lives less seriously for no other reason than to let loose and have fun.
Being self-employed and running your own business must be incredibly rewarding – what advice do you have for someone with a similar goal?
Learn to be fair with yourself, set work hours and then step away when those are done. Be diligent about taking 2 weeks vacation and putting savings away. It seems basic but when you are the boss of yourself it’s easy to become a workaholic living a very unbalanced life, and its only a matter of time before you crash.
What keeps you focused throughout your process? What do you turn to when it’s time to step away from work?
I moved to Victoria to be close to the ocean. Coming from Ontario the vanity of mid-week surfing has not worn off and I love going up the coast, hiking down to the beaches with my girl and just being out there. It really fills up my cup.
What are you most proud of in your life?
The work my girlfriend does in Nicaragua with her non profit ‘The Latitude Project’ is so amazing. Any time I get to help them, it really blows me away how powerful giving back is, and makes everything else I do seem kind of silly.
What is your motto?
Checkers baby, not chess.
Follow @drftwd_jt on Instagram to keep up with his life in the water and mountains.