Capturing Island X: Q&A with Director Ben Weiland
Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, Brand Storytelling
Ben Weiland is a filmmaker and producer who’s passionate about the outdoors and the unknown. His keen eye and sense of adventure are central to his work and inspire the projects he so enthusiastically pursues.
But, as filmmakers and adventurers alike know all too well, financing is a major factor in making their passion a reality. Adventurers have their benefactors and artists have their patrons - so who does an adventure producer turn to in today’s world to help support their vision? Weiland found the opportunity in the form of brand funding.
Brand Storytelling caught up with Ben to learn more about his latest film Island X and how it evolved from an exploratory short film to a brand-funded documentary:
What can you tell us about your film Island X?
Island X is an adventure film about exploring the most remote parts of the planet and how to handle the biggest setbacks of life.
What sparked your passion to tell this story?
It was pretty weird. I got a message from a scientist who was stationed on a tiny island in the Bering Sea. He was sending me photos of perfect waves breaking there, many of them world class, and he invited me to come up and see for myself. I couldn't pass that up, since that's exactly what I've been looking for over the last 10 years.
What did it take to start shooting this on your own?
I talked with my friend, photographer Mark McInnis, to see if he would want to go there together and document whatever we found. So we put a team together, along with three professional surfers. I went on a scout trip in the summer to see the place before hand and make arrangements, and later that fall and winter we went up in search of bad weather and good waves.
When did you realize that you weren’t going to be able to complete the film on your own?
Originally the film was going to be a 15-20 minute story, and I wasn't exactly sure how it would be released. But after seeing the potential of the place and discovering the rich story of the place and people there, I felt like the film needed to be longer.
Where did you get the idea to go to a brand for financing?
A lot of the work I do involves making short films and adventure films for brands that celebrate exploration, nature, and the outdoors. There were a few brands that I thought would be excited to be part of this story, since it was such new territory.
How did you get the participating brands on board?
I had a number of conversations with the brands, including Arcteryx, Hydro Flask, 10 Barrel Brewing, and Channel Islands Surfboards, and they were all very receptive of the idea. A film and story about surfing in this region of the world had never been done before, and there was a lot of enthusiasm around this adventure and a film tour.
How did getting these brands involved change the trajectory of the project you initially set out to make?
The support of these brands helped us put a large focus on putting together a film tour for the film. We planned 11 tour stops on the west coast, a number of which sold out. The brands were very excited to bring community together around an inspiring story.
Where can people watch it now?
We still have film tour events coming up this fall, and it can also be watched online here.
About Ben Weiland
Ben is an award winning filmmaker specializing in doc, adventure, and commercial work. He is the assistant director for ‘Unnur’, which featured at MountainFilm Festival and Tribeca 2021, assistant director of ‘MYLO’, and the director of photography for the film ‘Under An Arctic Sky’ which was featured in the Tribeca Film Festival 2017. Recent films he’s directed include ‘Arc of Aleutia’, ‘Mr. Kookbox’, ‘The Forgotten Archipelago’ for Roark, ‘Coldwater Journal’ for the Orchard/Redbull TV, and two episodes for RedBull TV’s ‘Chasing the Shot’ series.