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by Matthew Eeles
Heath Davis and Daniel Fenech’s family drama Christmess may be on hold for now, but that hasn’t stopped the industrious filmmakers from getting back behind the camera.
Davis is currently co-producing The Blind Sea, a new documentary written and directed by Daniel Fenech, that follows the remarkable true story of Australian blind champion sportsman Matt Formston as he defends his Para Surf World Title and his next goal of conquering big wave surfing.
This epic production will chart all the highs and lows as Matt retrains his body in the barrels of Lennox Head, and tests himself in the fearsome waves of Indonesia’s infamous Tellos and Fiji’s Cloudbreak, as he prepares to take on the treacherous winter swells of the New South Wales coastline.
To achieve his goal Matt will risk his own life to show to others that despite one’s disability or disadvantage – you have the ability to live a fulfilling life.
Guiding Matt on his big wave odyssey will be soul surfer and elite surf coach Michael “Crispy” Crisp and big wave legends Dylan Longbottom.
Davis says it was the prospect of working with such an exciting group of filmmakers including Fenech, director of photography Chris Bland, co-producer Erin Fenech and editor Romain Mongin that convinced him to jump aboard the project.
“Daniel and I share a similar spirit and energy. He is also a fellow Westie from Western Sydney, but younger,” Davis tells Cinema Australia.
“It’s great to help him with his first feature film. I know how daunting and taxing that experience can be, so it’s important he has the right team around. Daniel is producing Christmess, so it’s fun to be able to swap hats with each other. We’ve developed a great trust and short hand, so we plan to keep making them together until he gets sick of me.”
More than the team of filmmakers who make up the production crew, Davis says it was Matt Formston’s inspirational story that truly drew him to produce the film.
“When he told me the pitch I was immediately drawn to it. A blind man attempting to conquer big wave surfing is wonderfully fascinating and total madness. I’m so curious to see what happens,” says Davis.
“Daniel is such a talented and personable filmmaker and Matt’s life story is so inspiring. Together they have set out to achieve and create something so daring, I just couldn’t say no.”
Fenech, who previously directed the short fantasy film Huli Jing, says the film is a classic tale of overcoming adversity and an ode to the power of the human spirit.
“Whilst it’s set in the life and death stakes of big wave surfing, the heart of the story is about determination, perseverance and above all else – trust,” says Fenech.
“It’s going to be such a fascinating and life affirming ride. Everyone will be moved by it.”
For those wondering about Christmess, Davis ensures us he is still working hard to make the film, but Covid-19 delays mean the film won’t start shooting until April next year.
“We are working on everyone’s schedules. It’s truly like herding cats. Drama is harder as you require so many people. But we’re looking to start rolling in April. Touch wood,” Davis laughs.
For now, The Blind Sea continues filming in California in December and in various coastal Australian locations throughout 2022.