by Corky Carroll
I am totally stoked to the max. Actually, more like stoked to the IMAX would be more to the case in point. I just received my copy of Greg MacGillivray’s magnificent new book, “500 SUMMER STORIES, a life in IMAX.” It’s incredible, amazing, excellent and all other adjectives that mean really really good.
O.K., let me give you a little low down on Greg MacGillivray, just in case some of you aren’t familiar with who he is. Here is the short version. Greg is a lifelong surfer who grew up in South Laguna Beach, learning to surf at Salt Creek and Doheny State Park in the 1960’s. He started making surf movies during the mid 60’s and was very good at it. His early “A Cool Wave of Color” established him as not only an excellent photographer but also a very creative film maker.
He teamed up with another excellent photographer named Jim Freeman. Jim had gained acclaim from having made the first surfing movie in 3D. Together they formed MacGillivray Freeman films. They, more or less, took the top spot in the surf movie business and further established their creative genius with the beautifully done “FREE AND EASY,” blending surfing with artful effects and editing.
Their biggest surf movie hit was the legendary “FIVE SUMMER STORIES,” regarded by many as the greatest surf movie ever made. Highlighted by a fantastic original soundtrack by the amazing Laguna Beach band “HONK,” this film marked the first time any of the surfers featured actually got paid for being in it.
Where I really got to know Greg was during the filming of 5SS. He had rented a house on the North Shore of Oahu near the surf spot called “Log Cabins.” He let me stay there, along with one of my best friends Mark Martinson. Mark and I had come up in surfing together and had been pals since the very early 60’s. It was hanging out with them that I became aware of what a wonderful person that Greg is. Aside from doing all this cool stuff the dude was just an out and out good guy. I really liked him. Later, when I was concerned on how a certain sequence in the film came off, he sincerely listened to me, understood my feelings, and made a slight change in the narration that made all the difference. Probably nobody else in that business would have done that. I always respected him for that.
The team went on to amazing success producing films for the Smithsonian Museum, working with Stanley Kubrick for “The Shining” and breaking ground in the production of IMAX movies. Jim Freeman was killed in a helicopter accident during the filming of one of their projects. Greg went on to be the undisputed master of IMAX, always keeping the name MacGillivray Freeman Films in honor of his friend and partner.
OK, that brings us to the new book. “500 SUMMER STORIES” is a beautiful 302-page adventure taking us from the early days of Greg becoming a surfer and thru all of the phases of his career as a film maker and his life. There are fantastic stories of the making of the early surf movies and adventures with the greatest surfers of the era including Gerry Lopez, Billy Hamilton, Mark Martinson and many others (hey, I’m even in there….awhooo.).
From the surf move days it phases into tales of working with Kubrick and also John Milius with “Big Wednesday.” Their credits started stacking up with work on not only successful but also critically acclaimed projects such as “Jonathon Living Seagull.”
The first IMAX movies, such as “TO FLY,” led them into a whole new direction. They kinda pioneered a whole new thing and made it their own. Probably one of the high points was the huge hit “EVEREST.”
The book takes us on a journey thru all of these phases, not only with gripping stories but with hundreds of fantastic photos. It is one of those “coffee table” books that you will make sure you never spill coffee on.
Thru all of Greg MacGillivrays success over all these years I can attest to the fact that he never changed from the really cool and fun kid that I first met back in the 1960’s to today. Super good guy, family guy, honest man and always and foremost…. Surfer.