In an industry dominated by publicly traded apparel giants, how can a small surf brand from Vancouver Island possibly compete? For Victoria, B.C.-based Sitka it means creating offbeat, memorable films as the branded content that will spread its northern surf gospel.
For The Fortune Wild, Sitka’s in-house director Ben Gulliver took surfers Reid Jackson, Pete Devries, Noah Cohen, and Arran Jackson to a series of islands, off the far northwestern shores of Canada, called Haida Gwaii. It would be quirky enough with the shooting style of director Ben Gulliver, but matching it with surfing among the Middle Earthian mountains, waterways, and towering pines of the northwest instead of the typical white sands and palm trees of more tropical locales is an inspired combination.
Producer and Sitka co-founder Rene Gauthier says the brand learned a lot of lessons, in terms of content production and marketing it, from its 2011 film Tipping Barrels. "It became the model for where we wanted to go with our surf and skate films," says Gauthier. "We’ve always tried to focus our marketing efforts and not spread ourselves too thin because we are such a small company. Instead of doing everything, we want to do one or two things very well. So we really focused in on creating content that people will want to share with others and talk about at the dinner table. Tipping Barrels really opened our eyes to those possibilities."
With so many action sports films taking their cues from Michael Bay, it’s always refreshing when someone drops in to something more eclectic. It’s even better when it works. Gauthier says the Wes Anderson vibe is absolutely intentional.
"We figured he’d never make a surf film so why don’t we do it as a bit of an ode to Wes, to say, ‘We love your style and here it is with surfing…’ So there is some storytelling elements that make it unique to most surf films."
Another difference between this and previous efforts is how the brand is marketing the film. With Tipping Barrels, Gauthier says they just put it up online and let it go. For The Fortune Wild, the company is teasing it out to build excitement through the trailer, and a collection premieres in Canada, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, before posting it for free on the Sitka website.
"We’re looking to do fun things and make our jobs enjoyable by creating something new," says Gauthier. "But how can we do that so we’re also helping the company? We’re not a bunch of suits sitting around and coming up with a branded content strategy. At the core is this idea of making fun things and make them so interesting and entertaining that other people will want to see it, share it, and get excited about it themselves."