Hawai’i-born Crystal Thornburg-Homcy will confidently tell you that her relationship with the ocean first began when she was in her mother’s womb. Her mom, an adamant surfer, continued riding waves all around O’ahu when Thornburg-Homcy was in her belly. “I think that’s when I really began…feeling that comfort of the ocean” Thornburg-Homcy says.
That love of the ocean has essentially dictated the course of her life—she’s an accomplished longboarder and all-around ocean athlete, an environmental advocate (working alongside nonprofits such as the Surfrider Foundation), and also an award-winning filmmaker. She directed and produced her own 16mm films, Beyond the Surface and Sliding into the Light, which was screened during last year’s festival. She’s essentially a sea-soaked Renaissance woman. Most recently, her love of the ocean has led her to becoming the first-ever guest curator for the museum’s Honolulu Surf Film Festival. (When approached by Doris Duke Theatre program coordinator Sarah Fang, Thornburg-Homcy remembers saying something along the lines of, “Sign me up!”)
Her shorts program—called Wave Inspirations and starting on July 15—is inspired by the new exhibition Making Waves, which features water-inspired artworks created by women who all have a relationship with water. Pretty fitting, huh?
We caught up with Thornburg-Homcy during one of her visits to Making Waves to learn more about what it’s like to be the festival’s first guest curator and the process behind choosing her shorts program. Here’s a hint: she watched about 100 films in order to make her selection.
How did you get involved with the museum and in particular, the Honolulu Surf Film Festival?
It was many, many years ago. [The museum] featured maybe Sliding Liberia and a few different films we’d been featured in and worked on…and it feels like almost every year, we’ve been part of [the festival] in some way, if not directly than indirectly with attending and supporting and being able to come and see other films. It’s really inspiring to to see what’s out there, to see what other people are making and creating and what medium they are using to share stories of surfing and the ocean. I think that’s why I really like the exhibition Making Waves, because there’s so many different mediums being used throughout the exhibition that can express someone’s relationship with water or the ocean. So basically, my relationship with the festival was every year just coming to support and if I could pull it off, to create a film to be hopefully selected in it—I know it’s a pretty big process and there’s a lot of films out there and I’m always so honored to be part of the festival.
How does it feel to be the first guest curator for the 11-year-old film festival?
I am completely shocked and beyond grateful and honored—and I just feel so blessed to be not only the first curator, but to also be the first woman to do it. I feel like that would have happened long ago with one of the well-known watermen or filmmakers, so to have just your average surfer/everyday ocean-lover like myself and someone that really understands the importance of the arts and being able to share the medium of surf filmmaking, I think it’s important for our surf culture. Being able to just share that with the community, internationally and island-wide, I feel that, gosh, I am beyond honored and so excited.
Can you tell me more about your process for choosing the films for your program?
For me, I’ve been really looking into films that have some kind of underlying message or it can give the audience a certain type of feeling, whether that feeling is joy or sadness or connection. Just being moved by the piece is super important to me, whether it’s inspiring or just having that feeling of wanting to get involved in some way to help protect the waves, the ocean, the environment or wanting to travel and see different places around the world…and I know that Making Waves is very feminine, and that was something I also wanted to have tied in with all the films. Having the women behind or in front of the camera—like being involved with making the film or featured in the film—was something that was really important to me in the process of choosing the films. The quality was really important too because I know that the museum is very selective for fine arts; I was really conscious of wanting to make sure that all the films I chose had a higher quality of production and were very mindful of making something timeless but could also be time-sensitive, in terms of urgent with a cause to bring awareness to an environmental or a social aspect…Choosing the films was kind of like an art piece in itself, like making sure that all the elements come together to make this eclectic bunch of films
What’s coming down the pipeline for you?
I’m in the process of hopefully creating a documentary series geared around the ocean, obviously. Right now, I’m just kind of working on the treatment and getting all the characters together and crossing my fingers and hoping for someone that feels inspired to support with financial backing or sponsorship for the film, so that’s kind of what’s next.
Can you give us a little hint as to what it’s going to be about?
It’s top secret! It’s basically a documentary series featuring different ocean mothers.
Any last words?
I just feel that it is really important for our surf culture to see the diversity in surf filmmaking. It’s not just about people doing airs or big cutbacks or high performance surfing, it’s really about people connecting to the ocean and how that can raise awareness to bringing respect and protection to the environment.