This article was produced in partnership with Arc’teryx
Creation Theory is the antithesis of your run-of-the-mill outdoor film. It doesn’t follow an unsung hero through their trials and tribulations. It doesn’t glamorize a heroic expedition, nor is it doom and gloom with climate catastrophe. Instead of answering big questions, it throws them back at you.
A surfer on a wave, a snowboarder on a peak, a musician in front of a crowd. The intersection of swell, gravity, and rhythm. Ben (Sturge) Sturgulewski, the film’s director, believes all these things harness the same cosmic energy, which comes alive when you enter a flow state. He calls it electric alchemy. Creation Theory poses the question: Where does it come from? Does it come from within or does it find us?
“When you try to control things, nothing happens,” says Ben Moon, the film’s creative director. “We could have followed a more traditional narrative arc, but our goal for the film was different and we were lucky that Arc’teryx let us run with it. They let Sturge be Sturge. He had this big idea to make a film that shows where creativity comes from, but we didn’t know how it would play out until the end of the process.”
A Big, Messy Idea
The film came to be when Sturge reached out to Ben Moon, a close friend and frequent collaborator, to bring together their divergent set of skills. “It was an easy ‘Yes,’ ” says Moon. “He sees things differently. He’s a conceptual guy. He explained that this was the big creative film of the year for Arc’teryx and they wanted to push boundaries.”
Moon’s experience is primarily in surfing and music, while Sturge is more adept in the snow. “It was an easy split of roles. He was the driving force behind the film and I was brought on to shoot the surf portion, help Sturge develop the idea, and to find the right musician,” says Moon.
Their process in making Creation Theory mirrors the “aha” in the finished product. Unlike many short films these days, it came to life in a non-linear, almost organic way. The team shot for a month in Iceland and worked for weeks afterward in edit, piecing the story together.
“For some people and films, you need a full storyboard and a detailed shot list, but I prefer to start with just an idea and find the magic along the way.”
Sturge and Moon wanted it to be part adventure film, part music doc, part surrealist walk through. “Time, space, and relativity. It was a big, cerebral idea,” says Moon. “We didn’t know anything until it all came together, which means there was a lot of doubt as we were making it. We really had to go find it—the waves, the good snow, the story. With an idea this far out, nothing was guaranteed.”
The Right Team and Place
“We knew right away that we wanted to get Griff Washburn of Goth Babe,” says Moon. “Arc’teryx loved his music and I had a personal relationship with him. He also surfs and loves snow, too. This allowed us to immerse him in the place. To have him write a full EP for this film was really special.” The team then added three Arc’teryx athletes: surfer Pete Devries, and snowboarders Elena Hight and Robin Van Gyn.
At the same time, the duo debated shooting the film in a lot of places. They talked about the Aleutian Islands (where Sturge is from), but the weather is fickle. They discussed the Pacific Northwest, Japan, and New Zealand, but timing didn’t allow for it. “Iceland felt like our best opportunity,” says Moon.
It was Griff, Sturge, Moon’s first trip to Iceland, which Moon says was important. “It was a huge creative spark to go somewhere new. Most people visit Iceland in the summer, but few go in the winter, when it’s volatile. The weather mirrored our creative process. Sometimes you’re down and nothing is working. Then the wind goes off shore, it’s glassy, bluebird, and it’s all-time. You have to be persistent.”
Hurdles Along the Way
Moon encountered his fair share of chaos and struggle while making the film, from harsh weather, long days, and broken gear. Moon admits it was one of the hardest shoots he’s ever done. “The sun would be out and an hour later it was a whiteout. The water temps were in the mid-thirties and we filmed right next to a glacial river mouth, which makes it even colder—by far the coldest water I’ve ever filmed in.”
With a major rain event that occurred days before the team’s arrival in Iceland, the snowboarders had an even harder time finding safe conditions. They were routinely shut down with high-avalanche danger, whiteouts, and strong winds. “We spent more than a month in Iceland and needed every second of it,” says Moon. “Everybody was committed, but there were a lot of discouraging moments wondering what this was going to be.”
“A swell forms over thousands of miles of open ocean,” says Moon. “In a lot of ways, it was a perfect metaphor for the idea of creativity we were wrestling with. To find these moments you have to turn off your phone and tune into the energy all around you. It’s the same thing for splitboarding, songwriting, or anything creative. That’s what the film speaks to: the mystery of creativity.”
The End Result: Creation Theory
Creation Theory starts slow and cerebral, teasing out big ideas very broadly. As the film progresses, it converges into the present moment, using the characters as a pathway to show how creativity comes to life. “We played with a lot of different structures in the edit. Ultimately, I think we landed on the right one. It’s a very slow buildup, then a big payoff,” says Moon.
The film relies heavily on a narrator, woven together with off-the-cuff, unscripted interviews recorded on-location in Iceland. The narrator provides a cosmic, ethereal voice, which Moon says couldn’t have been replicated by the talent without feeling forced. “We learned a lot while making Creation Theory. It reinforced that if you find the right place, bring the right people, and trust the process, it’ll work out.”
“It’s beautiful and chaotic. When you try to control things, nothing happens. Creativity, love, magic all happens when you let go,” says Moon, who wants everyone to take something a little different from this film. “Hopefully it helps everyone see their process: the patience, the struggle, the hits. Those moments live in your brain forever, played out again and again. That feeling is magic.”
Watch the full video on arcteryx.com
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!