Celebrated Australian filmmaker Kai Neville presents new surf film, ‘Ceremony’

by the partae

Described as “the Guy Ritchie of surfing”, Kai Neville’s penchant for extraordinary surf films dates back to 2009, when his mega-hit ‘Modern Collective’ (Amazon Prime, Redbull TV) received global critical acclaim. 12 years later and his discernible clean, bright imagery has matured alongside Neville himself, making way for a calmer tranquil warmth, exemplified in his latest motion picture ‘Ceremony’.

Celebrating the luxury of silence, and a desire to disappear into the lonely landscapes, ‘Ceremony’ explores platitudes of solitude, whilst surfer Craig Anderson searches for isolated waves to ride, trekking through the deserted unknown. Inspired by bohemian novelist Fanz Kafka, the hazardous uncertainty of adventure drives Anderson Neville throughout the film: “From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached” – Kafka.

Brendan Woithe’s breadth of experience creating compositions and sonic structures led to his collaboration with Neville, providing the film’s unnervingly tranquil score. A sound design that underpins the flowing undercurrent of isolation. With over a decade of work with the Australian Dance TheatreWoithe’s arrangements have graced television, film, installations, operas and plays across the USA, UK, Germany, China Spain.

 “A really unique part of the project was collaborating with Brendan Woithe on the soundtrack. I shared some rough rushes, and he immediately gave me a buzz to chat through what I was up to with Craig. I then slowly arranged and rearranged the film in order of how I wanted to string the surfing and 16mm together. This was shared with Brendan who wrote the score and brought on some very talented friends (Cameron & Richard) to play. I’ve never done this before. Usually, I’ll source what I feel is the perfect soundtrack. I’m amazed how sound can take the visual language to a completely different level. It went beyond where I thought the film could go.” Kai Neville

“Working with Kai on Ceremony was the dream gig. We threw around a few references, chatted a little about the aesthetic we were aiming for (and how that would help with story and emotion), but ultimately, he really let me go wild. For such an ambient feeling film we still wanted to really concentrate on syncing specific story moments and we both had ideas regarding moving things in response to picture edit changes.” Brendan Woithe

Guided by Brendan Woithe, fellow orchestral & recording luminaries Richard Tognettii (Australian Chamber Orchestra) Cameron Deyell (SIA, Katie Noonan, Sonic Youth) provided instrumentation, performing violin and guitar respectively. Collaboratively constructing the erie and stirring arrangement that accompanies the film.

“I find the point at which live musicians are recorded for a score one of the most exciting in any film project. It brings life to the piece. Breathes into the music a sense of performance. Richard and Cam both brought the sense of danger I was after and some of the unpredictability of the ocean into the score. I deliberately wrote to allow moments of unexpectedness in the playing, going as far as to specify places where the guys could respond outside the dots on the page.“
Brendan Woithe

“Very early on in the writing process, it was obvious that my guitar skills were not good enough for the score recording and that a featured violin part would never work without it being played live – I can barely make a sound on a violin! They’re both masters of their instruments so even when I wrote shapes / voicings for Cam he’d never come across (*ahem* pianist writing for guitarist cough cough) he approached it as a challenge which he nailed completely.  Richard has this fun theory that if a professional violinist can’t play the score in 4 goes, it’s the writer’s fault. Looking back at the recording session there’s a couple of places with more than 5 takes which were repeated for reasons other than emotion or simply trying out different things. Perhaps, I should probably brush up on my score prep & writing skills!” Brendan Woithe

With ‘Ceremony’ Kai Neville explores lonely landscapes, backgrounding the minutiae of vast breaking waves with Brendan Woithe’s deft composition. Through the amalgamation of visual and sound, the two combine to forge a surfing film that will endure throughout the Australian psyche.


“Kai has bounded above and beyond a behind-the-camera presence, presenting himself as an authentic illustration of the schizophrenic and alluring existence that is a man with a surfboard and a passport.”

“Easily one of the best directors out there directoring today.“
Monster Children

“…it’s a hype so difficult to live up to, such was the impact on the surf film industry of Kai’s first production, Modern Collective.”
Stab Magazine

“…this might just be our favourite surf film ever”
Wasted Talent Mag


“Brendan Woithe lifts the action out of the ‘surf flick’ genre and makes it something else entirely”
Monster Children

“Brendan Woithe’s witty soundscape throbs, pulsates, ticks and creaks where appropriate, and includes thumping heartbeats, panting breaths and the sizzle of electrical currents.”
Dance Informa

 “Suspense builds as Woithe’s pulsing score surges”
Dance Australia

‘Ceremony’ is out now!
Kai Neville Instagram | Website
Brendan Woithe: Instagram | Website

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