An Interview with Filmmaker Tyler Haft I First Beach

First Beach was selected for the 7th Annual NY Women’s Surf Film Festival 2019. Directed and Produced by Tyler Haft. First Beach features 10 young adults from a non-profit organization Urban Surf 4 Kids. The short takes viewers behind-the-scenes and features the raw emotions of 10 children living within the foster care system as they experience the beach for the first time.

First Beach Women's Surf Film Festival

Where did you grow up and where do you call home now?
I grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles and currently reside in Brooklyn, NY

How did you get into filmmaking? What continues to inspire you?

I have been interested in filmmaking for a long time but only started to really pursue it after I took a documentary class in college. I love how making films is actually a way of educating oneself about people, places and current events and while doing so, can help educate others to these stories. I am often inspired by how welcoming people are to sharing their personal lives and experiences with total strangers. I love how connected it make us feel and that we are not alone. 

What inspired you to make First Beach? 

When I was first approached with this story I was very intrigued at the idea of experiencing the beach for the first time as a teenager and what that experience would actually be like. I was fortunate enough to grow up around the beach at an early age and knowing how much of an impact it has made on my life, I wanted to find out what the before and after experience would be like for young adults during their very pivotal years of their life. 

First Beach Women's Surf Film Festival
First Beach Women's Surf Film Festival

What is your earliest memory of the beach?

My earliest memory was when I was about 7 years old, my mom drove my sister and I to the Manhattan Beach pier and swam for probably 8 hours straight.  We were so happy that my mom relocated my sister and I from the city and into the beach community that following year.

How did you come to become involved with this project? With Reef and Urban Surf 4 Kids?

I had worked with Reef many times before and really enjoyed working with all the people there and really gravitated toward their involvement with different charitable organizations.  Haymaker, a creative agency working with Reef, reached out to me to help tell this story of teenagers from foster organizations of Arizona traveling to the beach for the very first time in their lives. I immediately said yes and am very glad that I did.

First Beach Women's Surf Film Festival
First Beach Women's Surf Film Festival

How has this project make you reflect on your own relationship with the ocean?

This project was very refreshing to me because of how truly happy it made all of the kids. It was amazing to see how much of an emotional difference it made in all of them from the days prior of getting to know them. It made me realize how fortunate I really am for having a childhood at the beach and how it made me into how I am today. I will never take it for granted and wish that everyone had access to the ocean.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?

I want the audience to see how the little things in life that we often take for granted are ultimately the things that make us the happiest. I want them to share the experience through these kids and maybe go out and find something they too have never experienced before, no matter how simple or extravagant, because life is short and many of us can be stuck doing our routines and not ever experience how many great things our world has to offer. 

What can’t you live without when you travel?

I can’t travel without a camera. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, I just like to document different places I go to and people I meet. 

What is next for Tyler Haft?

I am currently finishing a short documentary and photo series I have worked on over a few years. 

First Beach Women's Surf Film Festival
First Beach Women's Surf Film Festival

Join us for the 7th Annual NY Women’s Surf Film Festival in Rockaway Beach, August 9-11 at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. We then head to Montauk, August 16-18 at The Montauk Beach House.