In Newport, R.I., recently, US SAILING hosted a preview of the Walt Disney Company film Morning Light, scheduled for release this October.
At the Jane Pickens Theater, executive producers Roy Disney and his new wife, Leslie DeMeuse Disney, presented three clips from the production. Also in attendance were project manager Robbie Haines and eight of the sailors from the Morning Light crew that participated in the 2007 Transpacific Yacht Race. Haines made a few remarks leading up to a question and answer session with the sailors.
I sat with the young crew in the front row as they caught their first glimpse of the upcoming film, and it was great fun to watch them watch themselves on the big screen. The crew was enthusiastic and animated throughout the screening.
The evening’s footage was shown in three parts. Part 1 was an 11-minute, “behind the scenes” look at the crew recruitment and selection process. It was heart-wrenching to watch hopeful young aspirants be eliminated. On the other hand, you were happy for those who were selected. Leslie said that this footage will eventually become a one-hour television program used to help promote the film. The clip that we watched was compelling, but I found the quick movement of the camera chasing the sailors to be annoying. This style of video editing was popular 10 years ago in police shows like NYPD Blue, but it made it hard to watch.
Next came a standard Hollywood trailer. Again, the clip was edited in a very fast style and included some great sailing shots. No book should be judged by its cover, and no film judged by its trailer, but at the end of the segment, I was ready to pay my $10 to see the full feature film.
With the stage set, Roy showed us a series of edited clips from the Morning Light adventure that will eventually be in the film. The quality of the video, which was shot in high definition, was excellent. I particularly liked several long view shots showing the TP52 Morning Light well out in the distance. There’s also a terrific profile of the boat surfing a wave. Like everyone in the audience, I wanted to be onboard. There was also a good racing sequence with the TP52 Samba Pa Ti. The two sailed within a boatlength of each other, but Samba Pa Ti eventually finished ahead by a substantial margin.
Roy and Leslie deserve a lot of credit for putting this project together at a time when the sport of sailing could use some help. The America’s Cup and round the world racing are no longer lifting sailing as a sport. During his opening remarks, Roy was quick to point out that he’s not worried about selling tickets to the sailing audience; it’s the general public that he’s really hoping to reach.
To make Morning Light a success, the film will need three elements: a compelling storyline, beautiful sailing shots, and characters to whom the audience can become attached. The young sailors I met in Newport were all fun, genuine, and compelling people. Unfortunately, I did not see much of this energy in the clips. It will be extremely important for the editors to catch the range of emotions of this crew. The film needs to be more of a people show than a boat show.
While the sailing pictures are great, I wanted to see more. Quick cut editing is bothersome to the eye. Sailboats need to be seen for about 10 seconds to understand what a boat in motion looks like, so the rapid-fire, two-second cuts could hurt this production.
The current storyline is told in documentary style about 22-year-old sailors racing across the Pacific. Some historical context might elevate the importance of the Morning Light project. It’s not just about sailors and competition, it’s the relation of mariners to the sea. Watching the Morning Light crew, we get the chance to witness these wide-eyed young sailors experiencing the open ocean for the first time.
For the 540 people in the US SAILING audience, the Morning Light preview was a nice reminder that the summer sailing season is coming soon. The film’s producers have a unique opportunity to showcase sailing in a way that has never been done before. I know I’m looking forward to opening night come October.
Don’t miss Gary’s television special on 2008 Acura Miami Grand Prix, which airs on April 13 at 12:30 p.m. EST on on ESPN2. – Ed.