Dillon Chang rides from CSULB to filmmaking for Surfline

BY: ANDREA DINH

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Update; March 18, 2015: Chang just received an offer from Disney to work on a new Disney Channel television show and he will be leaving Surfline. "That's the nature of the business though--it changes so sporadically," Chang said. "Hopefully this leads to my next step of making my film." Dillon Chang, Cal State University, Long Beach alumni and aspiring cinematographer attributes his success to the CSULB film program, but his passion for film-making is the true key to his success.

“I’m a firm believer in doing what you want to do every day, all the time,” he said. “Sure, school helped me, but your degree doesn’t always get you the job you want.”

Dressed in mostly black and donning a black paperboy hat, Chang has the Southern California swagger down. But what’s different is his passion that some would say this generation lacks. He sat and talked on, naturally like catching up with an old friend with a big smile on his face the entire time and hand gestures that showed more of his excitement and enthusiasm for his field of work and his life stories.

Chang majored in Film and Electronic Arts with an emphasis in Theory and Practice Cinema when most film majors focused on the production side of cinema, which gave him an edge in the film industry. Through surf film-making, Chang already learned how to produce and knew the technical sides of producing films.

“I figured if I could master or learn the theories behind film, then I would be able to make a film that could compete,” Chang said.

The passion he has for film-making brought him many life-changing opportunities. At 23, Chang runs his own production company, Effects of Blank, and is producing, writing and directing his first-ever autobiographical coming-of-age film based on his life and friends.

“The thing that really motivates me is that a lot of filmmakers these days are discouraged because there’s not a lot of money in it. But if you look at big filmmakers, a lot of them did it with nothing,” Chang said. “Where I want to come with the story is—I want it to be raw, documentary style which comes from my background in surfing.”

The film began as a novel but through a screenwriting course, Chang took the opportunity to turn his novel into a script. He used the script for his course final and that’s when he received his first burst of support, which came from his teacher’s assistant and his professor himself.

“I’ve been developing a story for the past three years,” he said. “I’ve show it to a lot of people including professors at Long Beach and they’re pushing me to take the next step.”

Chang worked on a sequence of scripts and is continuing to do so now that he graduated. The premise of the film is a coming-of-age story focusing on the struggles and dark times he’s experienced through out his college career that he feels is relatable.

“I truly think that after high school, going into college, you go through the darkest times and that’s what I based it off of,” he said. “I got a lot of people confiding in me and I don’t think it’s just a generational thing. I think everybody goes through it.”

Meanwhile, Chang founded his own production company that includes anyone who has helped him in the past and who work with him, called Effects of Blank. He calls it a pseudo-company that he created to umbrella himself and anyone who works with him.

Effects of Blank ranges from film-making to photography as seen on Chang’s Instagram account. On there, it’s rare to find photos of him but rather the artistic lens in which he views the world.

Chang knew from childhood that he wanted to make films for a living, but prior to pursuing film-making, Chang surfed competitively. The surf industry opened a door…and then another door…and then another door into the film world for him.

Being friends with professional surfers and interning at Surfing Magazine were Chang’s stepping stones to his main film break when he landed a film job for Surfline, a popular website for anything and everything surf-related.

During his time at Surfline, Chang filmed and produced several surf films for different brands such as Hurley and Billabong following their riders around the world.

Chang was able to go to Central America with professional surfer, Courtney Conlogue, to film for Billabong’s Neon Seas. But one of his most artistic endeavors occurred when he and Conlogue decided to take a surf trip to a non-traditional surfing country. Chang said they wanted to do a complete 180-degree turn on surfing—so they went to Ireland.

Chang took this opportunity to film more seriously and do something unique for surf films. He wanted to incorporate a narrative into the film rather than doing a typical documentary-style surf film. Chang added a story line behind the Ireland surf trip to give it more depth.

With his experience and knowledge in and of the film industry, Chang plans to continue learning more and more each day. His passion for film shines through to everyone around him, even strangers at a random Starbucks.

During this interview, a man sat and read the newspaper by a table besides ours and when he got up to leave, he commented that Chang’s passion is what drives any successful individual. He added that he was a father of three whom all graduated from the University of Southern California and wanted to advise that it doesn't matter which university you went to.

He said without the passion, it’s just not enough and, “You, you've got that passion so just keep going.”