Tay Steele and Amber Mozo recently premiered their new film, ‘Lumiere.’ A trip to Tahiti with Amber to make a short video carried on upon returning to Hawaii, when Tay felt there was so much more left of Amber’s story to tell. That short video then turned into a short film. We spoke with Tay aboutmaking of ‘Lumiere,’ and after watching the trailer, can’t wait to see the entire thing.
How do you know Amber?
Amber and I have been friends since I first moved to Hawaii about 3 years ago. I was housemates with Colby for about a year and became close friends with him before the two got married.
What inspired you both to create this piece?
I feel like this piece started before we ever even talked about it. Since knowing Amber, I've been inspired her story and what had happened to her dad. It felt very close to home as I was trying to decide whether or not to turn the passion I have always had for video into a career. Though I never knew Jon, I've looked up to him for the person and artist that he was. So when Amber approached me about doing a piece about her story in relation to her dad in Tahiti, it was something that I felt honored to be apart of.
SunBum sponsored the trip for me to go film Amber in Tahiti. They had given us creative control to do whatever we wanted. The first day I got to Tahiti I saw Amber's book on the table she was about to release, called Chasing Light. I really liked the concept and some of the things she had said in the book and thought why try and reinvent the wheel? So from there on out I was trying to capture imagery that communicated light and how she had found light in her own life through the ocean, family and photography. I think over the 6 months of production it went from a 4 minute short video to about a 17 minute short film. I don't think either of us was expecting that when we first started.
What other work have you done or are currently working on?
I do a lot of commercial, social cause, and wedding work. I've done a lot of work for the Polynesian Cultural Center here in Hawaii which I have loved. I spent some time in Hong Kong filming for an employment agency working to improve labor conditions in Asia. I love shooting almost anything behind the camera, but that experience helped me to realize that I wanted to give a voice to people who are just trying to do good, whether on an island or one of the biggest cities in the world. When I'm not filming, I teach a video marketing course at Brigham Young University Hawaii.
How long was the process of filming?
I flew out to Tahiti in September of last year. We spent three weeks there filming with Amber and her husband Colby. Initially, the film was only going to be Tahiti, but coming home I felt like there needed to be more about Amber's home in Hawaii as well as her dad's story. We picked back up for a week in December and finished up shooting everything in Hawaii just a few weeks ago.
In the film you work with a drone but also include water footage, do you have a preference?
I probably enjoy shooting in the water more because it isn't so stressful haha. Both offer different perspectives that I love but the experience of shooting in the water is something that will never get old for me.
What do you want people to take away from ‘Lumiere?’
I don't want people to watch the film and say, "I wish I had Amber's life." The intention of this film wasn't to showcase a certain lifestyle. My biggest hope is that Amber's message can be applied to anyone who has experienced difficulty and hardships, whether you have been in the ocean or not. I wanted to show Amber as a real person, who has had real trial in her life, but decided to not let her losses determine her future. Amber's story inspires me as an artist and a person, and I hope others can be inspired and learn from her as well.
Can you give us a background of where you’re from and how you started the journey with video?
I'm from Salt Lake City, Utah. I think my path would have been a lot different if I hadn't come to Hawaii. I grew up in the fresh water of Utah which I have my dad to thank for. I have to thank my Uncle Steve and Aunt Linda in Huntington Beach for my love for the ocean with the many summer surf trips away from Utah. I think about that a lot being out here in Hawaii especially when I'm shooting the ocean. As a kid I always had my dad's camera filming every home video. I was that annoying little brother behind the camera. After serving a two year mission for my church in the Marshall Islands, I continued filming just as a hobby, random events and even a wedding. Starting college in Utah, subconsciously I'd constantly be thinking of different shots while walking around campus and during lectures. I felt pretty set on knowing video was what I wanted until one day taking the bus home, I sat down next to an older guy who had been filming for a long time. He basically told me it's too hard of an industry to make a living out of it. I let that discourage me for a while and decided maybe I could just become an eye doctor instead since I really liked lenses; that was me just trying to make myself feel better to satisfy my passion for cameras haha...
What was one of your favorite moments while filming Lumiere?
There is a shot in Tahiti where I am behind Amber in the water while she's taking a photo of a whale. Seeing something that big in the water so close is indescribable. You realize how small you are in comparison to the world. I think her and I were both fumbling for our cameras having an animal of that size so close in front of us. Almost a moment where you put the camera down just to appreciate what's going on in front of you. But it turned out to be a really powerful shot of Amber and this baby calf as it played in front of us.
We also had a week filming in Hawaii where the lighting of the sun and conditions of the water felt like they were sent from Jon. We were out in the water shoot before the sun came up to shoot Colby and Amber surfing. It had been a week of dead winds which doesn't happen too often where we were. The vog had set it in, creating really unique lighting as the sun started to rise. I hadn't ever seen it like that before. I used these shots for the end of the film making it very special. It definitely believe it was heaven sent.
Is there anyone who inspires your work?
There are more artists than I can count who have inspired my work. I definitely have my very good friend Morgan Halas to thank for showing me the ways of shooting in the water. His work in the water is unreal. Watching Step Into Liquid and listening to the soundtrack over and over again growing up is what kept me sane being landlocked and away from the ocean. Then I remember when Jack McCoy came to Salt Lake City to screen A Deeper Shade of Blue. I thought what he was doing was one of the coolest things ever, and wanted to do that one day. More recent films like View From A Blue Moon and some of John's earlier productions I watch over and over again, like I'm sure many do. It's some of my favorite cinematography.
Where did the name from?
When I got to Tahiti, I saw Amber's book sitting at the table. I thought the title of Chasing Light was a powerful idea. We wanted something that connected to Tahiti. Lumiére is French for light.