Helen Hunt takes to the waves in her latest movie, "Ride," a film opening today that reflects her own love of surfing and Southern California's beaches.
Hunt wrote and directed the film, in which she plays an editor from the New Yorker who follows her son (Brenton Thwaites) to L.A. after he drops out of college. She strikes up a relationship with a surf instructor (Luke Wilson) and begins to repair the frayed relationship with her son.
"This movie is really a valentine to L.A.," Hunt said in an interview. "I'm a second generation L.A. resident. Both my parents were born in L.A. It's not just a place I came to go into show business. I have a great love for L.A. and the locations reflect that."
The independent movie, which has a limited theatrical release, was filmed over four and half weeks in the summer of 2013. Virtually all of the scenes were shot in Los Angeles County, mainly in the area surrounding Venice Beach.
The crew filmed scenes along the Venice Beach boardwalk, the Washington Pier, Point Dume and Leo Carrillo State Beach, whose picturesque cove has long been a favorite of location managers. The stretch of beach along the Pacific Coast Highway has doubled for Iwo Jima, Hawaii and the Caribbean in such movies as "The Pirates of the Caribbean" and Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima."
Hunt took up surfing about 10 years ago after a bad experience with a surf instructor who yelled at her the whole time. "Anything that has me this upset and angry is probably something I should do again and something I should write about," she said.
Aside from a few wipeouts, she did most of the surfing scenes herself, as she did in the 2011 movie "Soul Surfer," which was filmed in Hawaii.
She also hired renowned water cinematographer Sonny Miller. The film is dedicated to Miller, who died this year, and to her father, the director and acting coach Gordon Hunt.
"I was in the water eight or nine hours a day," Hunt said. "I had a great time."
Not that there weren't challenges for Hunt, who won an Oscar for the 1997 movie "As Good as It Gets."
Even with a wet suit, Hunt got so cold at one point that she had to be warmed up with a blow dryer to prevent hypothermia.
Intensive filming in Venice Beach during the busy summer season also presented challenges.
"The lifeguards yelled at us, the neighbors yelled at us," she said. Some residents even cranked up music to disrupt shoots, she said.
"If you're going to complain about runaway production, you have to be a little friendly," she said.
Still, Hunt is grateful for the California film tax credit that she said made the film financially possible. The movie, which cost less than $10 million to make, was produced by Abandon Features and Sandbar Pictures Production and released by Screen Media Films.
Hunt is considering directing another movie that would film in California, an attractive proposition for many actors accustomed to working in Louisiana, Georgia and other states.
"There are people who are used to working on much bigger movies than this, but they took the job because they want to be at home," Hunt said.