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CITY FOCUS: Surfer to filmmaker

In 1972, Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman’s iconic surf film “Five Summer Stories” made the world take notice of surf culture. Now, 35 years after the film’s release, MacGillivray is partnering with the Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente to preserve the surf culture he documented.

The foundation will screen the film at 7 p.m. Saturday. The movie will be followed by a discussion with MacGillivray and a panel of surfers featured in the film.

MacGillivray has come a long way in his four decades of filmmaking, but the IMAX pioneer and documentarian said it all started with a love of surfing.

He grew up surfing with his dad in Corona del Mar. He moved to Laguna Beach in his teens and had his first surf film out by his freshman year in college.


“It was an easy thing for me to kind of jump into it,” MacGillivray said.

By the time MacGillivray did “Five Summer Stories,” he and partner Jim Freeman had made a name for themselves. MacGillivray said when their final surf film was being shot, they had been pushing themselves to new heights of filmmaking.

Part of what makes the film so special, he said, is it was a special time in the history of surfing. Boards were evolving as was the surf attitude. Along with rise of the shortboard came the rise of the daredevil surfer.

“The film dealt with that shift in styles,” MacGillivray said.


“Five Summer Stories” used music by local surf band Honk as well as the music of the Beach Boys. MacGillivray said the Beach Boys were moving out of the surf realm and gave them carte blanche access to their music as well.

Luckily for the bands, MacGillivray and Freeman were pushing their limits with sound as well as the movie’s visuals.

They used stereophonic sound, which outdid the regular stereo of the time by far.

The film is one of the most successful surf films of all time, second only to “The Endless Summer” in screenings, MacGillivray said.

“Five Summer Stories” was screened in more than 1,000 theaters.

“We were lucky. We poured our heart and soul into the film and it was well received,” MacGillivray said.

MacGillivray and Freeman went forward as one of the leading documentary film teams in the world. In 1976, the duo’s first large format IMAX film “To Fly!” hit the few available screens.

Freeman died in 1976, but MacGillivray continued making films, creating some of the most successful IMAX films of all time, including “Everest,” and most recently “Hurricane on the Bayou.”


General admission tickets for the “Five Summer Stories” screening at the Surfing Heritage Foundation are $10. VIP tickets are available for $25 which include preferred seating, a hot dog, drink, popcorn and candy.

For more information on the film screening, visit