By Léo Azambuja
It all started as a hobby more than 10 years ago. But toying around with video and photography took a life of its own, and today, Joel Guy says he is the busiest guy he knows without a job.
“I couldn’t have written a better life,” said Guy, owner of Grass Shack Productions, based on Kauaʻi’s North Shore. He is booming with business, shooting and editing promotional videos, weddings and events.
His “two- to three-minute magic” helps businesses and nonprofit organizations to get their message out to the world, whether it’s a product or the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture. Lately, he has been utilizing a drone to create some incredible aerial footage revealing the beauty of the island in a way that has never been done before.
His videos, he said, help to bridge the gap between newcomers and the host culture.
“There are not a lot of people doing what I’m doing,” said Guy, adding the “home-court advantage” really helps him. His mother moved to Kauaʻi in the 1960s and settled in Haʻena, where she raised four boys.
“That was a tough time for her,” he said. “It was also a great time, because it was the early 1970s and it was such a beautiful country and it still is, it’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet.”
His journey as a talented filmmaker began in 2003, when he still owned Bamboo Bamboo, a classy, yet laid back restaurant in Hanalei. That year, he started Grass Shack Productions as a hobby to shoot videos of the late professional surfer and three-time world champion Andy Irons, who was a friend of Guy since “young-kid days.”
Crossing the Line, Guy’s freshman movie featuring Irons’ younger brother, Bruce Irons, and music from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, sold more than 8,000 copies and won the Surfer Poll Awards. He backed up that movie with Tamba TV, another success.
In 2005, he sold the remaining 10 years of his restaurant lease to Jim Moffat, owner of Bar Acuda.
“That’s when Andy (Irons) said, ‘Let’s make films, we can hire you,’” Guy said.
He took a “leap of faith,” and for the next five years, he travelled around the globe with the Irons brothers, filming them in exotic locations such as Tahiti, Africa and Indonesia. Guy would piece together little contracts, either with Billabong, Volcom or the Irons brothers, depending on what the deal was.
Along the way, he said, he learned editing and filmmaking, and only got his name out there because of Andy Irons.
“I owe everything to him,” said Guy, adding because he was the one putting Irons’ image out there, it gave him credentials beyond his skill set.
Guy’s humble opinion may hold true as a career opportunity, but as he put it himself, the opportunity is his to lose. His success can probably be credited to equal doses of talent and lifestyle. In 1996, his son’s mother informed Guy she was pregnant. From that day on, he never had an alcoholic drink or drugs again.
Being clean and sober, he said, changed his life and allowed him to pursue his dreams.
Andy Irons’ untimely death in November 2010 shocked the surfing world. And Guy’s career reshaped again.
When local musician Tommy Tokioka invited him to shoot a wedding, it opened up a new door to Guy.
“It was incredible, people were as happy as they could be, it was the happiest day of their lives,” he said. “And I was able to apply filmmaking techniques to tell their love story.”
And Guy also walked away with a handful of $100 bills.
Since then, his business has turned around, and he is doing about 70 percent weddings and 30 percent private projects, he said.
The evolution of technology has made file-sharing a lot easier, and consequently, has helped his business to grow. His videos increase traffic to his clients’ websites, potentially bringing them more advertising.
Visit www.hanaleishack.com or call (808) 635-2074 for more information on Grass Shack Productions.