Business Profile | Surfside Studios

When he was growing up, Rick Warner would spend two weeks every summer vacationing with his family in Laguna Beach, Calif. The atmosphere made a lasting impression on the young man, who transformed his passion into Surfside Studios more than 20 years ago.


"The title of the company came from my earliest childhood memories of the beach, and it was some of the most pleasant memories I've ever had," he recalls. "I can remember being attracted to the surfers and watching them surf. And as I grew older, my tastes remained the same and my passions remained. We tried to put an emphasis on the California surfer and the boy next door, but we also did the rocker and the bad boy and the naughty cousin down the street, which some companies wouldn't do."


While working as an advertising photographer, Warner also attended film school in Los Angeles. When the company he was working for went belly-up in the early 1980s, he decided to follow the advice of friends and connected with William Higgins at Catalina, where he quickly got a job as the studio's in-house still photographer. His work was soon featured in some of the industry's top magazines, which coincided with his work at Surfside.


"I was working with some great directors of the time: Bill Higgins, John Travis, Chi Chi LaRue," says Warner, who also spent time working with Jim Steel for Vivid's gay line. "I was shooting primarily stills and occasionally video. In those days, you did a little bit of everything. I learned the craft well and was also still attending film school, and a lot of people commented that I shoot my adult still photography like fashion shoots, which I take as a sincere compliment."


Warner couldn't ignore his directing itch, so he started Surfside Studios in the late '80s (with a partner he has since bought out) as a small pro-am company - and never looked back. "We weren't trying to compete with the Falcons or Catalinas or Vivids. We were more pro-am, realistic, boy next store, street trade, long hair, rockers...that was our niche."


Starting with Rocker Boys, Warner went on to direct every feature. He half-jokingly refers to himself as the Chief Everything Officer ("Being a smaller company, you wear a lot of hats"), and notes that he prides himself on creating a welcoming, friendly environment for his talent. "To a lot of producers and directors, [models are] a piece of meat, strictly a commodity. And I've always tried to let the models know that we will never disrespect them."


It's been a few years since Surfside released titles, including Sex Stories and the 2007 GAYVN Award-nominated solo effort Sexy Surfers. Warner had to take some time off to take care of his ailing mother, but still continued to shoot scenes when he moved from California to Ft. Lauderdale, and finally to Phoenix. "We're still here, and we're still's not that we haven't been shooting, we just haven't been releasing."


Warner says he's waiting to see how the economy (and technology) progresses before rushing to release new footage, which may debut online first when the studio unveils it's redesigned site in early 2009 - a decision he made in part after deciding to self-distribute his product. "We're moving away from actually shooting movies and more toward shooting scene by scene," he says, noting he has four full 90-minute videos in the can. "I'd rather release it when I know it will be appreciated, well-received and will make the best return - and people will enjoy it in a better format." Among the new titles are Pool Boy Eyes and Ride the Big One.


The studio will be introducing its new Joystick Amateurs line in early 2009 ("It's going to be Surfside's naughty, younger cousin"), most likely via VOD. Warner will take advantage of his well-maintained master tapes by releasing special director's editions of the studio's early hit films and scenes, with re-edited footage and comments giving a behind-the-scenes feel (up first is Surfside Does Blonds with Sandy Blue in February). Warner adds that he will be shooting original scenes for other webmasters as well.


Warner is also drawing on his extensive library of high-quality photos - and negotiating with high-end publishers - to create fine art books, with Blue Jeans out soon. It will be sold online, along with individual signed and numbered fine art prints. "It's very sexy and more erotic than just full-on porn, and I like that. This is something you could put on your coffee's a passion for me."


That should leave no doubt that Surfside is still here and still queer. "There have been a lot of good things happening. I like the quote ‘Life is never an arrival, it's a journey,' and likewise with Surfside - it has been a continual journey. We're all learning to evolve and find out who we are at different levels of ourselves. I'm looking forward to the changes."


CONTACT:; P.O. Box 7037, Phoenix, AZ 85011.