Big Screen: "Out of Place"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Ohio isn't exactly known as destination for great surfing, but the documentary "Out of Place" exposes a thriving underground subculture of Lake Erie surfers.

After playing film festivals in Santa Barbara and New York City, "Out of Place" is coming back home to screen at the 34th Cleveland International Film Festival. Playing this particular festival was one of the goals co-director Scott Ditzenberger and his fellow Ohio filmmakers had from the beginning.

"It means that much to us," he said. "Now we're getting some really nice publicity. Our advanced sales have forced the festival director to open up another screen, so we'll be showing in two theaters simultaneously onFriday. We heard we might be the first film in the entire festival to sell out, so we are ecstatic."

Ditzenberger's well-versed in Ohio's surf scene - although he grew up in San Diego and on the Jersey Shore, he didn't start surfing until he moved to Ohio in 1991.

But the idea for the film didn't arise until 2001, when Ditzenberger met eventual co-director and co-writer Darrin McDonald. Ditzenberger roomed with McDonald and co-writer Tom Heinrich in Columbus and brought with him stories of hitting the waves in Cleveland.

"He mentioned that he was a Lake Erie surfer," McDonald said."I sort of half did not believe him at first, and then he brought down some home video he shot of him and his friends. I thought, 'Wow! This is a great story! This would make a great documentary.'"

Ditzenberger said filming took place over the span of nine years, largely because of the limited span of surfing time on Lake Erie.

"On weekends, I would drive up to Cleveland and pray for waves," McDonald added."If there were no waves, everyone would hang out and party.I think that was the main reason this process took as long as it did."

He added that the November weather also served as inspiration for the film's memorable soundtrack, filled with music from local musicians.

"We were fortunate to find some incredible music that really inspired us," he said. "It was Columbus-based artistslike The Barn Owls, Colin Wilson and Chris Sheehanwho managed toperfectly capture the feel of isolation of what it's like to be in the water on those cold winter days."

While the temperatures keep many from surfing in Ohio, Ditzenberger did manage to convince his fellow filmmakers to give it a try, although not always with the best results.

"When you're surfing, you're supposed to do a push-up off the board and bring your legs forward to stand up on your feet," McDonald said. "It's sort of a lunge motion. If you do this wrong, it's the same as having a door slammed in your face. The experienced guys make it look easy. I was able to get to my feet on my very first session, but I had to peel my face from the board a few times before I got it down."

Now that the film is finally finished, McDonald said the guys are enjoying promoting the film around the country. Next month, "Out of Place" is set to go international with a trip to New Zealand.

Cleveland Film Fest

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 28 at Tower City Cinemas. This year's opening-night film is "Timer," a sci-fi romantic comedy where it's possible to buy a clock that will count down to the moment you meet your soulmate. Closing things out will be "Looking for Eric," about a man who deals with midlife crisis by conjuring up a (very famous) imaginary friend. In between are screenings of more than 150 feature-length films and 150 shorts. Click to for tickets.

When: Screening 9:35 p.m. March 19, 9:20 a.m. March 21 and 5 p.m. March 22

Where: Cleveland International Film Festival, Tower City Cinemas