Well, not really, nor in the most toxic sense of surf culture territorialism. But the film adaptation of Joy Nicholson’s semi-autobiographical novel “The Tribes of Palos Verdes” clearly benefited from the Southern California sensibilities of some of the locals who made the movie.
Those folks would include directors Brendan and Emmett Malloy, Hancock Park-raised, surfing brothers best known for their commercials, music videos and sports documentaries. Karen Croner, who wrote the screenplay from Nicholson’s 1997 book, hails from Laurel Canyon.
Then there’s Maika Monroe plays the teenager Medina Mason, who finds solace in the surf after her family moves from the Midwest to the upscale community and promptly falls apart. She’s a champion kiteboarder from Santa Barbara.
Non-natives also made key contributions, of course, especially Monroe’s co-stars: Australian Cody Fern as Medina’s beloved twin brother Jim, who succumbs to the local drug scene; Jennifer Garner, who as their mother Sandy literally loses her mind after her husband leaves her for their real estate agent; and Justin Kirk as that guy, Dr. Phil Mason.
The native’s sensibilities, though, were obviously vital.
“We knew the book, we knew the world,” says Emmett Malloy, the older of the two brothers. “It was big in ‘The Surfer’s Journal’ world, and that’s a real seminal magazine [published out of San Clemente] to us. People who know the movie is different from the book feel like we got the spirit of the book well. And I think we got the spirit of what it’s like to grow up in Palos Verdes, Newport Beach, some of these affluent beach towns. I’m proud that people find this movie so realistic.”
Even if it did have to shoot San Pedro, mostly, for Palos Verdes. The exclusive PV’s ordinances made it impractical to film there for more than five days, so the iconic blufftop home the Masons move into was in the adjacent jurisdiction.
“But it’s just on the split between Pedro and Palos Verdes,” Emmett points out. “More than anything, though, I just liked the character of the house. None of the McMansions in PV were doing it for us, then we went into this house that felt like it had this life of experiences.”
Similarly, the Malloys took a practical route when it came to shooting “Tribes’” cliffside and surf sequences. San Pedro’s White Point Park provided the main filming beach, and shots were also taken at a…