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Surf Shacks 049 – Jake Burghart + Meredith Danluck

Jake and Meredith are what some might call a power couple in the film and production world. Jake is the director of photography at a little media company called Vice and Meredith is a writer and director. Both are from Florida originally, then moved to the Big Apple to follow their creative pursuits, and have now settled in Los Angeles where they found their dream home perched on the edge of Topanga Canyon State Park.

Note: If you follow our Surf Shacks series, you may recognize Jake from another feature we did a few years ago. Needless to say, this new pad is a serious upgrade from back then! Enjoy.

Where are you both from?

Jake: I’m from St. Augustine, Florida.

Meredith: I’m from Miami Beach, Florida. We met in New York where we both lived for over a decade, and now we live in California.

What do you both do for a living?

Jake: I’m the director of photography at Vice. I’ve worked there since we first started making video back in 2005. I’ve edited, directed, produced, shot, and hosted a few videos. My main thing now is shooting the weekly show we do on HBO, as well as overseeing the shooting of all the nightly and weekly episodes I’m not actually holding a camera on. I’ve been to 66 countries and all 50 states over the last 10 years, shooting documentaries with everyone from surfers to evil dictators with Vice.

Meredith: I’m a writer and director.

How did you two first meet?

Meredith: We were both working late nights on early projects at Vice, right before the launch of VBS. We took a shine to one another, had a few late dinners, partied after an Arcade Fire show, got certified to scuba dive, and split for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for a month.

Jake, how did you first get involved with Vice?

Jake: My buddy Moose worked for a fancy jeans company, and I guess they were paying Vice to project a commercial or something on the sides of buildings during cool shows at CMJ. Like I said, this was a long time ago and I didn’t really understand it then, but I was just there to video the videos being shown, maybe as proof that it happened. Anyway, the dudes from Vice were cool, and they found out I had made that Against Me! documentary, We’re Never Going Home, so they were all like, “Work for us.” Then Moose and I filmed a bunch of sweaty shows at Cake Shop for them. I had to buy a second camera just to do it, so I didn’t even make any money, but the shows were kind of legendary. I still think about how good all those bands were every time I go to a shitty show now with a bunch of nerds standing around looking at their shoes.

What are some of the craziest things you have seen covering news and events all over the world?

Jake: I’ve seen a man get beaten to inches of his life with a baseball bat, and with his last breath grab the bat and attack the other guy. We’ve all seen crazy shit—the world is fucking crazy… I’m stuck on this one, though. It usually takes a beer or two before these stories start to pour out. It’s pretty hard to do typing at my computer with a coffee and a bowl of berries while petting my cat, but I’m going to Cuba tonight, so maybe I’ll text you something at the 11th hour.

Out of everywhere your travels have taken you, what has felt like the most foreign destination?

Jake: North Korea, because it’s foreign as fuck.

Knowing what you know and seeing what you have seen through your job, what scares you the most about our future? And what gives you the most hope?

Meredith: The same thing that gives me hope also scares me. A majority of the people in our country didn’t actually vote for Trump, but somehow he still won the election.

Jake: The end of truth scares me. People spread rumors like they are facts at an alarming rate. If it’s in a meme, it’s taken as truth and copied and pasted millions of times within minutes. But also young people are taking more of an interest in news and politics and what’s happening in the world.

What led you to Topanga?

Meredith: Myths, rumors, hearsay, and also Jake got punched in the face by a homeless woman in a bikini on the Venice Boardwalk, so we split from there.

What is your favorite thing about Topanga?

Jake: Having this much space in a chill mountain community that is somehow in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.

How did you find your home here? What are your favorite parts of the home?

Jake: A realtor showed us a cheaper house across the street. When we said, “What’s up with that one?” they said, “You can’t afford that one.” But after some pestering they showed us anyway. It was obvious no one lived here, or had been here for a while, so, without even discussing it, we both left separate windows unlocked. Then we just started squatting here, we left beers in the fridge, did a photo shoot, had a party, and maybe eventually the neighbors complained about vagrants inhabiting the house or something because they lowered the price.

If your house was burning down and you could only get out with five items, what would you take?

Jake: That’s a sensitive subject, we don’t talk about that around here.

Any sage advice?

Meredith: In the fall, you deadhead the blooms after they’ve dropped their seed, which feeds native birds. Later in the season, prune it all back by a third, and with your clippings you can make smudge sticks as Christmas presents for your friends.

/ Photography by Read McKendree interview by Matt Titone

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