Community takes shape in everything we do and everywhere we gather, from our local coffee shops to beaches to volleyball courts to barns to schools to yoga studios. It binds us to callings, gives us purpose, and fulfills our genetic longing to be around each other. And some pods or places have a person that seems to exist as living plaster—it’s hard to leave them, and you feel good around them. Combine a sticky person with a gathering place, a mission, or a sport, and you start to get little communities growing like bamboo.
That's the type of person at the center of "To Be Frank," a new short film that explores a community of ocean dwellers via the burly voice of Frank Paine, a 73-year-old spirit-raiser whose life orbits around a two-block stretch of beach. Surfing and the ocean happen to be the gathering place; Paine is the plaster. His unforgettable mustache and green VW bus are what passersby get with a first glance. A level deeper lie Frank’s ability to locate and build upon the good in a stranger, whether they be a CEO, a janitor, or a seagull, and a willingness to help a lonely new surfer and then invite them to dinner. His actions and energy make us all fence our lineups a little less and see more clearly the power in fellowship.
Anna Burns, the film's director, and I found Frank at different times of need. Mine was during a difficult divorce. Hers was in the pandemic’s loneliness. But we're just two among countless others—Boris, barely out of jail; Duncan, coping with metastatic cancer in not one but both of his small children. Over many years, we’ve watched Frank take people in and out of the sea and decided that his story wasn't simply one about a quirky local, it was a universal depiction of what matters. Like Frank says, “The best thing about surfing is the people, and it always has been.”
"To Be Frank" is told through a person, but it isn’t about any one person. It’s about all of the Franks, all of the sports, all of the places, and all of us. It’s about how we can make each other better with simple acts, and how we must nourish our pods. Anyone, or everyone, can supercharge their communities. Anyone can be Frank.