John ‘J.D.’ Drury can’t quite remember the exact details or even the year it occurred, but one glorious summer day in the early ’80s, Drury, then in his late teens, charged the breaking waves past the Ventura Pier with a brand new surfboard. After losing it during a wipeout, he returned to the beach, but the board never washed ashore. The quest to find the missing board set into motion a chain of events that, more than 20 years later, is still going strong.
These days, everybody in Ventura knows “J.D.” Whether from his years fronting Raging Arb and the Redheads, one of the biggest local bands of all time, to starting the Red Head clothing company or as the founder of the sorely missed Surf Rodeo event, he’s the definition of a local legend. His adventures could fill a book, but over the years, the story of the missing surfboard and the quest to retrieve it has been spread around Ventura like a folk tale.
The CliffNotes version of the story is that the board didn’t drift off to sea; it was actually stolen by another teenager from the San Fernando Valley, a location that, to Drury and his friends, was the polar opposite of everything the tight-knit Ventura beach community of Pierpont believed in. Mounting the troops, including rowdy friends, curious girlfriends and the Zenlike local surfboard maker, the crew set off to find the culprit by going on a short, but monumental, road trip, complete with some serious drama and typical teenage hijinks.
“It was just something that happened when I was a kid,” explains Drury. “I always did think it was kind of a crazy story, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that something in my life would end up being the basis for a movie.”
Fast forward to the summer of 2001. While having lunch at Eric Ericsson’s, on the same beach where the board was stolen, seemingly a lifetime ago, Drury and close friend Kevin Lyman, founder of Warped Tour, were dining together with their families. The missing surf board story was told again to an attentive audience of Lyman and his wife, Fran. Only this time, once it was done, Lyman’s wife prophetically commented, “That would make a great movie.” Lyman himself then added the title, Endless Bummer, and thus the seeds were planted for Drury’s journey into filmmaking, a saga that contains as many twists and turns as the missing surfboard story itself.
A few months after that fateful meal, the well-connected Lyman, always one to capitalize on a good opportunity, told a movie producer of the idea. Days later, Drury found himself in Hollywood telling the story or, as Drury puts it, “giving what I think was a pitch.” Nothing came directly of the meeting; but a year later, Drury was at the house of another movie producer, who showed some interest in the film. That meeting inspired Drury and Lyman to spend an all-nighter writing a treatment and going over the basics of how to turn the true story into a “relatively true” movie. The very next day, Drury was off on another personal business venture that required him to fly to Asia several times. While abroad and often all alone, he continued to work on the writing of the film.
Being the very definition of a “people person,” Drury met an international businessman while in China in 2006 and mentioned that he was working on a movie. That casual conversation led to the intrigued business man eventually securing the seed money to start production on the film. And with that, Drury was thrust into the movie business, winding up as co-screenwriter, co-story creator and co-producer. Suffice it to say, the easygoing surfer, singer and happily married father was overwhelmed, to say the least.
“My first thought was, ‘what the hell am I doing?’” laughs Drury, reflecting on the experience. “I didn’t know what to do at all. Every step of the way was brand new. I was very lucky to have so many supportive friends involved. I think some people looked at it as something that never would come together, but Kevin, myself and others kept slowly working on it and attaching people to the project. When the initial money hit the bank account, everybody woke up real fast. The people that were half asleep or half interested were suddenly ready to go.”
Shooting for the film occurred in the summer of 2007, and with a solid budget for an indie, Drury and company were able to shoot for 36 days, which broke down to three weeks of full-crew shooting and eight days of pickup shots. Securing funding, which had been “an off-and-on-again battle,” finally proved successful — right before production, a large portion of the initial financing came through, which allowed the filmmakers to hire some up-and-coming young actors to play the roles of Drury and his friends.
It was also enough to land a bona fide celebrity in Matthew Lillard (Scooby Doo, Scream), who accepted the role for far less than his normal pay due to Warped Tour’s involvement and demographic. Veteran character actor James Remar (The Warriors, Dexter) also brought some credible acting chops as the surfboard thief’s stern father. The role of Drury, oddly enough, was given to an Australian actor, who had a dialect coach on set, presumably one that specializes in ’80s SoCal surfer slang. To Drury’s astonishment, they were also able to land his favorite punk singer of all time, Lee Ving of Fear, as well as rocker Joan Jett, in cameo roles. The film also had the who’s who of Ventura residents — Drurys estimates that at least 30 locals appeared as extras — and a majority of the film itself was shot in Ventura, with prominent locations ranging from Duke’s Griddle ’n’ Grill to Buffalo Records.
Months passed as the film was edited and scored, and despite endless behind-the-scenes financial hurdles — some of which caused Drury to personally sell off a few of his assets to keep the movie in production — an early cut of Endless Bummer was booked in March of 2008 for an advance screening at the Crest Theater in Los Angeles in hopes of securing distribution. Promoted with the power of Lyman’s Warped Tour and a host of friends from all aspects of the music, clothing, surf and skate industries, the theater was a packed house with a bizarre mix of stuffy industry types and legitimate Pierpont residents — who were very vocal about their excitement of being on the big screen.
“Let’s just say, the next day the phones were not ringing like we had hoped,” explains Drury. “I even saw a couple studio people walk out. The team got thinner after the screening, and it got harder and harder for everyone to stay stoked and keep going on. Still, the core people buckled down and gritted it out.”
Lyman still marvels at Drury’s enthusiasm throughout the process. “Most people would have just given up years ago. It would have been easy to call it a day after the screening, but every time it got difficult, he got more motivated. J.D.’s tenacity is what’s kept me involved. That’s what always has appealed to me about J.D. as a person and why we’re friends. The man doesn’t give up. This film is a testament to that in many ways.”
The film’s lack of industry enthusiasm did little to stop Drury’s tunnel-vision focus, as he spent the next months re-editing sequences and adding a superb score by another friend, Jay Ferguson of “Thunder Island” and Spirit fame. Then, with the same sort of magical luck that surrounded the entire saga, Drury bumped into an executive from National Lampoon while hanging out in a bar in Ojai. National Lampoon is the legendary comedy production company that is best known these days for its straight-to-DVD comedies. The Lampoon representative happened to have attended the L.A. screening and liked what he saw. Soon thereafter, Endless Bummer secured the final round of finances to complete the film, along with distribution. Lampoon also added some pickup shots that helped lighten the tone of the movie as some of the film’s more dramatic moments were considered potentially confusing to what the desired demographic would be.
Eight years since the initial conversation to make the movie and 25 years since that fateful day his board never returned from the sea, the movie is set to premiere in grand fashion right here in Ventura, where it all began. After the Warped Tour on Sunday, June 28, the movie will be screened for free at the Ventura Theater along with a special set from Fear. Afterward, not one but three parties will be thrown with live music from Endless Bummer’s soundtrack bands at Sans Souci,
Dargan’s Irish Pub and The Watermark’s W2O.
Once Ventura gets the first taste of the film, Drury will head out on the Warped Tour, where the Endless Bummer trailer will be shown throughout the day on each stop of the tour. At select cities on the tour, the movie will be shown during the night at a venue, with a Warped Tour band performing as well. Unlike most films that are under strict policies, Drury and company have a deal with National Lampoon where, though scheduled for a straight-to-DVD release at the end of the summer, if any theaters are interested in keeping the film and running it after the parties, they will be more than welcome to do so. It’s a grass-roots campaign that suits Drury just fine.
“I just want the film to get the exposure it deserves,” Drury said. “Let the kids see it. Hopefully, it makes sense to people and they can relate. As far as I know, it’s the only movie that takes place in and focuses on Ventura. It’s been a labor of love in every sense of the definition, and never once did anything come easy, but to know it’s actually coming out makes it all worth it.”
“It’s about the adventure,” Drury continued. “You know, I’ve never really been good at making money. I’ve always been better at having fun and getting into adventures, and this has been one hell of a ride so far.”
On the eve of the rest of the world having the chance to see the saga unfold on film, the question remains: Did Drury actually ever get his surfboard back?
Drury, with a smile, simply says, “You’ll just have to see the movie to find out.”
2009 Ventura Warped Tour Musts
Ernie Ball Stage: Ever since Warped Tour started, the guitar and string manufacturer has held a battle of the bands at the show, giving four locals the chance to play the biggest show of their careers, and helping set Warped apart from other festivals that couldn’t care less about local scenes.
Flipper: Often forgotten in the history of punk rock, these slowed-down, old-schoolers actually had a profound impact on Kurt Cobain, among others.
Shooter Jennings: Waylon’s kid? Yup. The outlaw country man is the odd man out on this year’s Warped Tour, making the audience reaction to him worth seeing.
Less Than Jake: OK. So they seem to be on the Warped Tour every year, but the ska punks still bring it and maintain a sense of fun that most of the younger acts are missing.
E.I.Y Stage: Though the stage once featured only unsigned and hard-working bands, this year it’s more for signed, up-and-coming bands – but there’s still a chance to find the next big thing.
Madina Lake: The Chicago twins who front this screamo-meets-pop-punk band from Chicago got the money to record its demo by doing disgusting things on the TV show #Fear Factor#. Lucky for us they did, because their live show is tremendous.
Civet: Imagine an extra-pissed-off Runaways, and you’ll have Civet, an all-girl rock band from L.A. with plenty of tats and piercings.
Jeffree Star: Flamboyantly gay cross-dressing "queen of MySpace," Starr is famous for nothing. Now a musician (think an emo Tila Tequila), he’s only worth checking out for the fact that he’s so not worth checking out.
#Endless Bummer# film screening and after parties. Wrapping up the whole day with a big fat bow Ventura style, is the film (see story) screening at 9 p.m. at the Ventura Theater with a live performance by Fear. Other bands from the tour who are featured on the film soundtrack will be performing at various venues downtown immediately following the tour. For all the details and a sneak peek at #Endless Bummer#, visit http://www.endlessbummerthemovie.com/ or drop by the film’s booth at Warped and share the stoke.