Independent's article on the West of the West: Near-Death to Documentary

The path of the project’s visionary, Brent Sumner, typifies the usual arc for those of us who become Channel Island fanatics, moving from casual curiosity to utter obsession overnight. When the filmmaker ​— ​best known locally for his work on Citizen McCaw, the documentary that covered the ethical and journalistic breakdown of the News-Press nearly a decade ago ​— ​moved to town in 1996, he didn’t think so much about those hunks of land offshore. But when his eyes were opened six years ago, the 49-year-old originally from Phoenix began using this documentary as a means of quenching an insatiable thirst for island stories.

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Brent Sumner
Hollywood Reporter's review of Diving Deep

The tightly paced doc (editing by Brent Sumner) covers a good deal of ground in a swift 80 minutes. DeGruy was born in Mobile, Alabama, and grew up intrigued by the aquatic life of the bayou. His family members testify to his obsessions, though his children acknowledge that they sometimes felt secondary to his underwater work. He became an eloquent spokesman for the wonders of the deep, appearing at many conferences throughout his life. The film also acknowledges, however, that he may have possessed an excessive lust for risk and danger. On one adventure swimming with sharks, one of the creatures took a bite out of his arm that left him scarred for the rest of his life.

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Brent Sumner
Making "West of the West" Act one, Anchor magazine

As I unearthed multiple histories and realized how little even the local population actually knew about the Channel Islands, the filmmaker in me was raring to bring them to life. I sought acclaimed Hollywood screenwriter Peter Seaman and PBS producer Sam Tyler, who had originally pulled me into the documentary world and who I considered talented mentors. Both gentlemen graciously declined and wished me luck. I tried to rally other forces but struck out on funding and access to crucial contacts, and my dream project floundered. Nearly three years later, Sam Tyler rolled into my studio, and announced he had a change of heart, then the Santa Cruz Island Foundation and The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum joined the discussion to ascertain how the human history of the eight Channel Islands may translate on film. Still, we didn't have our writer. 


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Brent Sumner