Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy took audiences to Abu Ghraib and the Last Days In Vietnam, but she entered into decidedly new territory with Take Every Wave: The Life Of Laird Hamilton, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Beautifully shot, juxtaposing new footage with little-seen archival footage that feels fresh even to Hamilton himself, Take Every Wave examines the remarkable and unconventional life of the legendary big-wave surfer, known as much for his innovative drive in changing the face of a sport as he is for his surfing.

“I’ve known Laird for a few years now—we live pretty close to each other in California—but our mutual friend Paul Speaker had brought us together and suggested that we think about making a documentary together,” Kennedy told me at Deadline’s Sundance Studio, speaking to the “unlikely pairing” the two would eventually make.

“Rory said, ‘Absolutely not. I’m not making a surf movie,’ ” Hamilton joked.

“When we first talked about this film a couple years ago, we all hoped that when it was completed, we’d premiere here at Sundance, for many reasons,” Kennedy explained. “One, I just think it’s the best festival, and there’s so much support in this community for a film like this. And, you know, Laird’s life is uniquely independent, and I think this film really represents independent ideals, pushing the limits, and the outdoors—sports. This community represents that, as well.”

In agreeing to participate in the documentary, Hamilton gave himself over entirely to his director, trusting she would bring a fresh perspective to his life story simply by being outside of it. “One of the things I’ve learned over the years is, don’t try to participate in telling people how to do something that they do. I use a simple metaphor of getting a haircut—I go to a barber and say, ‘Hey, just make sure you don’t make my wife mad.’ I don’t care how you cut it—I can’t see it anyway,” Hamilton said. “In Rory’s case, obviously this is a lot more elaborate and a lot more exposing, but I feel like if I give full disclosure and if I give her every opportunity to have all the pieces she needs — she’s a storyteller, and what story she tells out of the information she gives, that will be something interesting for me.”

To hear more from Hamilton and Kennedy about their experience working together, check out Deadline’s video exclusive above.

Actors, directors, filmmakers and special guests visiting the Deadline Studio at Sundance 2017 enjoyed sweet and savory treats, custom cocktails and more at Applegate’s REEL FOOD CAFE. Find out more about Applegate and their mission to change the meat we eat at www.applegate.com