Beyond the Castle: Inside Competitive Sand Sculpting in Atlantic City

video by Frank Weiss,  Jason Howell & Bill Horin
directed & edited by Frank Weiss
story by Sal Emma

They came from Canada, England, India, Italy, Russia, Singapore, the U.S. and other nations. They trekked miles to pursue their passion. Their destination: Atlantic City, where, for a few weeks in June 2014, they worked the beach, creating masterpieces of dimensional art, worthy of the world’s finest sculptors. They toiled for days, putting hands and feet to the most ephemeral of media: sand.

In two weeks, it was over. Sculptures designed and painstakingly realized. Prizes won. Camaderie shared. And the world’s most impressive sand sculptures were bulldozed and returned to their humble origin: a very large pile of sand.

ArtC’s cameras captured the essence of the competition – both on the beach and behind the scenes. The result, the documentary film: Beyond the Castle: Inside Competitive Sand Sculpting in Atlantic City.

Professional sand sculptors live unusual lives in pursuit of an unusual art form. Using only elbow grease, water and a particular type of sand, trucked from an inland mine, each works with favorite tools – mostly common knives, spatulas and paintbrushes. And their handiwork often seems to defy the laws of physics.

Sand sculpting is as much performance art as sculpture, as event organizer John Gowdy is keen to repeat. The sculptors are not only dedicated to honing their exquisite skill – they also must be willing to work surrounded by witnesses, asking questions and taking photographs.

It’s a combination of art, spectacle, drama, excitement and logistical challenges that makes sand sculpting the perfect subject for documentary film.