Surf filmmaker from Santa Ana, California; co-creator, along with Greg MacGillivray, of the 1972 surf movie classic Five Summer Stories. Freeman was born (1944) and raised in Santa Ana. Let There Be Surf, his debut film, was released in 1963; over the next two years he produced Outside the Third Dimension (surfing's only 3-D movie) and The Glass Wall. He was also cohost for the 1964 Los Angeles–based Surf's Up TV show.
Freeman was 22 in 1966 when he met Greg MacGillivray, another Orange County surf filmmaker, and formed what would be one of surfing's best-matched and most successful partnerships. While both were meticulous and hardworking, the easygoing Freeman generally served as the team's technical expert, while MacGillivray was the creative force. They made three full-length surf films—Free and Easy (1967), Waves of Change (1970; rereleased in 35-millimeter the following year as The Sunshine Sea), and Five Summer Stories—along with a number of shorts, including Moods of Surfing (1967), The Loser (1968), and Who's Best? (1969). They also filmed the 1967 and 1968 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational contests for ABC-TV.
The Mac-Free team began working in Hollywood in the early '70s, with Freeman establishing himself as an aerial-shot expert in movies such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974). To Fly!, MacGillivray-Freeman's 1976 IMAX film, was the first movie shown in the just-opened National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Two days before To Fly! debuted, Freeman, 32, was killed in a helicopter crash in the Sierra Nevada, near Bishop, California. Film critic Charles Champlin, in a eulogy for the Los Angeles Times, wrote, "It is hard to imagine anyone cramming more excitement and achievement into 32 years."
Freeman was inducted into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 2000. MacGillivray continued to make movies under the MacGillivray-Freeman imprimatur, and his IMAX work has won awards and plaudits for over 35 years.