Most surf photographers and filmmakers follow their own path, documenting the lifestyle they love because, well, what surfer wouldn't? But few fall into this calling already armed with a rich filmmaking background and formal training. Venezuela-born Marina Zawisza was lucky enough to have a father in film and a heart for the ocean -- providing her access to the best of both worlds.
Naturally, all roads for Zawisza eventually led to the production of a surf film. "3 Killas y un Kiwi" is an all-female flick starring some of the best and brightest surfers on the Women's WCT while focusing attention on Zawisza's home continent. The movie documents the lives and travels of Peru's Sofia Mulanovich, Argentina's Ornella Pellizzari and New Zealand's Paige Hareb, among a handful of others, and has already premiered in New York, Miami, Bali and Oceanside, Calif. The tour will wrap in Guadalajara, Mexico, in December, at which point her group, Low Rider Labs, will be releasing DVDs and an online version of the film.
XGames.com: You're lucky to have been exposed to the art of crafting film from a young age. How did your dad influence your career path?
Marina Zawisza: My dad was an art director and he was involved in the film industry ever since I was 12 ... My brother and I grew up going to sets and being involved in the whole film industry in Venezuela. When I went to university [at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia], I first decided to study international relations, but I had that love and interest in film, so I did a minor in film studies.
In that process I started getting into the art of editing and creating stories out of nothing sometimes. I became in love with editing. That's how I started to get more into the hands-on. And then I went back to Venezuela and worked with my dad for a few years in the film industry. We did everything from commercials to short films to feature films. You're on set and working in the pre-production and post-production process, so you get to see the whole world of it.
A friend of mine, Simone [Zea], who's one of the girls in the movie, she realized I was into filmmaking and all that. She suggested that I should do a film about girls' surfing. That's kind of how it all started. When we first decided that we were going to do it, I went to Costa Rica with her for the ISA World Championships ... We thought that we'd film a couple waves here and there and make something out of it, but then I realized there was way more potential and it became what it is today -- and what it was for the next three years after that.
Why did it take so long?
It was a really long project because there was always something more that I could do. I felt like if I was going to do this, it had to be something very good. I had to be patient and finally get all the footage that I wanted. The entire vision took me almost four years.
How did you end up hooking up with Ornella, Sofia and the rest of the girls?
All those girls were in Costa Rica for the ISA. I met them there and that's when I saw the potential of the whole thing. They were only there for a couple of days, which didn't allow me to get the footage that I wanted, but they were going to come to California, and my brother lived there, so I figured I could go visit him and film these girls more. I ended up spending the summer here and hanging out with them a lot of the time and just becoming really good friends with them.
After that, it was like, "But I need more." I wanted to be able to do a surfing video, but also something that had more meaning. That was one of the things that made it such a long project. I wanted to be able to convey who each girl was. For that, you need a lot of time with them. That summer here wasn't enough. So I kept going, and every time they'd come, I'd shoot them ... [I] finally realized that in order to finish the film, we needed to do a trip so they could all be together at the same time.
And you managed to get funding for all of that trip.
Another friend of mine told me about Kickstarter. So I created a Kickstarter that helped us raise money for the trip to Costa Rica and that's where we got most of the footage for the film.
So was this your first major filmmaking endeavor -- not just your first surf movie?
Yes, it was and still is. I dedicated my life to it for the past four years. It's crazy.
How do you feel it's been received so far?
I have to say that I'm so happy with the way that people have received it. Everybody gets it. The whole point was to make people happy, and every time someone comes to me after the film and says something, it's exactly what I want to hear. People are always like, "Yeah, these girls are amazing surfers," but that's not just it. There's more to it.
You have Sofia, who was a world champion, and all that she's done for her country and for surfing in general, and then you have Ornella, who's just so funny and genuine, and all these little stories that are inspiring. One of the major things that I hear from people when they see the film is that they're inspired to just go out and do something. We're so bombarded with terrible news all the time; a project like this is just refreshing and that's what people get out of it and that's what I wanted.
But it's a little different from your average surf flick; it's whimsical and creative. Is that what you were originally going for?
There are two films that were my inspiration: One is "Magnaplasm," a surf film that Volcom made a really long time ago. And the other is an animation called "Ponyo" that's about a little girl that comes from a fish. I don't know; have you ever seen that film? It's a Japanese film. It's all about the ocean and the aesthetics of it. I wanted to have that. Something where the surfing was amazing, good and entertaining, but also to be able to keep the audience there. I feel that with all the artwork we did, we were able to do that -- to keep people captured even if they aren't totally passionate about surfing.
And you enlisted your brother, Marek, to contribute to the artistic aspect of it. He's an artist, right?
He's an artist. Ever since he was little, you would always see him drawing. All his notebooks from school always had little drawings on them and eventually, after high school, he got into graphic-design school in Venezuela and he never stopped. He's just one of those people who has a crazy, creative mind and comes up with these not only aesthetically pleasing, but also really interesting stories. He had a lot to do with the outcome of the film.
Obviously, you're from Venezuela and that probably steered you to focus on Latin women and their place in the surf world.
Yeah. Obviously, from the get go, one of my main goals was to show the rest of the world that Latin America has great surfing. The industry is ruled by Hawaii, the U.S. and Australia, so I saw that there was a lack of knowledge in that sense. You see all these talented girls; there's not just three. There's a bunch of them. In this film, there are three main characters, but there's also a section where you see all these other girls.
I'm just hoping that this will be an inspiration and will get more girls to go out there. The amount of weight that we have in Latin America is insane. I think that maybe they're lacking the confidence and the knowledge that, "Hey, you can go out and do it. It's not impossible." So I think that these girls will be an inspiration to get that movement going. And they've already done a great job with that.
And where did Paige Hareb fall into all of this?
Paige was just one of the girls always hanging out with Sofi and Orne ... I was filming her all the time and then I realized that she was sort of like a parallel to Latin America in a whole different part of the world. There aren't many girls that are in surfing from New Zealand. It's not just a Latin American thing -- it's a worldwide thing.
Do you ever think about working on a non-surf film?
Yeah, I'm just hoping to get involved with different projects. I think I'd even like to work under someone who has a ton of experience and get a little bit of their knowledge. I learned so much after doing this project, but it was really hard, and I know there must be easier ways of doing things. I'd like to work under someone who could mentor me a little bit.
I do love documentaries; being able to create stories, or being so influential on a storyline as an editor, is such a great feeling. Anything can be a great story. I do love surfing, shooting surfing, sitting down to look at all the pictures afterwards and putting them together -- but there are so many stories to be told.
Zawisza's currently working on four webisodes about 2004 ASP Women's World Champion Sofia Mulanovich, who's retiring from the circuit in 2014. The films will document the Peruvian icon's last year on Tour. When she's not behind the lens, Zawisza works a day job at her brother's graphic-design company in Oceanside, Calif. You can view the original trailer, order the film and find more information at www.3ky1k.com.