Interview with Filmmaker Georgia Matts | Smile & Wave

SMILE AND WAVE was selected for the 5th Annual NY Women's Surf Film Festival 2017, directed by Georgia Matts.  “Smile and Wave” tells the story of two best friends who travel up and down the coast of New South Wales surfing and filming their adventures. The debut feature by first time filmmaker and friend, 23-year-old Georgia Matts was shot over a two and a half year period and captures the hardships faced by Australian Skye Burgess and her partner South African Sarah Baum, two extremely passionate and talented female athletes. In a time when female surf movies are far and few between and tend to feature bikinis and lifestyle over skill and style in the surf, “Smile and Wave” aims to bring the focus back to highlighting the tremendous surfing abilities of female surfers.

smile and wave ny womens surf film festival
smile and wave ny womens surf film festival

Where did you grow up and where do you call home now?

I grew up in Australia on the east coast of NSW in a town called Wollongong and still live there today.

 How did you get started in filmmaking and why?

When I was younger, every weekend I would get dropped off at the beach with my friends and we would make little surfing clips of each other. And I guess as time progressed I started to really enjoy it and people would notice I had a spark of talent. So it just continued from there, I went on and studied Digital Media at University. I just really enjoyed it!

 What inspired you to make SMILE AND WAVE?

Smile and Wave was inspired by the way Sarah and Skye surfed. I really enjoyed filming them because they are easily the most talented female surfers in our home town. After a while I got to know their stories and when I found out Sarah had been sponsored by Roxy from the age of 8 I was blown away. So I wanted to make a surf film about them, showcasing their talents and giving the World a female surf film based on surfing and their surfing alone driving by only themselves. 

Tell us about the surfers you featured in the film, Skye Burgess and Sarah Baum.

Skye and Sarah met on the WQS about 7 years ago. Sarah is South African and Skye is from Australia. Sarah was sponsored by Roxy and had been since the age of 8 and Skye was traveling off the money from a few little sponsorships which after a few years the companies couldn't fund her travels. So Skye would also work 40 hours a week in a cafe to fund those trips around the World to compete. The girls have such different stories that needed to be told. Sarah missed out on making the World Championship Tour by 1 heat in the final competition of the year and placed 11th on the WQS. So after that Sarah moved to Australia to be with Skye, and because of that her 12 year contract with Roxy came to an abrupt end. There was a bit of controversy surrounding the end of the sponsorship deal, but Sarah knew she could surf and thats something that is visible in Smile and Wave.

 As a first-time filmmaker tell us about some of the challenges you faced in making this film.

My biggest challenge was when all of my camera gear was stolen twice in 1 year. I had $30,000 worth of gear stolen in 2016, some of which wasn't mine so it wasn't insured. That was hard because we obviously lost quality filming time, for a good 3 months I didn't have any cameras. The quality of the filming jumps around because I had a friends lens that was stolen and I couldn't afford to pay him for what it was worth and then buy the same one again for myself. So we finished the film with what we had.

 Where was the film shot?

The film was shot at our local breaks in Australia and also Sarah's home town in South Africa.

 Tell us about the locations and surf breaks you featured in the film.

The locations we surfed at home in Australia were quite well known surf breaks. Compared to the locations we surfed in South Africa which are quite remote areas with no crowds. So it was a good contrast in conditions.

 Tell us more about the surf culture and scene in New South Wales.

The surf culture scene in NSW is crowded and a bit territorial. We have breaks such as Sandon Point which can be territorial and the older men try and rule the waves. I think like most places you surf being female you have the feeling of needing to prove your worth on the first wave you catch. But surfing around my home everybody knows who you are and are welcoming.

 Is there a discrepancy with the number of women and men that surf in New South Wales?

The number of men that surf in my home town are greater than Women. So we try our best to stick together and call each other onto waves. The stretch of coastline that I live on blesses us with over 17 surf beaches so we are spoilt for choice. Which also means everybody is quite spread out. There aren't many groups of female surfers that hang out together though. I've found that the chicks mainly just rock up alone, where the men arrive in groups.

 Do you feel that women’s surfing has improved over the past decade? If so in what ways?

I think women are becoming more confident in the surf, and I see a lot more females out there giving it a go. And I see a lot of new board riders opening heats for women which is encouraging. Surfing has definitely come a long way especially in the contest side of the sport where the prize money gap is closing slowly.

 Where are some ofyour favorite places to surf?

My favorite places to surf are definitely around home where people know who I am and you can be out in the surf with your best mates. Like most people, I don't enjoy crowds but around home there is always somewhere thats a little quieter. South Africa was my favorite country I have surfed at, everybody is just super nice and encouraging. Its something you don't usually experience in some countries.

 Where do you find your personal inspiration?

I find so much joy in swimming out in the ocean with my camera and taking photos of friends and coming in afterwards and seeing the joy and their faces. Its so much fun taking photos that people love, it just makes you want to keep doing it and more new and exciting ways to do so!

 What can’t you live without when you travel?

I can't live without my camera. Last year I went to Bali with my friend and I left my camera behind because all I wanted to do was surf and relax. But I found we were experiencing so may new things that I wish I could of captured. But on the other hand its amazing to think that what we experienced are memories that only her and I will get to see.

 What is next for Georgia, Skye, and Sarah?

I would hope to see Smile and Wave have a sequel. We will continue to do little trips up the coast and over seas if we are lucky. But I think for the time being we are building on our own individual future endeavors. We lived the dream for 2 and a half years. Skye has recently purchased a coffee van where they will build on their future together and Sarah will go home to South Africa for a month and spend time with her family. 

And i'll continue to keep doing what i'm doing and hopefully build my business, surfing and taking photos for people. But for now there is nothing more I would rather be doing than what I am right now.