An Interview with Rebecca Coley I Changing Point

Changing Point was selected for the 7th Annual NY Women’s Surf Film Festival 2019. Directed and Produced by Rebecca Coley. The true story of Indonesia's first female champion surfer, Bonne Gea. Growing up in a Muslim family on the island of Nias Bonne blazed her own trail to become a champion and break out of her traditional role in life. Growing up in a Muslim family on the island of Nias Bonne blazed her own trail to become a champion and break out of her traditional role in life.

The answer to her self imposed question of “how can I transform plastic waste around the world into usable items?”: plastic fashion. A year later Teal kept her promise and returned to the island dressed from head to toe in clothing made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. Maldives also features the forbidden Thilafushi, also known as Trash Island, where 300-400 tons of waste are dumped everyday. Only Teal, with her boundless optimism and enthusiasm, can look out onto that massive landfill and see potential… and a lot of pink bikinis.

point of change womens surf film festival lava girl surf

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

I grew up on Jersey Island in the Channel Islands and I still call Jersey home. I have travelled the world and lived overseas, but now I love living on this little island cocooned by the sea. I spend half my life in London for work, but Jersey is home for right now. Every day the first question is - what time is high tide?

How did you get started in filmmaking?

I started by working as a runner and then went to college to learn about the technical side - all the camera and sound and editing gear. I’m not sure where the idea of actually making films came from but I had it in my head for a long time before I actually did anything about it. Once I got on set I did every job and tried to get as much experience as possible.

What inspired you to make Changing Point?

Bonne inspired me really. I was trying to make my bigger film, Point of Change and I came across Bonne and her story and thought it deserved telling and it was a way for me to go back to Nias and keep researching my bigger film and get to know people at the same time.

How did you come to know the surfer featured in the film, Bonne Gea?

So when I was in Nias everyone talked about Bonne; this girl from the island who got sponsored and she became the first women’s Indo surf champ a few times and the Asian Champion too. It was interesting because there weren’t many girls surfing at all at that time. All the boys were really good and here was a girl from a Muslim family who’d managed to make her way to become a champ. So I wanted to meet her and when I was in Bali I tracked her down and it started from there.

Changing Point Women's Surf Film Festival lava girl surf
Changing Point Women's Surf Film Festival lava girl surf

Where was the film shot? Tell us about the surf break you featured in the film.

Nias - The Point.

It's a perfect wave most of the time. It’s a super fun wave when its small and its a great wave to learn on. I love surfing with all the kids in kiddies corner. They’re all so stoked its hilarious. I like it most in the off season when its a bit quieter as it can get busy.

And when it gets big - it's another level. Perfect stand up barrels.

The big swell of 2018 is the most insane I have ever seen Nias. There were these mutant beasts of waves coming out of nowhere like way bigger than its ever been seen - and watching the best in the world surf it is crazy and humbling. I should say I wasn’t actually there at that time but we commissioned the amazing ocean cinematographer Chris Bryan to shoot it for us and the footage is out of this world!

Changing Point Women's Surf Film Festival lava girl surf

You are currently working on Point of Change, a follow up to Changing Point, how has working on this film influenced the way you approach filmmaking?

Well every film is different and its been very slow with this one because I had big ambitions for it, wanting to mix live acton and animation and archive. The story travels through time from the Old World through the 1970s and the discovery of the wave until today. It was a steep learning curve. On a practical level - if you forget something its a long way to go back to get the answer. I think prepare and prepare more and try to plan in as much detail as you can, but saying that we always had the most unexpected things happen. One year we couldn’t see a thing due to the forest fires. Another time our cinematographer got sick. You just never know whats going to happen and you just have to roll with it and make the best of it that you can.

What did you learn about yourself while working on this project?

That I’m tenacious. That I’m stubborn. That you have to be to make films I guess. I also learnt that I care a lot more about stories and people than I do about money.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the film?

I hope it's inspiring and also gives another perspective.

Everything is about point of view and I love the way films can really show us another world and another point of view. From the outside Bonne’s life looks glamorous and she is ’sponsored’ but the reality is its really tough - she only gets boards and clothes from her sponsors. Its not enough to live on.

Theres a humorous scene when she goes back home and her mum and auntie are giving her a hard time about not being married and why doesn’t she find a western husband.

It is funny but it also shows her reality. They’re not impressed with her surfing and wish she was more traditional so she cant win. Its good to see the contrast with how she’s inspiring the younger generation.

As the director of the Jersey Surf Film Festival, how have you seen female representation in surfing change? What does the Jersey Surf Film Festival mean to you?

Well there are loads more films by women and about women and representation is changing so much its actually good to feel the question isn’t needed half as much any more. I love films like Jamaica Surf Girls and Easkey Brittons films and Pear Shaped by Lauren Hill. In recent times have also loved The Church of the Open Sky and Eos.

The Jersey Surf Film festival is about community and bringing people together, celebrating the sea and our National Park at home. Its a big campout where we watch films under the stars, enjoy good music and enjoy stories from the sea

What can’t you live without when you travel?

The inflight entertainment. So good to watch back to back films and catch up. Socks (don’t you hate when your feet get cold on flights :)

What is next for Rebecca Coley?

I want to finish the feature Point of Change - which is almost there! We’re working with super talented animator director Maxime Bruneel. Chris Bryan shot the most amazing water footage for us on that big swell in 2018 that is epic and we’re super excited it makes a perfect finale to our film and cant wait to share it. Stephen Warbeck is creation the music so very lucky to have so many talented people involved.

It's all taken a long time but hopefully the time taken has made it even better. After its done I think I’ll go and live in a little shed by the sea somewhere and have a total change of career. Be a farmer or bee keeper or something totally different :)

Join us for the 7th Annual NY Women’s Surf Film Festival in Rockaway Beach, August 9-11 at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. We then head to Montauk, August 16-18 at The Montauk Beach House.