Thursday, September 3, 2009

Surf Filmmakers T. Campbell & A. Lesser

Oceanside pro Julie Cox talks with Tiffany Campbell and Andria Lesser, the ladies of Villa Villa Cola Productions, shortly after the Encinitas premier of their lady surf film Dear & Yonder. Three-years in the making, the project documents all manner of women in the water and is the very first of it’s kind.

Julie Cox: Together you’re known as Villa Villa Cola Productions—what’s the background of the name?

Tiffany Campbell: A big hero of mine as a kid was Pippi Longstocking. She has this really wild, adventurous spirit and she encapsulated our feelings about skateboarding and of being really wild and free, and living on your own terms. The name of her house was Villa Villekulla and I adapted it to make it more American. At first the company was my sister, Nicole, and another girl who skated, and me. We started making zines with random stories, horoscopes and photos of us that we’d pass out, but there was no one to give them to; girls didn’t really skate. So we decided to go across the country. We made a video and made T-shirts, and people were stoked on our idea, but they still didn’t know any girls who skated to give the stuff to. So we came home and started over with a new idea. We decided to focus more on videos and started a little collective with other artists and videographers. We made a few videos but our biggest project was a skate video called Getting Nowhere Faster.

Julie Cox: Andria, how did you get involved?

Andria Lesser: I actually met Tiffany’s sister skateboarding in San Francisco about eleven years ago. I was skating with a bunch of my guy friends from North Carolina and saw Nicole and her friend Rebecca. I was so nervous because I had never met other girls who skated but they asked me to go skate with them and through them I met Tiffany.

Julie: Dear and Yonder is technically a “surf movie,” but it also covers skateboarding, sailing, sewing and shaping. It all feels like a celebration of freedom and it’s really empowering—how did you branch out beyond just showing the actual surfing footage?

Tiffany: All that’s out there is shortboarding movies about women, and I think [shortboarding] is really intimidating. Not many women are going to pursue it if they want to get in the water. There is more than one way to experience the ocean, so we wanted to open up different avenues and show these women who have a very normal side. They’re not superheroes, but at the same time they are extraordinary people, so you can really relate to them. First, we want you to be able to relate to them as people, then, “Wow, they’re doing that and they’re not that different from me! I can be a bodysurfer, or I can sail, or I can be a longboarder or a shortboarder.”

Andria: We wanted girls to see the all the possibilities.

Julie: How did Villa Villa Cola’s focus shift from skate to surf?

Tiffany: It really came about organically. We had tossed the idea of doing a women’s surf movie around, but the impetus for doing it was Liz Clark. We were following her journey sailing around the world and we were frustrated that we couldn’t see more, on video or something. [Tiffany appeals to the sky ‘I want to see this girl!’] Originally we thought we would do something small, but then once Liz was on board we knew it was bigger than that.

Julie: What was the general reaction when you told people you were making a women’s surf film?

Andria: Some people were excited and asked questions, but it didn’t resonate with a lot of others.

Tiffany: The women who are really in the surf scene and have been in it for a while were like “women’s surfing needs this!” It hasn’t been done for women’s surfing yet; delving into the stories, using 16mm film and traveling to amazing places. These women were really excited and hungry for it, and that is what got me really excited—people with all that energy. It is so inspiring, regardless of whether you surf or not. I think anyone who watches the film will see that it is a human story, not just a surfer’s story.

Julie: You have a pretty distinguished cast of surfers in the film—how did you find them? Were there certain stories that you sought out?

Tiffany: Some of the girls, like Ashley Lloyd, we knew from Santa Cruz and we knew she was shaping boards and thought that was fascinating. And Belinda Baggs, we love her surfing and Thomas [Campbell, Tiffany’s husband] is friends with her, so that was an easy choice.

Andria: Judith Sheridan [the bodysurfer in Dear & Yonder] is this Ocean Beach secret legend and I’d never met her but had heard of her and was fascinated. She was so mysterious. We had friends who knew her but she was the one we were most nervous to meet because she is outside of our peer group a little bit (she’s a geophysicist). We were thrilled when she said she would work with us.

Julie: Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Tiffany: My advice for filmmakers is to get educated, not necessarily through school, but find a mentor, someone who can teach you a base of knowledge. If that’s your passion, you’re going to find a way.

Andria: This is my first film project. Tiffany had me get into still photography and that was the best recommendation. And it’s cool and okay to take yourself seriously. You’re going to make something awesome. What you’re doing is important.

Julie: How about advice for girls getting into surfing or skating?

Andria: For me, it was great to have a group of girlfriends to do it with and to go out with girls who were better than me so I could watch and learn from them. We just tried to learn as much as we could because we were passionate about it.

Photos: Liz Cockrum, Tiffany Cambell

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