Filmmaker Feature: Matt Donatoni

Describe the concept behind California for Better or Worse.

The concept of the movie “California for Better or Worse” is a story about some of the greatest surfers surfing the best and worse conditions along the coast of CA starting from Baja and ending at the northern tip of the golden state. The movie was filmed during the 2009-10 El Nino year and  stars Chris Waring, Ryan Carlson, Kalani Robb, Timmy Reyes, Teddy Navarro, TJ Barron, Daniel Jones, John Flick and all the best locals throughout the coast. This Movie is designed to get you pumped up to go and surf, no matter where you live, and most importantly to help surfers relate to the everyday conditions that we all are faced with and still get motivated to paddle out for a fun session!!!

Why did you decide to make a surf film?

I decided to make this film because I wanted to show people that most surfers don’t need to surf perfect waves or perfect conditions everyday to have fun. The truth of the matter is that most of us who surf spend more time groveling in the shore break, surfing in the rain or storm surf, and making the best of what lies at their home break.  I wanted to make a movie that showed great surfing in authentic conditions that the majority of us could relate to.

Was the experience like you’d expected?

The experience of making this movie was great. When I started filming I didn’t know what to expect, but this being my first film, it was the best learning experience I could ask for. I made a lot of mistakes but from them I learned valuable lessons, definitely more than I expected.

What areas of your filmmaking would you most like to improve upon with your next film?

There are so many areas of my filmmaking that I would love to improve upon.  I will always be learning, no matter how many movies I make. For my next film, I definitely want to work on my work-flow and organization. I think that was a big challenge for me during this film. I went into a lot of situations blind and just charged it where I could of had a full plan. That would have saved me a great deal of time in the long run.  But, haha, you live and learn!

What was your favorite about make this film?

My favorite things about making this film were all of the people that I met and the relationships that I formed during the entire year of filming plus all the knowledge that I’ve gained from my experiences, whether they were good or bad.  In my opinion, you can never better yourself as a filmmaker without taking some risks and making a few mistakes!!!!

What advice do you have for other first-time surf film-makers?

This is my advice to other first time filmmakers.  First of all, do it!  Find some good mentors. Don’t give up no matter how hard it gets because the harder it is, the better the experience is at the end. Also, be open minded and listen to everything and everyone you can. You don’t have to agree with people and obviously you’ll make up your own mind at the end. Remember it’s the people who will tell you the truth and pick out the flaws in your project, that will be most beneficial to you in the long run. No matter how painful it is to hear their critiques, constructive criticism will always be your best friend!