Documenting a combination of famous free surfers and every-man shredders in the forgotten nooks and crannies of New South Wales Australia, Mick Waters has made a name for himself as one of the most soulful filmmakers Down Under. His last film “Little Black Wheels” documents a trip he took with his pregnant wife and little daughter across the Outback in search of waves and unique characters. In our last Korduroy.tv film festival we featured an awesome piece Mick made about an underground charger in Western Australia named Kristian. Read this interview to learn more about the trip and his experience making the film “Little Black Wheels.”
Going on a road trip for an extended period of time sounds like something that many surfers wish they could take. What does it require to make it actually happen? What challenges did you face along the way?
The actual road trip is easy. That part is the fun bit, where all your dreams, hopes and planning comes together. The hardest part is actually starting the trip. There will be many people who will tell you not to go or try to convince you otherwise. Heck, even your own mind will try to convince you no too. Before we left we had to find suitable tenants for our House and Studio, leave our Families and jobs and put all our belongings into a Camper. It was my pregnant wife, two year old daughter, dog and myself. But, if your heart says go, and you have done all your homework, then you’ve got to do it. You won’t regret it for a second.
Sure there are things that go wrong and you have a hard time. On our trip we had torrential rain, got flooded in, tents fell down, got flat tires, my wife had Braxton Hicks contractions one night when we were an hour and a half from the closest hospital, the list goes on. One story was, we had Car troubles traveling across the Nullarbor. I thought it was the CV joints, but the first mechanic told me “there was nothing wrong with the car, mate. It’s only road noise you can hear and feel”. So after being towed nine hundred kilometers, spending a few days in the middle of nowhere and being told their is nothing wrong with the car, we had to set off again. Within 50 kilometers the car is wobbling and shaking again. So, instead of going back to that mechanic I called another roadside mechanic. The tow truck driver wasn’t a mechanic but he could tow us to his town. His boss who was a Mechanic, couldn’t look at the car for a week. So, we declined the four hundred kilometer tow and set off again ourselves for the eight hundred kilometer journey to Perth. I had a plan that if I stuck to 70 kilometres an hour, drove only during daylight hours and when I saw an oncoming come car I would pull over. This worked well along the Nullarbor because it is a road that runs straight, I can only remember two bends along it. So, on a Sunday afternoon, a day and a half later we hobbled into Perth. On the Monday morning, I rang a specialist Volkswagen mechanic who said to bring the car straight in. Tuesday lunchtime we had our van back, new CV joints and continued our journey.
So, it is not all smooth sailing, but it all works out in the end. Just follow your dreams. If there is something you want to do, if you believe in it, have a pure heart and are doing it for the right reasons then it will all work out.
Tell us about Kristian, how did you meet him and what did you learn from the time you spent together?
I met Kristian at a particular spot we were camping at for 6 weeks. He was one of the first guys up every morning checking the surf. He would arrive in his 4WD with his dog and scope the lineup. He would then get out bare footed, go for a walk eating his grape fruit then would appear back at his car and be in his wetsuit, out the back and in the barrel before others had even turned their engines off. The thing with a guy like Kristian is, they do it regardless of where they are or whether someone is watching or not. Even before I met him or he even knew I was filming our trip, he was out there at low tide, having a go with the minimum of fuss. If there were no waves he was diving and catching fish and seafood for dinner or hanging with his dog.
Kristian Spencer is one of those guys every surfer has seen or someone knows of. They operate a little different to the rest of society and as a result, find people are envious of their lifestyle. We could all be living this way if we were committed enough, but not everyone is. He loves barrels, fixing dings, fin and surfboard design, growing his massive beard, flextails, Esperance, his veggie patch, his dog Fluff and his girlfriend Anna. Pretty simple, and that is the way he likes and lives his life.
I guess what I learned from Kristian and a lot of people who I seem to spend time with or gravitate to, is that keeping your life simple is a good thing. More is not necessarily better and the buzz of following your heart, traveling and living with nature is a life choice that is immensely rewarding.
You shot, edited and funded Little Black Wheels. How did you stay sane?
Well, sometimes you don’t. That is where beer and surfing come in. No, seriously, you definitely have your moments when making a film. Whether it be on the road, whilst shooting, editing or finding the dollars to complete it. There are so many variables that are needed to make a surf film that is liked. I don’t have all the answers or the formula to achieve this, otherwise I would have made ‘Morning of the Earth’ and would be sitting back enjoying the fruits of my labor. The only thing I can suggest is to be true to what you are trying to make and be patient and open. You need balance in your life and if you have that then it will shine through in what you create.
You make films that aren’t funded by any major corporations and surf filmmaking is a VERY time consuming and arduous process with very little return. Why do you make films in the current climate?
I am not sure really… I guess it is just what is inside of you. Why do people climb Mount Everest? Not that I am comparing making a self-funded surf film with climbing Mount Everest. There were and still are a lot of obstacles, but I love a challenge and I love surfing and this is my way of being involved with what gets portrayed. I can’t write and am not good enough to get paid to surf, so the next logical step was to shoot surfing. I am not sure if too many people really care about what I do, but there are a small number of viewers and surfers out there who give positive feedback and leave comments on my website and that keeps me inspired and moving forward.
I must also mention that I do have a very supportive wife and family who put up with my career choice and that definitely makes things a lot easier.
Being on an extended road trip with a family is challenging. What does it take to be on the road with a family while making a film?
“Little Black Wheels” was an afterthought. My Family and I traveled across Australia for 5 months in 2007. There were never any intentions to make a film as such. We went on a road trip, so of course I took my camera gear and what you see in the movie is the result of our journey and the people we met. So, essentially we were on a road trip and if I met someone interesting and they were up for it and we had the time, we would do some filming. It wasn’t until months into our trip that I imagined there might be a film amongst it all. I was also thinking I might be able to sell some of the shots I filmed to Surfer’s sponsors.
The final seeds were sewn when I finally had the chance to view all the footage properly when we got home. There wasn’t much room for editing and the like when you are traveling in a camper van with your family. Come to think of it there wasn’t much room for anything.
We were moving to a loosely planned schedule but each day was essentially different. It was great, we could decide to do nothing, take a walk, surf, read, eat, sleep, whatever. Life sometimes becomes too hectic and we had felt that feeling and hadn’t had the chance to address our Family’s grief. This trip was our way of doing that. It definitely had the desired result, and we still think of that trip everyday.
We came back fresh, feeling alive and with experiences you only get from being on the road. When we started the trip my wife was two months pregnant and within a month of us returning we had a new daughter Skye. The trip took our minds of things that were consuming us and made us reconnect as a family and find our way again. Plus, as a surfer I got to surf some of the best waves I have ever seen and all in our own country. What a blast!
Being from Australia, was there anything that surprised you or that you learned about your home country while driving from on side to the other?
Well, I found out how big Australia is. We live in a really beautiful country with nice scenery, good waves and full of great people. Aside from a couple of raspberries we encountered, most people were helpful, friendly and made the whole experience unforgettable. It is funny, you come back from a trip like that and you talk about places, or maybe something you saw and you get all happy. But, the really special stories or places are when you met or experienced it with other great people. We definitely made friends for life from our trip and that is a bigger bonus then all the photos in our albums.
To Purchase “Little Black Wheels” and his past film “Believe,” go to Mick’s website: www.littlehouseproductions.com.au
To keep in touch with Mick and to see what he’s up to check out: http://littlehouseofproductions.blogspot.com/