Film students explore sexism in surfing with upcoming documentary

by Brenden Tuccinardi, Staff Writer

Surfing is having a #MeToo moment. Senior production majors Jenna Castillo and Somer Myers are capturing it in real time in a new documentary “Grace On the Line,” which documents women’s experiences facing sexism in both the professional and recreational surf worlds.

Myers, an avid surfer herself, is the director and editor of the film, and Castillo is the director of photography. Both have extensive experience in documentary and narrative filmmaking and are excited to tell the stories of female surfers.

The documentary has taken the two filmmakers on an exciting journey across the country and, soon, the world. Filming began in San Diego with the intent to document the experiences of recreational surfers. However, as the project progressed, an intriguing story began to emerge, and the scope of the documentary expanded. Myers and Castillo decided to shine a light on the prevalence of sexism in the professional surfing industry as well.

“You really don’t know the message of a documentary until it is finished,” Castillo said. “It’s a journey, and you are a little bit blindfolded throughout it.”

Recently, Myers and Castillo, along with their crew, began filming in Hawaii, where surfing is ingrained in the culture. With plans to bring the documentary to Iceland later this year, Castillo and Myers are committed to presenting multiple perspectives on the same issue. The crew also hopes to travel to Costa Rica, Australia and Thailand, according to the documentary’s website.

Like most documentarians, Myers and Castillo are using film to tell the stories that, while often ignored, need to be heard.

“We all want to make an impact and do something important,” Castillo said. “As a cinematographer, I get to make beautiful images that have a purpose behind them.”

The process of making a documentary is intense and requires determination. Before filming can even begin, the filmmaker must understand the subject in order to represent them and their story accurately.

After extensive research, there is the task of finding people that are willing to share their stories. Myers and Castillo did this by contacting surfers on social media and reaching out to people they already knew.

Setting up and conducting interviews comes with its own set of challenges, especially for student filmmakers like Myers and Castillo.

“When people hear ‘student filmmaker,’ all credibility goes out the door,” Castillo said. “You have to prove that you are going to represent the person’s story accurately and that you are committed.”

Castillo and Myers are part of a growing minority of women in filmmaking.

According to a study by Dr. Martha Lauzen, the director of San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, only 4 percent of the cinematographers and 11 percent of the directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2017 were women.

While facing sexism in their industry, Castillo, and Myers make the magic happen in the production and postproduction phases of filmmaking.

As the director of photography, Castillo determines how the documentary is going to be filmed, of course with close collaboration with the director.

Castillo decided on using a two-camera setup to film “Grace On the Line.” This choice allows her to focus on the subject telling their story with one camera, while the second camera can capture the environment along with the subject’s body language and emotion.

On top of directing the film, Myers is the editor and has the job of going through hours of film to string together the narrative of the documentary. Editing a documentary requires both creativity and practical awareness because editors have to cut the footage in a way that accurately represents a subject’s story, while being efficient and maintaining aesthetics.

“When you look at sexism in society there is a doubt, specifically among men, that it still exists,” Castillo said. “The message we want people to take away from this film is that, although there have been recent shifts in the way society treats women, sexism is still real.”

Gabriella Duran, a sophomore kinesiology major who takes ENS surfing classes at Mission Bay Aquatic Center is excited to hear the stories of other female surfers.

“I think surfing has always been considered a male-dominated sport and men view women in the lineup as taking up space and making it cluttered,” Duran said. “A film about these stories of sexism would would make people aware of the issue and take women in the lineup more seriously.”

“Grace On the Line” is expected to premiere May 2019.