Australian surfer Vittoria Farmer stars in ‘Other Land’, a short film by Alice Ward
Vittoria Farmer hails from a stretch of Australia’s eastern seaboard known as the Sunshine Coast. The name’s a bit of a giveaway as to its climate. They do have neoprene over there but mainly in the form of the stubby holder, a piece of equipment designed to stop beer from getting warm. Fleeces and jackets are alien concepts, never mind 6 mil wetsuits.
Last year Vittoria decided to spend a winter in Ireland, trading in warm water, swimwear, sand-bottom points and schooners for hooded fullsuits, outerwear, slabs, and proper pint glasses (filled with a deliciously smooth local stout). What possessed her? Perhaps the same thing, albeit in secular guise, that possessed St Brendan the Navigator when he sailed away from Ireland in the 6th century in search of the Garden of Eden. The impulse to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Thus she left a country where the main beverage-related headache is keeping your beer cold (hence the 425 ml schooner) for one where you’re faced with the inverse problem: how to keep your coffee hot. Vittoria’s companion on this journey of discovery was friend and local filmmaker Alice Ward. “Other Land”, presented by Nixon and Columbia, is their first project together. We were stoked to be involved.
Congrats on the film. How did the idea for it first come about, and how long was it in the making?
Tori: Thank you! Alice and I met through a mutual friend for a coffee one day. I wanted to make a short surf edit and Alice had just finished up her last major project. We bounced ideas back and forth over coffee and within the hour we were shooting in the water. We didn’t really have a plan or funding but we were both super dedicated from the get go to create a unique Irish surf edit. We spent three months filming from January to March and then three months in post production.
It’s rare to see a surf film made by a female-led cast and crew – not just surfer and filmmaker but in this case also the singers and musicians behind the soundtrack. Was that something you were conscious of from the start?
Alice: It wasn’t necessarily our intention at first, but it did fall that way. There are some amazingly talented musicians and creatives in the community we were living in – both male & female. We wanted to create a bespoke soundtrack for the film because we felt it would help capture the energy and soul of the west coast of Ireland. All the musicians we worked with have their own unique relationship with the coastline and they added another dimension to the project that myself and Vittoria could not have achieved alone.
It feels like there’s a bit of an affinity between Australian surfers and Ireland, going back to Andrew Kidman and Joey Fitzgerald in the ‘90s when they were filming for Litmus… Why do you reckon that is?
Tori: I think it’s a variety of things put together. The quality of waves is obviously an attraction, but I think we’re drawn more so by the friendly people & culture. Plus it’s an absolutely stunning corner of the earth.
You get a real sense from the film of the beauty and power (and danger!) of Ireland’s west coast. What equipment were you using?
Alice: In the water I used a Sony A7 iii and Salty Surf housing, usually paired with a 28-70mm lens. On land I shot with a Sony A7S iii with a 200-600mm lens.
Speaking of power and danger, filming from the water there must be tough, especially when you factor in the cold…
Alice: I love filming in the water when it’s cold, it feels very invigorating. Once you have a good 6mm wetsuit and a hot flask of tea waiting for you when you get back in, the cold is always bearable. I’m pretty calculated on what type of conditions I swim out in and always have a few friends in the line up keeping an eye on me while I’m out so I usually feel pretty safe.
How about your equipment, Tori? Talk us through your Ireland quiver from the film, it’s an interesting mix.
Tori: There is such a variety of waves on the West coast so a diverse quiver of boards will get you in the water more. I had a bunch of Sharp Eyes from Aus, a mid length, twinny, a stretched out Channel Islands Black Beauty and some short boards from UK shaper Luke Hart.
Were you used to surfing slabs before you came to Ireland? How did you find it?
Tori: I grew up surfing on exposed beachies and sand bottom point breaks. So no, I wasn’t!
I can hardly say I gave surfing the slabs a good nudge in comparison to what a lot of the crew are doing over in Ireland! There are some extremely good surfers who proper send it. It’s very humbling getting smoked and wiping out. Everything feels x10 harder in the cold.
Tori mentions always scolding the mug before pouring coffee, which is very important hot-drink protocol. Any other tips for dealing with the cold?
Alice: I think a good one is when your feet are freezing after a surf, don’t put your socks and shoes on immediately. Get the car heaters blasting and get your feet warm first, otherwise the cold will just get trapped in your shoes and your feet will take ages to warm up!
What’s next for you both – will you be in Ireland this winter?
Tori: I’m going to pop back to Aus for Chrissy and then in the New Year head back to Ireland. I’ll catch the back half of winter and spring there.
Alice: I’m in Ireland for the winter focusing on improving my shooting skills and getting more confident at swimming out at heavier spots along the coast. Myself and Vittoria plan to continue working together in 2023 and want to challenge ourselves to shoot at colder, tougher locations outside Ireland next year.
Any final shout-outs or thank yous?
A massive shout-out and thank you to “C$” — Ciaran Haresnape who introduced us and had the idea that we would be a good duo to work together. Thank you to Luke Hart for the support and Paul Daniels for all the camera tips along the way!