Writer/director Macario De Souza found success of the big kind when he co-directed Bra Boys about Maroubra surf culture. That film was an Australian and international box office hit and remains the highest grossing non-Imax Australian documentary of all time.
Now De Souza is back with Fighting Fear, a documentary which follows fellow Bra Boys Richie Vaculik and Mark Mathews and the ups and downs of their professional and personal lives. Not bad for a twenty-eight year old who has also launched his own music career under the stage name Kid Mac. Sean Rom talked to De Souza about Fighting Fear, what drives him and why his work holds such appeal to both Australian and international audiences.
How would you describe your film?
It’s an action-doc. It’s a film about friendship…about redemption and second chances and reaching your goals.
Can you give me a definition of the action doc genre?
Richie’s story is almost like Rocky, you know? But Rocky has actors and a script and everything was planned out…and then you have your documentaries which are a bunch interviews which tell a picture with images. I feel like the action doc is a combination of the two, where you partly script it but being an action doc, it’s real life, real stories, real people…you are on the fly and whatever happens you’ve got to try and see how a story can come of it.
The film is about the lives of Mark and Richie. How do you know them?
The three of us grew up together. We’re are all best friends. I live with Mark and I’ve been Richie’s bestfriend since we were in Year 7. We’ve known each other for eighteen, twenty years. The idea for the film stemmed from having grown up together, having lived through the teenage years of binge drinking together and having come out of that pretty well considering and looking back and realising how dangerous and stupid a lot of it was…a lot of our friends were not so lucky.
So just from knowing them and growing up with them, that’s what made you want to make a film about their lives?
I think the whole dangers of alcohol thing and the idea of becoming a man after the stupidity of teenage-hood…I really wanted to make a movie that pushed some of those powerful messages. Maybe have younger kids [from] where we grew up see it and learn from their mistakes or just other kids in general. And that’s why I thought those two would be the perfect subjects for that message to be pushed across.
You shot the film over three years and you capture Richie and Mark’s lives as they are happening. Did you have a clear idea of the story you wanted to tell? Or was that something that evolved over time?
It started off as a bit of skeleton and major things were set in stone. You know we had the set up of growing up…their goals and dreams and then they had their setbacks, which we had on film. And from that point to the end was forever evolving because we were shooting as we go and stories were coming and going…the title fight and then Richie’s love story, I really felt that needed to be in there because it painted Richie in a different light and really shows the true Richie.
In the film you touch on the Maroubra surf culture and that kind of “never back down” mentality in both its positives and negatives; how it is both a driving source of inspiration but can also be quite self-destructive. You were part of that culture growing up, weren’t you?
How did that affect you? And has that philosophy helped drive your career?
It’s been a double edged sword. We got this mongrel attitude instilled in us from a pretty young age. The whole “out-do” your friend. When I was young and naive I took it the wrong way and I got myself into a lot of trouble with fights on the streets and trying to drink more than my friend. On the flip side of that, when I was younger I played a lot of soccer and I had this mongrel attitude that I was better then everyone else. Not better in terms of skills but I felt like I deserved more. With my films and my music, it’s that same attitude I guess, I’m not the most talented at either but I think that mongrel attitude has given me an edge. And then I have the softer side to myself. I think I have been raised by good parents and my family is really close…the combination of the two I think really makes up who I am. I think it’s helped me with my career.
Your films, Bra Boys and Fighting Fear, present really Australian stories. Do you think this is the reason for their appeal and Bra Boy’s commercial success?
I think it is the Aussie-centric side of it, and also the idea of the real and rawness of it. In one way or another you have interacted with someone who has surfed or from Maroubra or heard of a Bra Boy. It’s the same way with the Underbellys. I think the Golden Mile was so successful because everybody has been to King’s Cross. The idea that it is real and raw and in your own backyard… people gravitate to it a lot more. Fighting Fear…the whole idea of friendship and themes of redemption and second chances, everybody has made mistakes in their lives. I think that is going to travel a lot more and will hopefully have the same resonance that Bra Boys did.
The surfing footage is spectacular. What were the biggest challenges in getting that footage?
The biggest challenges were the budget restraints where everything was determined by mother nature and Mark would be the one who would look at the charts and tell me how good the swell was going to be. To the point where we would say, is it a 10 grand shoot, a 2 grand shoot? Should we send one camera, two cameras? Should we get the Phantom camera that shoots the high speed slomo stuff? And a lot of the time you would get there and you wouldn’t get anything and you spent all that money. The next thing was that no one had shot surfing with this camera [Phantom camera] in the water like that. So it was trying to capture action and being in the right position in the boat. We were really lucky to get some of the stuff we got.
Fighting Fear is released in Australia on November 10th