At Surf Sistas, we’re always on the look out to share stories of talented women from the surf scene. Recently, we caught up with Bella Bunce, an emerging filmmaker who recently got back from a trip to Mexico.
Bella won the Emerging Filmmaker Award at the London Surf Film Festival in 2022, for her edit First Light Stillness (watch here), starring Surf Sistas Coach and Longboarder Beth Leighfield. Since then, she’s had the drive to continue making films documenting surf stories.
Her surf muse, Beth Leighfield, is a talented Longboarder, having recently represented the UK as the ISA World Longboard Championships in El Salvador (read more about Beth here).
Beth and Bella teamed up again at the beginning of this year, taking a road trip through a remote peninsula in Mexico, to bring us a new surf film: Unplugged. What a dream team!
With the far flung corners of Mexico known for being pretty remote (and also dangerous), we were intrigued to hear how they navigated the challenges of off-grid living, filmmaking and wave hunting. Bella tells us all about it below.
Unplugged: The name tells us a little. But what is the film about?
The film is about freedom I guess.
Finding freedom from modern society, from social media and from crowded surf line ups. It’s a 6 minute ode to exploring untouched nature with friends and simply just being there. Unplugged as no real deeper meaning, or narrative involved, it’s more a creative reflection on just living life without anyone else around but a few of your surf buds and no mobile phone service for weeks on end.
What inspired you to make this film?
Me and Beth in 2022 wanted to start filming more together, and once we won the LSFF award it inspired us to go bigger and farther. That’s when Beth invited me to join her and boyfriend Paul in Baja this year. They were going to be travelling around anyway and said we should join! (We being me and my boyfriend Tom). Then we thought it would make a sick surf edit, if we could film along the way. A surf edit that not only would get to show off Beths beautiful longboarding, but also show off a mixed gender group travelling together. So often you see surf edits online of a women’s group OR a mens group trip, but rarely mixed, which I feel it’s time to change that. I also thought It would be a wonderful opportunity to freely learn how to do video, with no distractions in a stunning empty place.
You went to a remote part of Mexico, how did the logistics work?
It required ALOT of planning.
To travel around the North of Baja, as someone who normally resides in the UK is hard! I was extremely fortunate that Beth and Paul had Gerry their GMC all ready for us, kitted out and prepared for the trip. Me and Tom just needed to get to them. For me I had to travel on 2 planes; Uk – Mexico City – La Paz, and then got a 13 hour bus up the Baja Peninsula to meet B and P. While they had to drive from mainland Mexico, where the truck was kept at Pauls parents, and drive up, around, across the boarder and then drive for days down the Peninsula to meet us. And that was just the travel, we had to spend lots on insurance, good camping gear, camera gear etc etc. It was all so worth it, but it’s no easy quick trip!
Searching for waves, off road, off grid, in hidden corners.
What was it like camping out in Mexico?
Amazing, I can’t recommend It enough. You definitely need a car, but it’s the best way to travel in such a wild and wonderful place.
What were the challenges of making the film in this environment?
Not having internet to google settings, so I had a little yellow notebook that I filled with all the different things I needed to know about my camera. But also sometimes it’s hard to remember to get your camera out when you’re having a nice moment travelling, you have an internal battle with wanting to capture it all and then wanting to just live it too!
Any advice you’d give to aspiring female filmmakers starting out?
Well this one is a tough one for me to answer, as I’m at the very beginning of being a ‘videographer’ if you can call me that yet. But my advice would be to start by filming what you love, and then it will be exciting and you’ll want to keep going. For me I love capturing nature and the sea in all its glory and it makes me want to pick up the camera to do so each time.
Join us at the Unplugged Screening
Credits for Unplugged Surf Video
Videographer and editor @bellarosebunce
Featuring @beth_leighfield // @tombaldwinn // @paulbertrand // @bellarosebunce
Music and sound editor @teddy_white._
Special thanks to @thefilmsafe