First love is an unscripted feature-length film that delves into Australia’s surf culture. The film follows the lives of three passionate young girls from Phillip Island who have one dream in common: to get off the island and become pro surfers.
Directed and produced by three equally passionate Melbourne girls, the film gives a unique insight into the passion and pain behind this male-dominated sport. “We were all clear that we didn’t want to make the typical surf film of wave, surfer, wave, surfer,” says director Claire Gorman. “We wanted a story; everyone needs stories and everyone has a story to tell.”
The film revolves around 17-year-old Jess Laing and her two friends Nikki van Dijk and India Payne, who have all grown up living and surfing the breaks of Phillip Island. It sets out to follow their journey to Hawaii, the first step to making it as a pro surfer.
The hero of the story is Jess, who’s battled chronic fatigue for the last five and half years; every morning is a battle to get out of bed and into the water. Her struggle becomes even harder when she dislocates and tears the ligaments in her shoulder. The film captures the very real pain and resilience of this young girl as she overcomes her setback and gets back on her board.
The project began in 2009 when Claire began filming Nikki surfing for a documentary called Liquid Picture. Claire Plueckhahn came on board originally to take still photographs to expand her portfolio and saw huge potential in the project. Realising they had something truly special, the team took onboard Fran Derham to write and market the project. “I’m not sure when it all really happened but all of a sudden I found myself producing and art directing. Next thing I knew we were all on a plane to Hawaii,” says Plueckhahn.
The result is a truly inspiring film, put together by six local girls. The cinematography is exceptional. There’s a raw, honest element that is only evident in unscripted productions. “Being an all-girl team definitely helped us capture moments that other filmmakers wouldn’t normally have the privilege to be a part of,” says Fran. “We were up at the crack of dawn every morning chasing gypsy Rip Curl girls. We got some amazing girl moments.”