“I Don’t Say Anything, But I Shut Everybody Up With My Surfing”
Meet the director behind Italo’s new biopic, and get a deeper look inside the mind of surfing’s first Olympic Gold medalist.
Luiza de Moraes is a 34-year-old Brazilian-born filmmaker who splits her time between Sao Paulo and Los Angeles. She’s bilingual, has a very cool Instagram account, and importantly, is the person primarily responsible for Italo Ferreira’s new profile film, The Curious Tales of Italo Ferreira, which will premiere tomorrow on this very website.
We recently got to see a pre-screening of the film, and it’s incredible for a myriad of reasons — high production value, great storytelling, a compelling lead character — all of which made me want to know more about this Curious film’s creator. So I gave Luiza a call and bombarded her with questions, ranging from her personal background to professional achievements to what it was like infiltrating Italo’s notoriously tight circle.
But before we jump into that, let’s get Luiza’s backstory so we’re all relatively acquainted.
Who is Luiza de Moraes?
Luiza was born in Brazil but moved to the US with her family at the age of seven. Luiza’s father taught her to surf, which she fell in love with, then proceeded to join both her high school and university’s surf teams. While attending SDSU, Luiza studied literature, not film, then graduated and decided to become a photographer.
Her parents were…confused by this move.
Why did you spend four years becoming a lit major? Etc.
Luiza would not be deterred. She’d found her passion and had every intention of sticking with it.
That is until…
Luiza’s foray into photography coincided with the release of Canon’s 7D DSLR camera, which made the transition between photo and video extremely simple. When she wasn’t taking pictures, Luiza would sporadically capture videos, which she taught herself how to edit into short films. This process quickly enchanted Luiza, as it merged the two things she loved most — storytelling (aka literature) and visuals (aka photography). Two worlds collided.
After getting a pilot episode picked up by Canal Off (Brazil’s home of action sports content), Luiza and her then-boyfriend trekked from Alaska to Patagonia, filming and editing along the way. She made this into a 15-episode series, which sparked her career as a film director/producer/editor. Since then, Luiza has worked on various projects for brands and media houses, often (but not exclusively) with a surfing bend.
This brings us to her involvement in The Curious Tales of Italo Ferreira.
Stab: Luiza, congrats on the film! How’d you end up holding the reins?
Luiza de Moraes: Well, I got a call from Evan Slater (Billabong’s VP of Global Marketing), and he said he wanted to do a documentary on Italo. He gave me his take on the story and what he wanted, and then I did a creative pitch for him. I’m pretty sure there were other people going for the position as well, but I ended up getting awarded the job somewhat miraculously [laughs].
How long did you work on the film?
I pitched it to him last year, around November — I think that’s when he awarded me the job. Then we spent December and January in pre-production, filmed in February, and we’ve been in post ever since. We had most of it done a couple of months ago, but we had to wait for the Olympics to see what was going to happen. Luckily that went well for Italo, so we got to include it in the film.
So the only part that of Curious Tales that you guys personally filmed was the part in Italo’s hometown, Baia Formosa?
Mostly, but we also did remote interviews with Shane (Dorian) and Mick (Fanning). But with COVID and Italo’s schedule — which is the most insane thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life — it was difficult to get time with him. They would show me his calendar and be like, ‘Yeah, we have five days here…’ I’m like, ‘No, I can’t film a documentary in five days.’ So we had to squeeze everything into those two weeks in Baia Formosa.
The film depicts Italo’s homeland like a fairyland of sorts. Is it truly that rustic and adorable?
One hundred percent. We were making this joke that we could have come back to San Paulo and five years could have passed and we wouldn’t have had any clue. It’s just such a unique place. Like you seriously go out in the streets at 5:00 am, and there are grown men walking their birds in cages. One of the guys that’s in the film, I was like, ‘Why do you do this?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, well, they sing happier. It’s just a way for them to be happier.’ And it’s just so funny because he was like, ‘I actually have to go because I had to walk three birds this morning, and I can’t walk them together because they fight within their cages. So I’m late for work.’ And you’re just going, what is this place?
Speaking of Baia Formosa’s characters, the film is actually narrated by Italo’s best childhood friend (and current surf filmer). How did that come to be?
You can plan however much you want before you start shooting a documentary, but there’s no way to know what’s actually gonna happen. I knew I wanted someone narrating it, because Italo was just so humble and he doesn’t like talking about himself. And then at the end of the trip, we were all just talking about how his best friend Buxexa had the most amazing voice.
We were just like, ‘Let’s do a test-run with him.’ So I talked to the writers and within like five minutes, they sent me a little paragraph, which actually became the trailer for this film. And he recorded it on the iPhone right in front of us, and we’re like, all right, that’s it. That’s the narrator for the film.
It sounded like there were some people from Italo’s hometown that didn’t like him being successful. Is that still prevalent today, or is he adored by all in Baia Formosa?
He’s generally adored, but there are obviously still people that have their bitter ideas about it at all. I think one of my favorite lines that Italo says in the film is, ‘I don’t say anything, but I shut everybody up with my surfing.’ So I think that all of the accomplishments he’s brought back there mean a lot to him. Those things have impacted him. There’s stuff we had to leave out of the story because you only have so much time…
What were some of those things?
Well, their family had a boat that they would use for tourism, and every time Italo would win a competition, he would take whatever he won as a prize, whether it was a motorcycle or whatever, and he would sell it and put it back into the family business. So that’s how he got this boat. And they told us a story that in the middle of the night, someone woke them up to tell them that their boat was crashing on the shore. And when they went to see, someone had cut the mooring line. He also had gotten a new car for his family and it got taken. Things like that.
Oh yeah, that’ll shape a man. Speaking of which, what’s something you learned about Italo while making this film that the outside world wouldn’t know?
You see people on camera, and you see their social media, and it’s like a certain image. And I do think Italo is that person that everybody sees, which is a really positive, high-energy person. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and below the water, it’s layers and layers and layers of things. But he doesn’t show those layers to everybody. He’s very guarded. And that’s why I think this film came out the way it did — because the only people he lets in are his closest friends and family, and they’re the ones that really drive this story. So it’s just like, you see him, he’s really extroverted, but he’s also really introverted, which I think is super interesting.
And that is where we leave Luiza today, on the eve of Curious Tales’ international release, still unable to revel in the moment because she’s onto her next big venture — a true crime series for an unnamed streaming service. That’s the problem with being a talented filmmaker — much like being an Olympic gold medalist surfer — everyone wants a piece of you!
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