Nord by Nordwest: Interview with Nathan Oldfield

To dig a bit deeper into the Nord by Nordwest Film Fest, since we won’t be able to make it out from Cali this year, we talked with part-time filmmaker Nathan Oldfield about his film, The Heart and the Sea, showing at the fest. Nathan says his films are quiet, beautiful and brimming with sacred purpose. As a school teacher and family man, filmmaking sometimes takes a back seat, but when he gets the chance to make a movie, he wants it to say something important, reminding audiences about the value of the sea and the life within. In this brief Q&A, he talks a bit about the film and the process of making it, which is a wonderful mix of terribly grueling and fantastically rewarding… like anything worth doing. 

The film is showing at 8:15 p.m. on Friday, April 5. If you’re in or around Hamburg, Germany, don’t miss it.

Can you give us a brief overview of what to expect from The Heart and the Sea?

It’s a simple film really, about simple themes. It’s a surf movie, but it’s also a film about surfing lives. It’s called The Heart and The Sea, because it’s a film about the important things in life: intimacy with friends and family, and intimacy with the sea. At the end of the day it is about how much I appreciate the gift of being alive, and how the sea always teaches me that gratitude anew.

How many festivals has the film been in already? How many do you hope for in total?

Already the film’s played in Australia, Hawaii, Spain, France, the UK, Germany, Bali, and the States. Some of those screenings have been for festivals, some have been premieres.

What is the festival circuit like?

I’m not sure, to be honest, because I haven’t been to any screenings. I don’t make surf films for a living. I’m a full-time school teacher, and I’m also a dad with a young family, so I haven’t got the time or the budget to accompany the film as it travels around the world.

What is the best part of making a movie like this? What is the hardest part?

Definitely the most significant and enduring part of making surf films for me has been the friendships I’ve made over the last 10 years. Also, working on films has allowed my family and I to do a bit of traveling together, both in Australia and overseas, and we cherish those experiences.

The most difficult part of making surf films is just persevering. As a filmmaker, I’m kind of a one-man band. I do everything: shooting, editing, music acquisition, production, promotion. Making a film on your own is a real marathon, and sometimes when I reflect back on it, I’m not sure how I ever managed to make three films independently over the last 10 years. 

If you could pick any location to film in, what would it be and why?

I’m in love with a lot of different places, so it’s hard to pick just one. For this film, it was really special for me to return to the Basque Country of Spain, where my grandfather is from, to film with surfers over there. I travelled there with my family, and we were really embraced by the local community there. Personally, it was a beautiful journey for my family. As a filmmaker, it was pretty special, too: just to able to film contemporary surfing against an old world European backdrop. It was deliciously photogenic.

Where do you turn for inspiration when the process gets grueling?

This is a great question. I think you just need to dig deep, really get back to the message that you’re trying to communicate as a filmmaker, really believe in the work that you are creating as an artist. As I was saying before, it really takes a lot of creative perseverance. Making a surf film might seem glamorous, but it’s really about a lot of hard work: thousands of emails, lots of shooting, lots of thinking and visualizing and reflecting, endless hours of editing and re-editing. It definitely is grueling. For inspiration, I just kept going back to the source of what I was attempting to communicate: the beautiful, generous gift of a surfing life.

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