Nathan Old­field has re­leased his lat­est film, The Church of the Open Sky. Lau­ren Hill, who also ap­pears in the film, gets the low­down on the film­maker and his film.

Surf Girl - - – Snap Shot – - In­ter­view by Lau­ren Hill

Nathan Old­field is a hum­ble artist. He pieces to­gether beau­ti­ful pro­jects in the space be­tween liv­ing a full life as a surfer, fa­ther, hus­band, friend and nearly 20 years as a school­teacher. His ‘edit­ing suite’ is a desk nes­tled be­tween the kids’ rooms and the fam­ily bath­room. He slaps on noise can­celling headphones and tin­kers away at edit­ing his movies, while kids stream past and chores wait to be fin­ished. His work­flow is a re­fresh­ing re­minder that mak­ing a cre­ative con­tract with in­spi­ra­tion need not be your job, but a nat­u­ral part of craft­ing a mean­ing­ful life.

Nathan re­cently com­pleted his sixth film, The Church of the Open Sky. Like his pre­vi­ous films, in­clud­ing Sea­wor­thy, Gath­er­ing and The Heart and the Sea, Nathan’s new­est cin­e­matic ven­ture is fur­ther ev­i­dence of his po­etic abil­ity to re­flect the beauty of a surf­ing life – not only the vis­ual beauty of our aquatic lives, but the rich bless­ing of how a surf­ing life feels.

Why movie mak­ing?

I’ve been pas­sion­ate about surf­ing and surf films since I was a kid. Watch­ing The End­less Sum­mer as a six or seven year-old, while on Christ­mas hol­i­days at my cousin’s house in Avalon, had a big im­pact on me. I was just a grom­met body­surf­ing and mess­ing around on boo­gie boards in the shore­break at the time. But deep down in my heart I knew that I was go­ing to be a life­long surfer like my Dad and his broth­ers. Some­how I also felt that I had a surf film in me. That dream lay dor­mant for a long time, un­til my mid twen­ties re­ally, mostly be­cause I was more fo­cussed on surf­ing than I was on doc­u­ment­ing it. But a life­time of pho­tog­ra­phy paved the way for a de­sire to cre­ate mov­ing pic­tures.

Was there a niche of surf movies that you felt weren’t be­ing made when you took to the cam­era?

At the time the surf film genre was al­most ex­clu­sively sat­u­rated with the model that Tay­lor Steele pi­o­neered: stan­dard short­board trick cat­a­logues set to nineties’ punk. There were, of course, some no­table ex­cep­tions, such as An­drew Kid­man’s Lit­mus, Thomas Camp­bell’s

The Seedling and Chris Mal­loy’s Thicker Than Wa­ter. But those kinds of movies were few and far be­tween. It was es­pe­cially the au­then­tic sto­ry­telling in those movies that in­spired me. They were the genre that I grav­i­tated to, and the sort of films I wanted to make. Also, at a time when most of the surf­ing world had long been drink­ing the Kool-Aid of rock­ered-out, wafer-thin, nar­row thrusters, I’d spent most of the nineties rid­ing old sin­gle-fins, vari­a­tions of fish surf­boards and logs that I’d made in my back­yard.

It must be daunt­ing to make longer movies in the age of ADD web clips. Are they still rel­e­vant?

All my life I’ve had the de­sire to make things: surf­boards, songs, po­ems, films, tracks on a wave. Surf films nur­ture that deep down in­nate long­ing I have to cre­ate things. Also, I value how sig­nif­i­cant surf films are to surf­ing cul­ture. I have per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced how surf­ing films can change a life. That was how deeply films like The End­less Sum­mer or Morn­ing of the Earth af­fected me. So, I think you could say that I see my films as a way of giv­ing back to surf­ing.

Can you talk about where the ti­tle came from? The ti­tle is a para­phrase of an ex­pres­sion Tom Blake used. For those who don’t know, Blake was prob­a­bly the most in­flu­en­tial surfer of the first half of last cen­tury af­ter Duke Ka­hanamoku. For Blake, surf­ing was a deeply per­sonal, mean­ing­ful and spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ence. He was a self-pro­fessed

pan­the­ist, and coined the equa­tion ‘Na­ture = God.’ I think that idea res­onates with a lot of surfers. He likened surf­ing to wor­ship un­der what he called ‘the blessed church of the open sky.’ I al­ways loved that line and one day it oc­curred to me that it would be a per­fect ti­tle for the film that I was al­ready shoot­ing.

The idea that surf­ing is a meta­phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, and not just a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity or sport, is some­thing that I have felt through­out my surf­ing life. It’s a theme that’s al­ready emerged in other films I’ve made. The other thing that I like about the ti­tle of the film is that it is in­clu­sive for ev­ery­one. We are all un­der the church of the open sky. No one is ex­cluded or left out in the cold. Ev­ery­one’s wel­come. It’s a shared, com­mu­nal thing. A univer­sal fel­low­ship. Plus, I just like how the phrase sounds – it’s ro­man­tic, dreamy, mys­te­ri­ous and gen­tle.

What was the most il­lu­mi­nat­ing mo­ment when mak­ing The Church of the Open Sky?

There were so many mo­ments of pure joy it’s hard to pick just one. I don’t want to give too much away, but while shoot­ing the open­ing se­quence in re­mote Pa­pua New Guinea, I was able to wit­ness some kids surf­ing in front of their vil­lage, along a lit­tle patch of reef in the mid­dle of nowhere.

It was the most el­e­men­tal, pure surf­ing that I have ever per­son­ally seen – just flaw­less, nat­u­ral, un­con­trived play. It was a re­minder to me that surf­ing is so univer­sal and sim­ple and some­how so beau­ti­fully hu­man. I had goose bumps and tears in my eyes while shoot­ing. The other ex­pe­ri­ences that I’m grate­ful for are all the travel mo­ments I was able to share with my fam­ily and close friends while mak­ing the film.

Can you de­scribe the jour­ney that Church takes the viewer on?

The film is shot in Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Pa­pua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. So it has a bit more on ex­otic, is­land vibe than other films I’ve made in the past. It takes the viewer on a jour­ney through th­ese places. I think a lot of us who have ex­pe­ri­enced the gift of travel would agree that as we are trav­el­ling through places we are also jour­ney­ing within our­selves. It can be a very trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. And be­cause, as I said ear­lier, ev­ery­thing is sa­cred, then travel can also be seen as a kind of pilgrimage. Some­how, surf trips can be­come big­ger and richer and more gen­er­ous than we might first imag­ine. To find out more and to or­der a DVD go to www.nathanold­

Ex­otic head­dresses, Pa­pua New Guinea. New Zealand, dream­time.

Lola Mig­not, on the nose.

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