Nathan Oldfield: The Heart & The Sea Interview

by Glenn Sakamoto on October 10, 2012 · 10 comments

Nathan Oldfield is the director of the upcoming film, Heart & The Sea. Like his previous films, Lines from A Poem and Seaworthy, Oldfield explores his joyful connection to the ocean and the friends he has encountered along the way. We spoke with Nathan to learn more. 

What was your concept was for The Heart & The Sea?
The driving idea or feeling that underpins The Heart & The Sea is pretty simple, really. The film explores the joy that lies at the very centre of a surfing life: family, friends and a shared connection and relationship with the sea.

What are you hoping to communicate?
After I made Seaworthy I actually felt that I had said all I wanted to say about surfing. But then some things stirred in my soul and I felt there was something else to share. This film is called The Heart & The Sea because it’s about what is important in life to me, intimacy with family and friends and intimacy with the sea. A surfing life is a beautifully significant, meaningful, lifelong journey for so many of us. I’m so grateful for the many deep, rich friendships that I have made through surfing and I think that many of us, if we reflect back on our surfing lives, might share similar sentiments. That gratitude and that joy are really the heartbeat of my new film.

How did you go about selecting the surfers for your film?
I deliberately wanted to choose a variety of subjects for The Heart & The Sea: surfers from different cultures; women as well as men; babies, children, young people, mums and dads, grandparents, elders. I think surfing deserves such a film, where the brushstrokes of the ways in which it is presented are perhaps a little broader than they have previously been. And I also made choices about the cast on a deeper level, too. One of the most significant gifts for me over the last decade as a surf filmmaker has been building precious friendships with surfers that I’ve met along the way. Most of the surfers in The Heart & The Sea are dear friends. It’s important to me to have surfers in my films who aren’t just good surfers, but people with beautiful souls. It’s my privilege and pleasure to be able to work with them.

It’s been three years since your last film (Seaworthy). How is this film different?
In some ways, this film grew out of the place where Seaworthy finished. Seaworthy was an emotional film to make in that the centerpiece of the movie was about losing our daughter, Willow. Some of that grief permeates the entirety of the film, at least for me, even though the second part of Seaworthy is really about new hope and a return to joy. The Heart & The Sea moves forward in that joy, that gratitude for life and living and friendships and family. I remember after we had the première of Seaworthy my good friend Tom Wegener and I were together having a deep talk about the film. He looked me right in the eye and he predicted, with his wonderfully infectious enthusiasm, “Nathan, your next film will be all about joy!” He was absolutely right.

Your films have a real emotional depth. Tell us where that comes from and how you are able to communicate that.
I’m not sure, really. I think I’m just a bit of a ponderer. I think and feel about things deeply. I always have. That quality emerges in my work, it’s almost like I can’t help it. Also, I think that for a lot of us, surfing is something we’re profoundly connected to. Surfing is massively meaningful on so many levels in our lives. So when I document surfing, it comes from that emotional and even spiritual place.

How did you go about selecting the music?
The music acquisition for this film was a real challenge: sourcing songs and getting permission to use them is incredibly time consuming. But, finally, the hard work has paid off. I am really proud of the soundtrack for The Heart & The Sea, the variety of music is rich and the quality of songcraft is absolutely amazing and I am so grateful for the artists who have generously shared their creative work.

What is your favorite scene or the one you are most proud of?
Oh, that’s a great question, and it’s too hard to answer. I’m too connected with the people in the film to have a favorite, to be honest. I love all of them, and I tried so hard to represent them all well. So I’ll have to let the audience decide on that one.

What did you learn from making this film? What were some of the challenges?
I’m a full-time school teacher. I don’t make surf films for a living. I’m also a husband and a dad. So the biggest challenge was balancing those things. There were a lot of late nights of editing involved! Also, when you undertake such a vast project on your own over a period of over three years, you learn a lot about things like perseverance, determination, creative desire, patience, commitment. I have learnt a lot about who I am as a person. Apart from those things, I feel like I keep improving in my abilities as a filmmaker, in terms of capturing and editing images and constructing stories.

We are really looking forward to seeing Heart & The Sea. What are your plans for the release of the film (dates and places)?
Thanks so much for your interest and encouragement. I am stoked and grateful. At the moment, I’m still working on artwork, subtitles, tying together loose ends. As a school teacher, it’s not easy for me to do a big tour and lots of film festival appearances, although the invitations have already been coming in. I am going to launch the film here in Australia this December, and it will be released on DVD and online that month. Beyond that, I’m not sure of our plans yet.

What’s next for Nathan Oldfield?
That question is easy to answer: way less time in front of a computer! After working really hard on this film, I’m looking forward to simpler things. I fantasize about playing my ukuleles, falling asleep early, reading books, doing some writing, surfing, spending time in the garden, making some photographs, practising more yoga, building some surfboards, and especially having a whole lot more family time. They are simple dreams, but I’m excited just thinking about them. Later, after a break, I’m looking forward to making some short films.

To view the trailer for The Heart & The Sea by Nathan Oldfield, click here.


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Driftonaut October 11, 2012 at 2:05 am

Thanks for the interview, Ive been a huge fan of Nathans (and this site) work for a while, and this interview is very enlightening… Ive been hooked on his work since i saw Bonsai Sunday, being a dad also, moved me to get my act together and start filming my kids, my equipment isnt as rad, but its its the effort that counts, right? Stoked hes’ been abe to ignite a passion in video for me… Hats off Mr Oldfield…


Xabi October 11, 2012 at 2:14 am

Great interview, remarkable human being! Can’t wait to see the whole thing anaia.


tom October 11, 2012 at 2:25 am

Admire your life and your work Nathan.. so looking forward to your beautiful new film


andrew October 11, 2012 at 2:32 am

What a lovely human…


Lauren Hill October 11, 2012 at 4:36 am

Nathan is one of the sweetest humans on Earth. We are so fortunate to have his kind, compassionate, and loving voice in our surfing culture. His films and imagery are always a gift.


Andrew R October 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Great interview with a wonderful person. A true artist and a good mate! Surfers should always support film makers like Nathan.


Mark Nielsen October 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm

This guy is amazing, truly talented, and just down to earth and approachable. Great interview with a great human being.


Daniel Stansfield-Smith January 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I’ve just finished watching this happy, joyful film. I have no doubt in my mind that this would have to be my favorite feel good movie I’ve seen. Watching people soaking up so many beautiful aspects of the ocean. My mind has been opened to more avenues that I can explore when I surf.
I would just love to know the names of the bands that were played in the movie because I cant find them anywhere.
I’m really looking forward to the next time I watch this film, it wont be the last. I’ll be sure to share its existence with many others.
Thanks Nathan.


Lucas February 27, 2013 at 4:30 am

What was the music playing in the background for the trailer?
Thank You


Mike March 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm

That was one of this worst surf movies I have ever seen. It was cliche. It was disengenuous. The music was nice, that’s it. If that took 3 years to make I feel bad for those who wasted their time. There was absolutely nothing unique about this film, including the surfing, so those of you who haven’t yet seen it, don’t waste your time or money.


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