It's anti-bio film, says the director…
Last night, BeachGrit showed a little of the Michael Oblowitz-directed documentary Heavy Water, a Nathan Fletcher biopic with an emphasis on energetic waves.
It premieres at the San Sebastian Film Festival on September 25. #SAVAGECINEMA, if hashtags are your thing.
Anyway, Oblowitz is an interesting guy. This interview just happened.
BeachGrit: You’re a busy guy. Finishing up a documentary on Sunny Garcia, one about Korean ceramics, and you’ve just finished Heavy Water, about Nathan Fletcher. But, what I really want to know is, when am I gonna get to see Sea of Darkness? I’ve been waiting forever. So many rumors flying around about the thing, what’s the deal?
Oblowitz: Martin Daly and I have made a deal with New York/London based distributor, Goldcrest. Goldcrest were responsible for some classics over the years such as Chariots Of Fire, The Killing Fields and more recently the Academy Award documentary, Sebastian Junger’s Restrepo. It was the latter film’s distribution success which convinced me that they were the right fit for our film.
BeachGrit: What I know about film making begins and ends with a single high school class. Why’s a distributor necessary? Why not just put it on itunes or something?
Oblowitz: How one distributes a film is the personal preference of the filmmakers and financiers. For the former its how the film will be perceived for the latter it’s how the money the film cost will be recouped. In my case, I’m old school. An OG filmmaker if you will. I make my films to be viewed on a big screen in 5.1 Surround Sound in a movie house. That’s the most desirable viewing platform for me. Secondarily I try to make films that are interesting to a broad audience. In this case not only the small international cadre of surf film fans (who I love and are my base audience) but I’m aiming for a larger audience who can immerse themselves in the experience of this film. Thus I need to create an audience through a large distribution network with a team that know how to manage this kind of thing.
BeachGrit: Your newest work, Heavy Water, about Nathan Fletcher, is coming out really soon. When I lived on Oahu he was like this ghost that’d pop up in random places. Like checking the surf at Alligators on a totally flat Summer day, or I’d see him out surfing alone at Log Cabins in the windiest, most horrifying, overhead close out slop. Always alone. The impression I always got was that he’s this kind of strange, super introverted, maybe a bit self destructive, guy. How close to reality is that?
Oblowitz: Nathan is a cross between The Marlboro Man and The Bob Dylan of surfing! Always changing always smoking a cigarette!
BeachGrit: Except Dylan dug fame, while it seems like Fletcher tries to stay out of the spotlight. Or, at least, doesn’t actively pursue it.
Oblowitz: Dylan repeatedly says in his lyrics how he shunned the spotlight, fame found him. “…I can’t help it if I’m lucky”..in the song Idiot Wind…”It wasn’t my intention to sound the battle charge…” another line about the unintended consequences of finding oneself in the spotlight. Nathan is quite similar. A Dylan line that really reminds me of Nathan is: “I can’t help it if I’m lucky…”
And of course the classic: “..the only thing that I could do is keep on moving on, like a bird that flew…” in Tangled up in Blue. Which, when you see the film, is the theme of much of Nathan’s life… things happen…I don’t use any Dylan songs in this film, I did that in Sea of Darkness, but you get the point…the law of unintended consequences…
BeachGrit: I just have hard time believing that anyone who gets onstage and performs doesn’t crave attention. They may not enjoy what comes with it, but there’s that “look at me” aspect that’s pretty unavoidable. And I get it, I crave attention too. I just don’t have any talent that’ll win it for me. But I’m supposed to be asking about your new flick. Who’s in it, what’s it all about? Obviously Nathan Fletcher, but is it a full-on bio, or do you focus on one aspect/event/whatever?
Oblowitz: No it’s more of an anti-bio. It adopts a rambling intuitive posture, not unlike its subject, and things just happen to him, to people who came before him, people around him. It digresses and shuffles along as the everyday elevates itself to the sacred…
BeachGrit: How long have you been working on it? How did the idea to make it come about?
Oblowitz: I met Nathan, briefly, a few years ago through his friend the great artist/filmmaker/surfer Julian Schnabel. It was not long after Nathan had surfed the historic Teahupoo wave. A lot of heavy stuff happened around Nathan, material for cinema
BeachGrit: What kind of heavy stuff?
Nathan is a man who pushes the limits of human endurance in a quiet understated fashion. At the level he performs at and with the extreme athletes he engages in his pursuits, things happen: Andy, Sion, Kirk Passmore. Things over which Nathan had no control, but happened around him.
BeachGrit: Oh man, I’d forgotten he was there all those times. And he was nearby when Peter Davi died too. So gnarly, that would have a huge impact on someone. I know Heavy Water recently premiered at the San Sebastian Film Festival, is there any way the rest of us can see it?
Nathan has been in and around a lot of heavy water, hence the title. The film has its world premiere at San Sebastián on September 25th, inshallah. If the stars align it will have a long life. Sea Of Darkness, Heavy Water, they aren’t going away….
BeachGrit: Sorry, something I read online must have confused me. I guess the only thing I have left to ask: you directed This World Then the Fireworks, with Billy Zane and Gina Gershon, as well as The Traveler, with Val Kilmer. Of those three people, which one exuded the most raw sexual magnetism?
Gina Gershon, duh! Have you seen her nude scenes in This World Then The Fireworks?
We were an official entrant in the Cannes Film Festival with that one- driving around Cannes in a limousine with Gina in some kind of transparent dress, stark naked underneath, paparazzi blasting flashes through the car window. As we walked up the red carpet, I had it all for a moment..