All Photos: Nate Leal, (City Councilman of Cambria, California)
They say if you want to know what’s going on in a company, ask the janitor. ‘Cause who else has contact with an array of employees at every level? With this concept in mind, we sought to learn more about Volcom’s latest film, Psychic Migrations, through its most loyal cinematographer, Mr. Nate Leal. Not because he cleans toilets. He doesn’t. But because Nate was on more PM trips than anyone. More than director Ryan “RT” Thomas. More than Dusty Payne. He filmed ender clips. He was on the inside of inside jokes. He drank beers, ate lobster and even freed zoo animals with the stars of the film. (Seriously.) So while Nate didn’t clean it up, he definitely saw some shit. We sent him a few questions asking him about the experience. He returned our questions in an email with the subject reading, “Hope this doesn’t get me fired.” —Taylor Paul
SURFING: Gimme the basics.
NATE LEAL: My name is Nate Leal, I’m 22 years old, from Cambria, California, and I’ve been working with Volcom for four years.
How’d you land that gig?
I had been surfing the TCT contests since I was a small child. One day Karl Holms gave me a camera and said, “Film some stuff for me and I’ll give you a sticker.” I guess the footage came out good so he started paying me to film events. Around that same time Nate Tyler needed a filmer so I started filming with him.
How many trips did you do for this movie?
At least 30.
Which was your favorite trip and why?
I went to the Northeast last year with Balaram [Stack], Pat [Schmidt] and [Mike] Gleason. It was the most photogenic wave I’ve ever seen but by the time we hiked back to the car and got all our gear together the swell was gone and we didn’t see another wave break. So we had a lobster lunch and drove back to Jersey. Don’t think that trip made the movie…
Funniest moment while filming for PM?
Balaram and I broke into a zoo and tried to set the animals free, while riding the ostriches.
What’s your best RT moment?
I got a text from him using an emoji as a framing reference for shooting portraits. You know, the one with the girl putting her hand out like she’s holding a platter.
What section are you most looking forward to seeing?
Alex Gray’s South Pacific section. I think that’s the only trip I wasn’t on and I heard they scored. Also, the South America section. We got really good waves down there with a rad crew.
Any scary moments during travels?
I thought I was gonna get jumped in El Salvador. I’m always a little nervous when I whip out a RED in sketchy countries — someone could rob me and feed their village for years off that thing. Another time Tom [Carey] made us watch a scary movie in Australia and then the gate kept blowing open in the middle of the night and making loud noises. Mitch makes scary noises too. Parker almost died at Kandui, which was also scary.
Anyone melt down?
Haha. Yeah. Within five minutes in El Salvador one of our filmers tripped and broke part of the Bolex, got stuck in a barbed wire fence and then stung by a bee. Oh and earlier that day someone backed into him with a car. I would’ve lost it as well.
What’s the hardest part about your job?
Not drowning. And lugging those damn Pelican cases around. [Fun fact: Nate lugged around enough equipment to induce two hernias!]
OK, let’s assign some high school superlatives to the cast of PM.
Best attitude: Ozzy.
Most consistent make-ratio: Yago.
Most likely to succeed: Kelly. He’s on Volcom, right?
Most creative: Ozzy. Nate’s pretty crafty, too.
Best dressed: Mitch is pretty hip.
Thirstiest: Tom Carey. Or Gavin, I don’t think he eats solid food anymore.
Tannest: Tom Dosland.
Manliest: Mike Gleason.
Best Hair: Carlos Muñoz.
Most likely to get cancer from cellphone radiation: Balaram.
Worst metal neck: Droid.
Anything else you want to add?
No. Just keep it trill.
If you’d like to see in front of the scenes of Psychic Migrations, check out the premier tour details here.