Filmmaker Q&A: Nannette Van Antwerp

Nannette Van Antwerp is an avid scuba diver and amateur filmmaker. This year she has submitted two films to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival: “Pacific Drifters” and “Crustaceans of Ambron Bay”. She was born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County. After graduating from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, she worked as an engineer designing medical devices. She now spends her time in Los Angeles, diving as much as possible and trying to capture and share the beauty and wonder of the underwater world in short videos. Nannette has been shooting video underwater for about 9 years and made her film festival debut at last year’s San Francisco Ocean Film Festival with a film about the underwater world of Indonesia’s Raja Ampat.

Below are the synopses of Nannette’s two featured films and some questions and answers to get to know her a little better:

“Pacific Drifters”: The waters near the surface of the deeper parts of the ocean can seem like a vast, empty place; but a closer look can sometimes reveal a world of alien-like creatures that spend part or all of their lives drifting through the open water.

“Crustaceans of Ambon Bay”: Ambon is one of the largest cities in eastern Indonesia and in the murky waters of this city's bay lives a variety of unusual sea creatures. Among them are many crustaceans, and from the tiniest amphipod to the foot-long mantis shrimp, each has developed a unique set of tactics for survival.

What was your inspiration for creating the film? After seeing first-hand the beauty and diversity of life in the ocean, I wanted to be able to share that in some way with other divers and non-divers alike.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film? Shooting video underwater is always challenging, as you have to deal with currents, surge, variable light conditions and time limits imposed by the rules of diving, among other things. But the most challenging thing may have been choosing from the many hours of footage and which clips to include in the films.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers? I hope that they can experience some of the same sense of wonder I feel when I see these amazing creatures. Their behaviors and adaptations that allow them to live in their own little niche on the reef or in the open water.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film? I love the ocean. Spending time in a remote paradise or even off the coast of California, while diving multiple times a day, is my idea of heaven!

Who (or what) is your inspiration? Mostly I’m inspired by all the amazingly alien life that lives in the ocean. The underwater world is a constant source of wonder for me. After more than 1,000 dives all over the world, I still see something I’ve never seen before every time I get in the water. It makes me want to share these wonders with people who would otherwise never get the chance to see them and hopefully inspire them to want to respect and protect the ocean as well.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films? I got certified to dive in 2000 and started shooting video underwater in 2002, as a way to share our adventures with friends and family. Over the years my editing style has evolved from making longer travelogue-style videos to creating more natural history-style short films. I’m still strictly an amateur, with a lot to learn, but I create the videos because I enjoy making them and sharing them with others.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival? I’m always happy to support events that educate people and create awareness about issues related to the ocean. I’m very excited to be part of this film festival.

Is this your first time participating in an ocean-focused film festival? My first film festival of any kind was last year’s San Francisco Ocean Film Festival and I’m very happy to be back again this year.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film? We were in Kona, Hawaii in the winter shooting some of the footage for the Pacific Drifters video. These are “black water” dives, where the boat motors out to very deep water at night and drops 50 foot tether lines. You then hover under the boat as it drifts along, looking for all the cool gelatinous creatures that come up from the depths at night to feed. It’s a very surreal experience. On one of these dives I was the first one in the water and shortly after I entered, I heard sounds that I thought was another diver excitedly talking into their regulator; however, when I looked around, nobody else had entered the water yet. I listened again and realized that what I was hearing was the singing of a humpback whale! What an incredible soundtrack to an already amazing dive!