More than 40-years-ago Gerry Lopez first laid eyes on Uluwatu, making up part of the crew to first pioneer Bali's now famous left.
It was mostly an empty line up in 1974, the region energised by friendly local vibes with a distinct lack of any infrastructure. In the 43 years since Lopez discovered Ulus, it has changed dramatically, as developments and tourism boomed to help cope with the travelling influx.
And now, Gerry has returned to Bali for the first time in 20 plus years for a yoga retreat, which is the premise that underpins new documentary The More Things Change, following Lopez as he teaches yoga while rediscovering a region close to his heart, but one that has filled out over the past two decades. The vibe's always positive with Gerry and although the place has evolved dramatically, the people, waves and culture, that resonated with him in the first place, are all still there.
To celebrate the exclusive release, director Nathan Myers reveals what it was like to work with Gerry and the life lessons he's learned from spending time with Mr Pipeline himself.
What first drew you to tell this story?
NM: My friends at Uluwatu Surf Villas booked Gerry for a yoga retreat and asked if I could do some filming without interrupting the retreat too much. As we started to realize that Gerry hadn't been back to Bali in more than 20 years -- and considering how much the place had changed -- we realized we were looking at a pretty special moment. I called my friend Sean Doherty at Patagonia and he saw it too, which gave us the greenlight to make this.
What was it like working with Gerry?
Man, it's hard to keep this answer short, without babbling on. Gerry's the real deal. A true yogi. So giving of himself, his time and his energy. Always sharing a story, or helping someone stretch, or smiling in the surf. He's this mixture of child-like wonder and ancient wisdom. He's in his 60s and he'll spend six hours in the surf, then go teach a yoga class where really fit people can barely keep up. And despite being such a (for lack of better word) legend, in his presence he's just really present, down to earth and comfortable. Such a pleasure to work with. I learned a lot.
What were the biggest challenges throughout the creation of the film?
This is a documentary. So, we just kinda dove in with some ideas and followed the truth as best we could. I don't think Gerry even knew we were there to make a film at first -- and he was busy teaching a yoga retreat, being on vacation with his family, and making a somewhat emotional return to a place he has a great deal of history with
Well, if we're gonna do it, let's do it right -- so the biggest challenge was inserting ourselves in amidst all these other goings-on without rippling the waters too much. But when I first explained to Gerry what we were up to, he said: "Well, if we're gonna do it, let's do it right." From the on, it never felt challenging. Gerry's just a shining light to follow.
How long was the film in production?
We filmed during the week-long yoga retreat, then chased a swell to G-Land for a bit of bonus action. We had an awesome crew of people with us, including Rob Machado, Chris Del Moro, Mega Semahdi, Dave Rastovich, and Rizal Tanjung, so the vibe was really positive.
For the editing process, I knew I needed a lot of instrumental music, to accompany the people talking, so I brought a two piece band called A Conscious Coup into the studio with rough cuts of the film. We scored it live over the footage, then we tightened the songs down a bit more, and I tightened the edit around those finished tracks. It's probably a more risky way to approach a soundtrack, but ultimately more rewarding. I'm happy how the film sounds.
Your style of film is powerful. Can you describe your style and how you used it to capture Gerry’s story exactly how you wanted to?
I, like, think of this as a calming movie. When you're around Gerry, there's not a sense of strife and struggle. He's peaceful. He's calm. He makes you feel good. So I wanted to convey that feeling. Give the audience a sense of what it's like to be hanging with Gerry. Even when we were facing things like the pollution and over development of Uluwatu and Bali, Gerry finds a way to see it in a positive light.
Apart from Gerry and yourself, who were the key individuals involved / guest appearances?
I think having guys like Rob Machado, Rizal Tanjung and Dave Rastovich around helps put Gerry's status into perspective. He was their hero when they were little, and he's still their hero now, but for different reasons. He continues to demonstrate what a surfing/healthy/yogi life can be.
We need those sort of role models. In Gerry's presence, those guys all stopped being legends and started being grommets again.
I also have to mention my cinematographer Alejandro Berger, who's filmed movies like Sipping Jetstreams, Castles in the Sky, This Time Tomorrow, and Missing -- was the most epic partner I could have had on this film. I needed this thing to just be beautiful to look at, and he delivered.
You’ve done some incredible work in the past, what makes The More Things Change so special?
That's nice of you to say. Thank you. This one was close to my heart because the place and issues we were bringing to light -- particularly the work of Project Clean Uluwatu -- are very close to my heart. And the chance to work with Gerry was such a pleasure.
The waves, the people, the culture -- are all fully intact After we'd wrapped filming, I took an extra days to just hang out without the cameras. The memories I have of Gerry playing with my two young boys, holding their hands going down to the tidepools...those are really special. Making a film is like making yourself the best postcard ever.
Did living in Bali yourself have its advantages when making the film?
Of course. This is a love note to Bali. The place has changed a lot in the last ten years, and I think we were all waiting to see Gerry's reaction. Would he be disgusted or shocked or scared away. But Gerry points out that the things that attracted him to Bali all those years ago -- the waves, the people, the culture -- are all fully intact. That's where the title comes from. "The more things change, the more they stay the same." It was nice to have Gerry remind us of that. He's wise like that.
What’re some life lessons you’ll take away from this project and from Gerry himself?
I think Gerry is on the cusp of fully realizing and sharing with the world his great life lesson...which is something about the connection of surfing and yoga, breath and meditation, to all things in life. A way to peacefully, gracefully walk the path of life.
He's been working on this message in one way or another his whole life, but I felt like he's really getting to the roots of it now... learning how to fully express it. So, for me to be present and help express a bit of that was a real honor and a pleasure. As surfers (or as yoga practitioners), we all have a sense that the lessons we learn in the water (or on the matt) can be applied to all kinds of other situations in life. Especially when we understand what those lessons really are. It's a great message. And I think this is just the beginning of it... Gerry's got a lot left to give.
To celebrate the release of The More Things Change Patagonia have released a 100% recycled boardshort inspired by the camouflage patterns Gerry used to paint on his surfbaords at G-Land to reduce the searing glare of the Indonesian sun.