It’s safe to say Noah Cornale has saltwater in his veins … his love for the ocean, surfing and the coastal lifestyle has inspired him to create a short film, called “Hold Down”, which was accepted and screened by the Byron Bay Film Festival in October this year. Noah is currently travelling around Europe, gathering new ideas and a fresh perspective to help fuel more creative projects, and he plans to study visual communication design at uni next year …
Hi Noah. What’s your background?
I’ve called Port Macquarie home since I was born; I grew up with Shelly Beach only a couple of blocks away.
I went to primary school at St Agnes’, where I met some of my closest friends, and together we discovered how awesome surfing was. Ever since our dads pushed us on to our first waves, we became infatuated with the ocean – spear fishing, rock jumping, bodyboarding and surfing became our hobbies. Wetsuits and wetsuit tans became fashion.
In high school at MacKillop, I made some new friends and continued to surf with them, as well as my dad and my younger brother, nearly every weekend.
I landed my first job at Port Macquarie Surf School, joined the surf lifesaving club for a while and entered my local surfboard riding club.
When did your interest in making films begin?
The interest sprouted in early high school. My mates and I loved to watch creative surfing films. We started to muck around filming each other surfing and skating, which we’d edit ourselves and put on each other’s social media. This was super fun and a good way of getting a feel for video filming and editing.
It was when I met some friends from St Joseph’s Regional College who handcrafted bodysurfing Handplanes called “Spillage Handplanes” that I got into filmmaking more.
We’d go bodysurfing using these wooden planks strapped to our hands; they were some of the best times I’ve had at the beach.
I made some more short videos with this crew, such as Not Quite There for their Handplane Instagram and Facebook page, and premiered these films at my house.
By the time summer came, they ended up selling heaps of their Handplanes to locals and tourists. I really enjoyed that whole process, from coming up with an idea, to filming, editing and premiering.
I used video making as a handy procrastination tool, making funny videos during my secondary high school years.
My mates and I came across a Facebook competition for Falls Festival. By making the best video under pretty much any category, we had a chance to win 25 tickets. The video got a lot of attention and we were stoked with how it turned out – even if we didn’t win.
In the final years I knuckled down and chose visual arts as one of my HSC subjects, which gave me the perfect opportunity to work on my first serious artistic film. I worked the longest and hardest I’ve ever worked, and the result – the short film Hold Down – is one I’m proud of. I’ve worked on this film since through my gap year.
Tell us more about Hold Down.
Hold Down is a visual response to growing up as a young surfer in Port Macquarie. It shares a side of surfing people do not necessarily think about – the experience of being held underwater by a wave. A “hold down” can be deadly and always feels way longer than it really is.
The film explores the different elements of being submerged using images that are a response to the coastal landscape and culture. These images highlight the paradox between coming so close to death, and the beauty of never feeing so alive.
What inspired you to create this film?
The biggest inspiration was Tim Winton’s novel, Breath. Tim’s description of the ocean had a huge impact on me: “I didn’t even get time to draw a breath. I was abruptly in darkness, being poleaxed across the sandy bottom of the bay, holding on to the dregs in my lungs while the grit blasted through my hair … when I burst back to the surface … I finally came up in a spritzing froth in the shallows, sinuses burning … it’s like you come pouring back into yourself … like you’ve exploded and all the pieces of you are reassembling themselves. You’re new. Shimmering. Alive”.
It’s this ultimate paradox between nearly dying and never feeling so alive side to surfing that’s become almost spiritual to me.
During my studies I’d also found the work of American video artist Bill Viola. Many of his underwater pieces, including The Ascension and The Messenger, depicted how I’d visualised the underwater scenes in my film.
An amazing number of chilly nights in my mate’s backyard pool using underwater lights and cameras to combine Viola’s, Winton’s and my own interpretation of what goes on under the surface ensued – with many shivering breaks spent next to a heater to defrost!
Who were some people who helped you work on Hold Down?
Judd Brown, who’s a good mate of mine – he’s a terrific surfer and was an obvious choice to feature in the film. Do a Google search for him – he has an interview up on
Hugo Bittar is another good mate and family friend. He’s only 16, but he’s such a talent with videography and photography and has already set up his own business. Check him out at:
What did having Hold Down accepted by the 2018 Byron Bay Film Festival mean to you?
Byron Bay Film Festival is something I’d heard about and had always wanted visit, so when the opportunity came up to enter a film – I jumped at the chance! I’m stoked Hold Down was accepted.
I’m planning to study Visual Communication Design at uni next year, so having a film accepted by such a prestigious film festival is great for my CV.
What are your favourite local beaches?
Local beaches often hold something much more personal for surfers than valuing the waves they produce – they’ve shared this space with family, friends, and they’ve seen the beach change, as much as the beach has seen them change.
Out beyond the waves is a sanctuary for a friendly conversation or deep thought. The hours spent floating in the ocean watching sunrises, sunsets – it’s then people realise surfing is so much more than a sport or a hobby. It’s a spiritual outlet.
For me, no other beach could represent this as much as Shelly Beach. It will always be a place to call home.
Where can we find out more about you?
You can find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Interview: Jo Robinson.