Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Nathan Morris Is Helping To Change Our World

Posted on

Helping others can be such a simple yet fulfilling act. Science even backs it up — when you lend a hand, you’re rewarded with a burst of endorphins, which just feels great. Plus, by contributing to the betterment of society, we’re also contributing to our own well-being. It doesn’t have to be a big, showy gesture — even the smallest of deeds can make a big impact. So why not just go for it and do something kind today? You’ll feel better for it, and so will the world around you.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nathan Morris.

Nathan is a New Zealand-born filmmaker and editor with a diverse background in television and film production. His early career in New Zealand was highlighted by his work on the multi-award-winning show The Living Room. Seeking new opportunities, he moved to London in 2000, where he edited renowned shows such as Robot Wars, Tonight with Trevor McDonald, and Popworld, before transitioning to directing full-time.

In his directorial roles, Nathan demonstrated his unique style in “history’s greatest music show,” Popworld, and worked with music icons such as Lady Gaga, The Foo Fighters, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Rihanna. He directed shows for leading channels such as C4, BBC, and Channel 5, and further expanded his career by delving into branded content, collaborating with top-tier brands like Samsung, Sony, and Virgin.

Moving into narrative film, Nathan’s debut short film, At Dawn, earned the Directors’ Choice Award at RIIFF. His subsequent film, People Are Only Interesting When You Get To Know Them, was selected for three Oscar-qualifying festivals. His romantic comedy, My Eyes Are Up Here, funded by the BBC and BFI, starring Jillian Mercado, premiered on opening night at the 2022 London Film Festival.

Known for his innovative visual style and strong storytelling, Nathan’s work blends elements of fiction and non-fiction. He crafts films marked by memorable performances and humour, resulting in gritty narratives with a significant emotional impact.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before diving in, our readers would love to get to know you. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a truck, driver, a drummer, and a cameraman. The one thing I’ve yet to achieve is being a truck driver but who knows? I grew up in Upper Hutt. Subra town in New Zealand. A small Film school started up. I got denied entry to it three times before I rang them and said I’m gonna keep applying so you might as well let me in….and they did! I loved it. I was lucky enough to get a job before the end of the course, an American company was starting a community television station. It was kinda like making Wayne’s World, we got a camera and an edit suite to share between people and we made our own stories. It was a great way to make mistakes and learn, no one was watching!

From there I got a job as a full-time Editor, where which was great as I got trained in editing by one of New Zealand’s best documentary editors. Then I flipped a coin and moved to London and made everything from current affairs to music performances. Then I moved into directing branded content and TV.

I started teaching myself how to write and I wrote my first short Film At Dawn. I was determined to make it, so I self-funded it and got it done, somehow! I won Directors Choice At Rhode Island FF, which was so encouraging and now I’m hooked on working in Arrival. I LOVE working with actors to tell stories.

That’s the short version!

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years, and I know I’ll probably make a few more! But here’s the thing: I learned by doing. And, let’s face it, when you’re trying something new, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get a few things wrong.

I remember this one time when I was interviewing someone and I was so nervous that I accidentally double-tapped the record button. I didn’t realize it until I got back to the edit suite, and I was horrified to discover that I had footage of the interviewee moving a chair into position and then a shot of them staring at the camera, with me thanking them for their time. I thought it was the end of the world, but I, called the interviewee and explained what had happened. Thankfully, they were understanding and we were able to schedule a re-shoot.

That experience taught me that mistakes happen, and it’s not the end of the world as long as you catch them early and take responsibility for them. So, I try to approach everything I do with a sense of willingness to learn from my missteps. After all, that’s how you grow as a filmmaker and as a person.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

It sounds puerile, but I honestly believe that everyone has an interesting story to tell. It just takes the right approach to bring it out of them. That’s why I love working with people to craft compelling stories that capture who they are and what they’re all about.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many amazing people — from rescue workers on icebergs in the Arctic Circle, huge pop stars, to Gold Miners who haven’t talked to another soul for weeks on end. Heck, I’ve even had lunch served to me by royalty! And let me tell you, it’s an absolute thrill to step into someone else’s world and experience life through their eyes.

The best part? Forming bonds with these people and using those connections to create something truly special. It’s a privilege to be able to do what I do, and I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to share someone’s story with the world.

Plus, let’s be real — it’s great fodder for writing, too!

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

You’ve got me with a tough one here! But here goes nothing:

Okay, so bear with me -Oliver Sacks? The guy was a total genius when it came to the human mind. I remember stumbling upon his work for the first time and just being totally blown away by his work and insights.

I mean, think about it — how we think, how we process information, how we respond to different situations…it’s all so fascinating. And honestly, that’s why I love directing. At the end of the day, it’s all about being able to create a certain feeling or emotion in your audience, and that requires a deep understanding of how people think and react.

It’s kind of like being a scientist in a way — you’re constantly experimenting with different techniques and approaches, trying to figure out what works best to create the desired effect. When it all comes together and you see your vision realized on screen…there’s really no feeling like it.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world?

Do you know what’s really cool about this film? It shines a light on some of the struggles that people face that a lot of us don’t even think about. And honestly, making this film was a huge eye-opener for me.

I mean, one of my big goals as a filmmaker is to create more empathy and understanding between different people and communities. I know that sounds kind of lofty, but hear me out. I truly believe that if we can find ways to connect with each other — even if it’s just through a good laugh or a shared experience — we can start to break down some of the barriers that divide us.

That’s why I love using humour in my work. It’s like sneaking in a little lesson without people even realizing they’re learning something. And honestly, I think that’s one of the most powerful things you can do as a storyteller. You want to have a message, sure, but at the end of the day, if you’re not entertaining your audience, you’re not going to be able to connect with them.

So yeah, I guess what I’m saying is that for me, it’s all about finding that sweet spot between humour and heart. And when you can nail that balance and really hook people in…man, there’s just nothing better.

Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

To be honest, I feel like this film is tackling a subject that’s often overlooked, and making it more accessible for everyone. It even changed my own views about certain things. But that’s the power of storytelling, isn’t it? To make people see things in a different light and create empathy.

That’s why I’m working on two new projects at the moment. One’s about an adopted kid who runs away to meet his birth mother — it’s all about love and acceptance. The others about revenge and how it’s ultimately pointless. Both films have universal themes that people can relate to and hopefully learn from.

I believe that we need more empathy in the world right now, and I’m hoping my films can contribute to that. But I also think it’s important to be entertaining. After all, if you can hook people in with humour and engaging stories, they won’t even realize they’re learning something. And the world also needs more cake.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Honestly, I don’t think there was one big “aha” moment for me. My journey has been more of a gradual, winding path — if that makes sense. But there’s this deep-seated feeling inside of me, almost like an instinct, that drives me to create and tell stories. It might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s just something that I know I have to do, and it brings me so much joy. I don’t really know why, and I don’t want to overthink it too much. I just know that I have a passion for storytelling, and that’s what I want to pursue, it isn’t easy but when it clicks into to place there’s no feeling like it for me.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Being aware of yourself and others is so important. It’s all about perspective, right? Understanding that everyone has different needs and experiences. And that’s where empathy comes in. It’s not just about sympathizing with someone, but actually putting yourself in their shoes and understanding where they’re coming from. And I think it’s not enough to just think about doing something, action is key. It’s important to take steps to make a positive impact, no matter how small.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s going to be very difficult harder than you think it is.
  2. Fall in love with the process, not the final result.
  3. Nearly everyone feels like they’re not good enough, and everyone doubts their abilities.
  4. You won’t get it right the first time it’s more important how you react to mistakes. (Pick yourself up!)
  5. It’s ok to doubt yourself but doing. Something bad is better than doing nothing — and you can fix it!
  6. Bonus! Eat lots of fruit

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Helping others can be such a simple yet fulfilling act. Science even backs it up — when you lend a hand, you’re rewarded with a burst of endorphins, which just feels great. Plus, by contributing to the betterment of society, we’re also contributing to our own well-being. It doesn’t have to be a big, showy gesture — even the smallest of deeds can make a big impact. So why not just go for it and do something kind today? You’ll feel better for it, and so will the world around you.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I really admire the work of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini and feel a strong connection to their films. It’s amazing when a filmmaker can capture the essence of what’s in someone’s head and make them feel seen and understood.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I used a version of this in a film I made

Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose if we would but realize it than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, and evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such”

The film was a comedy — but I hid this in there! It’s a powerful reminder that life moves forward whether we face it with courage or cowardice. For those who struggle with depression and self-doubt (as many of us creatures do) this quote may offer a perspective shift towards optimism and finding joy in the present moment.

How can our readers follow you online? and

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmaker Nathan Morris Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.