Monday, 22 November 2010

"Surviving Shark Night"

When I fisrt saw the trailer for "Surviving Shark Night" I was pretty excited because I really like Mike Rutzen
in fact, I think he's a pretty cool dude, very much my type of guy. His "Sharkman" documentary remains one of the best shark docs I've seen for a while, it was't massively groundbreaking and didn't really do anything that hadn't already been done before but what it did do was to introduce a guy who could be a huge influence in the movement to protect sharks.

Mike's big thing is freediving with Great White Sharks without the use of a cage, still my number one all time dream, and in doing so he aims to show that Great Whites aren't mindless killing machines and humans can interact with large specimens and remain fully intact and actually enjoy the experience. It's a thorny issue however and for good reason, is there any need for shark diving tourist operators to offer this option? Of course not but many are starting to see the dollar signs and a handful actually do offer the option for tourists to leave the cage which, to me, fails to offer more pros than it does cons, however, the whole subject requires an in depth look to do the arguments on both sides any justice and that's not the subject of this blog so we'll leave that there...for now.

Where was I? Ah yes, I like Mike Rutzen a lot for one particular reason, he seems a really nice bloke who really, really likes sharks. He is knowledgeable, articulate and has a quiet authority about him which means he doesnt have to resort to piousness, gawdy stunts or overblown statements of how he "puts his life on the line" diving with sharks, thus making the whole thing about him and reaffirming stereotypes, instead, he does what he does and he hopes that we enjoy watching him do it and that we might just learn something along the way.

As I said before, I was really looking forward to this so when I realised I was going to miss it, to say I was a bit gutted is an understatement, to then realise that I kept missing all the repeats through no fault of my own only made me want to see it more, so I was happy to discover that, thanks to the total paucity of quality programming on the SKY television cable service, "Surviving Shark Night" was repeated for the one hundred and ninth time at a date and time I was actually able to watch it. Buzzin'!

The concept pf the programme if you're not aware, is actually quite an interesting and dare I say original one (wasn't expecting that!) in that Mike would spend a night "alone" in three "shark infested" locations around the world culminating in the big one, spending the night in the frigid waters of Gansbaii, South Africa, home to a decent sized population of Great Whites. Great idea I thought and something which is both quite daring in it's execution and also in the message it could convey if done right.

What was unusual was that it seemed to me that there was a confusion between the film Rutzen wanted to make and the film the network wanted to make, otherwise known as "the process of making television programmes and/or films." There was this weird insistence of shoehorning Linkin Park songs into segments of the programme, almost as though someone really wanted their music in there, despite the fact it just didn't work at all, nor did the general "rockiness" of the score, as you should know by now I do love my Rock music and using it the right way with nature footage is cool but in this programme it seemed a bit awkward.

The script also played up a bit too much on the danger aspect but in the real world, if you say "shark" to network programmers, they're gonna think danger, blood and the draw of maybe, just maybe seeing someone die on television and that gets good ratings...Also, he wasn't really "alone" as there was a platform with a full production team floating within feet of Mike at all times however that's a minor, almost petty point to make because let's be honest, it was never going to be any other way.

So, the music wasn't great, the script over egged the "potential gore cake" and the description was a little misleading but let's concentrate now on the good stuff. First off, the conservation message was in there right from the off which made a nice change from the usual practice of slotting it in during the last five minutes. It was made quite clear that Mike was doing this to show that our fear of sharks is far greater than it should be and that sharks have more to fear from us, as was proved when a rather excited Blacktip Shark electrocuted itself by biting, then getting tangled up in, the lighting cables being used by the production team. Thankfully, after being freed by Rutzen,  the shark was able to resume sharky duties, seemingly only a little worse for wear and dazed after it's own re-enactment of the end of "Jaws II."

It was also nice to see the production team relax enough to spend time in the water with sharks, their confidence buoyed by seeing first hand that simply getting into the ocean is not enough to make sharks eat you alive, the footage shot at night was also interesting as was observing Mike's posture and body language when "communicating" with the sharks around him. Again, the over-fishing and lack of pelagic species compared to thirty years ago, permeated the message within the film making it clear that whereas the network saw the morbid fascination angle as being of interest to its audience, the focus on conservation angle from the film's protagonist was respectfully allowed time in the limelight and although, a little clumsy at times in it's gentle contradiction with the network angle, still worked well enough to make a valid point.

I love watching Mike Rutzen interact with White Sharks, I get a real sense of genuine fondness from him for the sharks in Gansbaii and it was here where the film climaxed with him diving during the day and evening with several large Great Whites although the narrators insistence that they were between five and six metres in length was well off being accurate, when will people realise that a twelve foot Great White Shark is one hell of a fish, their size does not need to be exaggerated. In the end, Mike didn't spend the night in the open water with Great Whites but let's face it, who would? That is a step too far and not at all sensible so we'll let him off on that!

All in all it was a good programme, he always seems to make shark programming which is generally better than most of his peers, although I should point out that Chris Fallows' "Air Jaws 3" was actually really, really good as well. The biggest strength in the programmes involving Mike Rutzen is Mike himself and his obvious love for sharks and what he does for a living, I never get the sense he is forcing anything, he speaks with enough passion and eloquence that he does not need to resort to tricks and gimmicks to get his point across.
What I would have like though would have been something akin to a "Blair Shark Project," two divers spend twenty four hours alone in three oceans, The Indian, Pacific and Atlantic, with nothing other than a camera each and document what happens during their day at sea. The problem with that however, is that you can't rely on sharks actually turning up and the whole thing could be pretty boring, that said, what better way to get across a point that pelagic shark populations are being annihilated at a rate that they simply cannot recover? Mike, if you read this and fancy giving that a go, get in touch...

Aside from the above gushing about someone I admire greatly what else as been happening? Well, I'm still plugging away towards getting sponsorship for my awesome (because it will be) film. I have a couple of meetings to tie down which could possibly yield some exciting news and the people who have supported me all along continue to do so and for which I am eternally grateful and humble.

I have also been emailed today by a lady who got in touch with me last week by the name of Sarah Outen, who very matter of factly just happened to mention she is the youngest woman to have ever rowed solo across an ocean and is one of those people who makes you want to try to be a better person. She, like me, is a believer in following your dreams and she's a pretty cool lady who has contacted me in regard to some pretty cool things so watch this space...

The Indiegogo page is up and running and despite the obligatory technical difficulties (paypal, god forbid you ever have to contact their customer service department, they are woeful, although when you finally get through to the technical people they're alright) is going fairly well but it could be going better! I have 61 days left so visit the site (click the link below) and if you can donate, that's amazing, if not maybe share it around your friends, family, colleagues etc, maybe they can help too? You actually get stuff back! This blog averages around four thousand unique hits per month, if every person put $5 in, that's $20,000 in a month and would go a long way to seeing this film get made! 

It's now 6:21am and I haven't been to bed yet, the plumber is due at 8am, I have a meeting at 9am and then a full day of work so let's hop I can stay awake! By the way if you are awesome on Photoshop, and I mean really, super awesome, or at least you really enjoy using it, drop me a line as you might be able to help me with something pretty important!

Be nice to each other, look out for Mike Rutzen's work and do something positive today, you'll be hearing from me again soon!


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The super happy sunshine blog!

My friend Mike  pointed out to me on email recently that he could sense some frustration in one of my previous blogs and to be honest, he was right. When you focus all your energy and efforts on one thing it can sometimes lead to frustration when things aren't necessarily going your way and despite your best efforts, it feels like sometimes even the slightest obstacles are insurmountable.

Things are a bit different now though however and I can say from experience that tenacity, belief and enthusiasm DO pay off in the end so by way of cancelling out any previous negative vibes this is the super happy sunshine positivity blog!
First off, reaction to the Teaser Trailer has been absolutely incredible! It has received well over a thousand views in only seven days and comments have been supportive, complimentary and effusive in praise for how it looks, its message and the music. Also, the feedback from people I have nothing but total respect for has been hugely positive and fortified my belief in what I am doing. Here are some examples from Patric Douglas, Mike Neumann, Felix Leander and Richard Theiss

It's also worth pointing out that this blog is now averaging 4,500 unique views every month, that's approximately 150 people every day which is pretty amazing really seeing as it has only been live online since this July and I would like to thank every single one of you who regularly come back to read it!

The Dive Show was a huge success. Thank you to Jussi for the poster (see the above image) and once again the Cameras Underwater guys were an absolute pleasure to be around. Dave, Duxy, Mario and Caroline have to easily rank up there within the top one per cent of the nicest people in the world and their expertise and knowledge on all things relating to capturing underwater images meant the stand was never anything other than rammed, great news for me as I got to speak to a lot of new people!

It was great to catch up with Jim, Lea and the guys from Fourth Element, the amazing Alex Tattersall, Nick and Helen, Laura Evans, Paul Rose (who is looking more and more like a contender for James Bond every year), Steve Weinman and also to finally meet the incredibly friendly Blue Planet team. Martin from the Fiji Tourist Board was an absolute pleasure to be around and had it not been for it actually being at the show, my conversation with Alan Harbourne from canon would have gone from what was originally a mere introduction to us being chucked out of a pub at closing time, what a nice fella!

I was also very fortunate to finally get to spend some time with the lovely Lesley Rochat. Her talk on shark conservation and the (often unsung) work she and her colleagues undertake in South Africa was a definite highlight of the weekend. She is a passionate, articulate and knowledgeable shark advocate and some of the initiatives she has been involved in, in particular the marketing of pro-shark events and media, was nothing short of inspired! Lesley gets far less exposure than other shark conservationists and although personal exposure is not on her remit, she deserves far more. She's not in it to make money or become famous, she's in it because of a love for sharks and the ocean. She is also a case in point of someone who once was terrified of sharks until she had a face to face encounter which changed her life forever, inspiring her to commit her life to helping save what she once feared so much.

It was also great to catch up with another leader in the world of shark conservation, the brilliant Richard Peirce of the Shark Trust, and to enjoy his talk about his new book and film, "Shark Attack Britain," a slightly irreverent look at shark encounters in the UK.

The meetings I had at the Dive Show were very fruitful and I am hoping to have some exciting updates in the weeks to come! Watch this space....

If you're not aware of Indiegogo, it is a site which hosts people's independent projects and provides a platform for investment from anybody who may want to help the independent arts with donations large and small. In essence it showcases talent and also the often overlooked philanthropic nature of people who want to do their bit to help others succeed. The whole thing basically exudes goodness and positivity and with that in mind, as you can imagine, From the Office to the Ocean is featured! You will see that I have already received $355 in voluntary donations and that is in less than twenty four hours! I would love to articulate how much people's generosity means to me but I don't think it's possible, it means so much to me that people I know and also complete strangers, want to see me succeed. The whole concept of "From the Office..." is progress and achievement through positivity and inspiration and this is a perfect case in point. Donations are made in return for anything from a film credit to an invite to a premiere screening in the UK so have a look and see what you think.

The project is really now starting to gain momentum and big, household name organisations and companies and industry professionals are really starting to take me seriously which is great, it shows that if you focus and work hard you CAN achieve what at first seems almost impossible, it is also testament to the fact that most people, the large majority in fact, are decent, friendly and kind and do want to see people deserving of success, succeed.

With all this positivity flying around I want to thank the following people for their support friendship and encouragement as I may well not have mentioned them previously, Kris Allen, Mark Burrows, Mark Thorpe, Duncan Carson, Nicky Crawford, Laura Evans, Red Issue and all my United mates (too many to name however Andy McIntyre gets a mention as I know he wants one!), Richard Peirce, Terry Goss, Amanda Robinson, Jan Bailey, Benedikte Lydsal Uslam, Susana Navajas, Jim Standing and Howard Sawyer.

On the subject of Howard, check out his website. Howard and I have recently become acquainted and as well as being an articulate, intelligent writer and an excellent photographer, he's also a fascinating bloke. Check out his articles on the site, there are a couple about sharks, in particular shark feeding and the numbers used by shark conservation groups. He doesn't shirk issues and speaks his mind and I admire that, it's also worth pointing out that he addresses issues which are important to shark conservation from the angle of someone who openly admits to not being an all out shark enthusiast. It's an interesting take on an interesting subject, check out his articles and make up your own mind. He's a good guy and an intelligent guy and even if you don't agree with some of his views, at least enjoy some of his awesome photos.

That's it from me for another blog, as the winter draws in and the industrial grime envelopes my surroundings, I can still see rays of sunshine everyday and that's because of the brilliant people I am fortunate enough to know, many of whom I can count as genuine friends so a heartfelt thanks from me to you and if United can emerge victorious again in tomorrow's derby, that will ensure an extra wide smile on my mush for the days ahead!