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!