Monday, 20 June 2011
Sarah Shark and Great White Life
As a film-maker making films about sharks myself, I am always interested to see what others are doing in this medium. For the last twenty-seven years or so, I have greedily digested pretty much every shark doc or film ever made so I know my subject. I'm always excited when new things come along and this week I saw two very different films about sharks and their effect on the individuals making them, one seems to be getting a bit of exposure, the other I had never even heard of and stumbled across by mistake so thought I would give my thoughts on both, if only to serve as a way to let other people who love shark films as much as I do, know that they are out there.
The first film is the first in a five part series about Australian sharks by Sarah Richmond or Sarah Shark as she prefers to be known, called "Wobbegong - The Forgotten Shark."
I quite enjoyed this actually, it was well made and the enthusiasm and passion for the subject was apparent from the start. Coming in at just under twenty-four minutes, I'm not sure if it was made specifically with television broadcast in mind as this is the actual time length for "thirty minute" television slots to allow for advertising, or if that was a coincidence.
It reminded me very much of the old Australian series "Shark Gordon" but in this instance, Ian Gordon has been replaced by a young Australian woman. What they both share however, is an obvious love of the subject matter and an ability to take a soft approach and condense some interesting information into an easily watched, sub-half hour, fun "television" show. The footage is pretty good, very nice at times and Sarah articulates her points well and is obviously well researched, it was nice to see footage of the Hales Wobbegong as well as it doesn't get much time in the limelight. Sarah makes an engaging host and the structure is uncomplicated and fluid.
The content is light and upbeat and to my mind would have particular appeal to kids and also girls as well as Sarah seems approachable and very non-threatening, it's also worth pointing out that her graphics guy is very good, that was the real stand out for me, the creative and slick usage of computer graphics to illustrate certain points.
It won't be winning any awards for originality and although connecting with the camera is hugely important (and from experience it really isn't easy) at times, Sarah connects possibly a little too much, veering towards the kind of camera connection more generally found in the kind of films made for, how shall put it, a more predominantly adult male audience *ahem*. The music also, as is pretty much always the case in nature films not made by the BBC, is pretty cheesy but these slight imperfections aside, I was impressed and most importantly, I will be watching part two when it comes out. Kudos to Sarah and her team for making an enjoyable, well thought out short film and actually making the effort and taking the time to get out there and do something creative and worthwhile.
The second film I stumbled across whilst searching for something else, "Great White Life" is the story of Kevin Mcrath, a man battling obesity and depression who has a real passion for sharks, in particular, the Great White.
The premise is simple, Kevin needs to lose weight and overcome bouts of depression in a bid to fulfill his lifelong dream of doing a cage dive with Great White Sharks in Guadalupe. That's pretty much it really.
I'll be totally honest, from the outset, it's blatantly clear that Kevin is no Scorcese, it's clearly done on the cheap, by a man who isn't a seasoned film-maker, it's very much a "get your mate to hold the camera when you need to be in shot" production and the music, although actually not bad, doesn't always work. The real shame is that the film doesn't pick up at all on the battle to lose the weight and the previous, unsuccessful attempt to see White Sharks at the Farrallons, so the real, wide appeal drama and jeopardy is completely missing. "Great White Life" is essentially a collection of home videos edited together to make an amateur film, I can relate to that, I have done that myself!
At this stage it seems like I wasn't overly taken with this film but hang on a second, that wouldn't be accurate. I actually, really enjoyed it. It has a charm of its own, an open honesty and warmth which drew me in. I enjoy watching low budget films by complete unknowns, a lot of the time I find them far more interesting because the "star" is more engaging and what they lack in production values, they can make up for in reality and honesty and to Kevin's credit, he put it all out there and I could relate to him. He's obviously a nice guy, his wife is a nice lady and his friends, who provide regular soundbites, all clearly hold him in high regard. It's like watching a mate's home videos of a special holiday and actually enjoying doing so as opposed to just saying you are. Yes there are deficiencies if you look at it as an exercise in film-making but you'd be doing Mcgrath a disservice if you were to do so, he wants to tell a positive story and reflect sharks in a positive light and he just about manages to do it. I enjoyed it, well done big fella.
If you have some time to kill, you could do worse than checking both these films out and another I watched that wasn't about sharks, "Famous in 31 days" which was very enjoyable, another low budget and pretty funny, "ordinary guy on a crusade" handicam odyssey.
Barry Norman eat your heart out.