Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Making It Happen - Part 1

I made a promise when I started on this whole absurd undertaking, that when (notice I didn't say "if") I made it happen, I would tell you, my faithful reader, my supporter and in many cases my friend how I actually managed to pull off what, at pretty much every step of the journey, looked like an impossible task. I don't break promises, so here it is, part one of pretty much the whole story in chronological order (probably!) of how I managed it, it might be a long one this so bear with me!

The main reason I am so keen to do this is because, particularly in the shark world, nobody has ever done it before, the very, very first thing I did when I started to seriously consider making a gargantuan life decision was to research how to do it and put something like this together before quickly realising that that help just does not exist, at least not for mass consumption anyway but why? We'll come to that later...

Ok, first thing's first, let's start from the beginning, as in way, way back, because that will give you a good idea of the foundations upon which I was building when I decided the risk was worth it in really dedicating myself to this because that is hugely important. This also isn't solely limited at addressing those who want to work with sharks, most of this is applicable to pretty much everything. I'm not going to tell you what to do, I'm not even saying you should do things the same way I did, I'm just hoping there are a few bits of information relative to me which you can find useful and apply to your own goals.

Who am I but more importantly, who are you!?

We can't all be born and raised on the Great Barrier Reef, in the Bahamas, Florida or Hawaii, we can't all have ardent SCUBA Diving parents and/or a mountain of family wealth or connections to the industries in which we want to work, let's be honest, most of us don't so that's where we have something in common.

I grew up in the industrial north of England, I am the only diver in my entire (yet miniscule) family and I am from a very working class family, my dad rennovated and designed pubs and my mum at one time, worked three jobs just to put me through university. I am not and never have been "poor," I am from a far more stable background than many people less fortunate than me who really do have nothing but money was never easy to come by and holidays to shark filled locations were never going to be a reality so in that regard, I may well be exactly like you.

Why is this relevant you may be asking? Well, it's incredibly relevant because show me someone who is living the kind of exciting life you want and more often than not I'll show you someone who has had a very fortunate head start in life, handed to them on a plate. This is not something to criticise, if I could offer the same to my kids I would and it also doesn't mean what these more fortunate people are doing is of any less value, it just means you have to work harder than they did but if you want it enough, that shouldn't be a problem. Also, don't assume that everyone at the peak of your chosen vocation got there through handouts, a lot of them would have shed gallons of blood, sweat and tears for years along the way. Lesson one, find those people and learn from them.

I was probably a bit of an unusual child, (that's me by the way) I had a pretty low attention span, particularly at school, in my later years, it would be fair to say as far as school was concerned, I really couldn't be arsed with it, it was boring, there was no challenge and it didn't relate to anything I wanted to do with my life. However, if I was really interested and passionate about something, I became utterly obsessed and would spend every moment of every day concentrating on that and that meant that my entire life centred around two things, Manchester United and sharks and these would be joined at age fifteen, by music, notably Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, when I realised I had a bit of a natural gift with a guitar in my hands.

Are you still with me? This is going somewhere I promise. 

The thing is, it became apparent at an early age that this obsessive personality trait would shape how I would become in later life because even as a very young child I was focussed on my career and that career was working with sharks and becoming a film-maker and author. A lot of people I know, still don't know what they want to be, even in their thirties, I knew what I wanted to be when I was about six and nothing has changed, I still want the same things, so here is lesson two, if you know what you want you're better off than those who don't, you just have to ask yourself how much you want it.

Even at a young age, I would drive myself to achieve things I probably knew were almost impossible, the fact they were only almost impossible meant I would give it my all and as I got older and the years would advance, I got even worse. I can admit now, that when I was a musician in my own band I must have been, at times, a total nightmare to deal with. When I picked up a guitar for the first time, my goal was to be in the biggest Metal band of all time, to be considered one of the best songwriters of all time and to be looked upon as one of the most influential Rock musicians in the world, I hadn't even started learning to play the bloody thing yet!

My ten years in Nerve Engine taught me some incredibly valuable things however, things which got me to where I am today, the good stuff, that endless hours of hard work, passion, self belief and sacrifice would yield positive results, that if you want to be good enough and put the work in, you can be good enough. It also taught me the bad things, people will quickly look to exploit your passion, hard work and ability for their own gains, at your detriment, that sometimes means that no matter how good you are, sometimes, lady luck just isn't smiling down on you and perhaps most importantly, what you know comes a distant second to who you know. Lesson three, get to know the right people!

Know your subject and know it well!

Whatever it is you want to do, if it is vocational, that vocation will have a primary subject matter and you better make it your business to know it as well as you possibly can!

My first introduction to sharks was the one which got me hooked. Long story short, I was three and was in Wales visiting my grandparents who happened to live by the coast. Along with my dad, a keen naturalist, I found a dead Tope on the beach. My dad told me all about what it was and I was fascinated by this seemingly huge (relative to my diminutive stature of course,) fish. That afternoon, an advert came on for JAWS which was being shown on television later that night, my dad joked that had the Tope not died, it would have grown up to become JAWS and that was me done, from that moment on, sharks became the coolest thing on the planet.

From then on, I obesessed over shark books and shark documentaries. Bear in mind, back then shark documentaries, particularly those shown in the UK were as rare as rocking horse poo, there was no "Shark Week" (maybe not such a bad thing?), nobody barring a select few were interested in sharks anywhere and most importantly there was no access to the internet. This was actually a huge plus in my development because I had to earn every bit of information I could get my hands on. Due to it's complete absence, I also wasn't influenced by the internet which, whilst being an amazing source of information, is also an amazing source of misinformation. In short, I had to think for myself and as I got older, I would question the things I was learning and was beginning to come up with my own theories and discussion points. At age nine, I had managed to get a letter to Valerie Taylor via an aquarium who's address and curator I found in the back of one of my books and we started corresponding for a few years. Remember, there was no email so it was quite a laborious process!


I would also correspond with the likes of Dr Eugenie Clark, Leonard Compagno, Peter Klimley of the Scripps Institute and Ian Fergusson, a man I have enormous respect for and with whom I would discuss the likelihood of Great White Sharks visiting the UK coastline, a subject about which I wrote an article aged only twelve and a subject about which in the UK at least, as far as I was aware, only Ian, Richard Peirce and myself were talking and this is twenty years ago. Back then, pretty much nobody would entertain the concept, now it's a fairly common belief that it is entirely plausible, even highly likely. To put it in simple terms, I didn't learn what I knew from Wikipedia, I learned it from the best of the best and I will always have a never ending appreciatation and gratitude to those people for taking the time to respond to letters from some kid in England.

This also stoked the already raging fire in me to learn to dive and actually see a shark up close but as I said, we didn't have any money, I was only a kid and diving is expensive. I even went so far as to make a homemade wetsuit for a trip to Scarborough (UK, not the other ones!) out of a kaghoul, some trackie bottoms, a wooly hat and some gloves. I forget how old I was but needless to say when I got there I readressed the wisdom of going into the freezing cold north sea in what amounted to nothing more than a load of old clothes when I knew I wasn't going to see any sharks anyway!

That brings me back to the original point of this section, knowing your subject, whatever it is. I have been self studying sharks through books and films and in later years actually getting up close and personal with them in their habitat and I don't mind saying that yes, I know my subject and I know it well but what is most important is that I appreciate the next lesson, there are people out there older than me, with more experience, who know more about sharks than I do so I make it my business to listen to them and learn what I can from them. When I was a teenager as you may be yourself, I also thought I knew everything there is to know about the world but what went in my favour was that I knew this wasn't the case with sharks and I embraced every opportunity to learn from people who did. Lesson four, you don't know everything there is to know about your subject, you might think you do but really, you don't. Learn from people with more knowledge and experience than you and don't take it as a personal insult if you are challenged, listen, learn and take it for what it is, someone who may be trying to help you become better at what you do!

Why have I spent the last hour writing a load of stuff about what i was like as a child and the effect it's had on me in my later years? Because if you are on the verge of making your own big decisions, it might just help to know that there are people out there just like you who have done it with the same limited resources. Also, if any of this sounds familiar then it also goes to show that ordinary people can make extraordinary things happen and if you see some of the same personality traits I have, in yourself, then it is proof they can be put to good use!

I told you this was gonna be a long one, you still with me? Go get yourself a cup of tea, take a break and let's crack on!

How mentally tough are you? Dare you take risks?

Okay so we've done the introductory part, now it's on to the heavy duty stuff and some of it you may not like or want to "hear."

I recently made a new friend (Hi Paul) who contacted me for advice, the kind of advice I'm giving here, because he also has a passion to do something with his life that doesn't veer too far away from what I am doing. What I liked about what Paul discussed with me is that although it's an enormous task he has set himself, he has started doing the boring stuff that always comes at the very beginning of setting one's self a goal, he's passionate and he listens to advice! I think, although what he wants to do is going to be insanely difficult, he might just pull it off, at least elements of it anyway and I really hope he does because he has a lot of the qualities it takes to do stuff like this.

Do you though? I mean, do you really?

I see a lot of people using facebook statuses as a way to impart wisdom to others, you know the type of stuff, the fluffy, flowery crap you get in women's magazines which are almost always followed within only a few days by the same person saying how much they hate their life, job or family, usually with a caveat of "f**k my life," or "Why is it always me?!"

I'll impart some wisdom of my own, ignore these people, do not respond to these people at all. Ever. If you are about to embark on possibly the single biggest life changing event in your life so far, you don't need any overblown negativity or self pity in your life and you don't have the time or luxury to encourage it to come in your direction from others who can only affect you negatively.

How selfish are you? Are you prepared to focus absolutely everything on doing the things you want to do, to very possibly let down family and friends, to become socially unreliable and to become a one dimensional embodiment of what it is you want to achieve? If the answer is "not very," then you have two choices, change, or assess the concept of whether you are ready for all of this.

Do you believe in yourself that you can do this, as in you think you have everything it takes to overcome every obstacle that is put in your way? Write down the reasons why you think you can do this and the reasons you think you may not be able to do this and be brutally honest with yourself. If the list of negatives is more than two or three long and they are the kind of things you don't feel you can change, put the list in a drawer for future reference and reconsider if you are ready for this because chances are, you probably aren't.

The following bullet points relate to a goal similar in size to mine and one which will require the same amount of commitment, the type of goal which to everybody else, maybe even you, seems almost impossible.

  • Do you have dependents, i.e. a wife/husband and most importantly, kids? If you have kids, bear in mind what effect doing this will have on them, more often than not, the negative effect. I don't have kids (praise the lord!) so this wasn't an issue for me fortunately.
Let's assume you're childless like me, the following points relate directly to you and don't have that added issue to consider.
  • Do you have a job? Quit. If you're gonna do something this big then you can't do it part-time because chances are you'll fail if you do. Even better, take voluntary redundancy if you have the chance, get a bit of cash behind you. Remember, it's only a job, if you see it as more than that then maybe reassess what you would rather do, work there the rest of your life or really go for what you want.
  • How do you feel about not having a social life? Not a problem I hope as you can forget having one when you get started!
  • Imagine your life without the things you have now, money, possessions, car, new clothes, holidays, a home even, how would that make you feel? Chances are you're gonna have to get used to doing without or losing some, if not all of these if you go for it.
  • Your girlfriend or boyfriend says "it's me or this stupid dream," what do you say?
  • Consider this question for a couple of minutes, **what are you going to do if you fail?**
  • How are you going to survive without a monthly income?
  • Why do you want to do this in the first place?
  • What do you have about you that makes you better, or more qualified than everyone else to do this?
  • If you pull it off, what are you going to do afterwards?
  • Who do you know now who can help you at the very early stages of putting this together and how well do you really know them?
These are just a few things for you to bear in mind, if you haven't already, you need to start questioning yourself, your motivations, your strengths and your weaknesses.

Tomorrow, part 2 is going to go through what I went through, what I did, how I did it, the mistakes I made and the highs and lows of actually taking that first step and going for what I have wanted my whole life.

Your questions are always welcome and I would love to hear about your own experiences. I want to help you in whichever way I can and hopefully some of you may get some good stuff out of this process which does just that. It's about time people started to help people like us, success and excitement in life shouldn't be confined to a small group of people, it should be a realistic goal for everyone who is willing to make the sacrifices to get there and it would be nice to think that at least a few of those will remember the people in a similar position to the one in which they found themselves previously and offer advice and support to those who want to follow in their footsteps.

**Incidentally, how did you answer the question "what are you going to do if you fail? hopefully you answered that failure is not an option and you will not fail! If you did, you're on the right tracks already.**

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Try less nagging, try more gratitude!

Everybody loves a good ol' witch hunt now and then and it seems since the advent of widely available social media, these witch hunts are becoming a daily occurrence, nowhere else more so, than in the world of conservation and in particular shark conservation.

I use Facebook a fair bit, it's a great resource to let people know all about "From the Office to the Ocean" but is also a good way of keeping in touch with friends, old and new, around the globe but every day, without fail, on my news feed is the latest petition to do with sharks and the latest outburst of indignant outrage at someone or other for doing something or other, often accompanied by a letter template from the same people, often full of misinformation and about a million pages long (maybe a slight exaggeration) that we are told we must mailshot out to the provided email addresses to show our disgust.

The latest one got me thinking though because I was disgusted by this video...

 Check out the article as well, it was that and the resulting Facebook shit storm which got me thinking, one part of the article in particular... "We have the shark and we've identified who caught the shark," said Capt. Dan Sforza of the state Department of Fish and Game. "We are investigating and nobody is going to get away with anything."

The predictable status updates which linked the video alongside calls for everyone to email their disgust to various email addresses almost seemed to be an habitual kneejerk reaction to these types of articles and videos because had they read the article they would have read, and I repeat;

"We have the shark and we've identified who caught the shark," said Capt. Dan Sforza of the state Department of Fish and Game. "We are investigating and nobody is going to get away with anything."

What all this led me to wonder was, how many of these people email people like Capt. Dan Sforza and the Department of Fish and Game to offer thanks for their quick action and commitment to doing something about it? The Social Media Shark Conservation Alliance, or S.M.S.C.A as I have just decided to refer to them as, no doubt mean well and obviously want to see sharks protected but aside from being often woefully misinformed, through no fault of their own whatsoever, also seem to be in a permanent state of fist clenching, teeth grinding outrage. Don't get me wrong, the mindless killing of sharks infuriates me, disgusts me and depresses me and I have been in shark conservation long, long, long before it became fashionable and "Sharkwater" came out, but it can't be healthy and I don't think it helps because like it or not, you end up sounding like some nagging housewife with the people you are addressing, doing what henpecked husbands do in that situation, they stop listening and go down the pub instead.

Think back to when you were a teenager, you might even still be one (lucky you), how did you respond when being nagged and mithered by your mum? Most teenagers would roll their eyes and turn their music up, completely ignoring what's just been said, I know I did, I still do because my mum doesn't half mither me still and I'm 32 (hi mum!) Our mothers do/did this not to make our lives unpleasant or difficult but because they think it will help get things done, things which should have been done previously and which, in their state of un-done-ness (yep, that's a new word) have frustrated mother dearest to the point of resorting to the dreaded nagging technique. Does it ever work? No it almost always doesn't and if you think busy men and women on the other side of the world want to work their way through a pseudo-scientific, factually "creative" email mithering them, from an indignant housewife, student, or any other such individual from the other side of the world or down the road, you're seriously mistaken.

So, how about this...How about writing a brief email of thanks to the people who do all the thankless jobs in shark conservation, to the governments and politicians who have made positive changes or who are trying their best to make them, to the research scientists living off baked beans and meagre government grants to do the prolonged, laborious and often boring scientific studies that kick start any serious conservation effort? These guys don't get the clothing endorsements, they don't get the watches, the TV appearances or money to make films and travel the world doing the cool stuff, they sit in small offices surrounded by files and they meticulously put documentation and proposals together, they knock on the doors, they get their hands dirty and often get beaten down by anybody and everybody but keep going because they believe in what they are doing. Forget the shark conservation celebrities, they get more than enough, it's these often ignored, rarely thanked and highly passionate people and organisations who get things done, often at he expense of recognition for their work when a famous face decides to get involved during the process of dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

People like the hardworking team and politicians behind the Palau Shark Sanctuary

People like the PEW Environment Group who among a ton of other things, are almost single handedly responsible for the creation of the two million square mile Micronesian shark sanctuary and the banning of the sale, trade and possession of shark fin in Saipan (watch the video, they may not get a mention except at the very end but it was them who made it happen.)

People like Shark Free Marinas

How about a letter of support to the Fijian government to thank them for considering the bill which could potentially make Fiji the first Melanesian location to provide a sanctuary for sharks? Don't stop there either, send an email of thanks to Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project

People like The Shark Trust

People like The Coral Reef Alliance

People like Bite Back

Anyway, surely you get my drift by now? Spend a bit of time researching those who are doing great things and let them know you appreciate it, it might actually make you feel good and positivity breeds positivity. Outrage and anger are valuable emotions but not all the time, after all, they do say people are more attractive when they smile :)

If you agree, share this blog in places where you think it may just do some good, you might just help brighten someone's day!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Naughty Sharks in the Seychelles

Fresh from my return from getting very close to the world's biggest Bull Sharks, the news has broken of a second fatality in the Seychelles in a fortnight, this time the victim is from the North West, not too far from my home city and one of the two likely culprits in both attacks is the Bull Shark.

As is the norm in these cases, the reporting in the British media has been pretty sensationalist and I even heard earlier today that someone on the radio suggesting the attacking shark could have been a Whale Shark!

A bit of perspective is needed here, we don't really have the details as to exactly what happened, as is often the case with the reporting of shark attacks, the public only really get about five per cent of the actual story. What is clear is that the Seychelles are in the tropics and you have a better chance of finding sharks closer to shore than in other parts of the world, that humans are coming into contact with sharks should surprise nobody.

The rogue shark claim is already being made by every man and his dog, people who know nothing about shark attacks, even less about sharks and who's knee jerk verbal diarrhoea does more harm than good. Victor Coppleson, who first established the rogue shark theory, described a rogue shark as one which "developed a taste for human flesh as easy prey," essentially, a shark which swims around looking for people to eat. Rogue tigers? Yes, rogue lions? Yes, Rogue crocodiles? Yes, but rogue sharks? Not a chance. For animals who supposedly develop a taste for human flesh, why are the victims not consumed? Also, how do these supposed rogue sharks actually develop this "taste for human flesh" in the first place!?

Let's look at the facts, Bull Sharks are big dangerous animals, no question about that, likewise the Tiger Shark, the other possible culprit, but are they prowling the world's tropical beaches looking for people to eat? Of course they're not! Having had the privilege to have spent a month in extremely close proximity to up to 70 Bull Sharks at one time, I can say with some authority that they are intelligent, cautious animals with an astonishing turn of pace and agility for an animal of such large bulk. It should also be noted that they are big and very, very powerful, you do not want to be on the end of one of these sharks in full flow because they really do pack a punch but not once did I feel under any threat at all and these were usually feeding sharks. When they weren't in feeding mode, they were even more cautious, they are not the indiscriminate killers the media and Shark Week would have you believe.

The Seychelles has had only two fatalities from shark bite in the last fifty years, not bad going for the tropics and to provide some perspective, there have been more fatalities from shark bite in the Mediterranean in the last twenty years than the Seychelles in the last fifty...

So why were the victims attacked? Honestly, I don't know, I wasn't there, nor am I there now to help find out but please, do me a favour, discount the "mistaken identity" theory immediately. The water in The Seychelles is crystal clear and be it a Bull or a Tiger, they would not assume a snorkeller or diver was a turtle because guess what, people look nothing like turtles! I'm just waiting for the "shark thought he was a seal" quote as well, yep, those famous Indian Ocean Seychellois Seals that hang around near to beaches...

The interesting factor in these attacks, much like those in Egypt, is that the injuries were caused by multiple bites. Yes, most attack statistics show that the majority of attacks consist only one bite but these stats are often taken from incidents involving surfers and Great Whites which behave differently in attacks on people to both Bulls and Tigers. Both species are more disposed to biting a victim more than once and without the barrier of a surfboard, the victim is often more accessible to the attacking shark. The first thing most victims will do when bitten by a shark is fight back, if the shark is behaving in an unusually aggressive manner, particularly a Bull Shark, it will most likely respond accordingly and fight back itself, that's when you really have a problem.

Is it possible the same shark is responsible for both attacks? yes but is it likely? Probably not. If it is the same shark, why did it take two weeks to attack again? It may be two individuals of the same species, maybe two separate species, the victims reportedly suffered enormous wounds so at the risk of upsetting the "cuddly sharks" brigade and those who don't believe sharks attack humans with intent, these were clearly acts of aggression on the part of the shark.


Let's not get carried away, sharks don't attack humans with malevolence because they are evil and want to do harm to people for the sake of doing harm. It may be uncomfortable for some people to accept but shark attacks are a natural part of life, incredibly rare of course but the sharks are just doing what sharks do. If you go into the sea where there are sharks, you might be lucky enough to see a shark, you may also be unlucky enough to get bitten by one, it's part and parcel of swimming in areas where we know large, predatory sharks inhabit. Sometimes, despite the human need for it, we can't rationalise a shark attack or explain exactly why it happened, sometimes, sharks attack people for no other reason than the shark has decided it is worth the effort, it really can be as simple as that. Forget what Erich Ritter says, "shark incidents," "shark accidents," "negative shark/human interactions" and all that crap, these were "shark attacks."

That's not to say that these attacks weren't caused by various different factors, sea temperature, human encroachment and impact on the sharks' natural habitat, fishing activity, dumping into the sea...There could be a number of contributing factors to why these attacks took place but at this stage we just don't know so it's pointless prevaricating until we know more.

What is clear is that these are tragic events and the likely shark cull, initiated by a panicking tourism industry makes it all the more tragic because people have to start accepting what may be difficult for them to do so, every year, sharks will kill a small number of people, an infinitesimally small proportion of those who enjoy the beach every year all around the world, but that is of no comfort to the friends and families of the unfortunate victims. 

What we must do is accept this, it's no good claiming sharks aren't dangerous, that they're cuddly and friendly (they're not), nor is it any use claiming sharks are blood thirsty murderers intent on eating every swimmer they encounter (they're not). Sharks are sharks and sharks do what sharks do, this was a case of sharks doing what they do very well I'm afraid, if you want to avoid being bitten by a shark, stay out of the water, if you want to use the ocean, you must accept you have to start playing by their rules.

If the Seychellois officials initiate a shark cull, it will be an absolute tragedy, hasn't enough blood been shed already?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Films don't just make themselves!

Well yeah that's a fairly obvious statement but seeing as the lack of internet put paid to the video diaries about the crew I figured it would be nice to do a little blog about the people who helped me make "Of Shark and Man."

Probably the most important member of my crew was someone who has been with me on this since day one when I first came up with the idea not for this film, but the whole "From the Office to the Ocean" concept when I brought it up over a few beers in his garden a couple of years ago. 

He's been mentioned regularly on this blog in the past but Hamish Harper has been invaluable to me for a number of different reasons. From the second I first came up with the idea, Hamish was the only person aside from myself who had the faith and belief that I could make this happen and he immediately got on board and offered his services in whatever capacity I needed. Hamish's greatest strength is his ability to perfectly balance creativity and practicality and has provided me with the most vital element of support before and during filming, which only a tiny handful of people have done, and that is to give a constant stream of encouragement and enthusiasm, when I needed help, advice, encouragement or just a pick-me-up, it was Hamish who would do it.

It was Hamish who helped me shoot the teaser trailer, who introduced me to the Cameras Underwater crew, who found me a cameraman (see below) and who in Fiji operated as sound man, photographer, cameraman and general diving guru and provider of musical light relief and entertainment at which he was very, very good. Hamish's involvement won't stop there either as we will be doing some UK based filming and he will be involved with "From the Office..." moving forward as well. A great bloke, a great friend and a huge part of the making of this film.

Believe it or not the original plan, way back when, was for me to spend a year writing a book, that's what "From the Office..." was originally intended to be, then after encouragement from Jim Standing at Fourth Element I decided to go down the route I had always wanted to follow and that was film. Originally intending to spend the vast majority of time behind the camera, I was intent on doing the lion's share of the filming myself but when it became clear I would actually need to be in front of the camera most of the time it became apparent that I would need a professional cameraman and a good one at that. 

Having worked with him in the past, Hamish recommended Hugh Fairs so I called him up, he liked the idea and said if I could make it happen to count him in. I like to think I'm pretty good behind a camera but for this film I needed someone much better, with more experience and greater technical awareness and after twenty five years in the industry Hugh has that pretty well covered! Both topside and underwater, I learned a great deal from Hugh during the process of filming and that will stand me in great stead moving forward both behind and in front of the camera. One of the most important things was being able to guarantee that the footage we shot would look great so a very good cameraman was a must and Hugh is most certainly a very good cameraman! During an edit, it becomes much more enjoyable to work with great looking footage and it opens up more possibilities within the film's structure and in this case, I can't wait to start because the footage looks brilliant!

Without doubt the most vital component in all this happening in the first place is Fiji Me and in particular, the amazing Jane West and Martin Harlow. When others didn't want to know, Jane and Martin had the cojones to take a big gamble on an unknown quantity and put their money up to make it happen. They immediately saw the idea I had for what it was and were nothing other than incredibly supportive, enthusiastic and passionate not just about the film, but about the conservation message. Without Jane and Martin, this whole thing would not have happened full stop and when times were hard, when I was unsure whether anyone would be interested in what I was doing, Jane and Martin were there to give encouragement and support and because of them one of my life's dreams came true.

For Fiji Me the conservation message isn't just fluff to sell a product, it's something they believe in and support and as further proof, off the back of this film, Fiji Me are sponsoring this year's Bite Back charity fundraising evening for shark conservation. Jane and Martin aren't just amazing people, they are an asset to tourism, to Fiji and passionate lovers of Fijian people.

It's no secret I am a huge fan of the Canon DSLR range of cameras and obviously, to shoot a professional film, you need professional cameras and because of Canon, I am in the privileged position of owning and using the Canon 7D and an assortment of lenses, they even gave me use of the 10-22mm wide angle lens for the making of both "Behind Blue Glass" and "Of Shark and Man" for nothing!

This whole film was shot almost entirely (Go Pro footage aside) on Canon cameras (two 7Ds and a 550D with 10-22, 15-75, 70-300 and 50mm lenses and even the tiny Ixus 100) and the footage speaks for itself. Canon were behind me as soon as  approached them and have been supportive and enthusiastic since the moment they became a firm part of "From the Office to the Ocean" and because of them, I can now get the results I want. A special thank you to David Fidler and the brilliant Alan Harborne, it's a privilege to be a small part of the Canon family.

Alex Tattersall, a great bloke, an amazing photographer (see above image) and a man who got me out of a pretty sticky situation regarding housings for our 7Ds. Alex runs and is a distributor for Nauticam housings which I can know confirm if they weren't aware already, are Bull Shark proof! (click the link for the video, I haven't decided when more clips will be made available but when I do, I will let you all know!)

The Fijian people are some of the greatest individuals on the planet, friendly, always smiling and always happy to talk to a pasty Mancunian with a camera in his hands, they are the real stars of this film. Fiji is a beautiful place, paradise in fact and this is augmented by its wonderful, wonderful people who, when they weren't joking about eating us, were all too happy to help with anything we needed and made us feel enormously welcome throughout the whole month. An extra special thanks to the people of Galoa village who allowed me into their homes and made me feel like a genuine part of the village, something I am hugely humbled by and as of now, I consider Galoa my special Fijian village.

The people of Fiji are undoubtedly behind the protection of their sharks and are refreshingly well informed about shark conservation. This tiny dot on the map is now on the brink of some major positive changes in the shark conservation world and that is down to its strongest, most valuable asset, the people themselves.

I have learned more about the process of film-making this last year from Liam Wright at Banter Media than from anyone else. Liam and I have worked together in the past and became friends after he interviewed me for a film he was making and who then worked alongside me on "Behind Blue Glass." Liam is an impressive individual who has built a successful production company from the ground up and is still in his mid-twenties. Always ready to offer advice and support, Liam has been vital in my development both creatively and perhaps more importantly, technically and has offered both his and the services of his team to me regularly this last six months when he was already snowed under with other work and for that I will be forever grateful. In the event I secure the post production budget I need, it will be with Liam and the BM boys and girls that I undertake the entire post production process and I have a feeling Liam will be involved throughout the lifespan of "From the Office..." or at least I hope he will, he's a very busy boy after all!

Last but not least is the unsung hero of "From the Office..." and along with the rest of the Nerve Engine boys, my best  mate for well over ten years, Kris Allen. Kris is responsible for my website and is forever providing technical advice to a total computer moron (err...guess who!) who also designs the graphics I use online and in emails. Without Kris, these promo materials would have to be done by me and ergo, would look utterly dreadful so at the expense of his own time, Kris helps me look good! Not only is Kris a thoroughly brilliant fella with tonnes of tech-knowledge, he is also a talented musician who has a new band in Leeds called Shields alongside another of my closest friends, the insanely talented Owen Wilson (not him, the "other" one!)

Big thanks to all the above! As you will have noticed I have been rather prolific on the blogging front of late and there are more to come in the coming days, I actually started this on Saturday so I am still catching up with a ton of work as we speak but there will be more Shark Week reviews coming, hopefully a photo special from Fiji and also, as promised, an in depth blog about how I actually managed to make this absurd concept actually become reality!

Spread the word, join the mailing list and the Facebook group and get in touch, your involvement is both encouraged and welcomed!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Shark Week Review Part 1 - "Killer Sharks"

Shark Week has been and gone and as I was in Fiji I missed it when it was aired, however, this means that by the wonder of internet file sharing, I can watch it without the commercials and thus not act as an empty vessel to be filled with desire to buy a load of crap off cynical advertisers! I believe the youngsters these days refer to that as "winning."

I thought it might be a bit of fun to watch the shows and review them here as I watch them so have decided to start off with "Killer Sharks - The Attacks of Black December" because I am a bit of an authority about shark attacks (in my own mind) and this is an area I have a bit of expertise in, plus, I intend to feature this historic event in the "From the Office..." film set in South Africa purely for a couple of fascinating elements of these attacks I am positive Discovery won't bother with in this show.

Here goes...

0:00 - 1:51 - Stupid pseudo growly American voiceover accompanies an African man being knocked from his boat and presumably eaten. This is an issue already because as far as I am aware this didn't actually happen. The first attack during Black December took place on 18th of December on a 16 year old lifesaver, not the 17th of December on an old black man in a boat...Not a good start...

1:52 - ... Black and white footage with a scripted pathe news report about the South African summer and people flocking to the beaches. Apparently news readers in 1950's South Africa spoke with American accents... as it seems, does everyone else. Obviously there is no such thing as South African actors.

2:41 - 4:41 Here we go, the Robert Wherley attack accompanied by some impressive blood and crunching sounds along with a rubber shark and a voiceover from an American man who says he was there despite most likely not having been because he's American and not South African...

5:19 "How many sharks were there?"
        "It's hard to say, the water was cloudy."

Oh right, because during the reconstruction the water was crystal clear...

5:48  Enter the mayor of Durban, Larry Vaughan. Oh, hang on, it's not the mayor in JAWS, may as well be though...

6:55  The Alan Green attack now which is preceeded by a carbon copy of the scenes before Alex Kintner is attacked in JAWS, replete with Sean-alike building a sandcastle. Will this have as much groovy gore (which admittedly looks pretty realistic) as the first attack? Let's find out...

8:54 An interesting take on the 50's bathing suit, a lot less conservative than I imagine they really were, on a rather buxom woman...We'll award one point for that. The attack isn't as gory but what's this?...A South African!!! Someone who was actually there!

10:10 A black man walks to the water's edge with a fishing rod...A black man, on a beach, with white people on it as well, during apartheid when most beaches were segregated. Nice one.

11:20 Oops I spoke too soon, the fisherman has had his rod torn from his hands and he has seen the shark so is on his toes into the "white area" to warn them of the shark. Yikes!

12:19 Vernon Barry has just been Caribbean Reef Sharks. In the Indian Ocean...

13:00  The Mayor has a touch of the "Lars Ulrich" about him and he's refusing to close the beaches. The daft sod.

14:28 "The spotter plane was a waste of time because the water was very couldn't see the sharks"  - accompanied by an aerial shot of turquoise water and several clearly visible sharks.

16:24  Did fishermen really wear earrings in 1957?

17:20  More Caribbean Reef Sharks...IN THE INDIAN OCEAN!

18:46  A fishing boat leaves the dock to catch sharks...From Stuart Cove's in the Bahamas...with a shark cage clearly visible in the background which weren't even invented until the 1970's...

20:15 "Durban Harbour" or rather Stuart Cove's again...More shark cages in the background...

21:07 The Julia Painting attack...Some gnarly gore which is again, done well.

27:53  The Matt Hooper character is going out in a shark cage. Seriously, correct me if I'm wrong but the shark cage wasn't invented until the 70's by Rodney Fox!!?...

30:14  He's wearing modern SCUBA gear in 1957 in a shark cage which hasn't been invented yet and is being attacked by Carribbean Reef Sharks in the Indian Ocean. Attention to detail has left the building folks...

33:00  The Derek Prinsloo attack...More gore but at least it's complimented by a brief bit of input from his son.

38:00 Nic Badenhorst attack...More impressive gore. The special effects team are at least earning their money I suppose.

42:06  "Produced by Gurney Productions"...Aahhh now it all becomes clear!

Ok so my thoughts on this. Well, it was really pretty shocking. Cheap, tacky and with no real focus on what makes the Black December attacks so fascinating, instead relying on the cheap thrills. The programme finishes abruptly after the Badenhorst fatality with no attempt at an explanation for the attacks or with any attention to what happened after and the effect on Durban and its holiday communities.

It was also laden with rather amusing errors and although enjoyable in a weird way, much the same as seeing a man with a beard of bees, it also must be noted that it was completely pointless and served no purpose whatsoever.

This is good news though because when I feature it, it will help make what I do look even better. Cheers Gurney Productions!

More to come on David reviews Shark Week...

The Fiji Times Article