Monday, 11 June 2012

A new short film coming very soon...

Hard at work chasing Stingrays

As alluded to in my previous blog, I have recently returned from three weeks in Mallorca where, in rather typical fashion, I created a new mountain of work to get through by coming up with the idea to use my "holiday" to shoot a short film about a brilliant conservation initiative set up and run by my equally brilliant amigo, Brad Robertson. I am involved in that I support it and offer advice where I can, helping in bits and pieces where my skill set is needed but this really is Brad's baby.

The Mallorca Stingray Survey (click the link and join the group) is a simple and endearingly positive project whereby divers can volunteer to take part in regular Stingray counts throughout a twelve month period, in a Marine Reserve with Brad to try and gain better understanding of the visiting Stingray population and when they are present throughout the year. That's pretty much it, grassroots conservation that unites the local community and actually allows people the chance to get their hands dirty and contribute to the collection of scientific data. Once again, our friend, the immeasurably cool Gabriel Morey, is involved and giving us the political, governmental and scientific clout we need to actually maybe even make a difference.

 No photoshop on that, honestly!

As far as films go, it doesn't sound the most exciting, but if you're expecting a run of the mill film about people counting Stingrays then you're very much mistaken.

There are very few true conservationists out there in the world, by true conservationists I mean the spit and sawdust individuals who spend every waking hour fighting red tape, apathy, financial limitations, the weather, exhaustion and countless other obstacles. The people for whom conservation isn't a Facebook status but a way of life, the people who know all too well that glamorous photo shoots, glossy PSAs and clicking "like" on something hasn't saved a single shark, whale, rhino or whatever regardless of how many "fins up" you get.

Conservation projects like this cost money, create mountains of work dealing with people who ultimately let you down, offer glimpses of hope before inevitable crushing disappointment and for all you romantics out there, believing in something enough to dedicate your life to it fucks up relationships. We can all live in a world where "A click a day keeps the finners away" or we can start living in the real world and that is what this film is about.

I decided to approach this film looking not primarily at the project, but the person behind it, my "thing" is animals and people and the relationships bound by a very one sided passion. Brad is a very close friend and someone for whom I have the utmost respect and he was very brave in opening up over the course of three interviews during which we discussed pretty much anything and everything relating to the reality of starting a conservation project in a hotbed of corruption and bureaucratic fuckwittery and most importantly, the effects on his and wonderful wife Bea's life.

I also shot the film in a very specific way, filming often when neither Brad, Bea or anyone else for that matter were aware I was even there so this is very much a look into the lives behind what seems on the surface, a small, embryonic conservation labour of love.

So why shoot it like this? A number of reasons really, firstly, I wanted it to be interesting! In this world of instant gratification, platitudes, back slapping and the sycophantic felching of the self proclaimed conservation heroes who don't actually do anything, I once again (much like in "Of Shark and Man") want to focus on the real heroes, the ones you haven't heard of because they're too busy working their arses off to try and make the world a better place while everyone else is limiting their contribution to 140 characters or less.

This is the reality behind grassroots conservation, of all the NGOs contacted for advice and/or support, (as far as I am currently aware) not a single one has responded despite the project having governmental support, every single cent spent on the project has come from Brad and Bea's pockets whilst they try to build their business after a Winter of barely working at all. This is the sixteen hour days, the strain on relationships, the continued disappointments, the apathy, rejection and sacrifices made because they believe in something enough, but it is also the wins, the people who begin to believe in Brad and his project and the moments which make it all worthwhile (car sized Stingrays anyone?...)

Incidentally, this film also received no outside funding support, I paid for the whole thing out of my own pocket and Brad and Bea's involvement in regards to doing the dives etc was entirely funded by themselves also so once again, this was a case of three friends doing something on their own because they felt it was the right thing to do.

It was an interesting experience for me as this time I was the entire film crew. This was a "one camera" shoot which creates very specific issues when it comes to the edit and getting the shot. Being responsible for every single shot, the sound, the lighting and of course direction and production was an enjoyable challenge, dealing with whatever arose, both opportunities and problems was a hugely rewarding experience, especially with having a very specific look and flow in mind for the finished result before a single shot had even been done. As always, I filmed everything with the edit in mind and when capturing reality that can be a very risky thing to do but I am happy to say that the end result will more than exceed my expectations.

Aside from "Of Shark and Man" of course (which is looking sumptuous by the way,) this is very likely my favourite thing I've ever done and you should be able to see it in the next week to fourteen days, for free, in the usual places so I'll leave it up to you to judge for yourselves.

As always, when I have the final cut, I will send it out to a select group of industry people and subscribers to the mailing list first and shortly thereafter it will be online for everyone. With projects like this, if you like it, or you know someone you think might, share it, please share it! The Stingray project needs support and Brad can only maintain it if we get that support and interest in the media we produce is a great way of showing potential investors that it has the backing of public support.

The film doesn't have a definite title yet and will be around the twelve minute mark. I am actually interested in putting it forward to any film festivals that may be interested so if you have any suggestions please feel free to put them forward to me.

Anyway, not long to go now and I have an edit to finish so keep an eye out over the coming days to find out when and where you can see it.

Finally, a huge congratulations to my mate Colin and his lovely wife Emma on the birth of their second little person, Oliver. Col is a big supporter of "From the Office..." and a reader of this very blog so well done mate, pass on my best to Emma and tell Lily uncle sharkboy will no doubt see her again soon!


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