Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Howard Hall - The Master!

The one and only Howard Hall

Check out Mike's blog post about Howard Hall and Richard Pyle.

He then followed it up by posting Howard's "Best of 2011" showreel which I have shared before but hadn't watched for a while. Watching it again clearly reaffirms my belief that Howard is nothing less than a God of the underwater image world.

The Blue Ocean in RED from Howard Hall on Vimeo.

As an aspiring film-maker and underwater cameraman, it's impossible not to watch this and be utterly inspired. Capturing moving image is an art form and as cameras become more and more advanced, it adds more for the cameraman to consider to ensure his or her shots are crystal clear, beautifully composed and that they tell a story. Doing it underwater is an even more difficult task and Howard is one of those who makes it all look effortless and for those of us who fell in love with the ocean and all its life, Howard's footage almost certainly influenced that passion.

I have a fair few heroes in the shark and underwater world, Stan Waterman, who is one of the biggest influences on my life, a charismatic and immensely talented story teller who revolutionised underwater film-making. Ron and Valerie Taylor, the greatest single motivators for my passion for sharks, Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch who wrote what I consider the greatest shark book ever written,
Samuel "Doc" Gruber, the shark expert, a charismatic, hugely intelligent and inspiring genius who runs Bimini Shark Lab and who has probably done more to educate the world about sharks than anybody and Dr Eugenie Clark, a woman who still at the grand age of 90, works tirelessly on behalf of marine life and who was diving with sharks without cages long before people accepted it could be done with a degree of safety.

There are many others and Mike's posting of Howard's video reminded me that I owe all these people a debt of thanks and gratitude for inspiring me to love sharks as much as I do and hopefully, one day, I can grow into being 10% as amazing as they are.

In the meantime, please take a minute to watch and marvel at Howard's 2011 showreel, the man is a colossus of the moving image.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Here It Is - "The Sanctuary"

As promised, here is the second PSA I produced, which would have announced the creation of the Fiji Shark Sanctuary had it passed and follows hot on the heels of the release of "Love Sharks Love Fiji" which if you haven't seen yet, you can click the link and do so then share on your social media sites and with email address list.

The Sanctuary is a seven minute short which was designed to be used as an educational tool to explain exactly what a shark sanctuary is and why they are beneficial, an inspirational tool to encourage people to support the creation of more such sanctuaries and a way to illustrate just how magnificent Fiji's sharks are.

Again, as with Love Sharks Love Fiji, all the underwater footage comes from "Of Shark and Man" and was filmed on Shark Reef in Beqa Lagoon but this time, The Sanctuary also features three interviews shot by us, again for "Of Shark and Man," featuring Rusi, Angelo Villagomez and someone else whose name escapes me.

This short film features real star names in the shark world, Ron and Valerie Taylor, Cristina Zenato and Douglas Seifert, along with the major players in shark conservation and the edit for this, like LSLF was a pre-emptive one and therefore, plays as though the sanctuary bid had been successful.

So we have some of the best shark footage you will see, the elite of the shark world, a strong educational mantra and a vital conservation message so although the sanctuary didn't happen, this short film still has much to offer as a social media and viral internet tool so please, share it, it's what all the effort to produce it was for in the first place, so you and your friends can encourage more people to get behind the movement to create a global network of protected areas for sharks.

There are about a squillion shark groups on Facebook (that's a rough estimate) so I would imagine all the above really should merit the people who admin those pages sharing with their audience, if only to see sharks being awesome, so hopefully, this little film and its vital message gets seen by a very large audience. If you are a member on one of those groups and you don't see it being shared, put it up yourself and help spread the message that marine protected areas are the greatest hope for sharks!

Original footage, original music, legendary people, superb content, amazing sharks, a great message and it's free to watch!! What's not to love about that?

The Sanctuary from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Seeing as it's Shark Week...Some footage from "Of Shark and Man"

Shark Week is upon us again, and for the twenty fifth time, every one will go shark mad for a week. I don't have SKY TV so I haven't seen any yet and will be relying on other means to see the shows so can't comment on whatever was shown yesterday but I figured that after having sat on them for months, now would be as good a time as any to make two short PSA films I made public, although it is with more than a hint of sadness.

Last year, in late September, I was asked by The Fiji Shark Conservation and Awareness Project to produce a PSA to support the launch of the Fiji Shark Sanctuary, the idea being that I could combine the footage we had shot of the sharks for "Of Shark and Man," with interview footage from world renowned shark experts and conservation leaders, most of which they already had. I augmented that idea by suggesting I make two, the one minute TV spot and a longer, online accompaniment piece which explained the concept of a shark sanctuary in greater detail and went into a little of the back story about Fiji's Shark Conservation efforts.

The plan as I said, was that they would accompany and globalise the announcement the Sanctuary had been confirmed only for the bad news to break that surprisingly and against all the positive noises coming out of Fiji, the decree had been rejected.

I was of course devastated at the news, I had really hoped that Fiji would pass the sanctuary, not because I wanted to release the PSAs (of course I did but that's irrelevant) but because of the attachment I have to Fiji's sharks which is probably stronger than any personal attachment I feel to a population of sharks anywhere else.

From a creative and artistic standpoint though, I want the PSAs out in the public domain and I felt that although the Sanctuary was defeated, the sheer amount of hard work, late nights and effort that went into putting them both together justifies their release, that and by way of almost saying, to paraphrase "Bullseye," "Look at what we could have won"

Regarding the work that went into these, for something relatively straightforward, they were, although enjoyable pieces to work on, at times, a flippin' nightmare. Technical issues, (this was pre-Novatech days, henceforth, everything took ten times longer), working with different formats, aspect ratios and codecs, the political element and losing full days waiting for the various incarnations to upload using dial up speed broadband all took their toll a bit.

This was a labour of love, I'm not releasing these because I was paid to do so, in fact, Fed-Ex'ing an external hard drive from the UK to Fiji meant it actually cost me money to make these so the cynics amongst you can forget any notion that these were both financially motivated projects. All in all, it took about six weeks to get both pieces finished. This also all happened during the six month slog through cataloguing all the footage for "Of Shark and Man" so it was not an easy process, I'll stick to calling that period "character building" and move on...

OK, so a bit about both pieces...

The Sanctuary

Both PSAs centre around the concept of some of the great and good of the shark world delivering a positive message about the benefit of shark conservation and why a Shark Sanctuary is such a good idea. All the interviews except those we shot with Angelo, Rusi and the other rather obvious one, had already been filmed by various other people and my idea was that I could take these interviews and pre-emptively create a message of thanks for the establishing of the Sanctuary, essentially creating the narrative I wanted, using what footage I had available. This is difficult, very difficult in fact because you are working back to front and was actually a direct influence on "A Ray of Light", in that there, I knew what I wanted to say with the piece so constructed a narrative in my head and asked questions relating to that, hoping Brad would create the narrative himself with answers that fit with my vision for the piece.

Working with footage shot by others and not specifically for the project you have in mind does cause various problems in things like sound, format and colour so addressing them was also an issue but what I think will be the everlasting image of those interviews was just how good these people are on camera and how articulate, informed and passionate they are. Not only that, I also learnt a lot about them in the bits you don't see, such as Rick MacPherson and Douglas Seiffert's shared love of Creme Brulee...

This was also sort of a dream come true for me as well because although it's a slight cheat, I appear in a film with two of my ultimate heroes, Ron & Valerie Taylor, something I have dreamt about since I was about six.

Aside from those interview shots, everything else you see was footage we shot for "Of Shark and Man," no stock footage here, not for us! As is becoming customary for my films, music is provided by the amazing Chris Zabriskie.

Love Sharks Love Fiji

"We need a TV PSA that is sixty seconds long and it can't be a second longer," that was the original challenge and with all the great content and footage I had, it made this piece a huge challenge but not only did I manage not to go over the sixty second mark, I hit it dead on. 

Editing a sixty second piece which flows fluidly, is easy to watch and says everything which needs to be said is not easy but  I'm really quite proud of this and it's a huge shame it's not being shown on Fijian TV right now, doing what it was intended to do. I came up with the idea of a thank you piece but with a difference, not just humans saying thank you, but the sharks themselves, humans and sharks accepting each other and working together, that kind of thing. It's a bit hippy trippy but I thought creatively it was quite fresh, uplifting and that it would stand out from the factory standard approach of a mournful narrative over gory footage of sharks being finned. Besides, it was intended as a celebration piece.

The music for these things is always an issue as well because you can't license well known pieces without paying through the nose for them first so that means royalty free, stock music rears its ugly head and without wanting to sound too harsh, it's almost, with a precious few notable exceptions, a bit crap. Bad music ruins a video, no matter how good the footage may be, fortunately though, as a musician myself with access to other stupendously talented musicians, I decided to fix one of the biggest problems we film-makers face myself so this PSA features the first commissioned piece through my company, Scarlet View Media, and our Bespoke Royalty Free Music service. Written and recorded by Mark Burrows, it works brilliantly and was turned around in just four days because that's what our service is all about.

The PSAs will be released separately, first up is Love Sharks Love Fiji, The Sanctuary will follow later this week so keep an eye out on The Facebook Page and follow The Scarlet View Twitter to find out when and please, I can't stress enough, if you enjoy them, share them with your friends and family on your email and social media pages if you have them. Independent Film-Makers can't make a difference if we don't have an audience to see the results of all our hard work.

Love Sharks Love Fiji from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

My profiles: Facebook Vimeo Blogger

Friday, 10 August 2012

London 2012 - Nothing Less Than an Inspiration!

Jessica Ennis wins Gold for Great Britain

Given the size of Great Britain and the rather embarrassing fact that competitive sport and sporting achievement receive virtually zero encouragement amongst the kids here from schools and government, "Team GB's" medal haul at the London 2012 games is nothing short of miraculous!

I'll admit though, prior to the Olympics opening ceremony, I was hugely cynical about London 2012, the organisers seemed to be doing their utmost to mess the whole thing up, everyone north of Watford knew that, as is often the case in the UK, where London would reap the rewards, the rest of us would most likely see no benefit at all, maybe even ending up worse off in the long run and it all seemed primed to be a complete disaster. 

The Olympics came hot on the heels of "The Jubilee" (barf). I hated the jubilee "celebrations," forced enjoyment of a complete non-achievement and an ugly throwback to the middle ages, where servitude is thrust upon the people who actually make Great Britain what it is, and luxury bestowed upon the privileged few purely for being born into a family which decided once upon a time it was better than everyone else and for whom we, the people, should foot the bill so they can live a life of bloated excess.

To say I was a bit "bah humbug" would be an understatement...

Then I watched the opening ceremony, an epic, overblown explosion of pomp and circumstance that was an all out and unapologetic celebration of all things British, conceived and created by Danny Boyle of "Trainspotting" fame and I was blown away, "hang on," I thought, "we might actually make a good go of not cocking this all up!"

Then I read this from the bible of the ignorant, bigoted and outraged middle and upper classes of England, the Daily Mail...

“This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up...
Almost, if not every, shot in the next sequence included an ethnic minority performer. The BBC presenter Hazel Irvine gushed about the importance of grime music (a form of awful electronic music popular among black youths) to east London. This multicultural equality agenda was so staged it was painful to watch.”
For a newspaper which is known for unashamedly promoting mistrust and fear of anyone non-white, non-christian, non-straight and generally non-English, nobody would need to know the source of such unadulterated filth before identifying the culprit, after all, this is the newspaper which infamously supported and fund raised for the NAZI party pre-WWII, a newspaper which anybody with any level of intelligence, decency and social awareness knows to treat with the contempt and ridicule it deserves.

The article was actually a hatchet piece on the NHS, and socialised health care, one of the few remaining things Great Britain can be proud of and a necessity for any (and thankfully almost every) self respecting civilised nation, but it couldn't resist veering off into the tried and tested, casual racism and hateful sneering bigotry which is a major feature of it's approach to reporting "news."

Photoshopped but not beyond the realms of possibility

The article also showed support for another ignorant bigot, Tory MP Aiden Burley, who tweeted that Boyle's opening ceremony was "a load of multi-cultural crap" or in other words, "too many darkies..." The response was immediate and even for glorified toilet paper masquerading as a newspaper to spread its hate filled agenda of lies and bigotry, it was a low point, so much so the article was reworded, then pulled completely.

It was very typical of Great Britain to immediately start bringing something down before it had even begun and it made me feel like fighting back a bit, for someone who can't be described as a patriot, for the first time in years and years I decided to get involved in the spirit of things and I have to say that the London Olympics has been a revelation and one which has restored pride to a beleaguered and divided country.

How sweet it was to see Jessica Ennis, a product of what the Daily Mail seems to find so impossible, a well adjusted, middle class family made up of a white mother and black father, absolutely annihilate the competition to win gold, for Mo Farrah, a softly spoken and humble Muslim immigrant to provide a thrilling end to the 10,000m, Andy Murray to completely boss Roger Federer, Nicky Adams in the boxing, the rowing, the cycling, all of it has been pretty incredible!

The brilliant Nicola Adams

But it's not just the achievements and medals for Team GB which has lit up the last two weeks for me. Every athlete from every nation has gone through hardship, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears with complete dedication just to compete, even those who realistically know they have no chance of winning their event. The humility of these athletes, the sportsmanship, the joy of competing and the unbridled emotion of giving their all has inspired me enormously. These are people who give their all, not for money or fame, but to try to win a medal and take away a sense of pride that they did their best.

The support from the stands has been a combination of heart warming, exultant, awe inspiring and inspirational. I come from a football background as a player and a traditional supporter who follows his club home and away, I like my football support partisan, almost rabid in the belief in one cause, but I have been inspired by the sportsmanlike approach of the people attending all the events during London 2012 and it's clear all the athletes appreciate and enjoy the atmosphere in which they are competing.

The feelgood factor is an under-rated motivator for anyone who wants to achieve something in the face of adversity. Negativity is toxic, no matter how positive a person you may be, constant negativity will bring you down and damage your state of mind so a country, proud of the achievements of people with humility, grace, manners and class, naturally oozes positive vibes, even our usually repugnant media has got on board and it feels great.

The BBC's coverage has been, as you would expect, mostly brilliant, the weather has even been not too bad and people are actually giving McDonalds a swerve and getting on bikes and going for a run, it's nothing short of a miracle!

For me, I thrive on positivity, I need it, I can create my own, I have to, but I need it back, it inspires me and gives me energy so I have been like a man possessed in the last couple of weeks. I've been editing "Of Shark and Man," making serious progress, writing all the content for the new "From the Office..." website and teaching myself how to create a new website (something I detest doing) for Scarlet View Media. I've been photographing bands, trying to generate work and generally slogging my knackers off. I may not be out there trying to break the 100m world record, but my reinvigorated approach to life in general is a direct result of the efforts of the athletes, organisers and public who have all made London 2012 an Olympics to remember.

So for my reinvigorated attitude to life, the inspiration you have given everybody, the restoration of faith that professional sport isn't an entirely rancid cesspit of corporate greed and for the humility and sportsmanship on display for everyone to see, I say forget the naysayers, the bigots and those who can only enjoy criticising, I want to say thank you to all the Olympic athletes and to Team GB, you've even managed to restore a bit of patriotism in me.

You're all an inspiration.

My profiles: Facebook Vimeo Blogger

Friday, 3 August 2012

Bad News from Fiji

Rusi and one of his Tiger. Pic by Doug Perrine

In a disappointing u-turn from what had previously looked almost certain to happen, the Fijian government have voted "no" on the Shark Sanctuary.

The decision was made by the ministry following a finding in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s (WCPFC) Conservation and Management Measures.

Mr Chand said Fiji was bound by the laws of WCPFC. “As a member of the WCPFC, Fiji has to comply with its Conservation and Management Measure which specifically prevents members from targeting sharks,” he said.

“This also applies to all Fiji flagged vessels and foreign fishing vessels which use Fiji port. One of the requirements of this measure is for fishers having shark fins onboard to also have shark carcass.”
Provisions have been made in the Draft Offshore and Inshore Fisheries Management Decree to protect sharks which will be submitted to the Solicitor General’s office soon.

“At this moment, a shark sanctuary for Fiji is not a priority but to have a National Plan of Action for the Protection of Sharks first.” Deputy permanent secretary for Fisheries Penina Cirikiyasawa revealed meetings with relevant stakeholders would be organised to formulate a National Plan of Action for the Protection of Sharks.

“The ministry will now organise stakeholders meetings to formulate a National Plan of Action for the Protection of Sharks, therefore, there is no need for a separate Cabinet Paper on the subject matter and there will be no shark sanctuary.

“We have now noted that protection of sharks is adequately embedded in the Draft Inshore Decree which is yet to be submitted to the Solicitor General’s Office for legal vetting,” Mrs Cirikiyasawa said.

There has been intense lobbying in the last few weeks by the Tuna industry and what had previously looked being a very likely "yes" vote has swung the other way. I won't speculate as to what factors influenced that decision, preferring instead to offer unwavering support to those on the ground in Fiji who have dedicated the last three years to making this happen as they pick up and start again.

This is a terrible set back but the team fighting for this Shark Sanctuary is made up of some fine individuals who I know will not give up on this.

Good luck to them as they dust themselves off and start again.

Phone: 07855 952466
My profiles: Facebook Vimeo Blogger