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.

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