Thursday, 5 March 2015

I Have Finally Watched Of Shark And Man In Full

Click photo for detail

Today I did something I've been wanting to do for four years, I actually watched Of Shark and Man start to finish in one full go.

That might sound odd but during the edit process the intro section was in a separate timeline as about a year ago I decided what I had wasn't cutting it and ripped the whole thing apart. This was stressful for me as I initially really liked it but as time wore on it just started to seem a bit...ordinary. These days shark films all tend to blend into one another, some good but unoriginal, others utterly turgid and uninspiring, occasionally there is the odd gem (Mexico Pelagico immediately springs to mind) and of course it's impossible not to judge the work of others against your own, so while watching other films was motivated by an interest in anything that had sharks in, there was also an element of seeing what others were doing, with or without proper budgets.

I never looked at these films as a possible source of inspiration though, even the ones I liked (and believe me, if there's a shark film available out there online, on TV or any other format, I've seen it) because I have known what I was going to do with "Of Shark and Man" for almost ten years now and my inspiration comes less and less from shark documentaries as time progresses because I don't just want to be the same as everyone else or take an easy option and I certainly don't want Of Shark and Man to simply become "just another shark film."

So, back to my original point, I was stressing about the intro because although it was certainly different, its execution was ordinary and a bit corny. It took probably a full year to come up with something that really presented the film as it deserves in the first few minutes, both conceptually and artistically because, as wanky as it may sound, I do see Of Shark and Man as a piece of art but of course, art is subjective...

Over the last year we (myself, David Lawrie and various talented Musicians) have been working (and losing sleep) on the soundtrack and sound design for the film and now the intro music has been finalised and believe me, that was a big, big job, I was able to actually take the intro and stick it onto the rest of the film and thus, tonight I got to watch he whole thing as it should be seen.

Screen Grab from Of Shark and Man

Theoretically I could have watched it sooner extremely easily but truth be told, I almost didn't want to, I was nervous, what if I didn't like it? What if I thought it was boring or kept seeing mistakes? I had actually been putting off watching the film because although people tell me I'm quite good at what I do and people seem to like it, when you've had the amount of people telling you that you're wasting your time or kidding yourself as I have had in the last few years (if I had a pound for every time I heard the phrase "cloud cuckoo land"...) then you undoubtedly experience periods of intense self doubt.

I exist in a bizarre mindset of supreme confidence shadowed by crippling self doubt all of which is driven by an almost psychotic desire to achieve perfection, if that even exists, all of which has both inspired and almost destroyed me in the last few years and all because of a film. It's kind of ridiculous when you think about it but hey, none of us are perfect right?... I am course, trying to address that...

Screen Grab from Of Shark and Man

So tonight was the night, the volume levels were all over the place as there is still a bit of sound design to add and a couple of music tracks to complete (next week) but it was still a functioning piece of work. So what did I discover?

My biggest fear is that the film would drag and get lost in a morass of self indulgence, at over 102 minutes, it would be really easy to bore an audience into a stupefying coma of disinterest and thankfully, even as my own biggest critic, the film absolutely flew by and that, to be honest, surprised me.

When you venture over the sixty minute mark, you're taking a big risk that you will lose your audience, sharks are awesome, we all like sharks but there are people out there who don't and it is they, if you have any aspirations of "changing the perception of sharks," who you need to engage.

Thankfully because of the sheer weight of content and calibre of the people on camera, the film carries everything really well. If anyone was going to get bored of the film it would be me, I have lived with it for almost five years now but at no point did I feel I was being weighed down by the feeling I had to finish it because I'd just spent the last hour watching it.

The music works really, really well and the sound design is fantastic, lack of sound design will kill a film before it gets going and that was a major reason why, when I started the edit, I spoke to David Lawrie about my idea to have sound be another character in the story, to accent, intensify and breathe life into the images on screen. Needless to say Dave has done an incredible job.

Screen Grab from Of Shark and Man

Also, and this was a big thing for me, the film just looks totally different to any other shark film out there and absolutely nothing like a documentary and that is exactly what I wanted because I don't see Of Shark and Man as a documentary, rather a feature length film with factual content. It was a difficult process to get that look right and it started with the filming itself. There is not a great deal of the "guerilla" style of cinematography, achieving this meant impressing on anybody filming when I wasn't, to see the beauty and the drama in what they were shooting. Cinematic was the order of the day and I think we achieved that.

The grade of course plays a big part in the look of the film too and I leaned heavily towards the filmic look, quite high contrast and using colour to tell the story with an almost 1970's look but brought into the modern era. It's not as super sharp as had I shot it on C100/300/500 or RED as I would have done if I were shooting it today (I own a C100 now) but the slightly softer edge actually gives the footage a more distinctive look from everything else in these days of 4,5 and 6K and lends itself well to that filmic look I was so passionate about capturing.

Now, of course it would be easy to say I was biased, of course I am and I certainly wouldn't be here saying "hey, I watched my film tonight, guess what, it sucks!" but I do think anybody with an interest in sharks will enjoy it, learn from it and take something, probably many things away after viewing it, but more importantly to me, I think it fulfils a goal I set from the start, to appeal to people who have no interest in sharks.

Screen Grab from Of Shark and Man

I think the thing I'm happiest with is the concept itself, bridging that gap between the urban landscape and a South Pacific paradise, the "everyman" idea which drives the whole story. Of Shark and Man is not merely people sitting down reeling off facts, it's a journey, a very real story told be real people who are being honest. I had no interest in taking a scientific approach, I didn't want to talk to an endless conveyor belt of researchers in labs repeating statistics, this is about visceral escapism.

That's not to say the film is light on facts, far from it, factual content drives everything in the film and regardless of your level of knowledge, you absolutely will learn something you don't already know, not only that, you will see things you have never seen before and that can only be a good thing can't it.

So what now?

Well, the official trailer is now almost complete and will give you a far better idea of what to expect than simply reading the above. The plan for that is that I will allow a few people to see the trailer privately and give their feedback before its release and this could include you, more on that in the coming weeks.

The website has been registered and is being designed, as are the Twitter and Facebook pages. Behind the Scenes videos will be coming out soon and most importantly, opportunities for you to actually see the film and make up your own mind!

There is also a brilliant opportunity that has been presented to me which I am 99.9% certain I will be able to to do which excites me enormously!

Finally, I just want to say this, if you are an independent Film-Maker who has made or is making your own film about sharks, I applaud you for getting out there and having a go at doing something. The more independent shark films out there the better in my opinion. If you're an aspiring Film-Maker and you have no idea where to start or you have questions nobody else seems willing to answer, please, always feel free to drop me a line and I will always try to help you if I can. I may not be Fincher, Kubrick or Spielberg (obviously, I wish I was!) but I'm always happy to be of any assistance I can.

As always, keep your peepers peeled for updates, after years of hearing "it's almost done," I can now tell you that unequivocally, it's almost done!


Bucky Taotaotasi said...

Looking forward to the final produce and seeing it on the big screen.

Ian Campbell said...

At last, a shark film worth the wait.

Dave said...

I am also looking forward to seeing it, and I hope it gets the recognition I think it is going to deserve