Sunday, 24 May 2015

Angel Sharks In Gran Canaria - A Short Film

It's always nice to have a little time to work on a project just for fun, it's been a while since the last one, a short film made with footage I shot in the Farne Islands with Seals so, seeing as I had some time yesterday and the evening before where I was uploading a ton of stuff, I thought I'd finally put something together from my time in Gran Canaria.

It was a pretty quick job, basic edit, a fairly straightforward grade and a sound track ("Sunset" by The XX) but I thin it works quite well and I rather like it.

The Angel Shark is possibly the world's rarest shark so I felt incredibly lucky to see not one but three in my time in Gran Canaria and I want to thank Fernando and Manuela especially for getting me out there to have this wonderful experience. They run a small grassroots NGO called Alianza Tiburones Canarias which is dedicated to education and inspiration of the people on all the Canary Islands as to the importance of sharks and shark conservation and they really do deserve the support of anyone with an interest in sharks.

So here it is! As always, comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!

In Search of Angels - 11 Days in Gran Canaria from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

 Finally, on the subject of welcoming comments, just a quick point on that.

I always welcome comments, I love when people want to get involved here and even when they may be contrary to points I raise or are somewhat barbed, I still enjoy hearing from you. I also understand  the occasional need for anonymity and I publish 99% of the comments I receive but I will have to reconsider what I publish in regards to anonymous comments based on a frankly ridiculous comment I received on the last blog. Although I went to the effort to compose a polite response to what was essentially, a nonsensical rant, I decided that the original comment was so absurd I'd be better served just deleting it and not allowing it to ruin what was a positive piece.

With all that in mind, again, please, if you can, put your name on your comments if you do want to address things which may bother you. Criticism is not a bad thing and I welcome that also but I don't really have the inclination to allow the blog to become a place to push strange agendas or bizarre grudges however, for more benign comments, anonymity is still fine if that's what you'd prefer.

If you do want to have a little rant anonymously, you can of course do that, but don't be upset if it doesn't get published.

Enjoy the film and I hope you have a brilliant bank holiday to all you UK readers!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Your Chance To Get Cool Stuff And Help Release Of Shark And Man Is Coming!

I figured now is as good a time as any for an update on Of Shark and Man!

It's been a bit of a whirlwind the last couple of weeks, after Gran Canaria I had a lot of catching up to do and also returned home with thoughts on how to tighten up the edit of the film and make a few corrections so I've been working hard on that and now only have to slot in the updated Sound Design. The changes aren't massive but I have changed some clips and the new v.2 of the film is, certainly to me anyway, an even better film!

I've also been working closely with the wonderful people at EDNA Interactive to finalise the strategy we have for promoting the film upon its release. That means creating content, design work and most importantly, giving you the viewer, the absolute highest value I can. I have always been passionate about my audience investing themselves in to my work and feeling that they are getting a genuine return on that, films like this need support and that support is something I think should be rewarded.

I've been meeting with magazines, designers, manufacturers and supporters, discussing the best ways to achieve this and I am so excited that the people who are investing their expertise, time, product and above all else, their friendship into this project are all the people I had on my wish list because they're just so damn good at what they do.

With all that in mind, the next big milestone is the launch of the official website and social media platforms where you can finally start getting your hands on the kind of content you've been so patiently waiting for and also, start kitting yourself out with some truly incredible products, one off memorabilia items and also, maybe, just maybe, one hell of an opportunity to tell your own shark story.

So, here's the long and short of it, "Of Shark and Man," needs to get out there and that doesn't happen with the odd post on Facebook, it happens with a proper plan, a marketing and promotional strategy, screenings and attending events in person to get the message out there that this is the film that so many of you and your peers and friends have been saying for years you've wished you could see. If this film achieves its goal and gets out to a wide audience, it means more will be made which means that for everyone who's ever signed petitions or complained against what they see as low value and irresponsible shark based TV and film, you now have a chance to actually have an impact in getting what you say you want.

Here's a list of some of the things I need to cover costs of to realistically give me a solid shot at achieving all the above:

Marketing Campaign
Festival and Private Screenings
Legal Documentation and Insurance
Promotional Merchandise
Press Kit Materials
Licensing of Footage
Website Hosting Fees
Blu-Rays and Electronic copies of the film for Festivals

Of course it would be nice to make the film open access and free to everyone but in the real world it's just not possible. I've done that with all my other films and lost considerable amounts of money doing so in order to give people productions which, although free to view, are still of the highest quality. It's just not feasible to do that with Of Shark and Man and as such, I have to be very careful with having complete control over any existing copies of the film so it doesn't end up as a torrent online.

With all that being said, I have been working really hard to come up with a way to involve you in everything, give you opportunities to get your hands on some amazing, and I mean amazing stuff, including signed memorabilia, one off pieces of artwork, dive gear (yes, actual top of the range dive gear), invitations to screenings, extremely limited opportunities and also possibly the most incredible raffle prize I can think of for anyone who loves sharks. Not only that, but also the opportunity for you to see the film, in full in the comfort of your own home.

The way I will be doing all the above is by running a Crowdfund campaign, most likely through Indiegogo to raise the money needed to get everything off the ground. I ran one previously when I started this whole thing so this means all those who contributed to that will receive their stuff when this new one launches so that's pretty exciting too!

I already have two major dive manufacturers who make top of the range products who are putting forward some of their best gear for perks, not little stuff either, I'm talking products worth between £250-£1500! There is also a third dive company potentially joining  so if you're in need of dive gear this year and you only want the best quality and value for your money, maybe hold on a couple of weeks!

Other perks will range from smaller cost stuff like stickers and signed posters, through to T-Shirts, tickets to screenings and bespoke, one off pieces of artwork (believe me, these in particular will be really, really cool if I can confirm them). There will also be more personal stuff like Skype video calls so you can get any answers to any questions you have, advice or just talk about the weather or anything else you like with me, tonnes of stuff, all of which is designed to give you the best value possible for your donation.

In conjunction with the perks you get per donation, there are also going to be raffle prizes, the bigger the donation, the bigger the prize with one super mega prize I'm hoping to confirm in the next week which really is something special!

So, keep your eyes peeled, join this Facebook group to get up to date news and maybe start putting away some pennies. This will launch soon and will be something very awesome I can assure you!

In addition to that, if you're thinking of going to the 40Fathoms Film Festival in Hermanus, South Africa on June 5th, 6th and 7th, you'll get a chance to see three of my films, "A Ray of Light," "A Ray of Light II," and "Sea Dogs" which is pretty cool. They're also showing Mexico Pelagico I believe and that is well worth your time too!


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

11 Days in Gran Canaria - Angel Sharks and The Public Reaction To Of Shark And Man!

Not bad for a first screening of the Director's Cut!

So, I'm back in the cold and wet of the UK after a brilliant eleven days in Gran Canaria (including a day trip to Tenerife) where I met wonderful people, did some very cool dives, got a bit of a tan, ate some massive steaks, saw Of Shark and Man on the big screen for the first time with a public audience and even walked away with two awards!

Firstly Gran Canaria is great, the weather was hot, there is actually life underwater and the people I met were just amazing. I was a guest of Fernando and Manuela who run Alianza Tiburones Canarias, a small, grassroots conservation NGO which works to educate and inspire the people of the Canary Islands about sharks in their waters, in particular the Angel Shark.

The hospitality I received was second to none and I cannot speak highly enough of them, they are passionate, informed and ambitious and these are three things vital to running successful campaigns and above anything, they're really, really nice people!

I had been invited over as a guest for their annual film festival,focusing on marine life and films about the ocean for which they were incredibly keen to have Of Shark and Man screened. It was also a chance for me to do some diving and try to get some footage of at least one Angel Shark so I couldn't say no and off I went.

My day started at 3am for my 8am flight, I landed in Gran Canaria just past midday, met up with Fernando and Manuela along with David from EDNA and was immediately whisked off to a live radio interview, in Spanish to talk about the film and the festival! It was then off to the venue to discuss the structure of everything and meet a few of the volunteers who were (as was the case with everyone I met) really lovely people, I even had my own translator who was a real help, very kind and with whom, along with her boyfriend Christian, Dave and I went out for something to eat later and discuss all things shark.

Photo by Kepa Garmendia

So, to the festival itself!

Photo by Kepa Garmendia

 Photo by Kepa Garmendia

There were, if I remember correctly, sixteen films spread out over two days, two feature length films (including OSAM), a few animations which were great, one of which, "The Health of Our Oceans" had a super cool credits sequence at the end at which both Dave and I were salivating it was that good. Most of the films were shorts, split between pros and amateurs even including first time film-makers (which I love), most of the films had little to no narrative and topics varied from sharks to plastic pollution, to location pieces and everything in between. Friday's highlight for me and most of the audience was without question a short film by Alberto Ramos Rodriguez called "Utopia" which was both surreal and at times ingenious, I loved the fact it thought way outside the box. The audience seemed in agreement that the other highlights included the beautifully shot "Secretos de Macronesia" by Rafa Herrero Massieu, "The Azores in 5K" by Nuno Sa and Lee Burghard's "A Fight for Survival."

Saturday saw the screening of "Of Shark and Man," and to be honest, I was quite nervous, there was a lot of expectation and I was worried about the duration of the film as it is all in English and would play out in front of a majority Spanish/German audience. At 104 minutes with an enormous amount of content, I had visions of an audience gradually sneaking out to go to the bar during the film leaving only David and I in the theatre...

Photo by Kepa Garmendia

With that being said, it came as a very happy surprise that throughout the film, not one person left, even to go to the loo, people reacted to the film, there were laughs, the odd "woah" and audience members exchanging nods and smiles of approval with each other. When the film came to a close, the applause started immediately as the credits rolled and lasted almost the entire duration, leaving me, having been invited up on stage, rather embarrassed by it all. I don't really take public displays of praise too well when I'm there in front of a room of people!

What was particularly encouraging was the Q&A session, people were picking out parts of the film and quoting bits back to me, asking intelligent questions about everything and most importantly telling me what they liked and how they felt when they watched the film which isn't really the norm in a Q&A. Not only that but there was a genuine enthusiasm for not only the three stories in the film but the technical aspects of the Cinematography and Sound Design.

What became apparent over the remainder of the evening was not just that people liked the film, but that it awoke something in them, either a reminder of the kind of films that inspired their love of the oceans originally, or the desire to perhaps rethink their own opinions of things, discuss the incredible story of Shark Reef and also to readdress how they saw the portrayal of sharks in the media. What people really seemed to love is that the film does not claim to be or have a message, it just does what it does and encourages the viewer to think throughout and as such, amazingly for a foreign language audience, they felt the film's length was perfect as it passed by quickly.

They also mentioned it had an approachability in that instead of making breathy statements or trying to push ideas on the viewer, it informs by simply telling a story through one man's eyes and also, the people in the film itself were extremely popular because again, no caricatures or considered personas, just honest, decent people speaking from the heart.

To go in thinking I'd see people quietly sneaking out to the bar and instead to have more than one person tell me after the screening that "Of Shark and Man" was "the best shark film I have ever seen" (honestly, we have it on camera) is something I will never forget.

See what an audience mamber, Marjo, had to say about the film here.

Photo by Kepa Garmendia

Even saying all that, when I found out there would be awards presented, I didn't expect to win one, I thought maybe I'd get a small one for taking part and making the effort to attend the event but that's it, so it all came as a bit of a surprise that OSAM was chosen as the "Best Film" by both the City of Aguimes and most importantly of all, unanimously apparently, by the audience.

Photo by Kepa Garmendia

So after the evenings wonderful event and a celebratory meal in a cave (ginormous steak obviously) the focus turned to diving and trying to get some shots of what is likely the world's rarest shark, the Angel Shark.

Photo by Yuneysa Garcia Flores

The diving in Gran Canaria is actually really good, I've become accustomed to the Mediterranean in the last few years and there is so much more life around the Canary Islands, the water was a mild 19 degrees, the viz pretty good and on most of the dives we'd see some big shoals of fish which I always enjoy filming.

Photo by Yuneysa Garcia Flores
The dives felt wilder than in the Med and I like that, there was always something to see but what made the dives so special were the people I dived with. Mareike from Diving Centre Nautico with some additional RIB support from Jerry at Canary Diving, Kepa, Yuneysa (who took the two shots above), Felipe, Eugenio and of course, Fernando and Manuela.

Kepa and Manuela

Mareike and I

It took a few days but I saw my first Angel Shark (two actually) on a night dive at a place called Sardina but it was a couple of days later at El Cabron where I really got to have a proper encounter with a nice sized female we found towards the end of our dive. They may not be one of the big, charismatic species but it was so exciting to see one because they are so very rare and this particular shark really co-operated for the camera which is of course, always appreciated!

 Photo by David Diley

 Photo by David Diley

 Photo by Fernando Reis

 Mareike with the Angel Shark - Photo by David Diley

Fernando with the Angel Shark - Photo by David Diley

So, Gran Canaria was brilliant, I loved it! In the week I also did a press conference and an interview with VIVA Magazine alongside filming some more stuff for the Making Of features we will be releasing on the official website. There will also be a short film of some underwater footage coming up so keep an eye out for that.

I was also invited to the University of Las Palmas to give a talk about Shark Feeding and the Shark Reef story which was really cool as the students seemed really enthusiastic about it and asked some brilliant questions. It's nice to be a part of getting this story out to a wide audience.

I want to thank everyone I met for their hospitality, warmth and most importantly, their friendship. Huge thanks to the City of Aguimes for putting me up in the beautiful Casa Aldaba, which, if you ever plan to visit there, I strongly recommend, I loved it, it's a gorgeous little house in a gorgeous, quiet little town.

I'm feeling ever more confident about Of Shark and Man, it won over an informed audience of people in a foreign country for whom English is not a first, or often second, language and people didn't only like it, they loved it!

Lots of good stuff is coming your way so keep your eyes peeled, this journey is about to get very interesting!