Saturday, 11 April 2015

Trailer Feedback Is In And There Was a Clear Winner


So, the feedback from the two versions of the trailer came back and firstly it was overwhelmingly positive, secondly there was a clear "winner" and I'm glad to say it was the one which I would have chosen myself. I like both but there was one I thought flowed better and gave a better overall representation of the film and that will be the one which goes out as pretty much everyone agreed!

Here's a selection of quotes from the feedback:

"...the Everyman target audience - you got that passionately and perfectly done. Well done for that accomplishment. People will definitely get that and effectively put themselves as 'you' when they watch this film if that angle comes across as well as it does in the trailer."

"WOW great effort with both! Gave me shivers of excitement while watching both."

"I whacked this onto a 42" telly with surround sound and it just booms with awesomeness. It's true to the region, is enchanting, almost haunting, and sent shivers down my back."

"...congratulations it looks WOW!"



And some more feedback from the full film itself:

"...I think this can become an atemporal reference film for the world's 'shark conservation tribe'. With 'Of Shark and Man' you have just started a debate... you know, and we all conservationists, we need so much to be united around a global and ethical shark conservationism movement... that this debate is so needed right now"

The trailer will be out as soon as a few promotional details are sorted.

The very first screening of the film for a public audience takes place two weeks today! (Saturday April 25th) and next week I travel to London for an interview with DIVE Magazine and to screen the film for Jane West at Tourism Fiji along with a few others and that is a big thing, if Jane likes it then I will be stoked as it is she and her former colleague Martin Harlow who actually gave me the chance to make the film.

I have also started talking to some potential sponsors of the film's website and promo materials and not only that but also worked on the crowdfund campaign and can tell you that not only will there be some cool perks for every donation but also, some really amazing, and I mean amazing prizes to be won by some very lucky donors. Keep your eyes peeled for that!
If you're interested in potentially becoming a sponsor, email me at david@scarletviewmedia.com and if you haven't already, join the Facebook page here.

Have a great weekend!



Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Of Shark and Man - Big News And Major Progress!

Yes, that would be your first look at the official branding for the film

First of all, behold, the first public look at the branding for "Of Shark and Man." I love it and I think it captures exactly the mood I'm going for, gritty but with a Fijian flavour and a marriage of the industrial urban north of England and something far more exotic. I wanted "different" and that's what I got. I have Sue and David at EDNA Interactive and Kris Allen to thank for the logos and in my opinion, they have absolutely nailed it.

Its been a mad few weeks since the last blog, consumed in the main by completing the Sound Design which meant 12-14 hour days in David Lawrie's studio composing the final pieces of music and constructing and mixing the film's sound.

First of all, I'll say this, the Sound Design in Of Shark and Man is phenomenal, it sounds dynamic and at times monstrously big, all the while retaining the subtleties which aide each facet of the story telling. The attention to detail has been ridiculous, I was adamant I wanted everything to have, not just sound, but a designed and descriptive sonic aesthetic, sound which didn't just offer a simple description of the surroundings you see on screen, but which reaches out of the screen, grabs you and pulls you in there with me. Bad sound design kills a film, no sound design is inexcusable but great sound design can elevate a film beyond anything it could have ever been without it.

I am incredibly lucky to have had a friend in David Lawrie who not only was able to technically do what I wanted, but who also, most importantly "got it." I have heard sporadically over the last few years "but that's not how they do it, you're supposed to do it like this" but I've never really cared how "they" do it, only how I want to do it. That's probably a bit naive but so be it, thus far it's worked and as the saying goes if it ain't broke...

It's a rare person who is willing to spend their first trip back to the UK in a while, sitting down with someone demanding such rabid attention to detail it means going through more than 100 minutes of footage with a fine toothed comb to pick out every single thing that needs a sound (including underwater) and work together to put those sounds in, knowing full well the challenge of actually mixing it all coherently is going to be even more difficult than usual. The simple brief was "don't think documentary, think feature film event." Needless to say, Dave absolutely smashed it out of the park.

So I guess that means I should let you all know that the Director's Cut is finished and not only that, it has actually been seen by a small handful of people, one of whom was London based, Cypriot Singer/Songwriter Eleni Skarpari, also known as Echo Wants Her Voice Back. Eleni was in York, recording with David and I was asked to be the Cinematographer for her new Music Video and so afterwards, David, Eleni and I sat down to watch the film and having seen it, I got her on camera to give her thoughts on the film itself, completely impartial and honestly.



Eleni Skarpari - Reaction to First Viewing of "Of Shark and Man" from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

Feedback so far from the people who have seen it (David Lawrie, David's mum, Eleni and David Edwards from EDNA) has been quite overwhelming really in that they all essentially said exactly the kind of things I hoped people who see the film would say. The opinions of people like these are crucial to me, they are all highly skilled and talented individuals with little patience for mediocrity. They judge the work of others based on their own high standards and were all too aware that merely stroking egos was of no use whatsoever. Four people have seen the film thus far, two who were already interested in sharks, two who merely had a normal, passing curiosity in sharks, all different age ranges and all loved it.



There is also a trailer, in fact there will be two trailers as of the early hours of Thursday morning but only one will be released.

I've taken a big risk with the trailer. Basically I got bored of seeing the same thing over and over again and as this film is geared towards a mass market audience, I need to appreciate how that audience works. The shark crowd will look after themselves, if you like sharks or films about sharks, you shouldn't need too much convincing to make the effort to see the film. Unfortunately, to the average person, pure conservation films are "boring" and their trailers often don't do anything to convince them otherwise. They've been at work all day (probably at a job they hate), they're tired, they want to be entertained so the thought of a plodding documentary talking at them about something they really don't care about is not going to rev their engine so to speak. Of Shark and Man isn't really a pure conservation film either, it's an engaging story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in a tropical paradise.

The idea here is to use those preconceived misconceptions against those people in a way, to hook them in with something they can totally relate to, then let them choose to ask questions of what they thought they knew whilst getting a bit of a thrill along the way. They are in no way being misled, they are instead being told "hey, all those other documentaries you would never normally watch, well this isn't one of them."

Look at the trailer for Blackfish, a trailer I think is one of the best I have seen in a long time and it's no coincidence the film was such a big success because the trailer screams out "watch me!"





With regards to the trailer, I did a first edit and showed it to a few people, here's an excerpt of feedback I got one from one very trusted person who knows about this stuff:

"My husband and I sat here together and watched the trailer. After it was over, I looked at him and said, "What did you think?" His eyes were huge, and his mouth was slightly agape. He said, "I just realized I was holding my breath." He was so mesmerized by what he was watching, that he didn't even realize he was holding his breath. So that's definitely a good sign! 

I mean, I want him to start breathing again eventually, of course. So here's my impression: For me it was like taking a short, powerful journey. The first minute or so I felt like I was looking at myself in the mirror - sitting in a stale office, the vacant expression, just existing from one day to the next. Then the swimming scene - it really resonated with me, and I think it will with your audience too. How many of us just want to dive out of our mundane existence, and go toward something meaningful? Something completely different from what we experience every day? 

Then to suddenly get that break, where the music becomes stronger, the colors brighter, the motion faster.... I feel like I'm traveling with you because of how you have engaged the senses of the viewer. And I keep asking myself, "What's going to happen next?" 

I think that is the mark of a great storyteller, if the audience is so engaged that they have to know what happens next. And part of the reason the viewer wants to know what happens next is because early on in the trailer, by relaying your story of your unfulfilled life, and your desire for something more, you have made the audience care about you and what happens to you. The viewer becomes emotionally invested in the first few seconds, and that emotional investment only becomes stronger throughout the rest of the trailer. 

I thought the footage and music tied together beautifully - I know you were especially conscious of the music, and it shows. There was only one little nagging question mark I had in my mind at the end of the trailer, and that had to do with the ambiguity of the plot. I was trying to view the trailer as someone who maybe doesn't know your story. So I was asking myself, "What is the ultimate reason he is doing all of this? Is it to face fears? Challenge himself? Tell the story of the sharks of Fiji? Tell people why sharks are important and need to be helped?" But I don't think that ambiguity is necessarily a negative thing. Asking those questions of oneself would make the viewer want to watch the entire feature to learn the answer. So while part of me was wondering, well, what EXACTLY is this about? The other part of me is thinking, actually that's not a bad thing to leave it a little ambiguous in order to pique curiosity. 

But what it comes right down to is that I thought the trailer was exceptional. Obviously my husband did too, and I'm happy to inform you that he is indeed breathing again. Anyway, I hope all of this is helpful, and I didn't mean to write a dissertation. Well done, David. Very, very well done"

I was of course delighted with this feedback, especially with the comment about ambiguity which may surprise you, as I think ambiguity can drive an audience to watch the film to find out what the trailer i actually alluding to. My idea is, as a very good friend once said to me, "sell the sizzle, not the sausage." Give them just enough to pique their interest and curiosity so they have to see the film.

By the weekend there should be two functioning trailers and some of you out there will actually get a chance to see them and give me feedback which helps me choose which I release. It's not often a film-maker does that so if you're interested, email me at david@scarletviewmedia.com



Finally, how about this... "Of Shark and Man" will get its first ever official public screening on April 25th at Il Muestra De Cine Submarino De Aguimes in Aguimes, Gran Canaria!

Fernando who runs the festival and also Alianza Por Los Tiburones De Canarias was super, super keen to screen the film, which at that point, hadn't even been completed and when the city offered to put me up in my own Villa to go and screen the film along with a Q&A, it was an offer simply too good to turn down! This is going to be an amazing event and a great opportunity to see the reaction to the Director's Cut from an International audience.

I am really looking forward to this, Spain and the Spanish territories have been very supportive of my work, my career started there with A Ray of Light so Fernando's enthusiasm really meant a lot to me. Not only that, it was even announced on TV there that I was going!

Watch from 46:28!

 


So, if you're in Gran Canaria on Saturday April 25th, come along. The new David Doubilet film is also showing so I'm looking forward to that too!

Bit of a longer blog this time but I thought you all deserved a proper update! Keep an eye out for the trailer and remember, if you want a chance to choose which one goes out, email me!

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!


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Eugenie Clark and Richard Theiss

Dr Eugenie Clark - A True Pioneer
 
 I know it's probably a little late but I still felt I should mark the passing of Eugenie Clark, a woman who was a massive influence on me and who can claim some responsibility for the existence of this blog and everything I have done in relation to my work with sharks over the last twenty or so years.

The world of shark diving and its influence on popular culture, although seemingly a macho pursuit was in fact pioneered by women and none more so the Dr Clark. She was a lady with bigger balls than most men I know, a huge intellect and passion and by all accounts a truly lovely, down to earth and friendly person.

As a kid I vividly remember being in 2nd year at primary school, what is now known in the UK as Year 4 (I think) and already being shark mad, I found a book in our classroom about Eugenie and her adventures with sharks, it may have been the original pressing of "The Lady and The Sharks," and reading about when she and her kids were at the beach, all of them in the water when a large Hammerhead approached, as everyone else made a swift exit from the water, Eugenie described how she and her kids just stared in wonder, overjoyed at such a close encounter and that really stuck with me. There was also the National Geographic documentary featuring her work with the Moses Sole and both the book and that film were staples of my formative passion for sharks.

Thanks for the inspiration Dr Clark.
 
 Richard Theiss - A great pro and a wonderful man

I also want to mention the sad passing of Richard Theiss. A passionate shark lover, great pro and a really nice guy, Richard and I would chat via email intermittently and he helped me a lot when I was starting this journey. Richard really was one of the good guys and his immense popularity amongst his peers is testament to this. I won't post lengthy platitudes about Richard as that is for people who knew him far better than I but I do want to say to Richard, thank you for everything.

Condolences and best wishes to his family and close friends whom it was obvious he cared for deeply.

We've lost two of the genuine leaders in our world and they will be greatly missed.



Thursday, 5 February 2015

More Pelagic Life Awesomeness / Of Shark and Man Update!


I'm a really big fan of Pelagic Life, I love their media output, I love their ideas, I admire their professionalism and approach to their work but most of all I love their attitude. They're genuine, passionate, informed and they have that cool edge that you can't teach, that streetwise approach to achieving goals that doesn't come from a textbook but from dirt, sweat and long, arduous days battling against the odds.

I was lucky enough to see Mexico Pelagico which I thought was an absolute triumph. There's a lot of shark films coming out at the moment and in the last few years, some with bigger budgets, other with smaller more indie set ups, I take my hat off to them all for getting out there and doing something, most aren't really my cup of tea to be honest but that's just a personal taste thing, however this really stood out for me (as did Extinction Soup which I also enjoyed) as being way ahead of the pack in terms of quality. Everything about it was testament to what is good in conservation media and of which there should be so much more.

I was excited then to see that the guys and girls at Pelagic Life had released a new film which you can view here (please do so!) and having just watched it, it's more of the same. Good, genuine and honest media by a group of people who truly understand what it is they're doing. The best thing about Call of The Shark is that it highlights once again that PL are not just highlighting a problem but proactively trying to fix it. They get it, they understand the wider issues affecting sharks and they have obviously committed to something which is a long term goal. I also love the idea of the collective working together to achieve that goal. They are absolutely one of my favourite sharky things around at the moment, I especially like that they clearly enjoy doing what they do, there's so much po faced schmaltz attached to conservation that seeing genuine joy and fulfilment at fighting the good fight is inspiring.

One of 2015's major goals for me is to get over to the States for a couple of months as part of the promotion for "Of Shark and Man" and during that time I would be in California and if the chance arose, I would absolutely love to see for myself what they are doing, if they'd have me of course!

Speaking of OSAM...


Last night I recorded the guitar tracks for another piece of music for the soundtrack which sounded awesome (natch) so progress is being made there. There are two other pieces being worked on at the moment which means there is the last dive segment music and a short piece in the middle of the film left and that's it. The end credits have even been done, it's at the stage now where I am waiting for the finishing touches and mastering of tracks to be completed and I can then get the official trailer out and also, I have been toying around with releasing a couple of short clips from the film so you can see and hear for yourself what you're going to be getting.

I can confirm at this stage, the soundtrack is not going to be what you're used to in this kind of film, not at all what you're used to. There is no Arabic wailing music or symphonic orchestral pieces, nor is there any Techno (sorry Mike!) I have no problem with any of that kind of music, it's just not where I'm going. There are varying styles in there (there is a lot of music) and each piece has been chosen and composed specifically to complement the accompanying segment of the film and contrary to what you might be thinking and despite the occasional urge, there is no super heavy stuff either, it just doesn't work.

The approach to the music has been a cinematic one, not just shoving something in there because it sounds nice and is free to use. The sound design and soundtrack sessions for the film have taken a year, there's a reason for that and it will show because I am extremely lucky to have some stupendously talented friends who are some of the best musicians and producers around at the moment and the advice to all of them has been "express yourselves." I have provided ideas and guidance on what I'm hearing in my head but I want them to feel free to be able to put their talents to good use and gain fulfilment from being involved and they certainly seem to be.

The official trailer will start being put together when I have one specific piece of music back so that shouldn't be long and there will be some out there getting access to the first cut in a password protected streaming copy. There will also be an official website, the www.officetoocean.com site has not been updated or used for ages, that will be replaced by the full site which will be regularly updated and will host everything. That is part of the marketing for the film and I need £5000 to pay for everything so if your company wants to know more about very affordable sponsorship packages for the site (which will be the central hub for an aggressive marketing campaign) then please get in touch at david@scarletviewmedia.com

So there we are, we're metaphorically applying the film's lipstick and final splashes of expensive perfume before I send her out into the wild to turn some heads and break some hearts!

Speaking of music, recently, after breaking out the axe again and playing properly I've been feeling all nostalgic about my old life as a penniless wannabe Rock star so I uploaded some tracks from those days, almost 10 years ago, time really flies! If you're bored and fancy checking them out, please feel free to do so and run around your bedroom smashing the place up in glorious riff fuelled over enthusiasm.

Rock on.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Does Film Have a Role To Play In Shark Conservation?

Photo by the amazing Michael Patrick O'Neill

Marine Conservation is a pretty big thing nowadays, to the point where it regularly gets media exposure and every day on Social Media, I am being asked to sign a petition to do with some aspect of saving/protecting some form of marine eco-system or animal.

Once the preserve of the scientific community, Marine Conservation is now so mainstream that a phrase now exists for ordinary members of the community getting involved in Scientific research and studies, "Citizen Science." I don't really like that term though to be honest, science is science even if it's carried out by people who aren't actual "scientists" and the disconnect between the two is something I feel only serves to alienate the everyman further from the scientific community.

I'm interested in Marine Science and Science in general but more in its practical application and its effects in the outside world, I have no desire to sit indoors writing papers or any of that stuff, I like what it teaches me and I like how it helps me understand the world and without the people who actually want to do the paper shuffling and late nights behind a computer, I wouldn't have that so they are undoubtedly a valuable commodity.

However, more and more of the scientific community are now creeping out from the labs and classrooms into the social media world and utilising Twitter and Facebook to spread news of their work, take Matt Taylor, he of the ludicrous "Shirtgate" controversy in which he was the victim of a baying (albeit small) online mob of people desperate to be outraged by something who single handedly ruined his experience of achieving something truly, mindbogglingly incredible with his life and bullied him into a tearful apology on TV all for the heinous crime of wearing an awesome shirt. Regardless of all that, Taylor is clearly a cool guy, the opposite of what many think of when they think "Scientist." He's a rockabilly type dude, tattooed with a love for cool music and the esoteric, he's engaging, funny and clearly, astonishingly intelligent and because of all that, people who don't normally "like" science, like him and as such, it helps to inform "ordinary" people further about the work he and his colleagues undertake.

There are others of course, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye and so on, all of whom are proving a bit of a hit with Twitter, not only that, there is of course I Fucking Love Science with almost 20 million likes on Facebook. Some are, of course, better than others, more entertaining than others and most importantly, more engaging than others. Whilst there are those who stick to sharing their work, there are others who invite us into their lives and those who, through having a few Twitter followers are now actively courting the media as they attempt to grow their own perceived "celebrity" status.

With this growth in the use of Social Media outreach, has come more interest in using Film and Video as a tool to spread word of their ongoing research and this is something being embraced most by non-scientists and that is the point of this blog.


A Scientist and Film-Maker are two totally different things, Film is art and Science is the pursuit of knowledge. Facts are facts whereas art is a subjective thing in which reality can be manipulated, messages can be hidden and in which interpretation is something which may differ from individual to individual so how can the two worlds meet? How can something as "rigid" as science be presented in art which by its very nature is totally open to personal interpretation?

Well, it can and has been for centuries but it's not easy and is a scientist the best person to create art which highlights his work? Short answer, no, he is not, much like if my car broke down, I wouldn't ask an Opera Tenor to fix it.

Of course there are exceptions, Scientists who are skilled Film-Makers and Film-Makers who have an expert understanding of Science but with Marine Conservation Science, it's slightly different because it's all about hearts and minds, you need to get people to care about your science if you want it to be effective and simply grabbing a camcorder and telling people about your findings will not do that because your intended audience simply won't have an interest in watching it, you need to make them care and doing so in Film is very difficult and a skill not many people have.

I saw a Twitter discussion a while back where one scientist was asking others about "making a video" about their work, i.e. doing it themselves and at no point in the long discussion did anyone even think of suggesting they actually speak to a Film-Maker and get their advice. They've got a camera and iMovie so it's easy right? Wrong. Yes you could shoot something and cut it together but it being any good and actually engaging enough to reach an audience is another and although its all very well if your friends, family and other Scientists watch it, it's of no use whatsoever if your film and therefore message, fails to reach a wide audience.

There are also those, often lamented (rightly so) by the Scientific community who are making films about Marine Conservation issues and getting the Science completely wrong so therefore spreading a message which is at best misleading, at worst damaging to the cause as a whole.

All this highlights the single biggest problem, the Scientific and Creative communities just don't communicate with each other enough.

Mallorca Stingray Survey

Now of course, the big stumbling block is money, no professional worth his salt will work for free on what could be a long, arduous and time intensive Film project because, believe it or not, we have bills, rent, kids etc and we have to eat, not only that, we don't conjure up the thousands of pounds worth of equipment we use (and need) out of thin air. You don't work for free, why should we?

With that in mind, Science is not an industry where money is easy to come by and that brings me on to my next point, another recent Twitter discussion, that of crowdfunding scientific research projects. This is actually a great idea but if you're going to do this, first of all, speak to a proper Film-Maker with experience of this kind of work and discuss what you want from your film and most of all, listen, he or she knows a lot more about this kind of stuff than you do. When you have your idea, find out how much it will cost to make, don't offer them a figure you've plucked out of thin air, actually ask them. When you know, add it to the figure you need to crowd fund, don't do what so many others do, raise an amount then ask a professional to work for free because you didn't plan your campaign properly.

You may be planning to make the film yourself, after all, you have a GoPro and a Mac and you're a PADI Open Water Diver, that's all you need right? If you have £20,000 to spend on your wedding, would you get Uncle Bob to do the photos because he has a DSLR or do you hire a pro?...

If you're a Film-Maker with dreams of making a Marine Conservation film, talk to experts in the field and get your content rock solid and not just scientists either. If a Scientist is an expert on Shark Biology and spends their life in classrooms, labs, or on boats but barely, if any, time in the water, can they ever claim to be an expert on the shark behaviour in your location? No, they can't, speak to the divers who spend every day in the water with the sharks as well as others who can give you the expert insight you need. You may have seen a few documentaries and read a few books, that doesn't make you an expert, make sure to include those who are!

When I began my career as a Film-Maker I did it for two reasons, neither of which are particularly noble, I wanted to make myself happy and nobody was making the films I want to see so just figured I'd just do it myself. Overly dry and science heavy films bored me to tears and the hyper-sensationalist macho man/hippy chick films were equally as boring with the added annoyance factor thrown in, nobody was making films about real people and most importantly, where was the storytelling?

So can using film media help your cause? Undoubtedly, I know this from personal experience, A Ray of Light helped raise upwards of 80,000 Euros for Asociacion Ondine to fund ongoing grass roots conservation projects, of which I didn't take a single penny (I actually paid for that production out of my own money) and A Ray of Light II is proving hugely popular, most importantly with ordinary people of all ages who are now showing passionate interest in the marine animals in their own back yard.

 

A Ray of Light II from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

A Ray of Light II focuses more on the actual work undertaken by Asociacion Ondine so fits the style more appropriate for all you Scientists out there, the idea however, still being to engage the public through a story they can relate to, thus drawing them in to the actual research project itself.

The reason this was such a successful production was down to something extremely simple. The Research team (proper scientists) were left to do what they do best, I had complete control over the production of the film and the boat crew were in charge of running the boat. Much as I didn't tell the Research drew how to tag the Stingrays, they didn't try to tell me how to do my job, in short, the experts were allowed to do what they're experts at and the results are clear.



"Of Shark and Man" Teaser Trailer 3 (Letterboxed Version) from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

With Of Shark and Man which will be released this year, this is undoubtedly the most in-depth look at the Shark Reef story in existence and also the most comprehensive look at Shark Feeding on film certainly and probably anywhere else but that aside, this was always intended to be a hugely ambitious and complex piece of art, Marine Conservation inspiration delivered through absolute free creative expression.

Put simply, if you believe your Scientific work and credentials deserve the absolute best, do not scrimp on your film output if that's an area you want to explore and do not think it's something you can do yourself. Speak to Film-Makers with the appropriate expertise and if you're a Film-Maker, don't cut out the Scientific community, we should all be working together and remember, some people are made to be in front of a camera, others are not, if you have an ego, leave it at home, it won't do you any good in the long run.


Monday, 12 January 2015

Some More Press For Of Shark and Man And A New Milestone


I got a nice surprise the other day from Mike who emailed me a link to an article about me by the very cool people at "The Coral Triangle" that I didn't realise had been online since November!

If you went to any of the Beneath The Waves Film Festival events in 2013 you would have almost certainly seen the film "The People of The Coral Triangle" which really is very, very good. James and Jonny are both very talented guys and are doing some great things so please check them out!

I did the interview with Jonny ages ago and had forgotten about it so it was a nice surprise when it landed in my inbox. You can read it here.

Speaking of Beneath The Waves I have entered A Ray of Light II into this year's festival. The criteria for film's is that they must be ten minutes or less and with A Ray of Light II coming in at 28 minutes 40 seconds, I was unsure whether to apply but they actually asked for it personally so I'm hopeful it gets in as I think BTWFF is one of the best underwater film festivals around and I like Austin a lot. I'm not going to lie either, if it gets in and is considered for an award, I hope it gets one!

I'll be entering it in some other festivals as well so watch this space.

As for Of Shark and Man, we are half way through the music which is the last thing that needs doing so there will be an official trailer soon! On Wednesday we are doing some more work on the marketing side including the website which looks absolutely fantastic! The branding is done, the content is being readied and as we start 2015, a release of the film is not far away at all. All this means that very soon, there will be some exciting stuff coming your way including content from the film, merchandise and ways you can help get the film out to the masses.

2015 marks the 40th anniversary of JAWS and later this year, the BBC are airing a three part series dedicated to sharks which will be incredible, I know this because a good friend is working on it and from what he has told me, it will be yet more world beating brilliance from the best in the business at this kind of stuff.

This year has also seen his blog reach a bit of a milestone as it has now surpassed a quarter of a million views! That is no mean feat given its only promotion comes from links shared on the Facebook "shark community" hich is pretty over saturated with content meaning these kinds of shares get lost easily and quickly. Pretty amazing that with that in mind, this is one of the most popular shark related blogs in the world!

Here's to reaching half a million before 2016! ;)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

I Was Interviewed By Save The Sharks

The other day I was asked to do a short interview with Save The Sharks about the process of filming A Ray of Light II and my approach to work in general, alongside a few thoughts about the issues facing Conservation Film.

Have a read of it here!

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all!


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Gigantic Great White Shark in Mallorca

At Biel's house with a jaw taken from a Mallorquin Great White

Any reader of this blog should know by now I have a special passion for sharks in the Mediterranean, especially around the Balearic Islands and in particular Mallorca. For those that don't know, Mallorca actually has a fascinating history with the Great White Shark with twenty seven confirmed captures between the 1920's and 1976.

My good friend and Mallorquin Biologist, Gabriel Morey and I, will often talk about Great Whites around the island, not only does he share my passion for the stories but he also happens to be one of Europe's leading authorities on Great White Sharks in the Med and is the go to guy for everything related to sharks around the Balearics.

One of the main topics which always arises is that of the gigantic Great White captured in El Delta in 1969, a 6.2m specimen captured close to shore, the primary reason being that El Delta is where we handle our work with the Stingrays featured in both A Ray of Light and A Ray of Light II. It's amazing when I dive that area to think that such a huge White Shark was once swimming around there and to be honest, I get a kick out of it.

Today, Anton at Shark Alley (Anton's a cool guy, go like them on Facebook) posted this video:



I have already seen this footage a few years ago but it has now found it's way online and I originally thought this was one of two sharks given the date, a 5.5m specimen taken from Alcudia by Oscar Pinet or the first shark (5.35m) caught by Xisco Perez, who would later catch the second biggest Great White captured anywhere on the planet (1976) and the final confirmed Great White caught around the island.

However, after checking with Biel it turns out the date on the footage is wrong and that this is actually the specimen caught by Guillem Farragut in El Delta in 1969, coming in at a whopping 6.2m! I never knew this was in fact the shark we have talked so much about. There is video footage of a few of the White Sharks taken around Mallorca but much of it is unavailable online but I have been fortunate enough to see it all and one thing which stands out about these sharks is that they are huge!

Not only that, but they are very much still there, only recently there was proof of this but I'm afraid I'm sworn to secrecy on that...

Anyway, if you want to see the area where this shark was caught, check out A Ray of Light II!


A Ray of Light II from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

Monday, 8 December 2014

A Ray of Light II - Online And Available Now!


The wait is finally over!

You can now watch A Ray of Light II in its entirety, free of charge, HERE (Click this link)

If you have any feedback, comments or anything at all, please leave a comment in the comments section of this blog or if you're registered on Vimeo, in the comments section of the film itself.

If you want to help us continue to make these films, the Tip Jar feature is enabled on the Vimeo page, it's non-obligatory of course but any donations, big or small, really do help and they are hugely appreciated!

If you want to embed the film on your websites or blogs, please feel free to do so and if possible, let me know so I can point people towards your site!

So, what are you waiting for!? Watch it and if you like it, please share with friends on Social Media!

Please support Asociacion Ondine as well because without funding, they cannot continue the vital work they are doing! Link here - http://www.gofundme.com/asociacionondine

Edit: - Thank you Mike!




Thursday, 4 December 2014

A Ray of Light II Going Live on Monday, December 8th

Ready and waiting for you!

It's not been easy sitting on A Ray of Light II for so long, it seems like forever really, but I'm excited to say that it will finally see the light of day on an internet near you sometime around midday UK time on Monday, December 8th.

If you haven't already seen them, please do take a bit of time to check out Lockie's two "Making Of" featurettes below:








The three weeks in Mallorca shooting the film was a big challenge to say the least, exhausting both physically and mentally and at times emotionally draining and it shows in the film.

Whereas the first film was a pretty straightforward affair, this was anything but and has a far more expansive, documentary feel to it. As opposed to taking a retrospective look at things that have already happened, A Ray of Light II gives you an insight into things as they happen and an intimate and deeply personal look at how Brad's life has changed in the two years from the first film.

It's a longer film, coming in at just under 29 minutes, the cinematography is better, the sound is better, the story is better and the overall look of the film is a vast improvement from the first, which people still comment very favourably on. The post production of the film was a big job, much bigger than I expected and I think the time and effort I took to get the film how I wanted really shows in the finished result.

A small group of people have already seen the film outside of the premiere and feedback from both has all been overwhelmingly positive so I'm pretty confident if you liked the first, you'll hopefully like (maybe even really like) A Ray of Light II.

As with the first film, A Ray of Light II will be free to view online wherever you are in the world (barring maybe North Korea), that doesn't mean it was a cheap production, far from it! With that in mind, Vimeo's "Tip Jar" feature will be enabled so if you enjoy the film and want to show your appreciation, feel free to chuck a few quid/dollars/yen/whatever in there, every little bit helps recoup costs but of course there is no obligation.

I do ask though that if you enjoy it and value the film and/or the project featured within, that you share the film on your Social Media, Blogs and Websites with a description of why you're sharing it, the more people aware of the work of small, independent Conservation orgs like Asociacion Ondine, the better, they really are a shining light in the marine conservation world.

So, set a reminder, mark your calendars, A Ray of Light II is out this coming Monday. As always, feedback is warmly welcomed!


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Ray of Light II - Behind The Scenes Films

A pic from my time in Palma

I've just got back to the UK from five weeks in Palma on a commercial film shoot for a plastic pollution educational film, not only that, it was also the premiere for A Ray of Light II which was a huge success. If you're wondering where the film is, it will be out in the next few weeks and I can't wait for you all to see it, those who have, all seem to have very passionate feelings about it, or at least various aspects and it certainly created a lot of discussion about its content, to the degree where it wasn't unusual to hear the film being discussed in the bars of Palma by people completely unaware that people responsible for it were within earshot and totally unable to avoid listening in! That was a pretty weird experience for me!

The filming process for part II was much longer, much more complex and a more intense experience, I knew it would be beforehand so enlisted the help of the newest addition to the Scarlet View Media team, Lachlan Stewart-Baker, or as he's better known, "Lockie".


Lockie is new to Film-Making but he's super passionate, enthusiastic and a great person to have on set. For  a big project like this with a lot of expectation attached, it would have been much easier, maybe even more sensible to take someone with experience but Lockie's biggest attribute is his attitude and willingness to get involved and learn.

To help Lockie gain experience in both shooting and editing, alongside helping with the shooting of the film itself, I asked him to make a Behind The Scenes film of the process. I think BTS featurettes are great, they are an excellent promotional tool and really help a viewer engage with the people involved in the production and thus, hopefully, the story in the film itself.

I'm really happy to say that Lockie has now finished his BTS film, which he has split into two parts and I think he's done a great job!

They films feature footage from A Ray of Light II and also, of course, some BTS stuff and both are based around an interview I did with Lockie for which he had total control over the content. I offered advice here and there when asked but these are without doubt, Lockie's own work and he should receive all the credit for their creation. So, here they are!

Part 1:
 



Part 2:






Let us know what you think and if you like them, please share them on your social media groups and pages, not only do they give an insight into the film itself, but also highlights the massive amount of effort which went into making it and if you're in Palma, Lockie owns Mojo Bar so pop in, buy a beer and say hello!

Great stuff Lockie!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A Ray of Light II Premiere!

Photo by Vicki McLeod

I'm still on a shoot in Mallorca so super busy and as such, instead of doing a separate version, I'll just direct you to this very short post about the premiere of A Ray of Light II last week!

Enjoy and keep checking for the update here as to when you can see it for yourself!


Friday, 24 October 2014

A Ray of Light II - Premiere Screening in Palma de Mallorca!


Just a quick heads up to all you hombres and chicas in Mallorca, the premiere for A Ray of Light II is happening next week in Palma!

The screening is taking place at Palma Aquarium on Thursday October 30th, doors open at 19:00 and everything kicks off around 19:30 with a screening of A Ray of Light, which will then be followed by A Ray of Light II and afterwards there will be a Q&A session and a brief presentation by Spain's numero uno Rock Star of the Marine Biology world, the one and only Gabriel Morey.

I will be there, as will of course, the one and only Brad Robertson and if all that isn't enough for you, there will also be a bar and not only that, as if we aren't being good enough to you already as it is, the whole event is FREE to enter!

We would love to see you, feedback for the film from the small group of people who have seen it already has been amazing so you're in for a real treat and besides, what else will you be doing on a Thursday night in one of Europe's best cities?!

We look forward to seeing you.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Ray of Light II Is On It's Way


It's been a manic few months. The first cut of "Of Shark and Man" is on it's way to California so the Sound Design stems can be added.

If you don't know what Sound Design is, it's basically the creation of sound, its manipulation, mixing and mastering, all of which gives the viewer more of an emotional and sensory experience. Some films have a simple, more straight ahead sound design, especially in factual film, however, having gone down a far more complex and ambitious route, we have hundreds of sounds to mix in a cohesive way which will hopefully give you a fuller viewing experience and aid in the narrative of the film. We will end up with a mix of four "stems," one each for the narrative, voice over, topside ambiance and underwater sound, however, currently we have fifty so David Lawrie has his work cut out but what we have sounds incredible!

As post production on "Of Shark and Man" has been reaching completion, alongside commercial work for various clients, I have been putting the finishing touches to "A Ray of Light II."



A Ray of Light from Scarlet View Media on Vimeo.

If you haven't seen the first film, predictably entitled, "A Ray of Light," you can do so above.

The film took me by surprise in the level of success it attained, headlining various film festivals around the world and having been viewed to date, in 151 countries. I'd always intended to do a sequel because the reaction to Brad and his work was overwhelmingly positive, indeed, as more people saw the film, the level of support for Brad's work increased to the stage where he was able to raise sponsorship to start Asociacion Ondine, an official non-profit, grassroots marine conservation organisation based on the island.

I don't want to give too much away but A Ray of Light II is a longer film (29 minutes) much less retrospective with a first person insight into Asociacion Ondine's biggest conservation project to date (a Stingray tagging expedition) and has much more by way of content. It focuses on the effects the first film had on Brad's life and conservation on the island, the growth of Asociacion Ondine, the huge changes to Brad's personal life and also confronts the challenges and more controversial aspects of marine conservation in Mallorca. Where the first was something of a vignette, the sequel is a more rounded, documentary style film which asks the difficult questions and gives the important answers.


In short, I am really, really proud of it.

Production-wise the film was shot on two Canon 7D's, various L Series and EF-S Lenses, about 6 GoPros (meaning lots of mounted POV type shots) and two aerial drones. Sound was captured on a Zoom H1n, Rode Video Mic and Rode Video Mic Pro and underwater sequences were filmed primarily on 7D in a Nauticam housing, with two Sola 1200 lights, with some additional footage captured with GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, both mounted and hand held.

Post-Production was all done on Adobe Production Premium CS6 on a custom built Novatech edit suite and graded in Da Vinci Resolve Lite 10 with a few of my secret little tricks added on top (they stay secret!) Sound Design was mixed and mastered by David Lawrie on Logic on Mac.

As always, big thanks to the awesome Fourth Element, Apeks and Aqualung!


A very small handful of people have seen it and the feedback has been pretty overwhelming to be honest, so far all but one have admitted to shedding a few tears (the one who hasn't, I think may have at least experienced a little moistening ;) ) and all seem to feel this is a big leap forward in terms of the quality of everything.

A Ray of Light II gets its full premiere at Palma Aquarium, in Mallorca on October 30th, where they will also be screening the first film, Gabriel Morey will be giving details of findings of the Stingray Survey to date and Brad, Gabriel and myself will also be doing a Q&A session so if you're on the island, make sure to get down and see it!

The film will then get an online release (free of charge again) some time in November and will be hopefully hitting some festivals next year.

To make sure you are amongst the first to see it when it's out, join here and here as all details will be posted there and there will also be a "Making Of" featurette as well!


** By the way, if you haven't already seen the great news, please have a read of Mike's blog here!**

Friday, 26 September 2014

Mexico Pelagico - Brilliant!

THIS is how you do it!

Yesterday was really weird, really, really weird. Thank you to the 200 or so people for your very kind messages regarding the blog which, when I woke up in the morning, had exploded everywhere which I hadn't really expected at all as I was only chipping in my bit on a "hot" topic. Thank you also to the very small handful of people for the not so nice messages, whether you were in support of the overall message (as 99% were) or not, you engaged directly and I enjoy that so cheers, but I do ask of everyone, please, stop posting under the cloak of anonymity if at all possible. I put ownership on everything I say, I think it's fair to ask others to do the same although that does raise the issue that many of the people who contacted me who are active conservationists and advocates stated they were afraid of the backlash they may face from others if they dared speak out but that's for another time.

Today, I want to focus on everything right in conservation media.

I had a lovely chat yesterday with Jorge Cervera Hauser who is part of Pelagic Life, an organisation I have admired from afar for a while now and it appears we have a mutual admiration and he is someone who shares many of the same opinions and ambitions I have. In amongst the fallout from all the other stuff that's been going on this week, it was great to have an intelligent, articulate and inspiring conversation with someone representing a group who completely "get"what conservation and media messaging is about in 2014.

Pelagic Life was formed off the back of work they were doing in the Baja Peninsuala, paying fishermen to allow them to free the sharks they had hooked. It was a small gesture in the overall grand scheme of things but it is such a great message, to see passionate watermen and women giving something back to the ocean and the sharks who have given them so much pleasure and it also raised awareness of the issues facing sharks in Mexican waters. You can see several short videos of there work here and I strongly suggest you do because they are great!

These are not noisy, privileged, white people stomping into a developing nation screaming at people to "stop shark finning," these are intelligent, articulate, informed and pragmatic people who understand that shark conservation is a far more complex issue than mindless sloganeering and catchphrases, it's a socio-economic issue that is as much about social disparity and capitalist exploitation of the poor as it is about environmentalism. These guys get it and I respect them enormously.

I was lucky enough that Jorge gave me the chance to see their film, "Mexico Pelagico" and I have to say, I was mightily impressed. It's well made, with a great message and as a group, they all come across incredibly well, as articulate, well informed people with warmth and a genuine desire to do something good. This really is brilliant conservation media that has a soul and spirit you only really find in films that are truly independent productions. This is the kind of film we, as people passionate about shark conservation, need to get behind and push out there to a wider audience.

Check out the trailer, join their Facebook page and give them your support. These are people out there, boots on the ground, doing it off their own back with a sustainable and innovative long term goal.

Great stuff!

PS - More from Jorge here!



Mexico Pelagico | Trailer (2) English from Pelagic Life on Vimeo.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Curious Case Of The Shark Attack That Wasn't And Why It's So Predictable

Is this you?...


CAVEAT September 25th, 20:23pm :
I have spoken with Elissa who is obviously quite distressed abut the whole thing which has clearly got way out of hand and we have agreed to do an interview so she can at least give her unedited side of the story which I think is only fair. Her answers will not be edited, will be in her own words and will be presented on another blog here without bias as soon as they are ready. 

UPDATE: October 5th 2014:
I've not heard from Elissa since I sent the questions over so I guess she's changed her mind which is fine. Let's hope everyone can now move on from this whole thing and start looking towards more positive endeavours for everyone involved! 

I'm disappointed in myself, I wasn't going to do this but I've given in and wanted to say a little something about the bizarre case of Elissa Sursara and the shark attack that wasn't. It may well be that although you've already read a ton about her in the last 48 hours, none of it good, but I wanted to take a slightly different tack.

Firstly though if you haven't a clue what I'm on about I'll give a basic run down;

Elissa is a 26 year old Australian who nobody apart from her friends and family had heard of until Monday morning. Elissa likes animals, she's vegetarian, she went to the Australian National University, has blue eyes and doesn't wear much make up. She was also attacked by a shark in September 2013 and spent a week in hospital. 

Unlike 99.9999999999% of shark attack victims however, she claimed to feel "privileged" to have been attacked by a shark and decided to tell her story a couple of days ago to as many media outlets as possible to help protect sharks or something. Either way, her face and name were all over Facebook with many proclaiming her a heroine for sharks and that such positive in the face of such trauma was another win for the sharks. It was a wonderful moment indeed.

The only problem is I, like many others saw the photo of the wound and immediately smelled a rat because it looks completely fake. In fact, it is fake, the attack never happened and the whole story was dreamt up as some kind of bizarre publicity stunt. Drew Scerbo on the Facebook group White Shark Advocacy went so far as to analyse the picture and point out the Photoshop skullduggery leaving nobody in any doubt that this already fishy story was pure, unadulterated bullshit.

This is where it gets really weird... Elissa is someone who has something of a track record when it comes to bullshit. She describes herself as "an Australian wildlife expert and journalist" with a pretty decent list of credits in film and TV and whose profession is lisetd as "Australian biologist, broadcaster, filmmaker and celebrity conservationist" who has almost 60,000 "fans" on Facebook and legions more followers on Twitter. If you look at her IMDB page you will also see the following;

"Following the death of friend Heath Ledger, Sursara was targeted by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, for her friendship with the actor and for her support of Ledger's role as a homosexual in Brokeback Mountain (2005). The Church also attacked Sursara's support of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages."

"From 2006 onward - before finding success as an actor - Sursara became a victim of social identity theft on networking websites MySpace, Bebo and Facebook. According to published reports, there were in abundance of 400 profiles on MySpace using Sursara's pictures. In 2010, Sursara and student Frieda Rose were named the Internet's "Most Faked Girls" after a study on social identity theft."

Not only all the above, but she also claimed to have been dating Justin Bieber at one point.

The problems arise when it becomes clear that pretty much all the above has been proven as a pack of lies and that the supposed celebrity status comes from nothing more than Facebook and Twitter followers that were bought and paid for and who don't actually exist.

The master and the student

At this point, while this looks like veering dangerously off into another hatchet piece on someone who is clearly a deluded fantasist, I want to point out that I'm not going down that route because there are parts of this whole charade which compel me to talk about it far more than slating this young woman for doing something so spectacularly short sighted and stupid with a lack of awareness I find completely staggering. When the story first broke, I was taken aback by the brass neck she has, I found some of her statements amusing but the more I have thought about it and the more I have seen the reaction, I have started to feel differently. Is she guilty of doing something utterly moronic? Yes, but I think there is more to this than that.

To be honest, before I even saw the "wound" I called "bullshit" on the story after seeing another picture, a shot of Elissa in full Sea Shepherd garb with the Jedi Master of lying to the media, Paul Watson. I have become so cynical that the second I see those black hoodies, I automatically think "whatever this is, it's at least 70% bollocks." Sometimes I'm wrong and I'm glad when I am because they do occasionally do some good stuff but usually, (and unfortunately) I'm right and being conservative with the 70%

You see, although Elissa has done something incredibly stupid, I don't think she should bear the blame alone because there are deeper issues here which I'll come to in a second but first, this statement from Elissa stood out to me when defending herself against a rising tide of criticism and some other, rather ugly, reactions;

"For the record, Paul Watson provided comments about this encounter to the Courier Mail, the incident was no secret to those in Sea Shepherd who needed to know. Unfortunately that does not include the 400,000 odd on Sea Shepherd's Facebook page and the millions who receive email updates. The decision to withhold my name at the time was calculated and strategic since I felt that any association with me or with Sea Shepherd would have been instrumentally negative toward sharks, the shark campaign and the work of third party groups -- and, quite honestly, I didn't feel the need to "share my story" with the newspaper since up until now, the shark cull has been in place. As the report states, there is slightly more freedom for shark advocates to speak their piece in the clearance of a WA cull..."

Of course it's difficult to believe anything Elissa says but given Sea Shepherd are yet to respond are we to take it, as that statement suggests, that this was a "calculated and strategic" press release executed under the watchful eye of Watson to raise the Sea Shepherd profile further through a magnificently misguided ploy to convince the public that being chomped by a shark really isn't so bad after all?
 
Has an obviously vulnerable and easily manipulated fantasist with possible psychological issues and stars in her eyes been convinced to take one for the team with a bullshit stunt concocted by people who think their followers and fans are really that stupid that they'd actually get away with it?!

 Sound familiar?

Elissa isn't the first person to say she thinks being bitten by a shark and having a cool scar would be pretty groovy, in fact, I've seen other people of varying notoriety saying the same, actually hoping it would happen to them because hey it's awesome, the psychological and physical trauma, not to mention the financial damage are just swell and you'll get your name in the news. Awesome!

The issue here isn't just the lie or the effect it will undoubtedly have on the view of Joe Public when he next sees someone on TV talking about shark conservation, it's the fact that something like this has been on the cards for ages and that Elissa is far from alone, the raging narcissists desperate to be the next Shark Girl/Man/Rider are everywhere and even worse, they're winning.

I don't know Elissa but I reckon deep down she's probably a nice girl, a nice, misguided girl who exhibits all the signs of someone with issues who finds a solace in Social Media and the completely false sense of popularity it imbues in those who are in desperate need of good, real friends, friends who will put an arm around you and make you feel good about yourself when times are tough.

The world of shark media and shark conservation is no stranger to narcissism, it infests its every pore, like it does in many niche interests, for all the good hearted, enthusiastic people therein, lies a (un)healthy amount of people whose sense of self importance, talent and worth far outweighs their actual importance, talent and worth.

Sharks are great for the ego, they make you look cool and in a world where you can look cool and make a bit of a name for yourself, those narcissists will grasp, claw and cheat their piece of the pie doing anything and everything to get one over on the competition. In a world where you can actually buy popularity you have all the tools to trick gullible people into thinking you and what you're selling (because everyone is selling something,) has value and meaning, tag on a cool image and some snazzy catchphrases, let other people do the hard work for you and you're good to go.

Unfortunately these people, and we all know who they are, are also smart enough to know how to manipulate enough gullible people into helping them become somebody and for people like Elissa, who obviously, desperately wants to be "somebody," they become the benchmark and inspiration as to how to get there and they must also shoulder some of the blame for this. Without positive role models the lowest common denominator can rule supreme, this is no longer a world where the cream will rise to the top, instead it remains hidden, slowly evolving into a grotesque new life form while you sit there drinking shitty coffee because you couldn't be arsed to look in the back of the fridge.

It's all very well rounding on Elissa, getting the pitchforks and flaming torches out but maybe we might want to start looking at the more uncomfortable truths, that the people looked upon as bastions of Shark Conservation because they ride sharks ("for the sharks"), wear bikinis ("for the sharks"), make crappy TV ("for the sharks"), get you to donate your hard earned money to their projects which don't actually do anything ("for the sharks") or simply spend all their time on Facebook telling you how brilliant they are ("for the sharks") aren't actually doing it "for the sharks," at all but instead, are doing it solely for themselves and that these narcissists are merely creating more narcissists who do nothing other than push their brand at people who believe they are helping by supporting them in doing so?

I'd say to anybody out there who knows Elissa, sit down with her, put an arm around her, talk to her and advise her to lay low, stop talking and let this blow over and learn from it and to anyone out there who, if it is the case, advised her in undertaking this "calculated and strategic" stunt, shame on you, I hope you're happy with the fact this young woman has now completely fucked up any real chance of making a credible career in conservation and who is now getting blasted by the mainstream media and anyone and everyone on Social Media and not only that, you've helped make genuine shark conservationists look really bad by association to people who don't know any better, predominantly most of the general public.

I actually feel sorry for Elissa, maybe I'm going soft in my old age, we all do stupid things from time to time and Elissa's seem to stem from deeper issues than just not thinking things through properly before we do them.

We must all be held accountable for our actions but sometimes, those who directly, or indirectly influence those actions might want to take a long hard look at themselves, suppress the narcissistic ego maniac within, and exercise a little humility and ownership of their own behaviour because if you do have a public profile and you use your platform to do stupid, worthless, self serving things and claim them to be anything other than what they are, even worse assign them to some kind of altruistic, humanitarian crusade, then you are telling people like Elissa that it's okay to be like you and I hate to say it, but it's not okay to be like you, it's not okay at all.