Monday, March 7, 2011

Filmmaker Q&A: Jeff Litton,"Save Sharks, Don't Serve Them"

“Save Sharks, Don’t Serve Them” comes at a timely moment with CA Assembly Bill 376 being hotly debated. Almost all species of sharks all over the world are threatened by humans, despite stereotypes saying the opposite. Shark finning is a cruel and inhumane practice, and is impact is not just moral it’s ecological. Jeff Litton’s film highlights the plight sharks are facing, as well as their powerful and graceful presence. We should not serve, or fear, sharks, we should all work to save them. Catch “Save Sharks, Don’t Serve Them” on Saturday March 12th at 1:00pm. Click here to get your tickets now.

What is your overall summary for the film?

“Save Sharks, Don’t Serve Them” is a film that brings viewers face to face with beautiful sharks from around the world, and then exposes the crisis that all sharks are in today. San Francisco has the perfect ability to set the example for the world of shark conservation.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

Looking a shark in the eye proves wrong every fear Spielberg ever gave you. Sharks are peaceful, and more afraid of us. In fact they have every right to be.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

The most challenging part of the film is searching for the bottom of a story as big as illegal shark fishing. The effects of shark fin soup don’t weigh only on the pockets of the buyer, nor even the life of the shark; the illegal industry fuels the operations of narcotics and slavery, not to mention a heavy hand in governments. It all ends when Shark Fin Soup ends.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?

People leave the theatre with a better appreciation for sharks and the gravity of their peril. Hopefully enough people can join together in a coalition of citizens interested in saving sharks, and if our message coincides with those of our officials, then we can come a long way towards protection.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?

Surely the best part of filming sharks is the connection you feel in the presence of a giant. If dogs and bees can sense fear, then imagine what could be sensed with the sophistication of a hammerhead shark.

Who (or what) is your inspiration?

A shark approaches from the distance, and it’s swimming straight for you. Camera’s rolling & you keep looking between the camera and the real thing. It approaches until 2 feet away, turns left, and you feel the gentle currents wash past. That’s not inspiration, it’s zen.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films?

One day a friend and I were towing a trash net across San Francisco Bay, and we pulled out a piece of plastic as big as your palm. It was the corner of a bag of chips, and by the branding, the plastic was more than 40 years old. The problems of the ocean aren’t controversial, it’s as simple as a sustainable future. Ocean health has nothing to do with race, nor geography, it is a world endeavor. The answers are in every question like, ‘How do we stop killing all the sharks from the ocean?’

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival?

The message from the Governor of Galapagos is addressed to government of San Francisco, and the people, a plea for shark conservation. San Francisco is part of a huge shark conservation movement taking place now and to continue in the future. The bay represents the mix of rich culture met with founding ideas and principles from the entire state of California.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Filmmaker Q&A: Jordan Plotsky,"Home for Hawksbill"

In his film "Home for Hawksbill" Jordan Plotsky uncovers the amazing story of three rival tribes cooperating to save the turtles they had hunted to near extinction. Sacrificing their own livelihoods the people of the Arnavon Islands are helping this ancient species make a come back and are creating a model of conservation for communities all over the world. Catch "Home for Hawksbill" Sunday March 13th at 10 am as part of Program 10. Click here for tickets.

Filmmaker Bio:

Jordan Plotsky has a passion for wildlife and wilderness. Since 1998, he has been producing films and television on subjects ranging from sea turtles to bison, and archaeology to culture change. He has bushwhacked through the jungles of Papua New Guinea and shuffled through the snows of Yellowstone to capture the world’s beauty and drama. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Teledramatic Arts and Technologies from California State University Monterey Bay, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Natural History Filmmaking and Communication from the University of Otago. He is married and lives in Santa Cruz, California.

What is your summary for the film?

The Hawksbill turtle has been swimming in the southern oceans since the time of the dinosaurs. But now over-fishing has brought the Hawksbill to the brink of extinction. One of the turtle’s last stands is the Arnavon Islands, three small islets nestled in a far corner of the Solomon Islands. Even here their survival is at risk, as three rival tribes hunt the hawksbill to the breaking point. “Home for Hawksbill” tells the remarkable story of how these rival tribes overcame cultural conflicts and disputes over land ownership to protect the islands and save the turtles. Success in the Arnavons has inspired other communities, and is now a model for conservation across the globe.

What inspired you to make this film?

In a world of environmental challenges and degradation, I think it's critically important to tell stories of hope. This is an inspiring story of peace through conservation and the survival of an ancient species.

What were the biggest challenges in making the film?

Short shooting schedule and language gap

What message do you want viewers to take away from your film?

People around the world are doing important work and there are lessons for all of us.

What was the most enjoyable part of making the film?

Being on location and meeting the locals.

What was the most memorable moment in the film?

Watching hatchlings race to the sea.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Filmmaker Q&A: Lucia Duncan,"Whales of Gold"

Grey whales: huge, fascinating, critically important to the economy of San Ignacio Lagoon. Lucia Duncan’s film “Whales of Gold” sees the migration of whale, and the researchers and tourists that follow them, through the eyes of the local residents of this small fishing village in Baja California Mexico. “Whales of Gold” is part of Program 7, Saturday March 12th at 1:00 pm. Click here to get tickets now.

What is your overall summary for the film?

Every winter, following the migration of grey whales, tourists, scientists, and conservationists descend upon the San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California, Mexico. Their presence - and the establishment of Latin America's largest biosphere reserve - brings profound change to the lagoon’s small fishing community. Twelve-year-old Antonio negotiates between the different points of view of locals and outsiders about the changes and what the future will bring. “Whales of Gold” raises questions about how to conserve habitat and species in a way that also sustains the livelihoods of local people.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

I am fascinated by the way in which ecotourism is marketed as a trip to paradise – a form of tourism that does no harm, a win-win situation for tourists, local people, and the environment. Ecotourism is the fastest growing sector of the global tourism industry and is especially important to the economies of developing countries. While tourists delight in their immersion in untouched nature - beautiful scenery and exotic animals - they often have no real contact with local people. I wanted to make a film that would explore the impact of ecotourism on one community from the perspective of local people.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

It was challenging to make a film at a distance and in such a remote location. It was also challenging to make a film about issues that are complex and changes that are gradual.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?

My hope is that "Whales of Gold" will help viewers think more critically about the multiple impacts of ecotourism and conservation and who bene_ts from the changes they bring.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?

I enjoyed learning about the fishing culture in Baja California Sur and filming in such a beautiful place.

Who (or what) is your inspiration?

I was inspired by the relationship that residents of the San Ignacio Lagoon have with the place that they live and with their desire for their kids to be able to continue to live there.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films?

This is my first environmentally focused film.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival?

I hope your festival will draw viewers interested in ecotourism and conservation in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

The visit by El Hijo del Santo (Mexican wrestler) to the San Ignacio Lagoon was the most memorable moment. It was such a clear example of how U.S. environmental organizations use the community to create media campaigns.

Director’s Bio:

Lucia has directed films about labor, tourism, culture, and the environment. Her film Making History: SEIU and the Labor Movement won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. As a Fulbright Fellow in Brazil, she made Olinda: World Cultural Heritage Site and Lord of Olinda, and worked for Video in the Villages, teaching documentary production to indigenous youth. She has a BA in Development Studies and Portuguese/Brazilian Studies from Brown University and an MFA in Film/Video from the University of Texas.

Filmmaker Q&A: Nannette Van Antwerp,"Raja Ampat"

Nannette Van Antwerp, newcomer to the Ocean Film Festival, is an experienced and passionate diver whose love for the ocean its intriguing life shines through her film “Raja Ampat.” Filmed in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat the film highlights a wealth of exotic creatures sure to delight audiences and inspire viewers to consider how we can all preserve the oceans for future generations. Catch “Raja Ampat” on Sunday March 13th as part of Program 10. Click here to buy tickets.

What is your overall summary for the film?

A sampling of some of the amazing marine life found in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago, from giant manta rays to seahorses smaller than your fingernail.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

After seeing first-hand the beauty and diversity of Raja’s reefs and the life that lives there, I wanted to be able to share that in some way with other divers and non-divers alike.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

Shooting video underwater is always challenging, as you have to deal with currents, surge, variable light conditions and time limits imposed by the rules of diving, among other things. But the most challenging thing may have been choosing from the many hours of footage shot on the trip, which clips to include in the film.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?

I hope that they can get some of the same sense of the wonder I feel when I see these amazing creatures and their behaviors and adaptations that allow them to each live in their own little niche on the reef.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?

I love the ocean, and spending time on a boat in a remote Indonesian paradise while diving multiple times a day is my idea of heaven!

Who (or what) is your inspiration?

Mostly I’m inspired by all the amazingly alien life that lives in the ocean. The underwater world is a constant source of wonder for me. After more than 1000 dives all over the world, I still see something I’ve never seen before every time I get in the water. It makes me want to share these wonders with people who would otherwise never get the chance to see them, and hopefully inspire them to want to respect and protect the ocean as well.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films?

I got certified to dive in 2000 and started shooting video underwater in 2002 as a way to share our adventures with friends and family. Over the years my editing style has evolved from making longer travelogue-style videos into creating more natural history-style short films. I’m still strictly an amateur with a lot to learn and I create the videos because I enjoy making them and sharing them with others.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival?

I’m always happy to support events that educate people and create awareness about issues related to the ocean, and I’m very excited to be part of this film festival.

Is this your first time participating in an ocean-focused film festival?

Yes, in fact it’s my first film festival of any kind.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

After many dives all over the world, one of the creatures my husband and I most wanted to see that had so far eluded us was a blue-ringed octopus. At the end of one dive in the middle of our Raja Ampat trip, I looked over to see one of the dive guide frantically gesturing for me to come over. Sure enough, there was a beautiful little blue-ring out in the open crawling across the reef—a spectacular sight! Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t feeling well that day and had sat out the dive. I could hardly bring myself to tell him about it when we got back to the boat. At least he got to see it on video…

Filmmaker Q&A: Allan Smith,"Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Surfmen"

“Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Surfmen” documents the extraordinary story of an all African American rescue crew based in North Carolina in the 1890’s. The crewmembers posthumously received the Gold Lifesaving Medal but their story has never been told before. Learn the historic tale of these rescue men whose accomplishments contributed to the creation of the U.S. Coast Guard as part of Program 11, Sunday March 13th at 1:00 pm. Click here to watch a clip of the film.

What is your overall summary for the film?

On the night of October 11, 1896 in hurricane force winds, one crew known as the “Pea Island Surf Men” accomplished the impossible. Led by Keeper Richard Etheridge, this historic all black rescue crew etched themselves into history rescuing stranded sailors whose ships had succumbed to the harsh Atlantic. “Rescue Men” is the story of the men that manned the Pea Island Lifesaving Station on the outer banks of North Carolina. Due to the heroics and accomplishments of these brave men, we now have what is called “The United States Coast Guard.”

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

My inspiration for creating this film was knowing that these men deserve to have the world know what they accomplished and that the story lay hidden for over 100 years.

These men 100 years later posthumously received the Gold Lifesaving Medal, and now they finally receive a film about their heroic actions and accomplishments.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in making “Rescue Men”?

The most challenging part of creating was garnering the trust from the African American community and locals in rural North Carolina.

What message do you want your audience to take away?

That regardless of our race or ethnicity, these men lent a hand when normally it never would have been taken. They swore to do a job and they did it to the best of their ability.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?

The most enjoyable part of the creating Rescue Men was traveling to the White House to meet and film Admiral Steven Rochon. He is currently the Chief Usher at the White House for President Obama.

Who or what is your inspiration?

My inspiration is a gentleman I met some time ago in Alaska named Norman Vaughan who, at age 87, summited a mountain named after him in Antarctica by Admiral Richard Bird. Atop that mountain Norman stated “Dream Big & Dare to Fail”. That is my inspiration!

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

For us, the most memorable moment in creating Rescue Men was when Daniel Gardner, the great-grandson of Captain Gardner from the ES Newman rescue, looked at us and stated, “if it was not for these African American heroes, were it not for these men, then I would not be here today”.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Filmmaker Q&A: Ariela Stern,"Physics of Surfing"

Wildly popular in coastal cities and towns the world over, surfing is more than a sport, it is a culture. But how does surfing actually work? “Physics of Surfing” delves into the mechanics of surfboards, surfers, and waves. The film puts a new spin on surfing documentaries by exploring and explaining the forces, energy, and mechanics of this popular sport. You can see “Physics of Surfing” at the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, Saturday March 12th at 10:00 am.

What is your overall summary for the film?

Unlike other surfing documentaries, ‘Physics of Surfing’ is an educational film that uncovers the physical science of ocean waves and the art of surfing. Further, the film looks at how the modern technology of surfboard design affects a board's performance on the wave. Surfers play with nature's purest form of energy and power in this cinematic experience.

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

When creating the film, we didn’t want to produce just “another surf movie.” We really wanted to explore and explain the physical science of ocean waves in the context of modern surfing.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

Obviously one of the most difficult aspects of shooting a film that is so contingent on weather conditions is timing of the production. We were very lucky that on our second trip to the North Shore of Hawaii we caught a truly epic winter swell that made for some very amazing footage.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?

We really wanted to present the magnificent and awe inspiring power of the natural energy of ocean waves and mankind’s ingenuity and skill.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film?

The film is a collaboration of a lot of talented and motivated people. The surfers are true artisans of their craft. For all members of the crew that had the opportunity to travel to beautiful exotic locations to create the film, it was an experience of a lifetime.

Who (or what) is your inspiration?

We were certainly inspired by the deep influence that surfing has had not only on American youth culture but on many cultures around the world.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival?

We chose to submit to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival because we believe this venue is the perfect opportunity to showcase a film not just about surfing and waves, but the science behind the oceanic sport and the components which contribute to this beloved art-form. We hope that viewers will gain a better appreciation for our ocean while experiencing the thrill of surfing at the same time, and we feel the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival shares this same type of mission.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

Probably the most memorable part of the project was the sheer camaraderie of the cast and crew. The whole project was a wonderful experience for everyone involved. I think everyone was disappointed when the production came to an end.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Filmmaker Q&A: Scott Drucker, "Between The Harvest"

Filmmaker Scott Drucker’s film “Between the Harvest” explores the complex story of legal, but controversial, harvesting of endangered sea turtle eggs in Ostional. The film does not pass judgment, but seeks to illustrate the need for balance between the needs of human populations and the effects that populations have on our shared environment. “Between the Harvest” is playing as part of Program 11, Sunday March 13th at 1:00 pm. Click here to buy tickets and here to watch the trailer.

What is your overall summary for the film?

Between the Harvest is the story of Ostional, a small coastal community that relies on the legal harvest and sale of endangered olive ridley sea turtle eggs. Told through the eyes of these two fragile species, this short documentary delves into one of the biggest controversies in the marine world: is this harvest really an exemplary sustainable project?

What was your inspiration for creating the film?

Five years ago, for a study abroad project, I spent two months developing a library for the kids of Ostional. I taught some English, researched the olive ridley by night, and occasionally filmed samples of life. When I screened the footage for a final presentation, my good friend Jess said, “You have to do this. You have to come back one day and make this film.” When she died two years ago it all became clear to me. All the craziness of grad school at USC drifted away and I knew that I had to go back and make this film, despite the lack of support from the school.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film?

Ensuring the people that I was not there to harm them or to stop the project. It was not easy to gain their trust since so many people go to Ostional, film them taking the eggs without ever asking, and then disappear without anyone ever hearing from them again. I feel like Adam Beals (another student from my abroad program) said it well since it applies to these filmmakers and photographers as well. He said, "I realized then that tourists and turtles both have a virtually identical impact on the community of Ostional; they arrive out of the blue, bestow untold riches upon the town, and then return to their glorious lives in other parts of the world, thereby leaving the people of Ostional no choice but to wishfully burn the days until their beneficiaries return." A good documentary is connecting with the people that you are filming so that both elements, story and style, become one. When I went to research the project idea over the summer, people were very hesitant, but in the end we sat and listened to what they had to say and genuinely cared about their perspective and livelihood. For almost everyone in the town it was the first time anyone with a camera had ever asked them about the project and what it meant to them.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers?

That there are these whole communities and people behind everything the ocean experiences. Ostional is just a microcosm for this bigger picture. It illustrates how interconnected we all are.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films?

Jacque Cousteau. That might be clichĂ©, but I take one look at one of his spots and I can’t help to love what he did, just anything Cousteau. Life Aquatic is a brilliant parody that just inspires me that much more to create ocean-focused films, both fiction and non-fiction.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival?

I wanted to premiere or screen at a festival where people actually cared about the ocean and the communities that surround it, as opposed to a festival that was more concerned with juging the work, or with distribution and industry networking. I genuinely care about the work and the people and am excited to be in an environment where people share a common passion.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film?

One of the very last days filming when we were in the fish market and it all just came together. After two months of intense conversations about the purpose of the film, what we were trying to say, etc. and then the intensity of filming the whole arribada, we finally had the chance to follow the eggs to their final destination. After interviewing a woman who owned a store in the market, we all just sat in this café and could not help but to smile at each other. We knew we had just finished this incredible journey.