So, it's been a few (dozen) months since I last blogged about the film, and I'll try my best to catch you up on what's all happened in the meantime.
First, most of the time since filming was spent writing, revising, re-revising and editing the book (Rough Cut: Lessons from Endangered Species), which is half of the Deconstructing Eden project.
Rough Cut is now in that glorious stage of life wherein it gets made pretty and a cool person adds their voice to writing the preface. By the late fall - POOF! - the completed book should be hitting the streets.
Around the same time, Deconstructing Eden the film will have its unveiling. There are several things in the works, but for sure it'll premiere by the end of October. Which is weird... since the film will actually be fully cut and sound tracked by the end of this month. It's going to be hard for me to keep it under my hat!
The last film I worked on, Fragile Waters, had my co-director and I scrambling literally until the due date to render a rough cut for Friday Harbor Film Fest. There was no time to breathe then. With DE, I have more time - and that means I can polish it more. Squee!
The third component of the Deconstructing Eden was about public speaking and educational presentations to include the issues in the film. That part has gone really well, too. I've been able to speak about marine mammals at several public events and as a presenter for online webinars for the past two years. The National Biodiversity Teach In events (which I've done twice) were especially gratifying because it involved thousands of students and educators from all over the world.
During the creation of DE and the book I have also spent hundreds of hours volunteering as a marine mammal stranding responder (I am now a board member for Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network). I have been working hard, hands on, to protect species that inspire me daily.
So, here's a brief timeline for this project as everything is unveiled:
The film should premiere around (likely before) October 15, 2017. Location and event info TBA
Rough Cut (the book) will hit the streets after mid October 2017, as well. I will update the book info on this site when a release date is announced.
A FREE online screening of DE will happen around Christmas. An event registration form online will need to be filled out to participate and viewership is capped at the first 20 people to register. The registration form will inserted into a blog post, sometime this fall.
From now until the film premieres I will try to blog once a week and update as needed.
In other news, I've begun a new book project. This one centers on the global issue of poaching. I spent the month of February this year in Tanzania as part of research for this story. Without giving away too many details I'm exploring the factors most responsible for illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching. To do so, I'm traveling to Africa, Asia and around North America to gain insight into difficult issues. My goal is start an honest conversation about those issues, and bring light to real causes/effects.
Saving marine mammals, research, education.... these are the cornerstones for every project I've taken on since 2011. I am grateful and thrilled to continue doing so. For me, it's the rent I pay for Life on this beautiful planet.
I'm writing this post with one eye closed. It helps me to steady the screen.
The past few days have poured over me like molten lead. As a Meniere's Disease sufferer, daily life will always be impacted - but, when stress peaks - look out!
With the disease comes vertigo, severe and relentless attacks that can stretch from minutes to hours, and even into a string of dizzy days.
Still, you work through it because Life doesn't "pause." Not much waits for Meniere's schedule.
These past few days have been finalizing plans for the on-location filming and direction of crew.
I have to say it is a HUGE blessing to have this crew. Eight simply amazing, wonderful folks, all ready to help bring Deconstructing Eden to life.
Without my "Otter Army," I would surely be lost.
One week. That's it, then the camera rolls... the story alights.
As troubled as I am with vertigo, I still cannot measure my excitement!
What follows below is the actual post I made to the Deconstructing Eden film crew:
"A crew, by definition, is a team. Although I may lead this team, I am not, nor would I be capable of being, the “star” of this team.
There will be several “pep talks” in the weeks ahead. This is the first, and somewhat the most important.
I've just returned from a trip to Canada where I had the amazing opportunity and honor to meet and talk with Dr, Jane Goodall. I was invited to meet her by one of her family members, for whom (at the time without fully knowing the connection to Jane) I dropped an entire day off of a very packed schedule for this film's research trip in October to help with a medical crisis in San Francisco.
To me, she was simply a friend in need.
Fast forward to this past Saturday:
I was an invited VIP and not only had a ticket to the event but also access to a meet and greet before the lecture and a private meeting after it.
During the meet and greet she spoke candidly with the 70 of us gathered in a special gallery area of the theater. She talked mainly about how important it was for her to have an opportunity to speak to supporters of the JGI Roots and Shoots Program. She also thanked the city officials and Mr. Robert Bateman (renowned wildlife artist and conservation advocate) for being there. After a short speech, Dr. Jane (she does not like being called Dr. Goodall, as it's too formal for her tastes) mingled and made her way through the crowd.
Then she stopped at me and smiled. I took it as an invitation to introduce myself. I told her my name, and instantly she stopped me in mid-sentence.
“You're making a film about sea otters!” she exclaimed in her gloriously soft, but beautiful British accent, and her face lit up in recognition. Her niece had already told her about me.”Aren't they just wonderful creatures?”
I think I said “Yes,” then rambled and gushed incoherently for the next minute. She tapped my shirt, which had a picture of an otter on it, and said I look forward to talking with you more later.
Her lecture was phenomenal. It was my second time at one of her lectures. This lecture she spoke of the Seeds of Hope, which focuses not on the dire aspects of the decay of our natural world but on the meaningful progress being made to restore the balance.
Our film – Deconstructing Eden – will be a part of that mission. We are tasked with bringing hope back to the table, and making people want to help rather than simply curl up into a ball, and shutdown. We hold in our hands, hearts and creative minds the task and responsibility of inspiring people and educating the world – nothing less – and, we WILL accomplish that mission.
After the lecture I was brought to the area where she would soon be signing books. The lines was already more than 500 people long. I admit I felt awkward being ushered in front of so many people. I know there were folks there for whom they scraped together pocket change in order to see Dr. Jane...to just be in her presence.
I am no one special in comparison to the people in that line. I'm not more important, nor more worthy of Dr. Jane's time and attention. Still, there I was, being given a few minutes to chat with her before she started signing books.
When she saw me her face brightened again and as she took my hand, I pulled her into a hug. I gave her a gentle squeeze.
This time I was far more composed.
“Dr, Jane, I know you hear it often but you are truly a hero of mine. I was inspired to study anthropology because of you, and later “People of the Forest” influenced the type of documentary films I wanted to make. I feel so lucky to be here.”
Immediately, she said, “I'm very glad you could be here tonight, Rick.”
That was not lost on me. She remembered my name from a 30-second meeting, more than two hours earlier. She then touched the otter on my shirt and told me she talks about the southern sea otters in a few of her books.
I gave her an “otter paw.” These handmade paws are the symbol and totem for our film. When I say, “Paws UP,” it has many layers of meaning. Sea otters conserve body heat by holding their paws out of the water, but they also go “paws up” in an alert stance, while floating on their backs, when faced with an uncertain danger or potential threat. Very quickly I told Jane about this behavior (which she probably knows more than I do about it) and asked if we could take a picture together, going “Paws Up!”
That's the moment you see here.
Dr. Jane wished me – all of us, really – good luck with the film.
I'll leave you with that for now. Consider that moment our official launch sendoff.
I can't believe it... 38 days until filming starts!!!
It's been almost a year of prep, Scouting locations, research, script writing, fund raising, gaining sponsors, paperwork and finding crew have all been more enjoyable than pre-production should ever be. I mean that quite earnestly. Things came together in humbling, amazing and wonderful ways unlike any production of mine before.
Two things I'd like to talk about in this post: Methodology and Creative Vision.
Methodology is very important to put out there right now. Above all else in making these films is adhering to regulations and treating wildlife with respect. That's the central guide for this film, too. I can't tell you what I plan to film (exactly), nor will divulge the script, but I can tell you “how” footage will be acquired.
A very large percentage of the footage – both surface and underwater – will be done from shore and with the cameras set up quite a distance from the animal subjects. That may sound counter intuitive to getting decent shots, but because I have scouted safe locations with physical barriers between the wildlife and myself (and crew) I will still have many, many opportunities to film passing animals – without affecting their behaviors or being an obstruction to their movement.
We do not enter the water to film... ever. No divers, not even kayaks to film the movie. I did kayak the slough (without filming) during my research. That was critical for me to get a feel for the estuary and the ecosystem the otters live in. Our underwater footage will be shot via an 18-foot-long pole, with a 4K underwater camera attached, affixed to a static shore point or hand steadied on the jetty, near the ocean inlet. Here again, we'll hug the shore (up and away from the water's surface) and simply be “flies on the wall” as animals pass by.
In saying that, sea lions are very curious, as are the sea otters, and there will be times when they will swim near the pole just to check it out. The pole camera is neither designed to follow them, nor would I allow that. It is pressed up against the dock or rocks – out of the path of any wildlife. If they linger, or attempt an approach to touch the camera, it will be pulled up and out of their reach until they move on. Neither human being nor marine mammals will ever be close to making contact. The dock I film on actually has a fence in place to assure there won't even be accidental contact.
I do nothing to attract wildlife. Whatever happens to be the behavior they are doing naturally is simply filmed as it happens. The script is very forgiving that way, I don't need the manufactured actions – only the natural ones.
As for the surface camera, pictured below, it has enough telephoto zoom capabilities to keep me at legal and safe distance from the marine mammals, while still getting “close” footage. The law, but more importantly the safety and stress of the animals trumps EVERYTHING. Period.
That brings me to the creative process.
Deconstructing Eden is the story of an ecosystem first and foremost. It has many living parts. All of those parts combine to tell a story. There is inherent drama to this story. There's struggle: life and death.
Telling this story happens three ways. The first is visual; I want you to see the environment... “feel” the home of the sea otters. Next is through the spoken words. The script is written to not only be educational, but also inspiring and hopeful. Both of those are rounded out with music. The scoring is critical, as it will tell the story without words...sometimes, for those who are sight impaired, without images, too.
It all comes together through the collaboration and hard work of scores of people. People in California, Washington, various other states, and Canada.
When I slate the first shot on-location, I will have a team of four production assistants, a production coordinator, still photographer, and a local marine biologist consultant. Our “raft” of crew will turn these ideas into film artistry.
Thirty-eight days. I can't wait!
During my research trip last October, I was privileged to meet many great people involved in studying and protecting the ocean (and the marine life therein).
Peggy Stap, founder of Marine Life Studies and co-founder of the Whale Entanglement Team in Monterey, let me spend a day with her and her crew, volunteering to help with research in the bay. Not only did we identify and record whales, pinnipeds and other animals during a trip out, into the bay, we also cataloged and removed plastic debris from the environment.
I cannot speak highly enough about the mission, work and people involved with MLS/WET. They do so much, and with the challenging resources of a small nonprofit organization to boot.
Below is the new "Rough Cut" podcast (an audio segment, which provides behind-the-scenes information about Deconstructing Eden and its partners), featuring a couple of clips from an interview I did with Peggy.
For those interested in helping or supporting MLS/WET, please check out this link. They are out there, directly saving whales and helping the world learn more about these incredible animals!
"Paws up" and cheers,
It is with extreme pleasure and unbridled excitement that I am privileged to announce Joan Hall Hovey as the narrative voice over actress for Deconstructing Eden!!!
Joan is an AMAZINGLY talented person, whose voice reflects the theme and feel of this film PERFECTLY! She's done voice over work for CBC radio, for television AND she's an award-winning author: http://www.joanhallhovey.com/
Please help me in welcoming Joan to our creative team and to her role as the voice of the voiceless!
Happy New Year!
This is it, this is GO TIME!!!! 2016... man, what an exciting and promising year ahead! In just over three months, I will return to the otters and start filming the documentary. "Excited" doesn't even begin to cover it.
While we work on the film and work on getting the story out about the sea otters and other marine mammals, all of us involved with Deconstructing Eden hope you have a safe and wonderful 2016!
To ring in the new year, here's a new podcast:
Paws Up! and Cheers!!!
- Rick Wood, director
Less than 24 days to go, and 22-percent funded!
For that, I am very, very grateful. Still, there's work to be done.This crowd funding campaign is not an "all or nothing" fundraiser. What's great about that is that I don't have the $3,000 goal hanging over my head like a tree branch about to snap in a windstorm. From here on out, I KNOW I'll have something to work with.
In case you don't know, I already have more than $5,200 set and ready to go for filming in the spring. That's locked up, safe and sound. In addition, I was lucky enough to raise more than $2,500 back in August for all of the research, pre-production, location scouting and interview on-location, in California. Two additional sponsorship proposals are under review right now, and those funds would go into post production.
Why crowd fund then?
Good question, and an easy answer: television industry folks are ALREADY looking at "Deconstructing Eden" for possible broadcast. That's a HUGE thing, not just to me personally, but to the message of the film!
The thing is it will have to be filmed in Ultra High Definition format, with digital surround sound audio. At present, I only have one 4K UHD camera, and that's strictly for underwater filming.
I can work with an impossibly small budget - I've done it before - but, this new technical requirement wasn't part of my original budget plans. I may a "genie" with micro budgets...but, I'm not that magical.
This funding campaign is to make sure I can cover the added expense of renting equipment for the entire shoot next spring. The "goal" I set would cover everything I "want" to have.
I do have a"Plan B," "Plan C" and a bit of a "Plan D," each requiring less funds. So, getting me as close to my goal as possible - or meeting it - is a big deal, to me and the film.
Tomorrow, I will unveil a bit more of the story. To date, I've outlined threats to the environment and talked a bit about natural history for sea otters and sea lions. The film will include a lot of that, but has a slightly different, central focus.
I can't wait to tell you more about that...but I will, for now.
If you can show your support, I am very grateful for it. Every bit helps, every share of the link to the fundraiser helps, too.
You folks are my "raft," and TOGETHER we will make sure southern sea otters are around for generations to come.
Cheers & "paws up,"
Award-winning filmmaker, Bestselling author and journalist.