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Great White Shark Legend: The Interview, Part 1

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Jeff Goodman interviews Ricardo and Rachel Lacombe about their film, Great White Shark Legend

Great White Shark Legend is a well thought out and developed film. It is sensitively filmed and directed as well as being very informative and revelatory in both hard facts as well as emotional content. I talked with Ricardo and Rachel Lacombe about its making.

Rachel Lacombe

Ricardo Lacombe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff: Hi Ricardo and Rachel, congratulations on your excellent film about the Great White Shark.

Ricardo: Thank you so much Jeff. It’s one of those projects that as a film maker you are definitely privileged to have made and even more privileged to have people take the time out to watch it.

Rachel: Thanks – we enjoyed making it! We always felt it was a story that needed telling and it’s always nice to hear from dive and shark enthusiasts.

Jeff: Is this your first film?

Ricardo: No no, not at all. I have been working as a film maker since 2007 where I kind of fell into it by chance. It was only after having made my first film for the pure fun of it, on very basic equipment, that I was given a broadcast option… on my first film! It was a very quick prompt for me and a colleague to invest in equipment and seek some real commissions and funding. We got our first gig 12 months after starting and have never looked back. I usually do corporate work, including the likes of Apple and British Airways, as well as having worked for Paramount Comedy Channel, Channel 4 in the UK, Sky TV, all as freelance. This then funds the passion projects which it’s hard to get funding for, and occasionally the passion and the paid work line up, which is what happened with Great White Shark Legend.

Rachel: Ricardo was already making films when I met him, corporate and independent. Over the years I gradually started getting involved and helping out and he started to realise I had an eye for camera work. I dived in a little when he was making a live DVD for a band with some cutaway camera footage he asked me to shoot. He used so much of it that he started asking me to take a bigger role in the next productions and we’ve worked on topics as varied as terminal illness, parenting, music videos and a no-holds-barred look at racism. This film however was our first venture into wildlife film making.

Jeff: What made you decide to do this? Had you dived with sharks before?

Rachel: It originally came from travelling out to see Great Whites for a holiday in 2011. Not long after we met we were planning a holiday and we asked each other what was the one thing the other wanted to do and we both said diving with Great Whites! We had no idea that the experience would be so different from the expectation and what we imagined. We thought it would be terrifying, we didn’t know if we would come back in one piece. Instead, we had the privilege of these majestic creatures behaving calmly and inquisitively in their own environment… that’s why we felt there was a story here that hadn’t been done on film before really…. how it really is being alongside these amazing animals and how even the most non-sensationalist TV shows still had an undertone of the Jaws mentality. It’s like they don’t know how to get away from it.

Ricardo: During that 2011 holiday I naturally took along some camera equipment and put together a very short piece for the fun of it – a professional home video if you like. I sent it to African Shark Eco-Charters (ASEC) for them to use if they wanted to and they loved it. They said the positive way in which I had presented sharks and cage diving was refreshing and asked if I could be commissioned to produce some promo material for them. Like I needed to even think about that! I did this for a while (and you can see many of these promo spots here). I initially was short of footage so Rob Lawrence sent me a box of DV and HDV tapes he had shot over the years out at sea! We had to double take at this point. Rob Lawrence, a remarkable Great White Shark expert, a leading figure out there, just sent us a box of unused shark footage to play around with! Rachel and I sat and watched about 50-60 hours of the most amazing Great White footage – already it felt like we were privileged to see something you could not ever see in person to this depth – unless, like Rob, you were out at sea for 150 days a year for 20 years!

As time went by I had an itch to make something grander. A feature documentary about what it really means to live and work and grow up alongside Great White Sharks in one of the world’s hot spots for shark activity. We then pitched it to Rob and Karen at ASEC, as I massively valued their educational approach to their business. They said absolutely and got on board and I set about finding some other backing which eventually ended up being GoPro. Win win win situation! We spent two years in this process and then shot out in False Bay for three weeks.

Jeff: Having made the decision to go ahead with the project had you a target audience and message in mind? Did you have the film structure fully planned out and story-boarded before you left home, or where you hoping to learn and adapt as you went along?

Rachel: As far as an audience in mind, I think it was mainly, for me, people that live inland. People like me!

I really wanted to dispel the myths that I had been sold all my life through misleading representation of sharks in the media. Be that film, or “documentary”, and I use that word loosely. The majority of material you see on TV was (and still is) greatly contradictory to the reality of seeing Great Whites hunting in what is, without a doubt, THE best spot for viewing their predatory behaviour. It’s a hunting ground and yet it is nothing like the hyped up shows you see on Discovery or NatGeo. So I wanted to reach that audience and show them something different, something real.

Ricardo: We had a tough assignment in that approach. We wanted to reach out and appeal to the people who watch those shows, and try and show them another side, but with a format and story that many producers had told me directly would be “boring” and “no one would watch” because “it’s not exciting enough”. We also wanted to reach out to a wider audience outside of shark enthusiasts to show them things they may have never seen before and get them off on the right foot once their interest was sparked. So story was crucial.

When shooting a documentary we believe it is vital to have an idea of story, and a structure which tells that story. So we looked at all the elements of Great White Sharks, the people, the Cape area, the eco-tourism industry, and mapped out a shooting script. We covered the walls in post it notes of topics, questions and ideas and started to re-order them into what felt like a narrative. However, it HAD to be flexible enough that if we got material or interviews that added to this we needed to change it in post-production. The final film is about 75% of that original structure.

Jeff: I thought it was a very well structured film, was this all your own work or did you seek professional advice and help?

Ricardo: Appreciate the kind words there Jeff. Happy to say that it’s all our own work! Having been a film maker of both pure storytelling with indie films, and getting a message across for corporate clients, I am used to narrowing down the whole process of pointing a camera at something into the reason for doing so – the story. Without a well-crafted written structure you cannot hope to portray your story. In this case we had a huge range of topics and sub-topics and side interests at play so to just say “I want to make a film about Great White Sharks” is far too broad. So after a few months of writing and talking we eventually decided on the narrative we have in the final film. There’s plenty on the cutting room floor and even more in the written initial idea. We’re happy to say that even those who are not huge shark advocates still respond really positively to the narrative and the story being told so we’ve been really happy with that.

Jeff: There is a lot of great factual and emotional information throughout the film, did you hope and plan for this or were the reactions from your interviewees a big surprise?

Ricardo: I didn’t expect the reactions we had from the children to be honest. I kind of hoped they would speak positively about sharks but had no real idea. We spent a day travelling around the Cape area to speak to different children and it was one of the most inspiring days of shooting. Not out on a boat watching amazing wildlife, just sitting with children and listening to their obvious love and understanding of marine eco-systems and how sharks fit into that. It was a day where I felt real hope for the future of sharks and marine conservation. I loved that day and love what their words on the film say for our oceans’ future. It’s one piece of the film we have received the most thanks for and yet we never even see a shark for ten minutes.

Rachel: The one bit that really stood out for me actually didn’t end up on film. We had a discussion with one person about the ethics of sacrificing a few animals for the benefit of the majority. It was a real unexpected idea. An example given was the breeding of a few lions in some parks purely for controlled “hunts”. Because this then gave the animals a profit and dollar figure and that money was used to protect the larger population. That was a really hard concept to get your head around as a nature lover!

In terms of shark matters specifically one thing that surprised me was with our interview with Alison Kock. She was very cautious and thorough about checking out what we were making before committing to an interview. She gets asked a LOT by the big companies like Discovery to talk about Great Whites and shark research but the end product is not always what she would agree with. So she is quite guarded about what she agrees to appear on. So when we interviewed her she was very much in media mode and giving us well-crafted soundbite style answers. We really wanted to just have a conversation and the camera being there was secondary to that, so we took a short time to just talk instead of interviewing. We loved speaking to her and her knowledge was a massive contribution to this film so it was worth taking a more relaxed approach to get to the emotions, not just the information.

On a side note the first interview with our main interviewee, Rob Lawrence, was not how I planned it. I rib Ricardo for this now (much to his annoyance) but he conducted Rob’s first interview and I felt like it was too informative, too factual and not a natural conversation. It was an interview, yes, but not what I wanted to get out of Rob. So I took over for a second interview and even my husband admits now we got more out of it than expected because we got to the passion and excitement and personality more by taking a more informal approach. Husband and wife team working well though.

Jeff: What did you learn most of all about the sharks?

Rachel: Oh definitely their personalities. This is such an under reported area when it comes to Great Whites. When one of them rocks up at the boat that you have seen before, markings and dorsal fins aside you know very quickly who that shark is. It’s like any other large animal, they absolutely have personality traits. That is not to say they are pets, or that the naming of them turns them into anything other than what they are, which is apex predators of the ocean, but their approach, their tactics, their style of interaction is so different from one shark to the next. Maybe if more people experienced that then more people might give a damn when they see them being killed.

Ricardo: This is one area that Rachel insisted we cover in the final film and it wasn’t in the original script because only having spent many days back to back out at sea do you get a sense of this. She included it in the editing room and was right to do so. It’s the other area of the film we have received most recognition for (after the children) because those who observe sharks know it, but no one reports it. I understand why though. Why would a Discovery Channel producer want to portray them as identifiable when it’s better for ratings to ramp up the faceless black-eyed eating machine right? I believe we have a lot of work we can do here to document and tell that story of “personalities” because like with say big cats or elephants it could be a key to unlocking a new portrayal in the public’s eye of what has been a monster for so long. By the way Jaws, their eyes are blue, not black!

Come back for Part 2 of Jeff’s interview with Ricardo and Rachel next week!

Haven’t seen Great White Shark Legend yet? You can buy or rent it at www.greatwhitesharklegend.com.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…

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Competitions

WIN an XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask!!!

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Yes, XDEEP have now officially called their excellent frameless mask the ‘Radical’, and in this week’s competition, we’ve got another one to give away in our latest competition!

The XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask is a large single lens dive mask with a soft silicone skirt and traditional strap. The frameless design brings the lens closer to your face so you get a wider FOV and less internal volume that you have to equalise and clear. The larger nose pocket makes the mask more comfortable and easier to equalise, even with thick gloves.

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can find here), we reported that you can join Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world. But when can you join Reef-Word’s Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020?

Is it:

  • A) 3pm BST on Friday 23rd October 2020
  • B) 3pm BST on Saturday 24th October 2020
  • C) 3pm BST on Sunday 25th October 2020

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Nautilus Diving XDEEP Frameless Mask October 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, employees of Nautilus Diving and their families, or XDEEP and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 02/11/20. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

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