“The brilliant, blue waters of the Atlantic passed under the keel of our boat, foam dancing in the wake as we slugged through the 4 foot seas.”
One of the great pleasures of being a journalist is in getting to know the people we interview for our stories. I recently had the opportunity to review the award-winning documentary Of Shark and Man and speak with the director, David Diley. A few months later, the stars aligned and David and I were able to spend some time together in South Florida and go diving with our sharks, as well as follow up on the success of his film.
Of Shark and Man (OSAM) is the story of David’s incredible journey to the island nation of Fiji, where he documented his encounters with some of the largest predators in the ocean. The bull sharks David filmed and interacted with at Shark reef, in the Beqa Passage, were the stars of the documentary, but they were just the first chapter in a saga that continues today. Diley’s quest to document sharks and promote their conservation and change public perception of these apex predators, is also a story of personal discovery.
“A three-tank dive trip starts before dawn here in South Florida. The gang loaded up in the van with all our gear for the hour-long trip to Jupiter, Florida…we wanted to be at the dock and ready to get out into the Gulf Stream as soon as possible. Coffee was as precious as gold this morning.”
David and I spent a fantastic day diving with Capt. Randy Jordan of Emerald Charters in search for the Lemon Sharks that were just starting their annual migratory swing along Florida’s Atlantic coast as they followed the Gulf Stream northward. Sailing out of Jupiter, Florida, we were joined by a half-dozen expert underwater photographers, who were there to film these magnificent creatures in close interaction in the open ocean.
“The incredible array of photography gear that was lashed down at the center-line of the Emerald was a key clue that the divers on this trip were serious about their underwater photography. Autumn, John, Richard, Craig, Chelsea and David…gear ready to grab, final checks on the rebreathers and more traditional rigs…final safety briefing from Captain Randy, his well-worn wetsuit sporting the evidence of hundreds of these dives.”
The three dives culminated in hundreds of great pictures and many priceless memories of an incredible experience. Though the morning started out slowly, the first shark drawn from the depths to cruise by and see what all the tantalizing smells were was a 9 foot Bull Shark. She circled 20 feet below us, perhaps surprised by all the bubble-blowing creatures that had invaded her watery kingdom. The second dive put us on the ESSO Bonaire III, a wreck that lays in about 100 foot of water. Within seconds of approaching the wreck, a dozen or more sharks were shadowing us. By the time we reached the bow of the wreck, 15-20 Goliath Grouper had joined the scrum, joining the Dirty Dozen Lemon Sharks that showed up to see what tasty morsels Capt. Jordan had brought.
“Supremely unconcerned by the divers who mingled with them on the sand and throughout the water column, the intricate dance commenced as shark and man drifted in the slow, steady current.”
A few hours later, with the gear cleaned and drying, and the three dives in the logbooks, David joined me for a post-dive interview and caught us up on what he had been up to during the 4 months since the first article.
DeeperBlue.com – So, here we are, about four months after the premier for Of Shark and Man. How did the premier go?
David Diley – Well, the premier for OSAM was held at the Courthouse Hotel’s onsite cinema in the heart of London’s Soho District on August 27, 2015. We had an outstanding turnout and also launched the indiegogo crowd-funding campaign at that time. We offered a bunch of exciting prizes, including a dive trip to Fiji to dive with the bull sharks.
DB – Did you meet your funding goals through indiegogo?
DD – We had a very ambitious target that was difficult to hit; and we came up short in the 45 days we ran the campaign. There are a lot of expenses associated with a production of this size and we hope that we can recoup some of that as time goes by and we do well at the film festivals going forward.
DB – You screened the film in London, and then in Gran Canaria…and you brought the film across the Atlantic to screen here in Florida last month. How receptive did you find the audience here in the US?
DD – We were fortunate to have the opportunity to screen OSAM on November 18, 2015 at Florida International University in Miami. We screened the film to a pretty good-sized crowd and I had a great time answering their questions and talking about the film, shark conservation and being an underwater cinematographer.
DB – Of all the places you could have brought OSAM, what made you choose Florida?
DD – I was really excited to visit Florida and “recharge my batteries” after almost 5 years working on the film. I was invited to spend a week in the Bahamas diving with world-renowned photographer Amanda Cotton at Tiger Beach. I wanted to combine some vacation time with some advance work on the next project as well still take the opportunity to film sharks and do things that are part of the mission. We got “rained out” for a few days, but I was especially fortunate to be able to spend some time with Women’s Diver Hall of Fame member Cristina Zenato. Cristina is a legend in the shark diving world. Spending time in the water with the sharks, being joined by (Epic Diving owners) Debra and Vincent Canabal, out of Cat Island, Bahamas…especially the Tiger sharks…that was fabulous.
DB – So you were diving with sharks with one of the world’s foremost underwater photographers and talking shop with a renowned shark-diving expert…kind of like the “All-Star Game” lineup of shark diving. So, you got to experience “Tiger Beach” and meet some of the famous residents there. How was the experience different than diving with the Bull sharks of Fiji?
DD – The Tigers are a very deliberate animal…they don’t have the same posturing attitude the Bulls do…very calm and purposeful fish. It was “more relaxing” with the Tiger sharks than the Bulls (sharks).
DB – You mentioned “advance work” for the next project, are you saying that there is an Of Shark and Man Two in the works?
DD – It was always my intention that Of Shark and Man was the first part in a series of films. My plan for 2016 is to continue the series going forward…we are looking for a distribution deal to get it on TV worldwide, but I have another shark film in the works. In the meantime, I am continuing my cinematography work and commercial work through my company Scarlet View Media.
DB – As a shark conservationist, a shark cinematographer…you’ve met a lot of people on both sides of the spectrum..pro-shark conservation and those who support a commercial shark fishery and shark exploitation and slaughter. What are your thoughts about some of the recent NOAA (National Oceanographic Atmospheric Agency) loosening on commercial catch limits on sharks?
DD – There is so much more we can do to protect sharks…to deliberately target sharks in the midst of their annual aggregation, that’s utterly ridiculous. There has been a lot of progress on shark conservation measures and initiatives (to protect sharks), but legislators need to realize the worth of a live shark…there’s still a long way to go.
DB – If there was one, overarching message we could take away from OSAM and the future films in this series, what would that be?
DD – Obviously there are a lot of shark-related films being made every year, there’s Shark Week and many TV specials outside of Shark Week being made. There are also a lot of people trying their hand at independently produced films. I want the audience out there to get content that is honest, high-quality film. There won’t be any scripted moments to artificially introduce “drama” or a sense of danger. I want to portray sharks as they are…even the “flaws” in our relations with them. There are also stories out there about sharks that are not just related to conservation…sharks are strong, robust animals…and there are so many untold stories out there about sharks. I want people to be inspired by those stories. I want people to know the benefits of taking risk, taking a chance… I want my films to celebrate people, celebrate the oceans and celebrate the sharks. It is important to me that people can come on this journey with me…I want people to connect at a level that they feel they are part of the film themselves.
DB – Just before going to press, we followed up with David to see if there what the new year had in store and if there was a more definitive answer regarding OSAM Part Two.
DD – The focus for OSAM right now is to find a buyer and also in organizing commercial screenings and Q&A session to monetize the film and it’s release. We are setting up a merchandise page on the website http://ofsharkandman.com/. People have been asking about the t-shirts (and posters, stickers, etc.) I am also putting together a “The Making of OSAM” so people can get a real insight as to how the film came together. I’m still working on the final concept for OSAM Part Two, and I’m getting more involved in TV and film work on other people’s productions, as well. I love the idea of helping others realize their own visions.
We look forward to seeing OSAM Part Two and future works by you, David!
“The Lemon Shark slowly widened here circular path, moving away from the tantalizing red crate that had, until a few minutes ago, held the oily mackerel morsels. She wasn’t concerned, because she knew that the divers and their strobes, bubbles and fishy treats would be back again soon.”