Monday, August 30, 2010

Winning, Inspiring Imagery at BLUE

Looking back on the past few days at BLUE, a few questions seemed to be always hovering in the air: How do we capture viewers interest with beautiful shots of the ocean and not deceive the audience into believing that this is the norm and all is well? Alternatively, how do we show the environmental decline of our blue world without also desensitizing and fatiguing audiences? What inspires people to not just be interested in but to actually take action on behalf of the ocean, stunning imagery of its beauty or the starker images of the many threats to its health? What indeed is more powerful, the beauty or the beast?

The answer may be a bit of both. The winning films of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival were announced at the Blue Carpet Awards Saturday night. Although “Under the Sea 3D” received the Special Jury Award, the top prize was not given to a sweeping epic but rather “Bag It,” an independent film that tells the story of one man’s journey to rid his life and as much of the rest of the world as he can of our addiction to plastic. The enthusiastic applause seemed to indicate the audience approved of the choice.

Before the film winners were announced, the Making Waves Award was presented to Celine, Fabien and Jean-Michel Cousteau and the Sylvia Earle award to fellow ocean advocate Carl Safina by the woman herself. Singer Paula Cole paid tribute to the late underwater photographer Wes Skiles with her song “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone.”

The mood of the evening was indeed both sober and celebratory. Later at a silent auction and birthday gathering for Sylvia Earle, we took a Google Ocean tour of her life’s milestones paired with their geographic locations of where they occurred and then watched her dance while five fans serenaded her with her own birthday ballad.

Earlier in the day, she had spoken to a packed house with a collage of imagery, both beautiful and arresting, playing behind her. She told those at BLUE that we should use every avenue available to us to inspire others, including powerful imagery. “We’re all here to give the ocean a voice.”

Thanks, Sylvia. We at SeaWeb couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Power of Red at BLUE

Although the Ocean Film Festival is called BLUE, the other important color of the event is red. The bright knit caps like the one Jacques Cousteau and his Calypso crew wore can be seen bobbing throughout the crowd, reminding us this legendary ocean explorer is always among us. I’m sure that is how Celine and Fabien Cousteau feel, long after their grandfather’s passing. He would have been 100 years old this year.

Indeed, watching the descendants of a legend like Cousteau on stage on Friday, one cannot help but expect them to be doing something grand. Under the watchful eyes of the world, perhaps such expectations did help motivate Fabien and Celine to, while not exactly following in their legendary grandfather’s flippers, to certainly be on a similar path of trying to make the word a better place.

With their father Jean-Michel in the audience, the brother and sister team told a room of BLUE attendees about their latest projects. While independent, they were created out their mutual desire to turn the sometimes passive act of conservation filmmaking into more hands-on. As Celine said, “Maybe people will see those films and go home and feel bad about [what is happening to the environment], but what then will they do the next day?”

Fabien also commented that while showing stunning images of our blue planet can inspire, it is also misleading that all is well with our ocean. “We do an injustice to the world if we only show pretty pictures.”

Fabien launched his Plant a Fish project on World Oceans Day this year out of “my frustration of not being able to answer the question satisfactorily … about what we can do.” Patterned after the long-successful plant a tree campaign, his program has “replanted” marine species in their local habitats in distressed bodies of water around the world. Initial targeted projects in 2010 to 2011 will include sea turtles in El Salvador, mangroves in South Florida and corals in the Maldives. The first project they completed was to replant oysters in New York harbor. They did it on “zero dollars and only volunteers—at risk youth, with a graduating rate of less than 50 percent, that have one-parent homes, who never have seen the ocean or gone swimming. To get them to go out and become stewards of the ocean. It is very empowering.”

Celine has created CauseCentric Productions to give more punch to nonprofit organizations that don’t have the resources to produce film to explain what they do. Combining her passion for different cultures and her desire to assist those in need, Celine recently completed such a short for an organization providing medical assistance to the inhabitants of the Amazon. “Traveling from the ocean to the Amazon, I feel like I have a flipper and a hiking boot on all the time.”

Taking a question from the audience after their talks, Fabien tried to explain what environmental economics really means: “What does it mean if we loose a whale? What does it mean if we loose the Gulf of Mexico? ... Why not look at our planet as a bank account? Why not stop eating the capital and start living off the interest?”

Perhaps Celine explained it best: “We owe it to ourselves to put everything into this life we can. Whether it be in the oceans or the Amazon, it all comes back to us.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

VIPs, BLUE Style

The BLUE Film Festival and Conservation Summit has been host to the leading luminaries of the ocean world. Conservationists and filmmakers have rubbed shoulders with policymakers and activists. But even the leading lights of the conference take notice when these VIPs come to town:

Sherman and Sam. Shark and Sea Lion. Putting aside the awkwardness of the predator-prey relationship in order to work together to spread the word that "We Don't Trash Where We Splash!"

We followed this unlikely duo - passionate pinniped and charismatic carcharodon - around the festival, where they shared their conservation message with attendees.

(If you have problem seeing the video, please use this direct link)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Take a Tour of Monterey Bay's Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay Aquarium hosted a tour of the Bay's Marine Sanctuary for BLUE attendees, for the young and young at heart. Tour guides covered topics ranging form sustainable seafood to how the resident otters wrap themselves in kelp to anchor themselves in place. Watch this clip to learn more and see what they found living in the Bay.

Out of the Mouths of Babes, Conservationists and Policymakers

More than 500 gathered at the Golden State Theater in Monterey tonight for the opening ceremony of BLUE. The mix of attendees was reflected also on stage. Festival co-founder Debbie Kinder started the evening by praising Monterey for not only its warm welcome but also its long-time commitment to the ocean. She was followed by a slew of stars in the marine community, including Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Executive Director Julie Packard and Congressional Representative Sam Farr. Farr credited the ocean community for bringing marine issues into the light: “We are no longer to be discovered. We are now in the mainstream.”

However he also pointed out that even with a new ocean policy in place, the work really begins on the local level to implement needed changes.

But perhaps who really stole the show was the young nephew of a filmmaker whose film stars the young boy being interviewed about why whales should not be hunted. After the showing of the short, he came out on stage dressed in his white suit, red tie and of course the coordinating red cap as a nod to marine legend Jacques Cousteau. Why should we not hunt them? “They are special,” he said. “They are giants.”

Flippin' Out at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival

The first official day of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival has come to a close and I sit in my room with head spinning from a day of controlled chaos. The incredible group of ocean filmmakers, photographers, NGOs, funders, scientists and even BLUE volunteers are still sipping local wines, making the rounds of the conference center's lobby, sharing stories about their ocean experiences while catching up with old friends and colleagues. Long before any of us were able to kick back and socialize, BLUE attendees snatched up their Flip cameras and got to work making their own guerrilla films documenting their experience here at the festival. Along with a team from NOAA, SeaWeb is helping to promote and produce attendee-generated content so that you can all find the BLUE in you wherever you may be.

Today we asked those who borrowed the pocket-sized camcorders to ask this question of their interviewees: "What is your favorite ocean memory?" In a crowd so passionately motivated by their experiences with the ocean, this question truly struck a chord. Check out a few of the responses which we have captured and clipped for you to see.

If you have any trouble viewing the clip below, visit:

Check out more guerrilla films on the BLUE website.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Building an Ocean Conservation Ethic Through Art

The David Doubilet photography exhibit on the opening night of the BLUE Film Festival was a great success. The gallery installation featured many of David's striking photographs, from whimsical nudibranches to shocking images of spinner dolphins being slaughtered in Japan.

BLUE staff interviewed some of the attendees and asked about their impressions of the art, and how that impacts their view of the ocean.

Diving into BLUE

Showing Our Love of the Now Noisy, More Acidic, Marine Plastiscapes

Conservationist J. Nichols launched the BLUE Ocean Film Festival with his talk on Oceanophilia, the neuroscience of emotion and the ocean. Although given how we tend to treat the ocean, how much we love this precious resource is not all that obvious.

As J. puts it, we put too much in and take too much out of it. All kinds of marine debris, that animals consume or get caught in accidently and die, is filling our marine ecosystems. Plastic is forming what J. has called “Plastiscapes,” brought together by swirling ocean currents. In addition, more and more carbon dioxide is taken up by the ocean, making it more acidic. And as more and more of us to be near the ocean, we are also are degrading its coastlines.

Less in, less out, protect the edge, is J.’s message. He also wants us to know we have reason to hope. We have unprecedented knowledge of what is happening in what had once seemed to be an “endless bounty.” We have a global network of passionate activists working on the ocean’s behalf. And we have the power of creative communication.

J., who is both a scientist and artful communicator, says that we can no longer afford to separate emotion and reason; rather it is our emotions that allow us to make reasonable decisions. After all, advertments already pull on our emotions to make us buy products, such as Coke saying “Open Happiness.” We need to capitalize on this NeuroMarking and transform it into NeuroConservation.

“The mind ocean connection is understudied. We need to change that, we need to dig in and understand the mind-ocean connection,” says J. “It is time for a full court press. It is not time to be on the sidelines.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Down By The Sea...

The SeaWeb team has made it to Monterey for the BLUE Film Festival! Although the after effects of flights from DC to CA are not going to wear off any time soon, we're excited to see the opening reception, featuring works by renown photographer David Doubilet.

We will be blogging all week, bringing you highlights of the events, sessions, and films occurring at BLUE.

Monday, August 23, 2010

SeaWeb is Going BLUE

SeaWeb staff will be attending the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit in Monterey, CA. Join us from August 24-29 for the conference and films, and follow our blog live from the event.

With a fantastic lineup of films and talks by leaders in ocean conservation, BLUE will be the "must attend" event for marine filmmakers and environmentalists!